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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin -- Godzilla: Tokyo SOS

Here we are, once again, with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly watch of a movie I own, and blogging about it, because "content creator" is as good a hobby as any.  Today, we journey into the wonderful world of Godzilla with 2003's daikaiju epic, Godzilla:  Tokyo SOSI originally scrawled this in my notes on January 1, 2014.

The Japanese movie poster for Godzilla:  Tokyo SOS

So when I first started doing Fishing in the Discount Bin, the first December that rolled around, I knew I wanted to do Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla for two reasons:  Godzilla movies are always released in December, and that one had the novelty of being the Godzilla movie I actually saw in the theatres during my time in Japan.  For the longest time, then, whenever December rolled around, I'd think to myself, "I have to do the sequel, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS." 

See, in the Millennium Series of Godzilla movies (the run of films made from 1999 - 2004), the general conceit was that each film was it's own separate entity.  The only other film that the filmmakers had to worry about and consider cannon was the original Godzilla from 1954.  So when I discovered that Godzilla: Tokyo SOS decided to buck this trend and be a direct sequel to and tie up all the loose ends from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, my interest was piqued, and I bought the DVD online as soon as it was released in North America.  And after years of putting off watching it in December and writing it up for Fishing in the Discount Bin, I found myself stuck for stuff to watch on TV on New Years Eve 2013, and figured, "This is the time." 

A quick recap of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla in case you didn't click on the link up there.  After the destruction of Godzilla in 1954, Japan is horrified when a second Godzilla rises out of the ocean and begin attacking cities 45 years later.  To combat this new Godzilla, the nation's leading scientists are brought together to enact a desperate plan:  using the skeleton of the original Godzilla as a framework, they will create a robotic duplicate of Godzilla.  DNA is extracted from the skeleton to power the revolutionary "DNA Computer" that will run this mechanical monster.  The final creation:  Kiryu, the Mechagodzilla.  Kiryu has some quirks, as it occasionally breaks free of its remote controls and runs amok, but the problems appear to be rectified, and Kiryu soon proves to be highly effective and repelling Godzilla from Japanese shores. 

And now, the conclusion.

Our hero is young Chujo, a member of Kiryu's ground crew.  Chujo loves all things mechanical, and lets his work in maintaining Kiryu consume him.  His uncle, the elder Chujo, is a renowned linguist, and was one of the members of the expedition to Mothra's island many years ago.  One night, while they're chilling out at home, the receive a visit from the Shobijin...the twin fairy princesses who rule over Mothra's island.  They've come to deliver a dire warning.  The reason why Kiryu broke free of its controls and ran amok is because, by using the skeleton of the original Godzilla, they've disturbed the original Godzilla's soul from its eternal slumber.  In order to preserve the natural balance, they must dismantle Kiryu and return the original Godzilla's remains to the sea.  The young Chujo protests, saying that to do so would leave Japan defenseless against Godzilla.  The Shobijin have a solution for this:  they volunteer Mothra's services to protect Japan.  With their message delivered, the Shobijin return to their island atop Mothra.

The next half hour is mostly talk and exposition, as the elder Chujo delivers the message to his fellow scientists and politicians, only to be met with suspicion.  In this continuity, the only other Mothra film was the original, where Mothra destroyed Tokyo, so of course many people see this leaving Japan in the care of Mothra as a bad idea.  And we see the young Chujo at work on Kiryu, and we see he's conflicted.  He wants to stand by his uncle, but his love for that magnificent machine and what it means to Japan is overwhelming.

That overwhelming love for machines is noticed by Azusa, our love interest for the young Chujo.  She used to work on the ground crew alongside Chujo, before transferring over to the air crew to fulfil her dream of flying.  She now flies one of the Great Heron aircrafts...the heavily armored jets that airlift Kiryu into position, and then supply air support.  She's all hot for Chujo, but he's too consumed by his love for all things mechanical to notice.  I love this one scene, where they're sitting on a park bench, chatting.  He's all fixated on Kiryu's armaments and circuitry, and there she is, posing like a Playboy centerfold, arched back, chest thrust forward, displaying all of her feminine wiles to get him to notice her, until she just slumps forward, defeated, and mumbles, "I'm starting to think the only thing that excites you is cannons."  I just find the whole thing funny. 

