Dinosaurs and Robots
Terror of Mechagodzilla is directed by Ishiro Honda and is the last film of the original Godzilla Showa series. The film is a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and stars Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata, and Gorō Mutsumi. It was also the least successful Godzilla film at the box office.
Twenty one years and fifteen films later, the original Godzilla series reached its conclusion. By 1975, Toho could no longer deny the rapidly declining popularity of kaiju films and the diminishing returns of the box office, leaving them with no choice but to give their most popular monster a well-deserved rest. So instead of creating another Destroy All Monsters, Toho decided that the Showa series finale would be a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: the one film that saved the Showa series from ending in complete mediocrity. Toho had no intention of this being the final Godzilla film ever; they just needed to give audiences an extended break from seeing a Godzilla film year in and year out.
I do not at all remember the first time I saw Terror of Mechagodzilla, nor what my reaction was afterwards. What I do know is how I felt after watching the film again recently for the sake of this review: the Showa series may have been better off ending with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. By no means is Terror of Mechagodzilla anything like the hilariously bad Godzilla vs. Megalon nor the pity riddled Godzilla's Revenge. What Terror of Mechagodzilla is is disappointing, disappointing in the sense that it does not at all contain the kind of intensity implied by the poster: Godzilla combats Mechagodzilla while cities are being destroyed; UFO's are flying overhead; tornadoes are raging in the background. This is a movie called Terror of Mechagodzilla, yet there is basically nothing resembling terror, and there is very little Mechagodzilla. But why stop there? The titling issues of the Godzilla series continues: some dumbass at independent distributor Bob Conn Enterprises gave the film a 1978 North American release under the name The Terror of Godzilla, a title that makes about as much sense as Gigantis the Fire Monster for Godzilla Raids Again.
The story of Terror of Mechagodzilla starts some time after the events of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Interpol agents search for leftover pieces of Mechagodzilla at the bottom of the Okinawan Sea. However, their submarine is attacked and destroyed by an aquatic dinosaur called Titanosaurus. Interpol's investigation of Titanosaurus leads them to a mad scientist named Shinzo Mafune (Akihiko Hirata), who had been disgraced for his work and now wants to eliminate all of mankind. Mafune has a daughter named Katsura (Tomoko Ai) and is in allegiance with the surviving Black Hole aliens from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. The aliens plot to use Titanosaurus and a second Mechagodzilla in order to destroy the Earth and rebuild it for themselves. Never fear, for Godzilla arrives to combat Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla and save the day.
Instead of being a straight on Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla showdown in which no other monsters are involved, Toho decided that a new monster should be thrown into the mix to give the film a little more flavor, as well as to attempt to up the suspense by having Godzilla on his lonesome against two other monsters. Understandably, the movie spends some time giving us exposition on Titanosaurus, but at the expense of extra screen time for Mechagodzilla.
- It takes a while for all the monsters to get on screen, but once they finally do, it's some pretty damn satisfying monster action. The monsters go at each other like they are actually fighting, and not as if they're trying out to become the next contestant for WWE. There are two memorable moments: one where Titanosaurus bites Godzilla square in the face and lifts him into the air and the other when the Godzilla suit catches on fire for a few seconds. Before Godzilla shows up to fight, we get to watch Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla blow up a bunch of buildings, and oh what a sight for sore eyes it is! Absolutely no stock footage to be had! Building smashing is the one place where Terror of Mechagodzilla improves over Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (where there was almost no building smashing).
- What makes Terror of Mechagodzilla so disappointing is how much the human plot overwhelms the monsters, spending way more time than necessary on Shinzo Mafune and his daughter and not at all presenting anything fun to tide us over until Godzilla appears. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla had a fun human spy story to keep us invested, but there's nothing like that here. It's just one boring conversation after another, with a brief shot of Titanosaurus here and there to remind us that we are still watching a movie called Terror of Mechagodzilla.
All in all, Terror of Mechagodzilla is too heavy on human plot and too light on monster scenes, resulting in an uneven kaiju film that doesn't send the Showa series out on a high note. I was expecting more, given that Toho was able to bring Ishiro Honda back one more time and given how much promise that Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla offered. A sequel for one of the best Godzilla villains ever? Hell yeah! But make it a sequel in which your titular monster is barely in the movie at all? Hell no! Even if Terror of Mechagodzilla is far better quality-wise than some of the worst of the Godzilla films, it still should be labeled as a bit of a letdown, because it doesn't at all capitalize on its potential, sending the original Godzilla series out with a whimper, as opposed to a triumphant roar.
Recommend? Only to the most die-hard Godzilla fans.
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