Godzilla vs. Megalon (Gojira tai Megaro) was the 13th entry in the Godzilla series. It was the first film in the series to have someone other than veteran suit performer Haruo Nakajima in the role of Big G, with Shinji Takagi taking over the rubber suit. Interestingly enough, this wasn't going to be a Godzilla film. To cash in on the Kyodai Hero craze, Toho held a contest in 1972 to make a tokusatsu hero that would appear in its own film. The winning entry was from an elementary student, who called his creation "Red Arone". Toho changed the name to Jet Jaguar, and he was set to star in Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon, but, unfortunately, was found not to be able to carry the film. Tomoyuki Tanaka suggested adding Godzilla and Gigan into the film. In order to make up for the lost time, the film was shot in three weeks and, all in all, production time lasted six months. The film bombed at the Japanese box office, and Jet Jaguar didn't get the intended series.
For everything its predecessor did wrong, Godzilla vs. Megalon did it that much worse. Stock footage abounded, the special effects were dodgy at their zenith, and much of the plot was contrived. However, this film did substantially better in international markets, especially in the United States, where it became a surprising success thanks to a marketing push by Cinema Shares, which had its release timed to cash in on the success of King Kong (1976).
As for the newcomers, Megalon and Jet Jaguar have been consistently approved of by fans both inside and outside Japan, and a series of video game appearances from the 1990's onward helped introduce the two to a new generation of fans and cement the positive opinion of them among those more familiar with the franchise. Thanks to him returning here, Gigan’s popularity among fans was also furthered by this film.
The plot centers around the conflict between an opulent undersea civilization known as Seatopia, host to large underwater and underground cities and people who resemble the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome. Nuclear testing resulting in damaging earthquakes have severely impacted their people, and as revenge against the surface, they plot to unleash the wrath of their god, Megalon. The Seatopians set up a base by drying out a lake where our ostensible human protagonists, an "inventor" named Goro Ibuki, Goro's younger brother Rokuro and their friend Hiroshi Jinkawa, are trying to relax. They don't take it well.
The Seatopians attempt to steal Jet Jaguar, a prototype robot, from the inventors. The first attempt, while the robot is still incomplete, is less than successful, but the second time sees them capture not only the robot but the three humans. The brothers are sent to be offed, while Jet Jaguar is turned against Japan and used to direct Megalon towards Tokyo.
The heroes escape from the clutches of the Seatopians, and after meeting up with the always hapless JSDF, manage to regain control of Jet Jaguar and decide to call in Godzilla to combat Megalon.
With the guidance of Jet Jaguar removed, Megalon is reduced to flailing around and stomping on a few redshirts. Upon learning of Jet Jaguar's recapture, the Seatopians send out a distress call to the Nebula M aliens, requesting Gigan's assistance, which is no way an excuse to rely overly on stock footage, no sir.
Jet Jaguar grows to Kaiju size and teams up with Godzilla to fight Megalon and Gigan. Much silliness ensues, including the awe-inspiring tail-slide dropkick from Godzilla to Megalon. Eventually, the two villains are repelled and Godzilla shares a victory handshake with Jet Jaguar, who shrinks back down to rejoin his creators. Godzilla, meanwhile, returns to Monster Island, ready for the next adventure...
For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here.
Followed by Zone Fighter, then Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
Godzilla vs. Megalon provides examples of the following tropes:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted by Jet Jaguar. He is content to be controlled like any robot - until danger is about, at which he becomes a Big Damn Hero and takes control of himself.
- Anti-Villain: The Seatopians, and by extension Megalon. Their bizarre decision to send Megalon to attack Japan for nuclear weapons testing (!) aside, you can't help but feel they're a little entitled to be ticked at the surface world routinely exploding nukes, threatening their underground civilization with constant earthquakes.
- Artistic License – History: About the Easter Island statues in the Info Dump, one of the main characters states they are 3 million years old. On the contrary, they were built between the 13th-15th centuries; this would actually make them the newest pieces of architecture Seatopia's cities are based on, as they're combined with features familiar to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.
- Artistic License – Physics: Godzilla's tail-sliding dropkick allows him to gather speed and momentum without any means of propelling himself along the level ground he stands on. This doesn't in any way detract from how awesome it looks.
- Bash Brothers: Godzilla and Jet Jaguar fight together and show signs of close comradeship, such as Godzilla helping Jaguar back to his feet during an intense part of the fighting, and the two clasping hands after the fighting is done.
- Big Dam Plot: Megalon destroys the Ogouchi Dam in the film's most elaborate set-piece.
- The Bully: Megalon and Gigan exhibit traits not unlike schoolyard bullies beating on kids weaker than them. Their relentless pummeling of Jet Jaguar when he can't even fight back further reinforces them as this trope. Cue Godzilla coming in to save the day and teach them both a lesson.
- Call-Back: Godzilla's drop kick, last seen in a poorly-edited stop-motion frame in King Kong vs. Godzilla, returns in full, monster-suited glory here.
- The Cameo: Anguirus and Rodan, during the Monster Island scenes.
- Cute Bruiser: Cementing the completion of his turnaround from aggressive force of nature to a monster superhero, Godzilla got a brand new suit for this film... and it makes him look adorable! In particular, he has a rounder, less aggressive face, and larger eyes. This seems to have paid off, as during the previous film, the last suit used for Godzilla was visibly falling apart.
- Dolled-Up Installment: It wasn't going to be a Godzilla movie at first, but Toho had doubts about Jet Jaguar being able to carry the film by himself.
- Dumb Muscle: Megalon. Seriously. Removing Jet Jaguar as a guide reduced him to basically non-functionality for a while. He does get a little bit smarter when he's teamed up with Gigan, but once Godzilla and Jet send the latter fleeing, Megalon goes straight back to being woefully outclassed.
