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September 1, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #139 - Godzilla vs. Megalon

When I look at Godzilla vs. Megalon as an adult, I start to think back to my childhood experience with Godzilla.  And when I think about my childhood experience with Godzilla, I realize why it's so difficult for me to take Godzilla seriously.
Don't get me wrong, I truly love The Big G. I have a whole shelf that's just Godzilla movies and other giant monstery productions from the far east. And yeah, the original Gojira - in its un-Americanized format - is a freakin' masterpiece of science fiction cinema.  But I got to know The King of the Monsters from his later films, particularly this one, that were more aimed toward children.  And apparently, some of the children who were inspired by the big guy were a little weird.  Like this kid...
Which brings us back to Godzilla vs. Megalon, which spends more than half its film following two men - who seem to live in the nerdiest part of scientistland known to man - and a young boy that (I think) is the son of one of them. These men and their annoying child - who, in the American Dub, sounds like the offspring of Pippi Longstockings and all three of the Chipmunks - are the target of European espionage due to their own personal robot - the amazing Jet Jaguar.
Nowadays I find it slightly odd that two dudes and a kid on a pocket bike had their own robot just hanging out in a Japanese flat, but when I was a kid it was pretty much the best thing ever.  My family and I howled at the absurdity of Jet Jaguar, but at the same time I kind of thought...well, no I didn't. I didn't think Jet Jaguar was cool, which is what I was about to type. But I felt like Jet Jaguar was...I don't know...the future, perhaps.  Like, maybe someday we could just have a Jet Jaguar around the house...and that would be cool.  Sure, I know now that Jet Jaguar was basically a test dummy for some TV show or toy or something that vanished after this film happened, but back then Jet Jaguar seemed like the future.  It's like Godzilla was Hulk Hogan and Jet Jaguar was the new Hulk Hogan, or like he was Rodimus Prime or whatnot. I know, it's silly. But you can't blame me, I was a child.
The parts of the first half of Godzilla vs. Megalon that aren't Jet Jaguar are bizarre and sometimes ridiculous, including an underwater cult that has something to do with the statues on Easter Island and plenty of "action" that wants to be James Bond-esque but includes things like a ridiculous car chase down a hill that ends with some kind of fail trombone sounding noise.  I think Godzilla vs. Megalon might have actually been my first time appreciating how good a "bad" movie could be as a kid, and this was well before the guys on Mystery Science Theater 3000 got their hands on this one.
Oh, there's monster battles in this film too, in case you were wondering.  The title introduces Megalon, a four-limbed beetle with a Christmas tree topper for an antennae, to face Godzilla - but it's more than 48 minutes into the 81 minute film before the big guy gets involved.  The normally human sized Jet Jaguar "programs himself to increase his own size" to try and take on the bug, but around the one hour mark in the film the directors must have realized that Megalon was stupid and decided to call for backup.  Enter Gigan, one of the most beloved Godzilla opponents, who had been introduced in the previous film - who makes the battle a kind of tag team match once Godzilla finally lumbers into the picture.  The battle is still surprisingly fun - particularly thanks to Gigan and the wonderful finale - but it's also clear that this is the Godzilla series at its kitschiest.
There are surely better ways to spend your time with Godzilla, but I'm still excited by the foolish fun that is Godzilla vs. Megalon.  It's been part of my life for a long time - I can't count the number of times my father, sister, and I have randomly mentioned Jet Jaguar - and it's great to revisit it and still see what I loved about it as a child.  Those who are unfamiliar with Godzilla sequels - and there are PLENTY of them - might get a kick out of this one ironically, like those MST3K guys did, and I can see their point too.  But there's an innocent part of me that thinks this thing is a blast, and I'm grateful that the film still brings it out.
Bonus picture of annoying kid on pocket bike!

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