(1975) dir. Ishirô Honda
The final of the “original” Godzilla film series, known as the Shōwa series (1954–1975), The Terror of Mechagodzilla wasn’t actually a film that I had seen before, even in my youth. But as my kids and I have been going through the Shōwa series, a reflection on my childhood love of Godzilla and a sampling of the variety of films that I like to screen for them, it ended up being our latest return to Godzilla.
Oft-considered one of the peaks of the original series, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), which I had never seen in my youth, sadly, was one of the first of the films that I watched with the kids, going back now a couple of years. I’ve tried to show them things that I like and hope that they’ll like, but don’t try to follow up on anything that doesn’t really wash with them. Oddly enough, Godzilla’s been a moderate hit. Growing up in the 1970’s with Godzilla is one thing, but here in the 2000’s, clearly something else, or at least possibly something else.
The film follows the story of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, with the Earth scientists searching for the head of the robot Godzilla to learn from the alien science. Their search trips up Titanasaurus, a pretty cool, colorful fellow, a dinosaur who crushes their ship. It turns out that the aliens have teamed up with a disgruntled scientist who has learned to control creatures by mind-control and his cyborg daughter (imagine me explaining this to the kids, if you will), and with the mind-controlled dinosaur and the reconstructed Mechagodzilla, plan to take over the world, Tokyo first, mind you.
While there’s a vague “the humans have destroyed their planet” eco-message, mostly the intrigue, narrative, and adventure are played out with some fairly standard-issue tropes that bored the kids senseless. To be honest, the kids played and paid little attention even during the climactic battle scenes, but when queried afterward said that they’d enjoyed it. They were the ones who’d asked for another installment of Godzilla.
My take is this: not the best, not the worst, but definitely not the most inspired of the series. Godzilla’s best adversary besides Ghidrah, mechagodzilla has a lot going for him, all robot-like, with tons of weaponry, a mirror image of the now heroic dinosaur. The film even includes a rather drawn-out re-cap of Godzilla’s story, how he came to be a friend of the Earth rather than a terrorizor. Actually, the kids most enjoyed his “dance” that was from a prior film, re-shown in the opening sequence.
Will I finish out the Shōwa series with the kids? Will I show them some of the later films? I have to say, of the outstanding films I am most eager to show them Godzilla vs. Megalon simply because it’s one I remember seeing when it came out, but it’s not actually available from Netflix except on some Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD.
I try to leave it up to them, as much as I try to show them things I think are cool. Oddly enough, it’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) that Felix has requested. And while he’s seen that film already, he’s most influenced by his love for “Lego Indiana Jones”, his favorite Nintendo Wii game that he has, no doubt.
After that one, I’ll see what Clara wants. Recent experience tells me that it might well be The Little Mermaid (1989), which for some reason has become her most recent point of interest. While I try to show them things outside the norm, I will always listen to what they want.