Thursday, June 30, 2011

Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla:Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) review


Noboru Kaneko (Yoshito Chujo), Miho Yoshioka (Azusa Kisaragi), Mitsuki Koga (Kyosuke Akiba), Masami Nagasawa (Hio/Shobijin #1), Chihiro Otsuka (Mana/Shobijin #2), Kou Takasugi (Colonel Togashi), Hiroshi Koizumi (Shinichi Chujo), Akira Nakao (Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi), Yumiko Syaku (Akane Yashiro)

Directed by Masaaki Tezuka

The Short Version: Masaaki Tezuka's last Godzilla movie is a slam bang action spectacle that bears the stamp of Ishiro Honda far more than any other Japanese monster movie since the mostly lifeless Heisei series entries. Bereft of characterization, GMMG contains far too many characters for so little time devoted to them. Still, Tezuka imbues a fanciful aura hearkening back to the magical works of Toho's monster master, Ishiro Honda. GMMG often feels like 90 minutes cut from the previous movie, but is still a lot of fluffy fun replete with spectacular effects work.

The Shobijin, twin fairies from Ogasawara Island, pay a visit to the home of doctor Shinichi Chujo. Remembering them from their first meeting back in 1961, Chujo is told that the enormous battle robot, Kiryu, must be dismantled and the bones of Godzilla making up its endo-skeleton--acting as a beacon for the giant lizard--should be returned to the sea. Chujo's nephew, Yoshito, is a maintenance member of the JXSDF force working on repairs to the robot after battling Godzilla the year prior. Proclaiming that Kiryu is the only method with which to fight Godzilla, the Shobijin offer Mothra's assistance as the country's protector. However, should the use of Kiryu not cease, Mothra will destroy Japan.

This, the only direct sequel of the Millennium series, was the last entry from action specialist, Masaaki Tezuka. Unraveling more as an "expansion pack" of the previous movie, it's neither better, nor worse than its predecessor. Taking place a year after Kiryu's battle with the Big G, repairs are underway on the damage incurred during the scuffle. Kiryu has a new look and some new weapons. Sadly, the Absolute Zero cannon is replaced by a Tri-Maser attack, but some of Kiryu's other weapons are upgraded. For whatever reason, the battle this time out between Godzilla and his mechanical double isn't nearly as kinetic as in the previous movie. Considering that 75% of the picture is one long battle royal, it's never boring, only that Kiryu isn't as spry this time out. This is possibly due to the fact that the robot isn't 100% operational (Yoshito is adamantly against putting Kiryu onto the battlefield) when its called into action and Akiba (one of the pilots) does state at one point that the robots reaction is slow.

While Mechagodzilla might move a little slow, the pace of the film couldn't be any faster. It begins and ends before you know it. The script by director Tezuka and Masahiro Yokotani is extremely lean on exposition and dialog, but obese on monsters and special effects. This will surely delight fans who savor lots of beasts for the buck, but those hoping for a monster fest with a bit of a human story will be disappointed. However, unlike the 90s Heisei enterprise, the Millennium entries, at least those from Tezuka, healthily implement human peril within the framework of the monster battles and their resulting destruction. The only drawback to this is that the human characters aren't explored enough to care about them. They're merely faces among the kaiju designed to deliver the required machismo and melodramatic monologues. Curiously enough, Tezuka's first kaiju directorial gig, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2000), had some strong characters and ran nearly two hours while his other two films were streamlined affairs (barely breaching 80 minutes not counting end credits and post end credits sequence) heavily accenting action over exposition.

The script is more in tune with Honda's style and the aura of the Showa series is unmistakable. There's a slightly original story lurking beneath the waves of Tezuka's film even if it's also a partial remake of Honda's MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964), which got a mediocre remake in 1992. The script is also a virtual re-imagining of 2001's blockbuster GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK from Shusuke Kaneko. This is understandable since both movies had the same writer, Masahiro Yokotani. While that film had an incredibly dark tone and an indelibly evil (if kind of clunky) look for Godzilla, this film features the towering titan as a largely unstoppable force of nature (much like the previous movie) that dominates every obstacle thrown in his path. Both films titles are noticeably similar and one of the monsters is killed off in much the same manner, if heavily dramatic style. Furthermore, TOKYO S.O.S. differs from GMK in that Godzilla was possessed by the angry souls of the victims of WW2 in that picture and here, he's summoned by a primal beckoning from the bones of his 1954 descendant. The tone of both movies are also polar opposites from one another.

