It Took The God Out Of Godzilla – Godzilla (1998)

5 03 2014

Godzilla 1998 (TriStar Pictures - 1998)

Yes, it’s true, this is my review of the 1998 Godzilla film. Well I thought that with the new film coming out (which I hope will correct everything that went ‘horribly wrong’ with the 1998 film) I would take the opportunity to review this film. Now, bear in mind, while I could state (over and over again) why this film is not a Godzilla film, I (hopefully) will try to keep it short as not to bore you and aim to delve more deeply into why the 1998 Godzilla is not a Godzilla film in a few weeks’ time.

Godzilla 1954

I was actually very excited back in 1998 to the release of the 1998 Godzilla film (obviously given the date). I remember hearing way back in 1996 on a films programme (I think it was on Channel 4) stating the film was due for release in 1998, and had a picture of the Japanese Monster himself. So I had memorized the date, so come 1998, I was really looking forward to what was coming. BBC TWO even had a one-off night in celebration of the upcoming film called Monster Night with a documentary on the history of Godzilla, monster fights and two amazing films: King Kong (1976) and the Fantastic Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, One of the best. There was lots of clips (including the “It’s Pregnant” scene, revealing a pivotal plot point before the film’s release; Thanks) and trailers for the film being shown on other shows too including Blue Peter. Then came the film itself (directed by Roland Emmerich I should add), and I quite enjoyed it (at first), it had ‘the creature’ and to begin with I thought it was quite good (although to be fair, I was only 9 years old). It is only the intervening years when I read and discovered more in the film series, that I began to discover the flaws, and some recent viewings have also changed my thoughts on the film, greatly, so prepare for a review, 16 years in the making (sounds like Jurassic Park doesn’t it).

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The film begins in an old 1950’s/1960’s documentary style video showing something happening in French Polynesia. In time this becomes a video of the test of a Nuclear Weapon (Amazing Scene combined with the soundtrack). After the test dies down, a solitary Iguana’s egg seemingly has survived as the rain arrives. A few decades later a Japanese fish processing vessel is attacked by an unknown entity, with claws and a tail. In Chernobyl meanwhile, a biologist called Dr. Nicko “Nick” Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is playing with Earthworms when two men arrive (one of them being Glenn Morshower) telling him that he has been re-assigned. In Tahiti a group of Frenchmen arrive at a hospital where they talk to a survivor of the vessel accident who is at first reserved to talk to them, but when the lead Frenchman (Jean Reno) manages to get the survivor’s attention, the survivor says “Gojira”. Nick Tatopoulos arrives by military escort in Panama and is introduced to Colonel Hicks (Kevin Dunn) and tries to explain to the Colonel why he was studying worms and is led into a Giant Footprint. He meets Dr. Elsie Chapman (Vicki Lewis) and Dr. Mendel Craven (Malcolm Danare) who are studying the footprints.

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In Manhattan New York, a young woman named Audrey Timmons (Maria Pitillo) who works for a New York News Channel alongside Lucy Palotti (Arabella Field) dreams of being a reporter and asks her boss Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer) if there has been any news on a potential future job, which there appears not to be. In Jamaica the science and military team stumble upon the wreck of the fishing vessel, where the Frenchmen are also. The lead from earlier introduces himself to Colonel Hicks saying he is an insurance agent. Colonel Hicks orders him out of the area, and while doing so, the lead spots Nick briefly before walking off. Off the eastern seaboard meanwhile three fishing trawlers get pulled underwater, this is reported to Colonel Hicks, with Elsie thinking that this thing is some long-lost dinosaur, but nick suggests that the creature is an entirely new species. A fisherman goes down to Manhattan Harbor in the pouring rain, and seemingly catches something big which then robs the man of his fishing rod. Out at sea the man sees a giant wave come towards him, with two big spikes coming out of the water. Out of the water comes a titanic beast which goes on a rampage of the fishing area of Manhattan. During this time, Mayor Ebert (Michael Lerner) and his assistant Gene (Lorry Goldman) are speaking at a rally, as large thuds are heard with mini earthquakes, this is followed by the creature crashing the session. In a Manhattan Café, Audrey, Lucy, and Lucy’s wife Victor “Animal” Palotti (Hank Azaria) are discussing Audrey’s nice attitude before moving onto Audrey’s old boyfriend Nick who she spots on the TV with the Army. The thuds arrive and the creature’s feet are seen moving past the building. Animal grabs his camera and chases after it, only to be almost trodden by it.

