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Godzilla vs. Megalon 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, they held a contest in 1972 to make a hero. The winning entry was from an elementary student, who called it Red Arone. Renamed Jet Jaguar, he was set to star in Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon, but he was found not to be able to carry the film. Tomoyuki Tanaka suggested adding Godzilla and Gigan to the film. In order to make up 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 a 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. Nevertheless, the film was the subject of a heavy marketing push, and saw decent theatrical success in the United States, where it was released to cash in on the success of the 1976 King Kong remake. Megalon was nevertheless well-liked, and a series of video games redeemed Jet Jaguar in the eyes of many fans.
The plot centers around the conflict between an undersea civilization known as Seatopia. Nuclear testing has severely impacted their people, and as revenge against the surface people, 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.
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 in no way is 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...
Godzilla vs. Megalon provides examples of:
- All there in the manual: The name of the Seatopian's leader, Antonio, is never mentioned onscreen.
- Atlantis: Or rather its fellow lost continents Mu and Lemuria, which like Atlantis sank into the sea. The Seatopians are the descendants of those who survived the cataclysm.
- The Cameo: Anguirus and Rodan, during the Monster Island scenes.
- Contest Winner Cameo: Jet Jaguar arose out of a contest held by Toho in late 1972.
- Dumb Muscle: Megalon. Seriously. Removing Jet Jaguar as a guide reduced him to basically nonfunctionality.
- Gondor calls for aid: A villainous example. When they see that Megalon might be defeated by Jet Jaguar the Seatopians contact the aliens of the Hunter nebula (the villains of the previous film) to send Gigan to help out.
- 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.
- Rated M for manly: Giving that it was the seventies Emperor Antonio sports an impressive amount of chest hair as well as a porn stash.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot / Stillborn Franchise: This was going to be a vehicle to cash in on Ultraman. Needless to say, it didn't work.
- Sizeshifter: Jet Jaguar, for no discernable reason!
- Stock Footage: Oh yes.
- Megalon's powers seemed to build 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.
- Well intentioned extremist: The Seatopians as a whole. Their leader flat-out stated that they don't want to go to war with the surface but due to the damage to their kingdom caused by nuclear testing they feel they have no choice.