Monday, May 19, 2014

The Litany of Godzilla: Showa Series Part Five- Awesoming Robots

Many fans of this genre think the next film should be lumped in with the low point the previous ones occupy.  Sure it has a main character designed by an elementary school contest winner, and another annoying voiced kid in disturbingly short pants. [Later edit- who looks remarkably like Ken who named Hedora. Different dubbing actors really make recognition hard.]  It may be full of questionable acting, nonsensical plot turns, stock footage, padding. 

And sure, the whole thing was shot in three weeks.

However, this insight is missing one key factor.

This movie drips with awesomeness, and while I don’t consider it “best” by any reliable metric, it will always be my favorite Godzilla movie, and that’s why it gets an entry all to itself.

Godzilla vs. Megalon

An underground nuclear test causes the showing of footage from Destroy All Monsters again.  

It, or something angered by it, also flashes, fizzes and drains a lake that young Rokuro is out on, riding a weird dolphin craft that can bob but not actually propel itself.  His two dads are on shore, and in the second move of stellar parenting in the first few minutes of the story, rescue the kid by shooting a rocket at him. [Later edit- In the original Japanese, Rokuro is Science Dad's little brother. This doesn't really change any relationships in the film.]

They all drive back to their house/lab in a groovy dune buggy expositorily discussing the lost continents of Mu and Lemuria.  Bad guys are already at their place, and we get to see the family dynamic.  Science Dad makes sure the lab is intact, while Action Dad gives chase in the groovy dune buggy.

The bad guys get away from Action Dad, while Science Dad finds some red dirt that matches the bad guys’ dropped button.  An extended experiment montage proves the red dirt is from either thirty miles below the surface of the sea or Easter Island.

Easter Island gets mentioned multiple times, but never comes into play except for occasional glimpses of the stone heads. It’s not clear, with all the monsters, robots and lost civilizations in the movie why they thought some stone heads would add anything.

Science Dad finishes building the completely awesome shiny, grinning, rainbow detailed robot named Jet Jaguar.

Rokuro works on his own mini motorcycle, and in a parenting move rivaling shooting a rocket at the kid, his dads let him go out riding around alone right after their place has been robbed and ransacked.  The boy is captured unsurprisingly quickly, and the bad guys use him to re-enter the lab.

The villains are from “Seatopia,” a lost continent that sank under the ocean, yet still somehow has all of its access tunnels coming out of Japan.  Seatopia has the technology to make their own oxygen and a Sun, but robotics elude them. 
Therefore the Seatopian leader “Middle Aged Man,” has sent his thugs to steal Jet Jaguar so he can lead Megalon.

With the first half of the plan executed, Middle Aged Man begins the Megalon “wake up” chant, accompanied by the only women in the entire film: the underwear and saran wrap clad, new age Seatopia dance troupe.  This is pretty unusual for a Godzilla film.  They usually have strong female roles, but since we've got the alternative lifestyle family in this one, we'll let them have a pass.

 The monster awakens and tunnels to the surface in all his drill handed, lightning headed, fireball spitting, giant beetle glory.

Science Dad and Rokuro are being taken to Seatopia in a steel box on the back of a truck for reasons that aren’t totally clear, since they already control Jet Jaguar and the lab.  Action Dad escapes being tied up in the lab, and goes on a wild car chase involving driving down steps and through buildings, a couple of motorcycles, and some pratfalls.

The Seatopians instruct Jet Jaguar to lead Megalon to (Where else?) Tokyo.  The big bug looks to be having a wonderful time jumping around, blowing stuff up and generally causing carnage.   The truck drivers aren’t too keen on heading towards this destruction.  They throw out the Seatopian holding the gun on them and decide to dump their container off of a dam.  Action Dad shows up just in time to see Megalon swat the container over a mountain and into a field where its solid steel walls cushion the landing enough that Science Dad and Rokuro are unhurt, reuniting the family.

A parade of every military vehicle seen in the last half dozen Kaiju films drives towards Megalon’s explosion party.  They get a few shots in before he starts blasting them, and much of the surrounding area with his head lightning that looks a great deal like King Ghidorah’s.  This is a frugal weapon decision from an effects budget point of view.

Science Dad has a necklace with a voice controller for Jet Jaguar which will override the lab computer, but it only works line of sight.

Y’know, where he could simply yell the commands at the robot without it, now that I think about it.