The Military and Science team arrive in Manhattan after the creature seemingly vanishes. Hicks is introduced to Sergeant O’Neil (Doug Savant) who states the creature just disappeared, Nick meanwhile doesn’t think so, then there is a report on the incident, with footage from Animal. At the news company, Animal is heralded as a hero, and Audrey steals Caiman’s Press badge. The Mayor meanwhile tries to get a hold of the situation, only for the Lead Frenchman to put a microphone on him. An underground scene of destruction is found, believing the creature went through it. Nick suggests that the creature is just an animal and when a fish is found, a plan is put into place to lure the creature out and kill it. This leads to the creature coming into full view for the first time, and burping at Nick. The creature eats all the fish and is then attacked by the army, who are unsuccessful in dealing with it. Audrey and Nick meet each other for the first time in years and grab a coffee at the base, where nick discovers the creature may be pregnant. As he goes off to do more testing, Audrey steals a tape of confidential footage in an attempt to make a quick name for herself.

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The military searches the city without much look, Nick tells the Army of his findings just when Audrey’s report comes on, which has been stolen by Caiman and names the creature Godzilla. Nick is kicked off the team, but implores Lucy to get hicks to search for the eggs. Audrey tries to apologize to Nick, who doesn’t want to listen. Nick heads for the airport, secretly followed by animal, which leads to Nick being kidnapped by the lead Frenchman who introduces himself as Philippe Roaché and is taken to an old warehouse full of weapons. The Frenchmen are agents of the DGSE (Directorate-General for External Security), the French intelligence agency. They have been watching the whole incident with a close eye in the hope of covering up their country’s role in the incident. They plan to look for the creature’s nest. Back in New York, Animal convinces Audrey to go with him, and follow the Frenchmen. In the sewers where the fish was found earlier, Godzilla appears to the search team who, after avoiding him, trace the creature’s steps. In Manhattan the military put a new plan into action to kill Godzilla by luring him into the open, this plan seemingly fails and Godzilla is chased into the Hudson river where he is seemingly killed by a couple of submarines.

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In the sewers, the search arrives at Madison Square Garden where over 200 eggs are discovered and when trying to destroy them, they all hatch. The creatures attack the search team and Animal and Audrey thinking they are food. After meeting up with each other (minus several Frenchmen who have all been eaten) the four people send a message to the military and the outside world telling them the building must be destroyed. Fighters are sent and the four just barely get out of the building. Then Godzilla arrives, not dead after all and sees the group next to the dead bodies of his hatchlings. He chases after the group, driving past a military escort who are seemingly going to Madison Square Garden. Nick manages to contact O’Neil and after a couple of minutes in Godzilla’s mouth, they lead the creature to the Brooklyn Bridge where he is entangled in it and attacked by fighters. Godzilla dies, The city celebrates, Audrey quits her job and Philippe disappears. Back in Madison Square Garden, One Egg survives, then hatches.

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Godzilla’s Cast is a bit of an oddball selection of both good and bad. Matthew Broderick’s character is generally quite annoying and rather than being the lead human appears, initially and majority, a piece of comedy relief. While he does make up for it at the end of the film by being more intelligent than his character is meant to be as well as compassionate towards those around him, but it feels a bit too late for him, and I think the running joke that no one can appear to pronounce his character’s last name is a bit overdone. Maria Pitillo’s character on the other hand is actually quite likeable as in her character develops as the film goes on and at least is honest for the majority. While attitude is something that is ‘apparently’ needed in Manhattan, her character is best when she is just herself and there is a nice on-screen presence whenever she is around, even if she is the somewhat combination of the purposed damsel in distress/love interest. In many a sense, she is a tougher character than Broderick’s character. Hank Azaria’s character is seemingly also a Comedy Relief, but deep down he is a good character as in he is more a sense of reasoning among the characters as he is more down to earth than everyone else and is comedic look and acting is more about him being him and not comedic for the purpose of it. Jean Reno’s character though is the top dog of the film’s human main cast. He gives off a great performance as a secret agent and he physically looks intimidating as he does not appear to smile. It’s like he is hiding something and while there are hints here and there, he gets a proper reveal and is a serious man as he does it, not one who takes his position lightly.

