Picking up a year after the last outing in monster-stomped Tokyo, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS is the last in the Millennium series leading to the upcoming monster smash-a-thon Godzilla Wars. That said, as a sort of swan song to the most recent series Godzilla: Tokyo SOS is less a stand-alone film and more a third act to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002).
Director Masaki Tezuka, who admittedly I’ve found competent but not exciting in his recent Kaiju work, brings the most recent Godzilla storyline to a fitting, and surprisingly spiritual, end and manages to call in homage’s to the original Mothra (1961), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964), and even gives us a nod to long forgotten one-shot monster flick Yog (1970).
Tezuka, who also authored the screenplay doesn’t spend any real time establishing characters or motivations or relationships. There is a hint of a romance between the main character Yoshito Choju (Noboro Kaneko), a maintenance worker on the Mechagodzilla project and an attractive female pilot Asuza Kisirago (Miho Yashioka). But, it’s left so far out of the story that it really doesn’t impact the film.
The script brings back Hiroshi Koizumi (from Mothra) as Choju’s father. He is contacted by descendents of the twin fairies from Infant Island and warned that Godzilla bones must be returned to the sea otherwise Mothra will declare war on the people of Japan. Godzilla’s bones, of course, were used to create the endoskeleton for the Mechagodzilla robot, so to comply with Mothra’s wishes Japan must divest itself of the only weapon that has ever driven Godzilla back out to sea.
This is not a comfortable predicament for the Japanese Premier (Akira Nakao) to be in. He’s regarded as a hero for carrying through with the original Mechagodzilla project and rebuilding Tokyo after the robot went insane during its first meeting with his flesh and radioactive blood alter ego. But, Mothra has promised to assist the people of Japan if they comply.
The youngest Choju summons Mothra by creating the symbol to call her out of elementary school desks just as Godzilla makes landfall. Mothra battles Godzilla until she is defeated. Her sacrifice forces the Premier to unleash Mechagodzilla, if only to distract Godzilla enough for Mothra to escape.
Meanwhile back on Infant Island a giant egg hatches and two Mothra larvae head off to join the battle.
Man, there’s a lot of monster mayhem in this movie! Since my favorite of the Showa series is Godzilla vs Mothra and my favorite monster (who is not Godzilla) is Mothra, this film was a very welcome entry into the series. I know that I’ve complained that both Mothra and Mechagodzilla are overused in the recent Toho canon, but since this is less an individual film than the conclusion to a trilogy I was able to let those complaints go. Mothra has NEVER looked more beautiful than she does here, both in adult and larval forms. The Special Effects team led by Eiichi Asada manages to make Mothra flap her wings much less mechanically than we’ve ever seen before too and models her on the Mothra of Godzilla vs. Mothra rather than any of the more recent films starring the titular moth.
The other effects are very, very good too, easily the best in the series to date, with Godzilla using the form established in the 2000, or Millennium, timeline. Mechagodzilla, of course, looks the same as in the last film.
Most of the city smashing is relegated to a single Tokyo district so what the special effects team saved in constructing miniatures they put into polishing their CGI and costumes. For this film it works really well too. I was happy to see Godzilla make it about half a mile in shore before the ass whupping started without having to follow monsters all around Japan.
The military stays more in the background here letting Mechgodzilla handle most of the monster fighting, however we get the requisite Mazer cannons and tanks, albeit briefly. And, you know, I have to ask. Is getting assigned to a Mazer in the JSDF a punishment job? That weapon only manages to attract Godzilla’s attention so he can smash it.
If you remember the last film’s hero, Akane Yashiro, was a Mazer driver before she was involved in the Mechagodzilla project. She makes an appearance here too as she and the other two pilots from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are sent off to train in America. She does stick around long enough to look wistfully at the robot and express her belief that maybe Mechagodzilla has a measure of sentience and doesn’t want to fight.
All in all this is a very fun film, and yet still manages to have a dark edge. While the characters are almost one-dimensional they handle their roles well. If you look at the Millennium series there is a consistent theme of sacrifice that runs through them, and that is carried to its logical conclusion here where both Mothra and Mechagodzilla sacrifice themselves for Japan and Chujo is nearly called upon to do the same.
Columbia/Tri Star releases Godzilla: Tokyo SOS in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen in original Japanese with English subs or a fair to middling English dub. They also pack the DVD with some trailers (Steam Boy!!!) and a making-of featurette.
If you have Godzilla vs. Megaguiras and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla then this film brings those stories to a close and it’s well worth a view. If you are new to the Godzilla universe then maybe you should check out some of the older films, specifically Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla first because the latest one draws heavily from the past and assumes you know what the hell the characters are talking about.
I do, and I loved it.
All in all as a stand-alone title this one feels really shallow, but as the conclusion to a series it’s a great capper.