Archive for the ‘Gojira’ Category

I love Star Trek. I adore Godzilla. The two of them combined? In anime form? Not as much. I mean, I liked Guyver: Bio-Booster and Yu-Gi-Oh!, so I know that anime can be cool. In the anime world, ANYTHING can happen, and this is both its great appeal and its downfall. Sometimes, it’s just too much – too many plot lines, too much dialogue, too many impossible scenarios. I feel the same way about the CGI saturated climate of American cinema.

With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (now available on Netflix – check it out), these elements exist in abundance, but they are contrived much more effectively than they were in previous attempts to “anime-ize” Godzilla. Masaaki Tezuka’s Godzilla X Megaguirus and Godzilla X Mechagodzilla flirted with this a bit at the turn of the century. They were live-action, sure, but the silliness, the excessive dialogue, the exaggerated character emotion, and the over the top-ness definitely put these two films in the category of Japanese animation. But with this new Godzilla, actually going all out and becoming a full blown anime epic, the excessive elements are pulled off way more effectively. This is due to the fact that with hand drawn frames (it’s hybridized with CGI in this movie, but it still LOOKS like a cartoon), the filmmakers are not under any constraints at all. Want a 1,000 foot Godzilla destroying flying motorcycles that just blew up his baby, but it’s too difficult to do with suit-mation and CGI? No problem. Draw it. That’s something I really miss about movies. Everything is computerized now, but I miss stuff like Bambi and The Lion King. Yes, a completely different category from science-fiction, but my point is that if you’re doing a cartoon, the only limit is your imagination. And though I have a few problems with this latest entry into the Goji saga, it puts a smile on my face to think about the imagination behind it.

A bunch of kaiju (Kamacuras, Rodan, others) start attacking mankind, destroying everything in their wake. Then, a ferocious being more massive and destructive than anything in existence – Godzilla – rises from the ocean and begins to decimate both the remaining humans and the other monsters. Two technologically advanced alien races arrive on the planet, promising to destroy the beast in exchange for resettlement on Earth. One of these races, the Exifs, are a highly spiritual people who worship a powerful deity and attempt to convert the Earthlings to their beliefs. They look like a cross between Star Trek’s Vulcans and Middle-Earth’s Elves, which really bummed me out. Their ears and their attitudes are some of the most blatant ripoffs I have ever seen. The other aliens are the Bilsards, and these ones are much cooler. They are even inspired by the Black Hole 3 aliens from the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, saying they hail from a distant galaxy on the third world down from a black hole. Mechagodzilla itself is also seen briefly in Monster Planet, but it is blown away by the big G before it can activate. The three species, human, Exif, and Bilsard, join forces to defeat Godzilla, but, surprise surprise, they fail. Their only solution is to leave Earth and find a new world to populate. In their time, they are gone for 22 years, but by the time they go back to Earth to try and defeat the monsters again, 20,000 years have passed on our blue, kaiju infested marble. The plants and animals of the world are beginning to evolve, and they are taking on the characteristics of Gojira. A man named Haruo, who watched the beast kill his family when he was four years old (which seems to be a recurring theme in many Godzilla movies), is hell-bent on revenge, and he has a high tech plan in mind to rid the planet of the Goliath once and for all. Does he succeed? Get on Netflix and find out.

So, how does the Gorilla-Whale hold up this time around, in anime form? Pretty darned good. He’s not quite as imposing as he was in Shin-Godzilla, but he looks exactly how he should – mean, large, and in charge. Some have said that he looks a bit like an old wrinkled man in the face, but it’s easy to get used to after looking at it for a while. I think it’s actually neat – he looks like a wise (if extremely evil) dragon straight out of Chinese mythology.

His screen time leaves a lot to be desired, though. I think he’s fully visible in this movie even less than he was in the 2014 incarnation. What follows is that the movie seems to not even really be ABOUT Godzilla. It’s more about the struggle of humanity, and it made me realize something. The creature known as Godzilla has always been portrayed as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, but he’s actually a metaphor for much more than that. He is an archetype for any struggle that any one person or society is compelled to overcome. I view his villainous role in this movie as an allegory for my own personal problems – my demons to be defeated – and I’ve never really looked at it that way before, even after twenty years of watching kaiju movies. It took THIS – this anime, this cartoon – to make me realize that. A simple concept, yes, one almost not even worth writing about. But it actually kind of meant a lot to me.

So, the vibe of this movie, as well as the last couple of films, seems to be that the human element is the focus, not the monster element. Has it been well-executed? Are the human plot lines and the dialogue well written? Yes, definitely. But do I like this? No. It’s a monster movie. Show me them scales and teeth. And that’s probably the biggest beef I have with Monster Planet.

7 out of 10

It’s been twelve years since Japan’s last Godzilla film. Final Wars, the ridiculously campy but enjoyable film of 2004 was meant to be the last Goji film for at least ten years. Toho kept their promise and made us wait, until Gareth Edwards’ American reboot was released two years ago.

I think that film may have created many new fans in the U.S. Either that, or more people like the Gorilla Whale than I thought. The theater for Shin-Godzilla in OKC was packed yesterday. That was honestly the first time I had trouble finding a seat within a theatre.

