History shows again and again the folly of watching Godzilla movies.

From 1989 to 2004, the venerable Toho Studios cranked out new Godzilla movies at a rate of about one per year. These brought back a lot of the classic monsters while introducing a few new ones, with bigger production values and jazzed up but still campy visual effects. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II and Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla, made in 1993 and 1994, are in the earlier half of that wave. Now hitting Blu-ray, how do these hold up?

* Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
The world’s greatest minds have constructed Mechagodzilla, the ultimate weapon to combat Godzilla. Elsewhere, explorers discover a large egg, which hatches and reveals a baby Godzillasaurus. Godzilla rises from the ocean once more, in search of the baby. Rodan appears, after it as well. Mechagodzilla’s pilots are put to the test in stopping the two giant monsters.

Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla
A new program is under way to implant Godzilla with a device that will allow humans to control him telepathically. Failing that, another new giant robot, Moguera, is constructed. Good thing, too, because an alien life form has merged with some of Godzilla’s cells and is attacking the Earth.

These later-years Godzilla flicks are very much their own genre, with a filmic language all their own. Everybody knows it’s a guy in a rubber suit knocking over model buildings, so instead of hiding that fact, filmmakers have instead worked to make the guy in the rubber suit look really cool. That gives these movies a great, over-the-top comic book feeling, which is part of why they’re so beloved by cult movie fans.

Mechagodzilla hadn’t been seen since 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, so Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II is all about reintroducing the big ‘bot to new audiences. A lot of screentime is devoted to selling the audience on how awesome Mechagodzilla is, and it mostly pays off. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla square off at around the halfway point for a huge battle, one would that would’ve been the finale in earlier Godzilla films. The two prove to be equally matched, really tearing into one another. Mechagodzilla is set up as the movie’s star, later battling Rodan, and then the rematch with Godzilla in which they truly mess each other up. These are two of the best monster brawls of the Godzilla franchise.

Godzilla movies have a history of not knowing what to do with their human characters, and that’s certainly the case with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. Drama about who will or won’t pilot Mechagodzilla isn’t that interesting, leaving the human element to cutesy business about the humans raising the baby Godzilla, named “Baby.” Remember that 1993 was the year of Jurassic Park, and all the stuff with Baby in its zoo environment definitely feels like something from the Spielberg film. I don’t know if the similarity is intentional or just the zeitgeist, but there it is. When Baby reappears at the movie’s conclusion, the movie again evokes Spielberg’s famous sentimentalism. I doubt anyone will be moved to tears, but the movie certainly tries.

The problems with uninteresting human characters continue in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla. Get ready for a lot of hippy-dippy talk about telepathy, more drama about who’ll pilot the giant robot, a subplot with the Japanese mafia, and more. It too often comes off as stalling, with the movie trying to come up with exciting stuff to fill in the gaps between the monster battles. The baby Godzilla is back, now referred to as “Little Godzilla,” and isn’t given anything to do except try to be heartwarming in his interactions with the human characters.

Maybe I’m just getting Godzilla fatigue by now, but the monster battles just don’t have the same fun or excitement for me as other big G movies from this era. Yes, there are plenty of explosions and destruction of models, but there’s a lack of personality. Bear with me here—even though these are rubber suits, the monsters in this series have historically had some personality. Godzilla’s rage against humans often feels justified, as you can almost see him thinking, “You guys, quit shooting at me!” Mothra is ethereal and angelic, Mechagodzilla pursues his goals like a single-minded soldier following orders, and King Ghidora is just an ornery bastard. Spacegodzilla lacks any defining characteristics. He just roars and zaps things with no rhyme or reason. This makes the final battle feel hollow. The brawl has some choice moments, such as Spacegodzilla levitating Godzilla with telekinesis, but I walked away from this one just a little disappointed.

Both movies look relatively good in 1.851:/1080p HD widescreen Blu-ray, with vivid colors and deep blacks. A couple of shots here and there have some color bleeding, such as a scene at sunset that swathes the screen in orange, but for the most part the picture holds up. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks are good as well, making the most of the big explosions and Godzilla’s trademark roar. Trailers and digital copies are it for extras.

This is the unrated cut of Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla. I’d love to tell that there’s all kinds of sleaze in the flick, but all it means is that two minutes that had been cut for television airings are now back in the movie.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II is a great time at the movies, full of all the monster-bashin’ action we love. Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla has its moments, but it can’t stand up to the better films in the franchise.

verdict

I just don’t have it in my heart to find Godzilla guilty.

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