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The main standouts though, are the film’s supporting characters. Sergeant O’Neil has a sense of being comedic as it shows he is a bit clumsy, making his character seem on par or equal with Nick, but as a character, he is far better than Nick as Nick is like a stereotypical Nerd while O’Neil is a professional soldier and much more likeable as a result. Colonel Hicks is well-played and is one of the films standouts. He gives the appearance of a well-trained soldier and officer but deep down has a calm and understandable side to him making him likeable to those around him, and a much more preferable person in dealing in a situation than any ordinary soldier or officer. Lucy Palotti is very likeable despite her wild exterior. While she plays the sort of agony aunt character type wife to Animal, she shows great control over her emotions and can be a calm reassuring person deep down and that’s why she is so likeable.

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But it’s not just them; some of the film’s most appealing characters off to the side are the film’s extras. While the French Spies are almost like the Frogs from Flushed Away (ok, it was 8 years later) as in they are almost made fun of as to what they do, they are quite nicely played. Some of the best though are in the military scenes, such as the Utah Submarine Captain (Derek Webster) and his number two, The Anchorage Captain (David Pressman), The Navy Admiral (Richard Gant), The Helicopter pilot in the second attack on Godzilla and also the army man Nick and Philippe encounter as they re-enter New York. Added to that you have Glenn Morshower’s brief appearance and the two Japanese men on the bridge of the fishing vessel when it goes down. In many a sense, it is the little touches or in this cases appearances that help.

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The film’s special effects, well those for Godzilla anyway, are outstanding. As good as Jurassic Park in my opinion, particularly when you include the scenes of the whole creature in full view, such as his initial attack on Manhattan, first full sighting and the second attack on him including the moment when the soldier looks down at him and when he is walking through the streets as well as his close up with the military personnel. The sound effects during this point help too. His roar is that of like Godzilla but he also makes some interesting, more like animal sounds too, giving him a bit of depth. The Eggs though, and most of the CGI Babies though are pretty atrocious, even for then. Godzilla looked Awesome in this film, how come the kiddies did not look the same and are at best when they are animatronics. Ok, while the eggs are not CGI but real, they do look like cardboard (I wonder if the same company worked on Les Miserables).

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The soundtrack (provided by David Arnold and Michael Lloyd) is not too bad either, there are times when the music lacks some depth such as the secret spy/French scenes and is somewhat lack luster, but when you take, the reveal scene of the creature halfway through, the keyboard has a sense of Phantom of the Opera about it, like a grand reveal or realization about it like this is something to behold. Another case is that of the opening titles which add an element of mystery followed by cold realized horror of what was happening, which was then followed by a sense of cold mystery and intrigue as the egg stands alone and then there is the pursuit style theme for the submarine attack also (not forgetting the soundtrack provided by Puff Daddy‘s; Come With Me remix of the Led Zeppelin Song Kashmir).

So now we move on to the down side. While I have stated that I will talk about this in more detail at a later time, I still need to at least cover the basics. The films main problem is that title: “GODZILLA”. With the idea that an American Godzilla film could happen where the biggest budgets could create an amazing film as well as show Godzilla to a potentially wider audience, it doesn’t exactly help when the creature in the film is not Godzilla. Godzilla is a giant monster, a metaphor for the destruction caused by nuclear power, a force of nature itself, Mother Nature putting her foot down and saying “enough” to man destroying the world. In comparison the creature in this film is just an animal, an animal just trying to live, acts like an animal, thinks like an animal and…..reproduces like an animal.  With the hope of big special effects for a legendary monster, what we got instead was a giant Iguana that is also a lot smaller than the original creature. While the destruction and panic caused by him was there, it was not completely there, as while he had the trademark dorsal spines, he was bent over like a T-Rex instead of up straight and without his famous Atomic Breath. This film in this case is ‘not really a Godzilla film at all’; it is just a Monster Movie with a famous name attached to it (sort of like the Karate Kid film a few years ago).