Speaking of tone, it's a bit lighter than the previous MECHAGODZILLA movie, a move that Toho was no doubt banking on for ticket sales given the popularity of the Mechagodzilla remake from 2002. Sadly, even paired with one of the wildly popular HAMTARO anime features, TOKYO S.O.S. did only modest business. Despite both Mothra and Mechagodzilla being two of the company's most lucrative creations, it had become apparent that Japanese audiences were becoming tired of seeing the same old thing regardless of how polished the end product. Toho had been notorious for refusing to spotlight new Kaiju creations or lesser known creatures (the poor showing for MEGAGUIRUS reinforced this), so GMMG's failure to ignite at the box office no doubt was a bit of shock. The film didn't bomb, it just do as well as hoped.

There's barely thirty minutes of covering the people populating the movie, but among the far too many underdeveloped individuals, the one who gets the most screen time is Yoshito, the young Mechagodzilla mechanic who, like Akane from the previous picture, takes a personal, sentimental liking to the mechanical marvel. There's a hint of a possible relationship between Yoshito and Azusa Kisaragi, a hotshot woman of action whose ostensibly free of any background grievances. Unlike the lead females of Tezuka's other Kaiju movies, she has no vendetta to settle and even if she did, her character isn't given near enough screen time to be cared about. Still, it's revealed both Chujo and Kisaragi have known each other for four years sharing time together in the Air Force. Between them, a male Kiryu pilot, the impulsive Akiba, apparently has a thing for Azusa as well. Unfortunately, this interesting triangular arc is merely glossed over. The same can be said for a few other ideas inherent within.

The three pilots of Team Kiryu from GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA (2002) return briefly from the previous movie. Akane Yoshiro gets the most of this screen time. Being sent to America to study further in robotics, she bids temporary farewell to the mighty mech, but she and her team mates are replaced by a new group who get even less screen time to build sympathy or some sort of audience connection. As already stated, this new group has potential, but the films framework is more interested in ways to put its people amidst the calamities caused by the creatures as opposed to building their backgrounds which in turn would heighten the danger they're put in. But to do so would take away from the pictures 50+ minutes of kaiju theatrics.

Director Tezuka continues his tradition of maintaining connections with the Showa series by casting Hiroshi Koizumi reprising his role of Shinichi Chujo, a character he played in MOTHRA, the Toho classic from 1961. Just like the Meganulons in MEGAGUIRUS (insect creatures from 1956's RODAN, although a reference isn't alluded to) and the kaiju connection of MOTHRA and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS seen in GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA (2002), this direct sequel references Ishiro Honda's average island based science fiction film YOG, MONSTER FROM SPACE aka SPACE AMOEBA (1970). That picture featured a giant squid, crab and spike backed turtle under the control of aliens. In TOKYO S.O.S., a dead Kamebas (the giant turtle of that film) washes up on shore with a massive neck wound. This brief scene is a nice addition to the movie, but it's unnecessary and amounts to little more than filler. It alludes to Godzilla's impending appearance, but we already know that, anyway.

A great many Japanese movies about giant monsters cover Earth shattering occurrences exclusive to Nipponese territories. Devastation on an international scale is/was usually reserved for 'End of the World' productions like BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959), THE LAST WAR (1961) and GORATH (1962). Occasionally, an occidental presence would be felt in the original versions (or the export releases tampered with by US producers) of the monster pictures reaching a zenith in the Honda fantasy spectacle LATITUDE ZERO (1969). Interestingly, the later films presented foreigners as either villains (GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH [1991]) or an enhancement for Japanese pride. In GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA (2002), Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi is boisterous in proclaiming the advanced battle weapon constructed by Japanese scientists. Numerous others watching the demonstration around the world are in awe of the robot. Kiryu has "Made In Japan" stamped all over him.

The international ambiance is increased in this entry with a couple scenes with US military forces such as an attack on an American submarine by Godzilla and dialog referring to US personnel probing into possible assaults by monsters. The sub attack is reminiscent of the one seen in 1984's GODZILLA, only that one was a Russian submarine. Also, the film begins on a Hawaiian military base reporting unidentified objects on their radar. Scenes like these go a long way in Japanese monster movies in projecting a scope of such events that aren't confined solely within Japan's borders. Such scenes add little, to nothing to the narrative, but it's refreshing to see that attacks by enormous creatures isn't unknown to the world populace outside of Japan.