It would be awesome if everyone there was actually a long time fan of the saga, as well as if they were new fans as a result of the American reboot. But part of me thinks they were there to enjoy but still poke fun at “a guy in a rubber monster suit”. If that’s the case, then I’m sort of pissed, because this wasn’t a campy film at all.

But how does it fare in comparison to the American remake?

For starters, it’s much darker. Death and destruction are more rampant, the world’s reaction is more believable, and the politics are in total turmoil over what to do about the monster. I’m not Japanese, but I still get it – the recent nuclear meltdown, natural disasters, foreign policy, etc. The dynamic between America is perhaps the most interesting aspect where the humans are concerned. Japan’s leaders are all indecisive bureaucratic old men in the film, who initially contact countries such as Germany, France, and the United States for help to eradicate Godzilla. Naturally, there are interpolitical conflicts between Japan and America over what to do. America wants to drop a nuke on the monster after evacuating Japan, but the Japanese don’t want their homeland destroyed by something with even more destructive power than the monster itself. One character even says, “Man is more terrifying than Godzilla.”

Deep stuff! Especially for a Godzilla film made after 1954.

The second thing that sets this apart from the American version is, believe it or not, the special effects. I just couldn’t believe my eyes – Toho finally outdid Hollywood with CGI and motion capture. Godzilla goes through four different life stages, evolving in a way similar to the monster Hedorah from the Showa series. While it’s an innovative idea that makes this Goji incarnation different than all the rest, the second form could have been rendered much more effectively in design. I liked the idea, but a lot of people in the theater laughed when his “slug form” first makes landfall.

The fourth and final form, which shares the basic body type of the Godzillas in other films, is fantastic though. I actually think it was beautiful. More menacing and cool than he’s looked in all the films put together. It’s like the 1954 design, but more hardened and rotten looking. He literally bleeds radioactive blood and pieces of his flesh all over the place. His behavior matches the original version as well. No emotions, no facial expressions, just a moving atomic bomb that does nothing but walk and kill. I really like this aspect of the creature (he’s like a zombie Godzilla), but I can understand how some fans might have wanted him to show more character. He still could have been an evil God incarnate if the Fx guys had given him facial expressions, but that might have made him less imposing in my opinion.

But the things this Godzilla can do make this film the strangest kaiju film I have ever seen. Constantly evolving, bleeding, and unleashing never before seen weapons from his body make him drastically different than any Goji we’ve seen before. The only things this one really has in common with the older Godzillas are his body shape and his attitude. Other than that, Shin Godzilla is almost an entirely different creature. The 2014 American reboot was closer to the older Japanese installments than this one in terms of the creature, and no film since the American version of 1998 has so drastically changed the character.

Even so, it’s still Godzilla, and it’s the best version yet. I won’t spoil anything (though I already knew of the monster’s differences via Internet leaks long before seeing this movie yesterday, so I’m sure most fans already know what to expect), but be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by some of the things this beast can do.

After about 30 minutes of some pretty well directed tension with the human characters, sparced with brief cutaways of Godzilla done in just the right amount, shit starts to get real. A nighttime battle sequence is shown between America, Japan, and the monster.

Best scene in a Godzilla movie.

Period. Just see it for yourself.

After this, however, the plot drags on with all the politicians and the military trying to figure out what to do. While interesting in concept, their dialogue eventually reaches some incredibly boring moments. About an hour of them. And it’s not like other Godzilla films where the problem may have been not enough dialogue – it’s WAY too much dialogue. There’s hardly any moments of silence when a human is shown, which honestly makes it look like the characters are all hopped up on drugs or something. No tension, no silent pondering, no tense moments of apprehension. Just talking and running. And, as usual in the Goji films, when a Japanese person in this film speaks English, it just sounds awful. I don’t mean the accent or anything like that, I just mean that it sounds like the actors literally only learned a few sentences of English during this movie’s production. It should have either been all in Japanese or only a couple of English sentences when the characters are conversing with America. Instead, about a third (or half) of the dialogue is in English, and it just hit the ear wrong with me. The way this film’s actors were directed wasn’t nearly as good as the way they were in the 2014 movie, or even the sometimes ridiculous ones of the 1970s.

Still, it’s a great story – just a little too much going on at once.

After about an hour of all that, the film reaches its third act with an impressive joint operation between Japan and the States against Godzilla. The way it’s done is the most original idea the military has ever had in a Godzilla film. It involves a lot of different tactics, and I refuse to spoil it, but I will say that it involves trains and bio weapons, among many other things.

The music in the movie is phenomenal. Hearing Akira Ifukube’s original themes again, laced with slightly altered versions of them, was a real treat. Sometimes, electric guitar is used, much like in Godzilla: Final Wars, and while it is tolerable, it isn’t very impressive. The riffs in Final Wars were much more interesting and complex, but give me an orchestra for a Kaiju film anyday anyway.

So, despite some of my complaints, can you tell what I think of this film?

Gold. Pure gold. The best Godzilla film since the original. And while the original was better made and more thought out, it’s still not as enjoyable to watch as Shin Godzilla. Call me a heretic, but I freaking love this movie.

9 out of 10

BTW…his atomic breath alone makes this movie worth watching.