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Despite this though, the film does have some great scenes. The opening credits showing the full force of a nuclear weapon, something that is hardly shown in Cinema at all. The fishing scene is nicely made and the opening rampage is like that of a disaster movie but does not reveal the monster early on and just teases the audience with him (much like the character of Mayor Ebert’s name). then the grand appearance by him followed later on by the appearance by him for the second attack, plus the entire second attack including the scenes with the submarines.

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The Madison Square Garden nest scene though feels to be completely pointless and un-needed except for a reveal that Godzilla was not destroyed by the torpedoes. It just feels completely un-needed for this reason and feels like it is just there to fill up time. It also sort of lowers the tone of the film, the idea that there is something scary in Manhattan, something horrifying, and the idea that this scene’s tone has been lowered to allow some form of Family Friendliness for the whole family, instead of a proper action film if not a complete Monster Film.

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While it is slightly disappointing what has happened to this film due to its name, as a Monster Film it is rather enjoyable and even after 16 years, still looks pretty good. It has an interesting cast, some great scenes, and a good soundtrack. So while I can say that it is enjoyable, I will say this, and it is a bit predictable (by this point), don’t treat it like a Godzilla film, it isn’t, treat it as something different, and Let Godzilla move on from this and enjoy a potential new life in the eye of American cinema.

GENEPOOL





Godzilla vs The Original Godzilla – Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla

17 06 2013

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 2002)

Back in 2011 I wanted to do a review of the original 1974 Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla, but at the time of writing it, Japan had been hit by a huge tsunami, so I decided to leave it. But now MechaGodzilla finally arrives as I bring you one of the best films from the series, and one of my ultimate Favourite films. To date, Godzilla has fought about 22 Monsters (not including variations), but the Big G has not really fought himself before. Most times he has appeared to fight himself have mostly been in the form of a robotic version of himself (including a disguise used by MechaGodzilla in  the original Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla) not to mention the Space version of himself in the 1995 film; Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla. However in 2002 Godzilla would indeed fight against himself (well, more like his ancestor), and would do so while also fighting his main rival. No, not King Ghidorah, MechaGodzilla.

MechaGodzilla: Showa, Hesei and Millenium

The film begins in 1999 with a military operation in action at a port. By night a typhoon arrives and reporters are reporting what is happening. Behind them a large waves hits the shore and a rather familiar monster begins to rise out of the sea. The Anti-Megalosaurs Force (AMF) goes into action with several tanks and maser weapons en-route to attack the monster, now smashing small local villages. The AMF begin their attack but are unsuccessful. The maser weapons have a bit more luck but as the monster gets closer, an accident occurs where a small jeep falls off a cliff only to be trampled by the Monsters foot. The following day, the maser tanks driver Lt. Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) is made a scapegoat for the incident and is given a job in data resources.

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The Prime Minister (Kumi Mizuno) of Japan recounts previous monster incidents in Japan’s history including the rampage by the original Godzilla as well as attacks by Mothra and Gaira and how these attacks were suppressed by new weapons developed. Now with the confirmation that the Monster from the previous night’s attack was indeed Godzilla, the country needs a new weapon. A scientist at a University named Tokumitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma) is contacted by Government Agents. He is taken to a science centre where, along with other top scientists are shown the bone remains of the original 1954 Godzilla. The plan by the government is to use the bones to build the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon. After some persuasion from his daughter Sara (Kana Onodera), Yuhara joins the team in building the weapon. Four years later, the Prime Minister has stepped down and has handed her position over to Hayato Igarashi (Akira Nakao). The weapon is complete and is named Kiryu, A special unit is created whose job it is to control Kiryu and is led by Colonel Togashi (Kou Takasugi), Akane is asked to join the group, she accepts, however one person from the group disagrees to this as his brother was in the jeep that was trampled by Godzilla in 1999.

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After months of training Yuhara and his daughter meet Akane who takes an interest in Sara’s sleeping grass plant. Yuhara tries to ask Akane on a date, but is unsuccessful. Kiryu is revealed to the world and its abilities are demonstrated, including its main weapon, the Absolute Zero Cannon. During this presentation Godzilla is spotted heading for Japan, Kiryu is ordered to deploy. Godzilla arrives in Tokyo near an aquarium, wrecking it in the process. Kiryu is deployed and the two monsters stare at each other. Kiryu launches several missile attacks on Godzilla which don’t seem to have much success, but when Godzilla roars, Kiryu appears to recognize it. Akane, who is tasked with piloting Kiryu, tries to activate the Absolute Zero Cannon and kill Godzilla, but it fails. Godzilla retreats into the sea. Kiryu is about to be picked up by special aircraft when it mysteriously attacks the aircraft. Kiryu then goes on a rampage of downtown Tokyo. Akane’s rival’s plane crashes and Akane rescues him before his plane explodes. Kiryu’s rampage continues until his energy levels drop completely running out of power in the process and coming to a complete halt.