The special effects of Eiichi Asada are nothing short of spectacular. The rambunctious SPX showcased by Yuichi Kikuchi in the previous movie are expanded upon here by Asada's ingenuity. The opening sequence wherein Japanese fighter pilots intercept an "unidentified flying object" moving quickly within the clouds of the nighttime sky is an impressive way to begin the movie. The end sequence is also a marvelous combination of kaiju action melded with human interaction backed by a grand cue from the magnificent composing hands of Michiru Oshima. In it, Kiryu goes "out of control" again, but not the "Joy Ride" of the previous movie. A helpless and possibly dying Godzilla laying before its feet, Kiryu ignores orders to finish the great lizard and instead latches onto the now cocooned creature and rockets off for the open sea. However, Yoshito is inside of the robot having become trapped within after attempting to get the mech operational again after Godzilla temporarily put it out of action. As Kiryu approaches its destination, Azusa realizes he's still in their so she and Akiba (with a little assist from Kiryu) try to free him in a scene that ends with a slight bit of Spielbergian creative license.

Mothra's inclusion here is far less imposing than the Honda days. His/Her past film appearances hammered home the creatures significance as a deity. Even though the mighty moth is defeated in MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964), the monster proves to be more than a match for Godzilla without the aid of multi colored laser beams and deadly, mystical scales brought to life through the use of CGI. The character didn't appear at all in any of the 70s G productions (save for a few seconds of stock footage in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN from 1972), but surfaced in the Heisei series' most successful entry, GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992) and what amounted to a cameo in the horrendous GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994). Although Mothra dies more times than not, the creature is always replaced by one or two larva. In MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964), the gigantic egg is hatched after the mighty Mothra is dispatched. But in GMMG, the egg hatches beforehand and the two caterpillars meet their parent shortly before its demise.

Shinichi Wakasa, the designer of most all of the Millennium series monster suits, returns for this film. The differences to Godzilla are negligible, if any, but Mechagodzilla is noticeably different. Wakasa is an ace at giving his creations a prickly, organic look and his new design for the Big G's robotic double is even more impressive with its charcoal black and silver color and its touched up outer weaponry. Wakasa's propensity for constructing creatures that were "rough around the edges" was also highly noticeable in the exciting GAMERA 2: ADVENT OF LEGION (1996). Mothra was reportedly a revamped version of a prop used for MOTHRA 3 (1998) and its usage here is impressive, accentuated sparingly by computer animation. The two larva are also of a design that would make Tsuburaya proud. The ending of MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964) is done over only this time, the larva spin their cocoon hidden amidst Tokyo as opposed to the craggy island rocks of the earlier movie.

Some of Japan's landmarks are wiped out here such as Tokyo Tower and the Diet Building, both of which have been decimated in numerous other productions, particularly the latter famous construct. Possibly the most indelible destruction of the Diet Building was in Toho's THE LAST WAR from 1961. Tokyo Tower was destroyed in likewise spectacular fashion in Shusuke Kaneko's amazing GAMERA, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995). The buildup to the demolition of these landmarks loses its luster precisely because they've been seen torn down over and over again in Kaiju movies past. Still, the effects and models are wholly impressive and as much onscreen 'Monsters of Mass Destruction' as is seen here, it's a testament to the filmmakers that so much of it is successfully captured before the camera.

Michiru Oshima returns once more to contribute a dynamic orchestral score and her Godzilla theme, introduced in GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2000), will likely become as iconic as Akira Ifukube's genre defining themes. The new portions of the score capture the grandeur of the action and Oshima's own take on Ifukube's magnificent Mothra music is respectable and carves its own identity.

Tezuka's trademark of having a post end credits sequence is brief this time, but hints at something in the mold of THE TERMINATOR (1984) and its sequels. This scene has no dialog save for a voice heard on an intercom. The camera pans over a large DNA capsule of the original 1954 Godzilla. As the camera pans back, we see other similar capsules of other monsters. The electronic doors marked 'Biohazard' close shut as scientists walk past. The screen fades to black as the intercom voice is drowned out. It had long been stated that this was the second chapter in a proposed 'Kiryu trilogy', but this information has since been revealed to be just a rumor.

