Megumi Odaka

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995, Okawara Takao)

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah does a lot. It mixes an Aliens rip-off into a Godzilla movie, then tries new things for the giant monster fight, all while finishing off the series. Destoroyah is meant to close off the franchise, giving director Okawara plenty of opportunities to tug at heart strings. Okawara’s attempts at homage and reference matter more for sincerity’s sake than success’s. There’s a lot going on in the film and it tries a lot of things. Not all of the spaghetti sticks.

Major missteps include all the ties to the 1954 Godzilla, including Kôchi Momoko’s pointlessly contrived cameo. None of the new characters this entry have much to do. Ever returning Odaka Megumi gets a good part. Tatsumi Takurô is weak as the scientist. There’s always a scientist. Tatsumi isn’t the worst scientist, but he’s pretty weak.

The human interest stuff this outing, besides all the references to the original, has very little to do with the film. This time, Godzilla is in danger of melting down. It’s a global disaster. Oddly enough, a monster created when the original Godzilla was destroyed is also attacking. And the little Godzilla is missing. There’s a lot going on.

The big monster fight is a bit of a bust. The miniature sets are fantastic, but the other monster is really dumb looking. It’s like a giant crab mixed with an Alien and a demon’s head. It’s really dumb looking, especially when it gets bigger than Godzilla. So it’s even more impressive how well Okawara does on the finish with the lame bad monster.

Destoroyah’s relatively successful.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Okawara Takao; written by Ohmori Kazuki; directors of photography, Kishimoto Masahiro and Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Osada Chizuko; music by Ifukube Akira; produced by Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Tatsumi Takurô (Dr. Ijuin Kensaku), Ishino Yôko (Yamane Yukari), Hayashi Yasufumi (Yamane Kenichi), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Osawa Sayaka (Ozawa Meru), Shinoda Saburô (Professor Fukazawa), Nakao Akira (Commander Aso), Takashima Masahiro (Major Kuroki) and Kôchi Momoko (Yamane Emiko).


Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993, Okawara Takao)

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is outrageous spectacle. The film has the perfect combination of story, director and special effects. The film allows its giant monsters limited personalities, feasible motivations. It even manages to raise questions of morality as this version’s Mechagodzilla is piloted by the anti-Godzilla task force. They’re blowing up just as much as the giant monsters, they’re torturing the monsters. It’s simultaneously heavy and not.

Director Okawara gets to that weightlessness through some disarming, yet empowering moves–it’s a serious movie, but it’s also not a serious movie so don’t dwell–you can acknowledge, but don’t dwell. The result is a Godzilla movie where the viewer has an intense investment in the fight scene. Okawara then proceeds to play with every expectation. He draws things out–those disarming yet empowering moves–showing the viewer what to expect.

The movie rewards the viewer for paying attention, for patience. It’s often delightful, with something for everyone–including an adorable “baby” Godzilla. Mimura Wataru’s script really pulls all these threads together into something cohesive and affecting. He gives the characters just enough depth the actors can imply even further layers. It doesn’t hurt Okawara excels at the saccharine flirtation between leads Takashima Masahiro and Sano Ryoko.

And Odaka Megumi finally does get something to do this Godzilla installment. She gets a significant personal subplot and everything. Odaka nails it, of course. She makes her unlikely character (telepathic Godzilla hunting consultant) the most human part of the film. She, just like the viewer, is jaded by Godzilla movies.

Excellent editing from Yoneda Miho, excellent photography from Sekiguchi Yoshinori. The effects in Mechagodzilla are outstanding. A lot of thought goes into everything, like how Okawara gradually prepares the viewer for miniature sequences. Mechagodzilla is a welcoming Godzilla movie. It’s enthusiastic about its genre and itself.

Nice score from Ifukube Akira. It’s just a nice, solid Godzilla movie.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Okawara Takao; written by Mimura Wataru; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Yoneda Miho; music by Ifukube Akira; produced by Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takashima Masahiro (Aoki Kazuma), Sano Ryoko (Gojo Azusa), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Kawazu Yûsuke (Professor Omae), Harada Daijirô (Sasaki Takuya), Nakao Akira (Commander Aso) and Ueda Kôichi (General Hyodo).


Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992, Okawara Takao)

Godzilla vs. Mothra ain’t bad. It ain’t bad at all. While Ohmori Kazuki’s script leaves something to be desired in general, it doesn’t leave anything in specific to be desired. It doesn’t fail to do something. It sets forth its concept and fulfills it. I’m thinking mostly in terms of the human stories, which are contrived but genial enough to get through, as it’s director Okawara and the technical crew who desire the credit for the amazing giant monster battles.

Mothra already has something going for it just in how sincerely the film deals with the giant moth meant to protect the planet Earth from environmental dangers. It’s this gorgeous moth with very pretty theme music, how can you not like Mothra? Mothra is like the potpourri of Kaiju. Really, you don’t like pleasant smells? And Okawara and the effects team go all out on Mothra; she’s got flying battles with actual good matte work, she’s got multiple iconic shots. It’s a pilot for a Mothra spin-off. A really effective one.