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Kiryu is repaired as questions of what happened begin to arise. Akane’s rival is seemingly unhappy about being rescued, while the rest of the Kiryu squad seem to be thankful for what she did and give her a warm round of applause and properly welcome her into the group. She however still feels alone despite Sara trying to reach out to her. Yuhara works out that the DNA of the original Godzilla caused the issue, recognizing the roar of the new Godzilla. Yuhara continues to attempt to spring up romance with Akane while Sara becomes upset with the Idea that Kiryu should be made to fight Godzilla instead of being friends with him.

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Godzilla reappears and the Prime Minister makes the decision to allow Kiryu to fight despite the possible risk. Kiryu goes on the attack and quickly gets an upper hand but soon runs out of weaponry and gets heavily damaged by Godzilla. Akane then shows off what Kiryu can do by having Kiryu fight in hand to hand combat. This initially works and so the Absolute Zero Canon is prepared to fire. Then Godzilla pulls off an advantage by making Kiryu fall backwards destroying three tall buildings with the Absolute Zero Canon instead. This heavily damages Kiryu and so Akane goes down onto the ground to enter and control Kiryu internally rather than remotely. The Japanese Defence Force deploys to distract Godzilla while this is going on. Akane manages to Get Kiryu working again but Kiryu needs power, so the electric companies cause a Mass Blackout across Tokyo. Kiryu gets back up only to be blasted by Godzilla. Akane is injured but gets strength to continue fighting by memories of Sara telling her how precious life is. Kiryu gets back up ready to fight, Akane’s rival flies his plane into Godzilla’s mouth to prevent him firing his atomic breath at Kiryu again.

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Akane, prepares to fire the Absolute Zero Canon at Godzilla, but holds it as it would potentially kill her rival if she fired it, instead she moves Kiryu into Godzilla, grabs his mouth then throws her rivals plane away before picking up Godzilla and flying him into the sea. The sea freezes as she flies Kiryu into it. Godzilla rises out of the sea with a chest wound, he moves in an opposite direction to Tokyo as Kiryu rises out of the sea. Akane stands on Kiryu’s shoulder and watches Godzilla go out to sea. In a post credits scene, Akane meets up with Sara and Yuhara and thanks Sara for giving her strength. She states that the battle was a draw and invites Yuhara and Sara out for dinner before looking up at Kiryu and Saluting.

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I do have the distinct feeling that the Director Masaaki Tezuka and TOHO have wanted to do a film along the lines of the plot of this film for a long time now. If you were to watch an episode of the 1990’s cartoon series there is a plot of some episodes which are along the same lines as this one. As well as that, there was also an unused plot idea in the 1990’s where Godzilla would fight the Ghost from the 1954 film. It is interesting to note how the plot of this film works. For the most part it is a film about a country building a weapon to defend itself from a recurring threat, while also being a film that has essences of philosophy such as the value of life as well as parts about friendship and love which is mostly made up of the growing friendship between Sara and Akane and the possible romance between Akane and Yuhara. These three parts don’t take a side stance either; they are present throughout the film as more of a second plot device. That is interesting in contrast to other Godzilla films which may hint at those possibilities while this one shows it more directly. I also like how the films story mentions other TOHO films like Mothra and The War of the Gargantuas.