Noting declining box office returns, Toho decided to retire Godzilla and their stable of monsters with a big bash to close out the long running series. Unfortunately, that film was a tragic mis-step. Eiichi Asada, who was so impressive here, severely regressed with the sub par effects work seen in GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004). Likely this had more to do with that films "visionary" director, Ryuhei Kitamura, who desired to capture the look of the 70s Godzilla movies. Likely had Toho banked on luring Shusuke Kaneko back (he did state he was interested in doing another one after GMK), the Godzilla series would have ended on a proper revisionist note than what it did. However, had Masaaki Tezuka returned for the last movie, audiences could count on innovative monster battles, anime style action and a modernist approach that would have paid homage to Honda's heritage--something that's in great abundance in his three Godzilla movies--especially his last one. Regardless of its lack of character depth, TOKYO S.O.S. signals a good time for monster movie fans. It does little in breaking new ground, but fans of Ishiro Honda's movies are more likely to appreciate what's presented here.

This review is representative of the Japanese R2 2 disc set DVD

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (2002) review


Yumiko Syaku (Akane Yashiro), Shin Takuma (Tokumitsu Yuhara), Kana Onodera (Sara Yuhara), Koh Takasugi (Colonel Togashi), Yusuke Tomoi (Hayama), Kumi Mizuno (Prime Minister Tsuge), Akira Nakao (Prime Minister Hiyato Igarashi)

Directed by Masaaki Tezuka

The Short Version: After a less than encouraging reception with his enjoyable maiden monster mash, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2001), Masaaki Tezuka returns to update Mechagodzilla yet again with this ULTRA entertaining live action anime cartoon with amazing creature combat sequences, an appealing science fiction plotline and just barely enough character exposition. Furthermore, the monster action is the focal point--the bread and butter of Japanese giant monster movies, and Tezuka showcases an ambitious style with his monsters and massive mechs.

In 1999, Godzilla attacks Japan for the first time since 1954. While other monsters have led incursions against Japanese cities during that time, this new appearance by the dreaded radioactive lizard causes Japan's military scientists to create a bio robot, a Mechagodzilla using the recently discovered bones of the beast that wrecked havoc back in 1954. Completed in 2003 and christened as 'Kiryu', the man made mechanical monster is put into battle when Godzilla abruptly appears once again.

After displaying a knack for creating monster action vastly superior to anything from the 90s entries, Masaaki Tezuka returns to the series to impress yet again with this lean, mean and almost plot free, but heavily sugar coated spectacular pitting the Big G against an all new incarnation of Mechagodzilla. Having so far appeared in five movies, the look of this robotic adversary has changed from film to film going from minor alterations to a complete overhaul in the '90s and '00s entries. The use of a gigantic robotic counter-weapon first appeared in the lively Honda directed feature KING KONG ESCAPES (1968) which featured Mechani-Kong. The creation of a robotic Godzilla was a no-brainer, but it would be some six years before such an idea would develop.

First appearing in Jun Fukuda's GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA in 1974, that film saw Toho's titanic robot a creation of alien design. Proving a successful formula, the company decided to build a sequel around the bionic beast and in a far more serious, adult manner that abandoned the livelier previous picture and its wild fantasy and spy elements. That film was TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975). Despite the return of Ishiro Honda, Akira Ifukube and a more absorbing than usual screenplay, that movie failed at the Japanese box office.

Flash forward 18 years later and an all new version of Godzilla's mechanical double was unveiled in a remake bearing the same title of GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993). Only this time, the scriptwriters eschewed the otherworldly machinations of the Showa series going in the opposite direction highlighting this robots man-made origins. This 90s version featured a variety of flashy laser weapons, a sleeker look, but a less than imposing design. Still, the film was a hit. Ten years later, here we are again with a second remake that retains Mecha G's man-made scientific status, yet with a more formidable countenance than the 90s version. For Tezuka's take on the subject, this Mighty Mech bears some resemblance to the evil image of the 70s character.