- Fan Service Extra: If the watcher can get over how strangely dressed they are the Seatopian dancing women are indeed mostly wearing swimsuits and boots.
- The pin-up girls on the back of the truck.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Jet Jaguar manages to very visibly break Gigan’s arm, forcing the cyborg to retreat and allowing Jet Jaguar and Godzilla to double team Megalon for a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- Gratuitous English: Rokuro wears a Snoopy sweatshirt with a "That was a stupid thing to do" thought balloon.
- Handwave: Jet Jaguar reprogrammed himself to change his size to fight giant monsters. As to how a change in software can make hardware violate the laws of physics... shut up and watch the monster fight.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Presumably how we're supposed to view Goro and Hiroshi, as the two never have their relationship explained. It's safe to say a majority of the viewers drop the "heterosexual" from that trope name when looking at the two of them.
- MacGuffin: Jet Jaguar arguably serves as one for the first two-thirds of the plot, first guiding Megalon and then serving as the means to contact Godzilla.
- Mech vs. Beast: Jet Jaguar fights Megalon to buy time for Godzilla to arrive. Gigan arrives first to assist Megalon and they double-teamed against Jet Jaguar. Godzilla arrives and teams up with Jet Jaguar and they drove both antagonists away.
- Minimalist Cast: The number of characters with on-screen, speaking roles can be counted on two hands.
- Non-Indicative Name: Jet Jaguar doesn't look much like a jaguar.
- Opening Monologue: Ted Thomas' deadpan delivery of "In the first part of 1971, on a small island near the Aleutians..." in the English version is unforgettable and has become a bit of a meme to a few.
- Plot Hole: A minor one: Our heroes suddenly know Megalon's name despite never being informed of it. Averted in the dub, in which Megalon is only referred to as "the monster" by the surface dwellers.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot / Still Born Franchise: This was going to be a vehicle to cash in on Ultraman. Needless to say, it didn't work. Which makes Godzilla's appearance in Zone Fighter Hilarious in Hindsight.
- Recursive Translation: Robert Dunham, who plays Emperor Antonio, the leader of Seatopia, read his lines in English on set, which were dubbed into Japanese by Gorō Naya, and then those lines were translated back into English for the dub. It shows.
- Ring of Fire: Megalon manages to trap Godzilla and Jet Jaguar in one until Jet Jaguar flies them out.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The United States did in fact conduct an underground nuclear test in 1971 on the Aleutian island of Amchitka, but, contrary to the opening narration, it was in November, not the "first part" of the year.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the climax of the ending fight, Gigan flies off by having his arm broken by Jet Jaguar and then taking a couple of shots of Godzilla's atomic breath, while Megalon, after getting double-teamed by Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, flees to one of Seatopia's underground doorways, which Seatopia detonates immediately after.
- Shoot the Hostage Taker: When Gigan grabs Jet Jaguar and tries to use him as a shield, Godzilla blasts him in the face with his atomic breath without missing a beat.
- Sizeshifter: Jet Jaguar can change his height when required, going from the size of an adult human to the same size as Godzilla.
- The Song Remains the Same: Foreign dubs usually end with the untranslated version of "Godzilla and Jet Jaguar: Punch! Punch! Punch!"note . The song's Japanese lyrics are only slightly less goofy than the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Gag Sub.
- Space Whale Aesop: Stop testing nuclear weapons with reckless abandon, or an ancient civilisation from underground will sic their beetle god on you!
- Stock Footage: Oh yes.
- The footage of the "nuclear test" at the beginning is from the end of Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. Godzilla jumping into the ocean is also from the same film.
- Megalon's powers seemed to be made for this. His lightning attack is an excuse to borrow King Ghidorah's Gravity Beam footage and his Napalm bombs are built for generic explosion scenes.
- The three tanks being blow torched make their fourth appearance since Mothra vs. Godzilla.
- Megalon's arms infamously turn into Gigan's hooks when he's destroying planes.
- The sequence of Gigan ducking for cover behind trees from Godzilla vs. Gigan, which was already mostly made up of stock footage taken from War of the Gargantuas, is reenacted here by Megalon (though ironically, not once Gigan himself arrives). Like in vs. Gigan, it's plainly obvious that the creature moving behind the trees is a hairy Gargantua.
- Tempting Fate: Rokuro tells Jinkawa he feels more secure driving vehicles on land instead of water. Cue him getting kidnapped by the Seatopians minutes later.
- Tough Beetles: Megalon is a giant rhinoceros beetle kaiju who, besides being very strong and tough, can also fire lightning from his horn, spit napalm bombs from the mouth, and has got drills for hands.
- Ultraman Copy: Jet Jaguar is a very notable Ultraman copy, being a silver/red (with some yellow and blue added to make him more distinct) hero that can grow in size and fights the Kaiju Megalon and Gigan alongside Godzilla. His flying stance is also taken from Ultraman's own.
- Underground City: Seatopia is an entire civilization of these.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In some international prints of the movie (most noticeably the one featured on MST3K), we never get to see what happens to the Seatopian agents that took control of Jet Jaguar. Averted in the Japanese prints which show their demise (one gets pushed out of a truck by the truckers he took hostage and falls to his death and the other gets crushed by a boulder Megalon flung in the air).
- Villainous Friendship: Megalon and Gigan seem to have shades of this in their interactions.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!:
- Godzilla has a look like this when he first sees Jet Jaguar coming to pay him a visit as if even he can't believe what he's seeing.
- Megalon and Gigan give each other looks that practically scream this when the tide turns in the final battle.