Posted on 1/29/13 07:36 PM
As a child, Godzilla vs. Megalon was one of my favorite movies. I watched our old VHS tape of it again and again. Since then, my tastes in film have improved greatly. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy watching guys in rubber suits fighting as much as the next guy, and consider the 1954 original to be a masterpiece, but by the time Toho got around to this one they had long since reached the point where they were running short on ideas, talent, and damns to give.
To understand how little thought was put into this production, you have to understand that it originally wasn't even supposed to be a Godzilla movie. Toho had just completed a much publicized contest in which school children were encouraged to mail in their own monster designs, with the winning design getting its own movie. Apparently there was a shortage of creativity in Japan at the time, because the winner was Jet Jaguar, a shameless rip-off of Ultraman. But as the production neared, the studio began having doubts about the marketability of Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon, so they added Godzilla to increase viewer appeal.
It's never a good sign when the star is thrown in as an afterthought, and that's only the beginning of the movie's troubles. The entire thing was shot in three weeks, and the Godzilla suit was made in only one, resulting in one of the cheapest looking costumes of the series. In order to further save on money many of the special effects scenes are recycled from previous films. The acting is also hammy even by standards of the genre, and the music choices seem to have been picked and performed by someone on drugs.
The story such as it is follows the familiar formula of an alien race unleashing a giant monster, which wreaks havoc on Japan before being stopped by Godzilla. The aliens this time around are the Seatopians, an ancient subsea race who are threatened by nuclear testing. And their monster is Megalon, a giant beetle/cockroach monster that spits firebombs and has drills for hands. Making things worse for the surface dwellers, the Seatopians have also enlisted the aid of the scythe armed Gigan, Godzilla's enemy from the previous film. But Godzilla has help of his own, in the form a Jet Jaguar an the pair of kooky inventors who created him.
It's never explained why or how they built the robot, or why the villains need to steal it. One of the bad guys mutters something about how his people were too busy to invent such things, which is one of the lamest excuses in the history of lame excuses. A better explanation is that this allows for the poorly staged fights and car chases that pad the runtime. Nor is it ever explained how Jet Jaguar can grow from human to Godzilla size. I also wonder why, if the Seatopians are so advanced, it never occurs to them to send someone to the surface and say "Hey, we exist, can you guys stop bombing us?" Maybe I'm expecting too much from people who dress like space Klansmen.
Anyway, all this is just an excuse for giant monsters to smash stuff and fight each other, which they do. The final battle between Godzilla, Jet Jaguar, Gigan and Megalon Is the film's high point, and one of the few parts so bad that it's good. In a performance worthy of the WWE, the monsters fight what can only be described as a tag team wrestling match, complete with half nelsons, high fives, and the old standby where one fighter grabs an opponent so his partner can wail on him. The true highlight however is the infamous 'thunder kick' scene, which has joined Godzilla flying and Godzilla as YouTube staples.
If Godzilla vs. Megalon were only a little worse, it would actually be half-good, but unfortunately only the final battle reaches so bad it's good status, and the overall result is a rather flat entry to the franchise that too often dips into the realm of self parody. It's not as bad as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster or Godzilla's Revenge, but it's nothing to write home about either. This tale does have a happy ending however, in that Mystery Science Theatre 3000 selected this film for their movie mocking treatment, resulting in one of the series' funniest episodes. It's available on Netflix, and I highly suggest renting it.