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The films cast are a nice range of characters with actors that suit them. Characters like Yuhara, Togashi and Prime Minister Igarashi make up the backbone of the film’s acting. Yuhara is the single father who has two main jobs, looking after his daughter, and his work on Kiryu and so is able to balance the two only just, but the flaw in his character is revealed when it is revealed he is not very good at chatting to women and so becomes a bit of a comedy character, but not too much though and so does not ruin the character. It is nice to see Kumi Mizuno return to the Godzilla series as the short lived Prime Minister of Japan before Akira Nakao steps in.  Togashi meanwhile is a strong leader character who has affections to Akane in some form, we don’t know what but they are strong enough to remember her and think about her when the project he is leading needs good soldiers. Igarashi only makes a few appearances but is played excellently by series regular Akira Nakao who plays leaders very well in my opinion, I look forward to his parts as he is an amazing actor in those positions, a lot like Koji Yakusho in some respects. The character of Sara meanwhile is one that is almost like a storyteller in the respects that she is guiding the story along between Akane and her father and also helps Akane to come to terms with herself and her place in the world. She is almost a philosopher as well as she continually asks questions about everything around her that she does not understand but still has an answer for them too.

Cast

The real heavyweight of the film’s acting though (other than the two Giant Monsters) is Yumiko Shaku playing the part of Akane. She is the main lead human of the film and while Sara could be seen as the film’s story teller, Akane is the story’s director. The during the construction of Kiryu as well as the incident at the beginning and the end, you are very much focused on her throughout the film. For most of the early part she does not do much talking but her expressions pretty much do more than speaking would do. She has the look of someone who is holding in something about herself and so buries herself into both her training and work to distract herself from these things, it is not until the story begins to unfold that these things come to light. The friendship she strikes up with Sara and Yuhara (and in some cases Kiryu) is a sign of these things getting better but she still feels alone, even with the help and acceptance of those working with her after saving her rival’s life. As the film comes to a close, it is here that she realizes that life is worth living and that people do care about her even after everything that has happened. The character of Akane is one of the series best female characters by far and I do hope that in the future Yumiko Shaku returns to the series in a similar (or better role, maybe a higher position in the military or government position perhaps) role in the future.

Yumiko Shaku

Now we move onto the Monsters, the real stars of the film. Kiryu is my Favourite version of MechaGodzilla to date. His design is spectacular and looks both nasty and terrifying. The effects used for him are some of the best in the series.  His appearance has the scary terrifying look of the original Godzilla but his design is more similar to the 1995 MechaGodzilla thanks to such additions as the jetpack thing on his back and the variety of weapons. He is more of a weapons platform of devastating weapons than being an entire weapon. He is however better than previous versions of himself by one major difference, he has an identity. In the past he has either been just another monster or a weapon. Because of the machine being built around the bones of a former Godzilla and by being in-touch with that monster he has more of a personality, his rampage early on in the film represents this by taking control of himself rather than be directed or controlled and therefore giving him more of a part in the film. It is also Great to see a MechaGodzilla that is more in league with the times, his construction is well documented which gives a nice touch to the story and his character but his construction is not limited to the use of Aliens or people from the future, he is built by the present times due to a need for him to be built.

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Godzilla meanwhile makes one of his best appearances in his film career. He is much larger and taller in this film compared to the previous film and several shots are used to show this with great effect. Like all but one film in the millennium series, his introduction is that he has not been seen since the original 1954 film, but instead of becoming a folk tale, his presence is still felt thanks to appearances from other monsters. Some CGI is used in this film for Godzilla’s part but these are really only for the shots from the original film. His strength and power is used to great effect in this film showing that even if a weapon is built that can go toe to toe with him, it is still only just, and on several occasions this is proven. Godzilla’s design is also magnificent and really matches his size also, and the way his eyes sometimes look astonished at what he sees and other times where his eyes make him look really sinister add more flavour to his character, possibly due to the characteristics his eyes brought in the previous film.

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Most of the films main special effects are used in the military scenes. While the use of miniatures is till apparent, something that is a regular feature throughout the series; more uses of actual, real life weapons are used in the film also. Things such as tank and vehicle close-ups are filmed brilliantly with some shots taking place inside the vehicles. Not only that, but close-ups on a human level when using a giant miniature in the background made things that are not real, real. The battle sequences in this film are some of the best to date, not just the fight sequences between the monsters but also the occasions when weapons are used against the monsters and the use of close-ups help this also. But not just that, the weapons used by Kiryu look superb, weapons including the mouth laser, missiles and the Absolute Zero Cannon too, and when it is used, the effect of the weapon is Fantastic.