The army uses a helicopter to fly the dads over to Jet Jaguar, allowing Science Dad to order him to go to Monster Island and get Godzilla.  Why they didn’t use the helicopter to go get Godzilla themselves right at the start is another mystery for the ages.

Megalon is completely lost without his little flying robotic guide, leading him to leap and shoot in random directions.  Since that isn’t too far off from what he was doing before, he still does monumental damage to the area and military vehicles trying to stop him.

Middle Age Man wants to leave nothing to chance.  Since he has the cockroaches of Space Hunter Nebula-M on speed dial, he orders up a delivery of Gigan.

With the entire town abandoned, Action Dad and Rokuro could go to any store to get something useful to retake their lab.  They pick a toy and model shop.  Although to be fair, the four foot jet model they throw into the bad guy’s face when he opens the lab door is very effective.  At first it appears that Megalon is going to stomp their home, and the hero family runs out, leaving the Seatopian to get mashed.  However, in the next scene, he’s gone and they’re in the lab.  I’m really not sure what happened.
[Later edit- What happened (in the Japanese version) was Megalon swatted a very Styrofoam looking rock onto the Seatopian, crushing him.]

Who cares? Godzilla finally shows up.

Jet Jaguar displays his incredible mime skills to get the Big G to follow him, and flies off. Godzilla follows with the Epic Cannonball from a couple films ago and starts swimming.

Because flying is faster, Jet Jaguar gets back first, and because he’s programmed to program himself for survival, or something, he becomes sentient out of sheer awesomeness, and goes to confront Megalon.

The evil bug laughs for a bit, until Jet Jaguar’s self-programming takes an unusual turn, and he programs himself to grow to Kaiju size!

Time to cue the awesome Jet Jaguar theme music and a judolicious beating of Megalon. 
Rokuro and dads follow along in a stolen army jeep,
and Godzilla is still swimming.

The good times don’t last, sadly, as Gigan arrives and the double team action proves too much for our heroic robot.  They use him for several forms of tennis, and also skeet shooting practice.

When things look to be at their absolute worst, it’s time for a run in!

Godzilla-mania is running wild, brother!  He postures, he cleans house, and he helps up his new metallic chum.  All to the musical strains of a mouth harp for reasons that aren’t totally apparent.

The evil Kaiju mount a counter attack. Gigan, being savvy enough to go for an old wound, cuts Godzilla exactly the same way he did in the last movie.  The good guys hold the upper hand for a bit, but some flying and digging sneak attacks take the advantage.

Godzilla and Jet Jaguar are trapped in a ring of flames, with no hope of escape.  At least until they remember they’re a radioactive dinosaur, and a flying metal guy, and jet right out of it.

Then it’s time for the King of Monsters to bring his own heat, and the heels are running.  Middle Aged Man orders all of Seatopia’s exits shut.  In addition he reminds us that Easter Island should have had something to do with this story, but they forgot about it.

Godzilla batters Megalon on the ground, while Jet Jaguar does the same to Gigan in the air, forcing a crash.  He then picks up the bladed space chicken, breaks his pointy arm, and tosses him to allow Godzilla to return the skeet shooting favor.  

Gigan zooms back to the cockroach people, leaving Megalon in quite a pickle.

Jet Jaguar holds Seatopia’s failed weapon while Godzilla nails him with a running drop kick that has to be seen to be believed…TWICE! 

Then he tail slams his foe a few times for good measure, before letting Megalon run back through the closing portal to Middle Aged Man’s world.

The epic Jet Jaguar theme powers up to highlight the handshake between heroic giants that makes the formation of the Mega Powers look wimpy and insignificant.  

Godzilla heads home, and our atypical but happy family of two dads a kid and a robot reunite.

Jet Jaguar, once shrunk, also gives up his self-programming, but Science Dad is sure he’d do it again, “if needed.”

We all hope he will be as the most awesome song ever plays over the credits!


Brian said...

As usual, awesome Jeff. Also of note that Godzilla likely brought forward (kind of intended there) the J.T.Kirk drop kick before Shatner ever did.

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx.

Good point. This specific film was Post Trek, but Godzilla did pull an Ali Shuffle a leaping Victory Dance and several other moves before Captain Kirk hit the spaceways. The drop kick probably was inspired by the same source in both cases.

There's a thesis for you: Compare and contrast the influence of professional wrestling on Japanese Monster Movies and American Sci Fi Television in the 1960s.

Thanx again.