The entire cast is strong. Even Bessho Tetsuya’s deadbeat dad Indiana Jones knock-off (he gets better once he’s out of the fedora and trying to make amends for kidnapping to pay alimony). Because Mothra’s actually from Yonezawa Shiori’s perspective. She’s Bessho’s daughter–Kobayashi Satomi, in a solid supporting lead performance, is the mother. It’s about the magic of Mothra getting Mom and Dad back together, but with strong enough special effects values for it not to seem condescending. Okawara doesn’t shortchange the human actors. They don’t have the best material, but he takes it seriously.

Except poor Odaka Megumi, of course, who’s just in the movie because it’s a Godzilla movie.

Great photography from Kishimoto Masahiro, especially with the effects work. Nice score from Ifukube Akira. Godzilla vs. Mothra is an entertaining, technically outstanding giant monster outing.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Okawara Takao; written by Ohmori Kazuki; director of photography, Kishimoto Masahiro; music by Ifukube Akira; produced by Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Bessho Tetsuya (Fujita Takuya), Kobayashi Satomi (Tezuka Masako), Murata Takehiro (Andoh Kenji), Shinoda Saburô (Professor Fukazawa), Kobayashi Akiji (Tsuchiashi Yuzo), Takarada Akira (Minamino Jyoji), Ohtake Makoto (Tomokane Takeshi), Imamura Keiko (Cosmos #1), Osawa Sayaka (Cosmos #2) and Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki).


Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991, Ohmori Kazuki)

Not much goes right in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Director Ohmori has a strange way of being boastful about really lame ideas and even worse technical executions. He spends a lot of time–and the film’s not short, it runs an hour and forty-three–trying to show off the film’s big ideas. It’s a bunch of time travel nonsense involving a bunch of white dorks from the 23rd century who travel back in time to tell the Japanese how it’s going to be.

Seriously, it really is about white people being so jealous of Japan’s success they don’t just travel back in time, they create a giant monster to destroy Japan. It’s a film made under the assumption children are dumb, which is different than the assumption children like dumb things. What’s so strange about it is how vested Ohmori gets into the time travel nonsense since it’s terribly handled, both in the script and his direction. It’s not like there are any gem moments in Ghidorah; the monster fight scene is technically marvelous but dramatically inert–Ohmori blows through any goodwill on the nerd Terminator (Robert Scott Field) who terrorizes the good guys.

There’s a slight subplot about ostensible protagonist Toyohara Kosuke figuring out the true origin of Godzilla and investigating it. The time travel thing then directly effects everyone already involved in that subplot, which makes things real contrived. It’s one of the worst time travel movies. There’s nothing smart about it, it’s mostly all profoundly idiotic. And Ohmori does it to delay Godzilla’s appearance in a movie called Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.

Is it worth it?

No, not at all. Technical competency aside, that third act is a fail. It’s not like Ohmori asks much from his cast but he even short-changes them with the finale. Anna Nakagawa does okay as the sympathetic future person, but it’s all on goodwill Ohmori never delivers. Okada Megumi has nothing to do. She doesn’t even get to spout exposition. Still, just standing around, she’s better than Sasaki Katsuhiko. He’s the scientist advising the good guys. He’s comically bad. It’s a bad part and Ohmori doesn’t direct his cast well, but Sasaki’s still a weak link.

Occasionally, Nakagawa or Toyohara will have a good delivery and the movie won’t be in the middle of dumb exposition and Ghidorah will be all right. For a while, it seems like the film will coast through. It can’t make it through that disastrous third act though.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Ohmori Kazuki; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Ifukube Akira; produced by Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Toyohara Kosuke (Terasawa), Nakagawa Anna (Emmy), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Sasaki Katsuhiko (Professor Mazaki), Robert Scott Field (Android M-11), Kobayashi Akiji (Tsuchiashi Yuzo), Nishioka Tokuma (Fujio), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Shindo), Chuck Wilson (Chuck Wilson), Richard Berger (Grenchiko) and Ueda Kôichi (Ikehata).


Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994, Yamashita Kensho)

To say Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla has it all is an understatement. It has more than that. It has dirt bikes, black holes, a “Muppet Babies” version of Godzilla, a superwoman, walks on the beach at sunset, and, apparently, the first butt shot in a Godzilla movie. It’s a wacky mess, proving having no story is sometimes a good thing. The 1990s Godzilla series was so dependent on continuity, at one point during the film, I thought Joss Whedon wrote it. Space Godzilla has a bunch of little details, but the thing moves at such a fast pace, they’re not used for any reason other than storytelling brevity.

I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a comedy. While the writer did go on to do other Godzilla movies, the director only did this one, which probably means Toho wasn’t happy with his performance. How could they be? He’s created a perfect Godzilla movie. It ends with a U.N. anti-Godzilla military guy opining, “Godzilla’s not that bad, is he?” After he’s just destroyed a city–of course, so has the Japanese anti-Godzilla military guy, in a giant robot (from these films, I’ve learned the Japanese solve all their problems with giant robots)–during a pointless fight with Space Godzilla. Maybe the lack of purpose–the film flip-flops between being about the telepathic control of Godzilla and the Space Godzilla’s origins in a black hole–is what makes Space Godzilla so good. It’s a bunch of scenes strung together, some of them really big–there’s some great matte shots in Space Godzilla, probably the most impressive in any Godzilla movie–all connected through the five main characters. Oh, I forgot–in my list up above–there’s a mad scientist too. Dirt bikes, black holes, and a mad scientist. Not much else offers you those three items.