In a novel approach, this version of Mechagodzilla is constructed from the bones of the original monster that laid waste to Japan in 1954. While this plot device is an ingenious way to rework the material, the bones of Godzilla were shown to have disintegrated during the closing moments of Honda's original masterpiece. Curiously, the use of the monsters bones to fashion a counter weapon seems to have been partially inspired by a plot point from 1993's GVMG wherein that version of the giant robot was designed based on the recovered remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah. This new incarnation carries with it some COOL weaponry, one particular piece literally so.

The Absolute Zero cannon is a freezing weapon that emits a beam registering 27.3 degrees below zero. This is Mecha G's hidden card against Godzilla. This type of offensive weapon was likely inspired by the Super X-3 seen in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYER from 1995. That futuristic battle plane was equipped with a number of freezing lasers and missiles with which to prevent an impending meltdown by the Godzilla of the Heisei series. Other MG weapons are the requisite rockets and masers as well as a pair of forearm lasers and a hidden sword that ejects from the robots wrist. As impressive as this mechanical marvel is, none of the screens re-interpretations of Godzilla's robotic double have the sheer number of attacks of the original 70s version.

In addition to all the cool kaiju sci fi accouterments on display, Mechagodzilla is carried and guided remotely from three massive battle planes--the AC-3 Shirasagi. These planes also act as a regenerative system for when Kiryu's energy is depleted. This plot point yields one of the most impressive and intriguing sequences in all of Kaiju-dom. The scene in question is 'Kiryu's Big Joy Ride'. During their first rather brief altercation, Godzilla's roar sets off some sort of inherent memory deep within the inter-spinal cells contained within the bones used to build the bio creation. From there, Kiryu goes 'out of control', on a warpath of his own. The military are helpless to stop the rampaging robot and have to stand by while it tramples the Yokohama and Hekkeijima districts till Kiryu's batteries deplete--58 minutes later.

Tezuka's three Godzilla movies all had good things about them most notably that his entries were able to hearken back to the Showa style while maintaining a modern sensibility. While this second of his three G pictures is a remake, it also contains recycled plot elements from his GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS (2000), one of only two Millennium series entries that featured an all new monster for Godzilla to do battle with. That film featured a female character that harbored a vendetta against the gigantic lizard for the death of her commanding officer. In GXMG, a female central figure again has a score to settle with Godzilla after feeling responsible for the death of one of her team members. Incidentally, the other films lead, Misato Tanaka, was an obsessed, determined and tough lady who took the fight to Godzilla. By contrast, GVMG's Yumiko Syaku is far more solemn and subdued, but a bit more likable.

Also, both those movies did a bit of time hopping during their opening sequences in an effort to connect said films to the original 1954 GODZILLA. GXMG begins in 1999 in Tateyama Prefecture. A huge typhoon is reported near the Ryuku Islands. Godzilla appears just as the Anti Mega Losses Force is called to the area. Established in 1966, its sole reason for being is to protect the nation from attacks by gigantic monsters. Knowing this, the Japanese people's somewhat casual attitude towards rampaging beasts is treated in the same fashion (albeit on a larger scale) as a natural disaster such as a tornado, or hurricane. And that's exactly how Godzilla is treated here--as a natural disaster in the form of a gigantic monster. He was also treated in this fashion in Takao Okawara's average GODZILLA 2000 (1999).

Less a character this time (and in this films sequel), his presence is summed up basically as a force of nature that appears unexpectedly. In the case of this movie, the radioactive lizard's last showing was in 1954. The military refers to this new creature as "another Godzilla" since the original was killed with Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer. However, courtesy of stock footage from MOTHRA (1961) and WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966), we are told that various other monsters have attacked Japan since Godzillas inaugural path of devastation. The appearance of Gaira (from GARGANTUAS) is credited with the creation of the Maser tank as a viable means of defense against the monsters.

Aside from some obvious similarities between Tezuka's MEGAGUIRUS and the new MECHAGODZILLA, where the two films differ is in their plots. Tezuka's maiden monster movie had a fairly deep storyline with a handful of twists and a link to Toho's original RODAN (1956). GXMG (2003) resembles a live action anime and contains a minimalist plot that, while threadbare, is perfect science fiction 'popcorn & coke' material. Also, MEGAGUIRUS unfortunately flopped at the Japanese box office while the leaner MG remake took home a tidy profit. Wataru Mimura's script does have a three way character arc that gets sporadic development during the some 40 minutes worth of human interaction.