But then, Godzilla attacks, and the remaining hour - a full two-thirds of the film - is a gigantic threeway battle between Godzilla, Mothra, and Kiryu.  Godzilla attacks, but the government is hesitant to dispatch Kiryu because he's not fully repaired after the last movie.  So, the littlest Chujo - that would be the elder Chujo's grandson and the young Chujo's nephew - takes it upon himself to light the Moth Signal and summon Mothra.  Mothra and Godzilla throw down, but Mothra is wounded.  Out of options, the government sends in Kiryu.  Godzilla and Kiryu fight it out, but soon Kiryu is damaged and rendered inoperative.  While this goes on, we see one of Mothra's eggs hatch, and out pops two larval Mothras.  That's right, two giant caterpillars then enter the fray.  The young Chujo bravely ventures into the war zone to repair Kiryu. 

I do like the scene when Chujo volunteers for the mission.

Officials:  But you can't do that!  You're not a qualified pilot!

Chujo:  With all due respect, you don't need a pilot right now.  You need a mechanic. 

So Chujo gets Kiryu back up and running, but Godzilla damages Kiryu's access hatch, leaving Chujo trapped inside Kiryu.  Godzilla turns his attention to the giant caterpillars, but with her last ounce of strength, Mothra takes the blast meant for the caterpillars and saves her babies. 

From this point on, the fight between Godzilla and Kiryu gets brutal.  Kiryu's right arm turns into a giant drill and Kiryu plunges it into Godzilla chest.  The first time I watched it, and the drill started drilling, I remember thinking, "Wow.  What's all that green foam flying about?  Wait a minute...they're plunging a giant drill into Godzilla's chest.  That green foam is Godzilla's flesh."  As I said, brutal. 

Gravely wounded from a drill to the chest, and the Kiryu firing into that open wound, the giant caterpillars encase Godzilla in a giant cocoon.  With Godzilla subdued, Kiryu is about to deliver the deathblow but...Kiryu breaks free of its remote controls!  Oh no, he's running amok again!  The soul of the original Godzilla has once again asserted itself.  Kiryu picks up Godzilla, and then the two of them fly out to the deepest part of the see, where Kiryu plans to drown them both.  This is when Chujo finally reveals that he's trapped in Kiryu.  Azusa gets all, "No!  Not the guy I'm hot for!  I'm coming to save you, Chujo!" and she gives pursuit in her jet. 

I love this final scene where Chujo is rescued.  With the music and the model work...it's like the best episode of Thunderbirds ever.  Taking careful aim with her machine guns, Azusa is able to blow the hatch.  Kiryu even helps out, adjusting his body mid-flight into a better position for Chujo to safely crawl out.  Chujo jumps from Kiryu.  Kiryu's pilot (who actually sits in the back of Azusa's jet and pilots Kiryu via remote) ejects and catches Chujo in mid-air, and they parachute to safety.  And Kiryu and Godzilla crash into the ocean.  Godzilla presumably drowns.  With Kiryu at the bottom of the sea, the soul of the original Godzilla can finally rest in peace, and the giant caterpillars return to Mothra's island. 

I should have talked more about Kiryu's pilot, Akiba.  Akiba and Chujo have a rivalry at first.  Chujo loathes Akiba as Akiba has a bad reputation for being too rough with his aircraft.  Akiba is annoyed by Chujo and his insistence that proper care for the machines must come first.  But they eventually develop a mutual respect for each other's work. 

Oh, and we get a gratuitous cameo from Akane, Kiryu's pilot from the first film.  She's written out of the film early on, as she's being sent to the States to start training the Americans on this new battle method of "piloting giant robots."  But she and Chujo have a moment where she says that she feels it's wrong to force the soul of the original Godzilla to fight again, which is something she learned at the end of the first film. 

I wonder if the filmmakers behind this one and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla were originally planning a trilogy.  Because it does have a great post-credits stinger, where a vial labeled "Godzilla DNA" is inserted into a machine, and we hear a computer voice ominously tell us that the cloning process is beginning....  But the masters of the franchise decided to go with their all-out monster war film Godzilla: Final Wars to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and bring the Millennium Series to an end. 

When all's said and done, this a very fun film and very worthy sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.  Just so much fun.

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