Type 90 Maser Cannon

Other notable uses of special effects are the early scenes of Godzilla rising out of the sea, his rampage through small villages. The weather plays an important part the weather in some shots might of course be the real thing, but those scenes are beautiful. The detail of the special effects is incredible and this comes to great use when looking at the systems and buildings used for the construction of Kiryu as well as the testing ground, the vehicles used for transportation, the interiors, everything. But one of the best special effects of this film is the Giant Skeleton of the original Godzilla. The large sea tank that the skeleton is kept in, the people swimming around it. It is only seen for one scene, but it is terrific.

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The film’s soundtrack (provided by Michiru Oshima) is mostly made up if not completely made up of military style music. From the TOHO logo at the beginning of the film to the fantastic opening titles, and this is pretty much what it is like throughout with scenes including the first meet between Godzilla and Kiryu. Every now and again though there is something different in the music such as the skeleton reveal, Kiryu’s rampage and scenes between the three main human characters. The soundtrack gives a nice comparison when it is compared to the mystical themes provided by Kow Otani in the previous film but due to this film’s theme though, the military style soundtrack works extremely well where as a mystical theme would not.

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is an Amazing film. The film, like many in the millennium series has references to the original 1954 film but processes it in its own way, it even (well sort of) brings back the original monster into the film to meet his descendant in combat. The cast is a good mix with most credit going to Yumiko Shaku. The Monsters are brilliant and the action/fight sequences are terrific but does not rely on those and continues to amaze throughout in other forms too. The soundtrack has a nice military sense to it for a film that is made up of mostly military themes, and the special effects are Fantastic. It is a Great Triumph for Masaaki Tezuka after what happened with his previous attempt at a Godzilla Film and he can hold his head high, producing one of the Best Film’s in the entire series as well as one of my Favourite Films. And not only that, this film had a direct sequel the following year.

GENEPOOL





Space Impression From Space – Godzilla VS SpaceGodzilla

6 07 2012

What are the chances of meeting yourself, well in some cases you will have to go back in time which is a bit tricky if you do not have a time machine. In the history of professional wrestling there have been cases of people meeting each other including Kane and The Undertaker. One possibility is the idea of sending your DNA into space in the hope of it going through a Black Hole, but this could be a really bad idea as seen in this film.

SpaceGodzilla is a creature from space (obviously) that is made from Godzilla’s DNA. The film also cleverly explains how this occurs, more on that later. There is some similarity but SpaceGodzilla has giant crystals coming out of his back and shoulders. He also has his own Death Ray and can also produce a shield. Here is a comparison for you to look at.

The film starts with a view into space and something in crystal form like a crystal meteorite is heading towards earth. On an Island on Planet Earth some shards from this space thing land on the surface and cause some explosions which wakes up Godzilla. Meanwhile in Japan, the government are building a new Giant Weapon to replace the previously destroyed MechaGodzilla. Two soldiers are sent to an island where it is believed that Godzilla is living. When they get there they notice giant crystal formations, they are then found by a man named Yuki who has been living on the island. He saves one of them from a poisonous spider and then goes away. The 2 soldiers (Shinjo and the slightly childish Sato) go and talk to him but are then interrupted by Little Godzilla who has grown a lot since the previous film (and likes Yuki). They then set up traps for Godzilla before Yuki shows them his special weapon designed to kill Godzilla, a bullet filled with blood coagulate. On the Japanese mainland a plan has been set in motion to telepathically control Godzilla called Project T. Miki Saegusa is reluctant at first but then learns from a tiny Mothra and the 2 fairies of Mothra that Space Godzilla is coming and while Mothra has been sent to deal with a Meteorite that could destroy the Earth the planet must now rely on Godzilla. The Project T team head for the Island.