This involves Akane, the JXSDF team member mourning the loss of a dead team mate; DNA scientist Tokumitsu Yuhara and his daughter, Sara, who still mourns the loss of her mother. Tokumitsu falls for Akane and his playfully bumbling nature is evident every time he's in Akane's presence. He and his daughter maintain a good relationship with Sara sometimes appearing smarter than her dad. There's some nice touches, minor though they be, during the human drama such as Sara questioning why her mother can't be brought back to life as opposed to a robotic monstrosity. It's not expounded upon, but these subtle nuances are welcome amongst all the fast paced action, explosions and creature combat. There's some additional minor details found lurking within Mimura's script, too.

Even with its preponderance of sci fi shenanigans, the writer finds a brief respite to question economic and environmental issues such as tax payers dollars going to the anti Godzilla weapon. Prime Minister Tsuge tells those questioning where the money will come from to get behind the project! Others see this as a possible re-armament of Japan. The film also flirts with international concerns for the reasoning of creating such a powerful weapon. It isn't much, but it's a nice touch to have something to connect fantasy with reality. Such nuances would be scrapped in the next picture--a direct sequel to this one.

Tezuka was seemingly fond of bringing back actors from previous movies. Not only does Kumi Mizuno (MONSTER ZERO, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD) have a role as the Prime Minister, but famous Japanese baseball player, Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, has a quick cameo just as Mechagodzilla is carried across a baseball field. Takahiro Murata, who played the head of the GPN (Godzilla Protection Network) from GODZILLA 2000, has a brief cameo at the beginning. Misato Tanaka, who played the vengeance fueled Kiriko from GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS, also has a cameo here as a courageous nurse who gets in Godzilla's way to save a child. For whatever reason, all of the directors G films have an additional scene after the closing credits have finished. The one seen here occurs in Kiryu's hangar and reveals whether or not Tokumitsu gets his date with Akane, some closure with Sara and a salute to the big guys mechanical doppelganger.

Tezuka was also partial to linking his movies not only with Honda's original (likely a prerequisite from the Toho brass), but with past monster movies. His MEGAGUIRUS provided a link to RODAN (1956) with its insect Meganulon creatures and this films connection to both Mothra and Gaira, but his next entry, TOKYO S.O.S. (2003), featured a connection with Honda's YOG, MONSTER FROM SPACE (1970) when the carcass of a dead Kamebas (the spike backed turtle monster from that movie) washes ashore presumably the victim of a fatal bite from Godzilla. Tezuka really had a keen eye for shooting monster melees and the ones seen here do not disappoint at all. Mechagodzilla even resorts to some punishing fist action at one point and the tail slinging shot is reminiscent of the one from KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962). Aside from the monster battles, the humans get in on some of the action as well once Mechagodzilla goes down for the count and has to be operated manually. This same thing happens again in the sequel, but even more dramatically.

After his Toho tenure with Godzilla was over, Tezuka moved on to a remake of Sonny Chiba's hit science fiction movie, TIME SLIP (1979). Sadly, aside from a few eye opening moments and yet another cool science fiction plot, Tezuka's SENGOKU JIEITAI 1549 (2005) failed to capture either an audience or the violent spectacle of the earlier production.

Yuichi Kikuchi's special effects are some of the best of this series as a whole and impress further with the succeeding picture. Interestingly, all the Millennium entries mock Godzilla's first appearance hidden beneath a gigantic wave from the universally derided American GODZILLA from 1998. The one seen here is the most subtle of the 2000 series. Female composer, Michiro Oshima encores from MEGAGUIRUS to deliver another dynamite score, recycling a cue or two from her bombastic soundtrack from Masaaki Tezuka's premier Godzilla film.

Recalling an image of a grand live action anime cartoon, this remake is high on action and modest on characterization. It's there, it just gets lost among the monsters and hi tech gadgetry. At least there's a touch more humanistic substance here than afforded the sequel. For Godzilla fans this movie is must see entertainment for young kids big and small. It's an old fashioned science fiction spectacular told with a modern spirit and one that is told very well and with a lot of imagination. Hopefully, if Toho revives the series as planned, the new films will have the same Honda styled grandeur and child-like wonder inherent in Tezuka's movies.

This review is representative of the Japanese R2 DVD

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