Sitting alone in my room with a freshly delivered pizza and a half-full liter of root beer, I wonder what my life has become to have wound up watching Godzilla Vs. Megalon. This classic, campy romp was originally titled Jet Jaguar Vs. Megalon, but poor screen tests pushed Toho to hastily add Godzilla and Gigan to the movie’s roster at the last minute. Supposedly the whole thing was shot in less than three weeks. Alongside Jet and Godzilla for this adventure is the scientist who created Jet, the scientist’s more athletic and daring friend, and the scientist’s young nephew.
Even though no one watches Godzilla movies for the human characters, I’ll take a moment to talk about the trio featured in this installment of the franchise. The English dubbing is surprisingly well done. It’s clear and not too poorly synced with the lip movements of the actors. However, I am curious as to why so many young, Japanese men are given the strong, smooth voices of anchormen and radio hosts. The young nephew on the other hand, is as annoying and unnecessary as, well, any other child character in old Japanese science fiction and action movies. The most grating part of this movie is the nephew’s high pitched, awkward, half-shouting of the obvious. He manages to be so annoying that I found myself rooting for one of the movie’s human villains when he full-force kneed this kid right in the stomach. Twice.
On the topic of the villains, the plot of this movie is like the plot of any other Gozilla movie with the exception of maybe the first film; nonexistent. Apparently an ancient country sank beneath the waves centuries ago. This “Seatopia” suffered severe damage from recent underground nuclear tests. The Seatopian king, an uncomfortably hairy man in a toga, decides the best course of action is to send a diplomatic representative to inform the surface world of Seatopia’s existence and rights as a sovereign nation in a peaceful and respectful manner. I’m just kidding; he shouts at a volcano until Megalon, a giant, drill-armed, bomb-spitting, laser-shooting beetle pops out and sets off to destroy the world above. I would have been more intimidated by Megalon’s arrival were it not for the fact most of the costume is pretty bland. The whole thing is one flat color, and the drills always seem slightly askew. Considering he is the title monster, it would have been nice to see a less half-assed design.
At least now we are getting into what Godzilla movies are really about, monsters and robots and aliens. Jet’s costume and overall design is clearly a product of its time, the early 1970s. Jet Jaguar was an adaptation of a schoolboy’s winning character design in a contest sponsored by Toho in 1972. He has a strong Ultraman vibe, with a silver body and flamboyant bright red accents that make it hard to take him seriously. This is especially true when his costume bunches up, making Jet look like the world’s first quilt-based robot. In dramatic contrast to his childish body, Jet’s face features dark, soulless eyes and a mouth fixed permanently into a cartoonish grin of death. For a children’s hero, Jet looks disturbingly hungry for mortal souls.
While the military attempts to stop Megalon with what appear to be left over bottle rockets from a backyard barbecue, Jet Jaguar heads off to the aptly named Monster Island to fetch Godzilla. Godzilla himself looks pretty sharp. He has a brand new costume for this film with a surprisingly expressive face complete with uncanny blinking eyes. His overall design is a bit more child-friendly for this era of films, complete with soft eyes and spines and a more human like posture. The way he walks, as a result of this new design, is a bit bothersome. I’m not a huge fan of Godzilla walking around like he’s just some average guy who was out grocery shopping only to look down and realize he’s a 100 meter tall giant lizard with atomic breath.
As Jet and Godzilla begin their separate journeys back to mainland Japan, Gigan makes his entrance. The image of a diamond appears in a darkened sky, only to be shattered to pieces over and over again in a series of violent explosions from which Gigan emerges. It’s very subtle. At least Gigan is a truly threatening creature with dynamic wings, menacing spines, and strong coloring. His large, sickle-like claws are also impressive, but they tend to end up in anatomically awkward positions. I was disappointed to not see Gigan using his chest saw though (well, he used it once but it wasn’t spinning). What’s the point of including him if you aren’t even going to have him use his signature weapon? That’s like casting William Shatner and telling him he’s not allowed to make overly dramatic pauses after every sentence.
The final fight is a long one, packed full of reused footage from both previous movies in the franchise and from this very fight scene. Jet Jaguar decides the law of conservation of mass is for chumps and “programs” himself to grow to be the same size as Megalon. The two then go toe to drill in a struggle that evokes images of the most savage of cage fighters; it begins with a flurry of punches and ends up ultimately in an uncomfortably long, homoerotic embrace between machine and beetle. Eventually Gigan joins the fray to aid Megalon, and Godzilla soon after joins up with Jet Jaguar to kick off an old fashioned two versus two monster brawl. During the battle Jet gets his robotic butt handed to him over and over while Godzilla does most of the heavy lifting. Once our heroic pair starts gaining the edge in the fight, things truly get weird in ways only a 1970s Godzilla movie can. With the help of Jet, Godzilla sets up a full-horizontal, flying kick that belittles the laws of physics.
While certainly not the highest quality Godzilla film in the franchise, this film is still worth a watch. Even with all of its faults there is a certain charm in the movie’s silliness and eager youthfulness. It’s worth watching at least once with a few friends and a couple of beers, simply for the chance to make fun of its lack of sensibility and multiple production shortcuts. You can even play my new favorite game, “spot the Japanese centerfold posters on full display in a children’s movie” to help get you past some of the lamer parts of the first half-hour or so of the film. Oh, and of course there is the infamous Jet Jaguar theme song at the end of the movie. This song echoes across time and space to spread the word of Jet. It is the lullaby to my sanity and the march of my new life. A life touched by Jet Jaguar.
(fake subtitles from Mystery Science Theater 3000)