There’s also the “Muppet Babies” Godzilla, which is cute and totally absurd. But really, it’s the cast. At one point, I got thinking about Yoshikawa Towako’s performance–when she’s standing around talking about mind-controlling Godzilla–she’s actually taking this absurd acting job seriously and making it all believable. All the other principals, Hashizume Jun, Yoneyama Zenkichi, and Odaka Megumi are good. Very likable, people you want to spend an hour and a half with. The best is Emoto Akira, playing a soldier obsessed with killing Godzilla. The film treats him as a goof-ball, running around on foot trying to catch the monster. It’s hilarious.

Technically, I already mentioned the sometimes great composites (usually when there’s no urban destruction involved). There’s also a really good score in Space Godzilla, something akin to a 1970s John Williams disaster score (except the two scenes I’m convinced are homage to From Here to Eternity). The most impressive thing about Space Godzilla, besides its approach to storytelling, is its sound design. The final fight scene has little weight, since no one’s really fighting for anything (the earlier fight, when Space Godzilla is trying to beat up Little Godzilla, is much more effective), but the sound design is amazing. Some great editing in the last fight scene too.

Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla is a big dumb mess and it appreciates and understands it’s a big dumb mess and does everything it can with that condition. It’s constantly delightful.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Yamashita Kensho; written by Kashiwabara Hiroshi; director of photography, Kishimoto Masahiro; music by Hattori Takayuki; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki and Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Hashizume Jun (Shinjo Koji), Yoneyama Zenkichi (Sato Kiyoshi), Emoto Akira (Major Yuki), Yoshikawa Towako (Dr. Gondo), Saitô Yôsuke (Dr. Okubo), Sahara Kenji (Minister Segawa), Nakao Akira (Commander Aso) and Ueda Kôichi (Deputy Commander Hyodo).


Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989, Omori Kazuki)

Godzilla vs. Biollante is an odd Godzilla movie. It’s got some cool devices–there’re these Godzilla alarm system, which do a great deal to establish the film’s believability–even if the computer readouts are impossibly old. Stylistically, both in its approach to visually explaining settings and in its music, Biollante really reminds me of Star Trek II. The comparison starts at the beginning of the film and I was still thinking about it at the end. However, though there are a lot of good things about Biollante, it’s excruciatingly boring.

The good stuff is actually a lot of the characters and their actors. There’s the gung ho army commando who’s been out to pasture, played by Minegishi Tôru. Minegishi is a joy to watch. He approaches it with a sense of measured comedy. He never quite looks at the camera and winks, but you’re never sure he’s not going to do it. On the flip–in one of the film’s greatest successes–is the young colonel who’s got the huge responsibility of dealing with Godzilla, played by Takashima Masanobu. While the film’s not interested in being believable beyond it’s own setting, Masanobu makes the character real, which is quite a feat, given how few lines of dialogue the character actually speaks. There’s a similar juxtaposition with the scientists, though only the younger one, played by Kitamura Kunihiko, the ostensible lead, is actually good. The older one is a mad scientist, which is a reasonable segue into the next paragraph.

The bad stuff is mostly–besides how boring it all is to watch–how goofy Godzilla vs. Biollante gets in order to fill a hundred minutes. There’s the ominous Middle Eastern state–which is actually really funny at times, unintentionally I’m sure–the ominous, but better than the Arabs, American corporation, and then there’s the mad scientist. The mad scientist scenes are actually out of a 1950s sci-fi, with thunder and lighting and everything. The film’s effective moments are, not surprisingly, when it deals with either characters or people’s reaction to Godzilla. The special effects are a little slight in parts and the miniature city just doesn’t work, but there are a few great shots in that city scene.

Coming after the 1984 Godzilla, Biollante is a disappointment to be sure, but it does have some “real” scenes in it. Not goofy giant rubber monsters fighting each other, but real scenes of human struggle. It also has the scene where all the people run through the city. I wonder if it’s a status thing for the extras, who must just be regular people there are so many… “Did you see me evacuating the city? Did you see me? I was carrying the giant cactus.”

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Omori Kazuki; screenplay by Omori, based on a story by Kobayashi Shinichirô; director of photography, Kato Katsuhiro; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Sugiyama Kôichi; production designer, Ikuno Juichi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Mitamura Kunihiko (Kirishima Kazuhito), Tanaka Yoshiko (Okouchi Asuka), Takashima Masanobu (Major Kuroki Sho), Takahashi Koji (Dr. Shiragami), Minegishi Tôru (Lieutenant Gondo Goro), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Nagashima Toshiyuki (Director Yamamoto Seiichi), Kaneda Ryunosuke (Azuka’s Father), Yuge Yasunori (Prime Minister), Kuga Yoshiko (Prime Minister’s Wife) and Sawaguchi Yasuko (Shiragami Erika).


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