Two blokes from NASA arrive in Japan and tell the government that a space monster is heading for Earth. The government launch their new weapon Moguera to attack the monster. The Moguera ultimately fails and the creature continues to head towards Earth. Back on the island the Project T team plant a device on the back of Godzilla’s head and successfully make him walk but the machine overloads itself. SpaceGodzilla arrives on the island and attacks Little Godzilla. Godzilla turns up but is overpowered by the Space Mutant. SpaceGodzilla then imprisons Little Godzilla in one of the Crystal formations that arrived on the island. SpaceGodzilla then leaves and Godzilla goes after him. Yuki and two of the scientists from Project T (Professor Gondo and Doctor Okubo) return to Japan and tell the authorities about the Monster and explain that Either Godzilla cells from Mothra or Biollante were sent into space and went through a black hole and created the Space Monster. Back on the island the following evening Miki is captured by the Japanese Mafia (Yakuza). Professor Gondo goes back to the island to pick up Shinjo and Sato and also explains why Yuki is obsessed with Godzilla, his best friend and Gondo’s brother was killed by Godzilla. The Yakuza with help from Okubo want to use the Project T to control Godzilla, however Shinjo, Sato and Yuki successfully rescue Miki before SpaceGodzilla arrives and destroys the building. SpaceGodzilla heads for Fukuoka and creates a crystal fortress around Fukuoka Tower. Yuki, Shinjo and Sato are sent to pilot the Moguera and to use everything possible to stop the Space Monster. Godzilla then arrives at Kagoshima bay and heads towards SpaceGodzilla in one of my most memorable City Attacks from the Heisei series.

When Yuki finds out that Godzilla has appeared he sees this as the perfect moment to kill Godzilla. He pilots the Moguera towards Godzilla, Shinjo knocks Yuki out and he and Sato go to Fukuoka to attack SpaceGodzilla. The attack once again fails and the Moguera is almost destroyed. Godzilla arrives and begins his attack on SpaceGodzilla. The Moguera team discover that SpaceGodzilla is drawing energy from the crystals and Fukuoka Tower. SpaceGodzilla begins to use some of the crystals from his fortress as missiles against Godzilla. The Moguera team split the machine into two vehicles, the star falcon and the land tank. The Land Tank proceeds to destroy Fukuoka tower and disrupt SpaceGodzilla’s Energy. The Moguera then comes back together and uses its spiral grenades to destroy SpaceGodzilla’s shoulder crystals. Professor Gondo and Miki arrive at the area to try and help. The Moguera teams up with Godzilla to fight SpaceGodzilla but ultimately fails. Shinjo and Sato escape the machine while Yuki tries to go after Godzilla. SpaceGodzilla begins to emit energy like it is about to explode but Godzilla uses his Super Charged Atomic Deathray (“spiral fire ray”) to destroy both SpaceGodzilla and the remains of the Moguera. Miki, Professor Gondo and the Moguera Team reunite and watch as Godzilla leaves Japan, as Godzilla is leaving Miki uses telepathy to remove the mind control device and shows Shinjo Little Godzilla having been freed from its crystal Prison.

Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla is one of the oddest entries in the series but in some way it is not bad. The crystals of SpaceGodzilla that almost appear everywhere are an interesting idea but make the creature sound somewhat more like an evil villain rather than just a nasty creature. The most interesting part of the creature and its crystals are the ones on its shoulders. SpaceGodzilla’s best scenes are the ones where he is attacking the cities, well more like arriving. While the creature may look odd, it is apparent that a lot of work has been put into it in both its concept and it’s design, including how it does look a lot like Godzilla. It was both an interesting and nice change for the main city scenes to take place somewhere other than Tokyo, the Fukuoka tower is an amazing building and a great mini-co-star if you will.

Little Godzilla is a nice extra, this form of a younger Godzilla shows a life-cycle of the creature from its baby form in the previous film and it’s more mature form in the following film. Little Godzilla is a whole lot better than Minilla who was just weird while this one looks more reptilian and dinosaur-ish. The Moguera (Mobile Operation Godzilla Expert Robot A-Type) is a great addition to the series. Instead of a robot it is more like a machine and relies on weapons only. Its ability to split is comparable to the Power Rangers Zord’s but the Moguera is far more impressive. Some of the film’s best special effects come from the Moguera, in particular the Land Tank and the Star Falcon. Moguera previously starred in another Toho Monster Movie, The Mysterians.

But of course it comes down to Godzilla to be the main star. The previous film (as far as I know) is the first time that he used his Super Charged Atomic Deathray which returns in this film too. His city scenes and approach towards SpaceGodzilla as I said previously are some of the most memorable scenes in the series and also show how times have moved in terms of putting a living city view in the foreground and put Godzilla above them. This shows his size better than when the same effect was used in Terror Of Mecha-Godzilla.

Godzilla (Heisei - Toho Co., Ltd.)

The human cast are a nice blend with Shinjo and Miki equally as good. Miki has become more of a central figure than just the background as she was in previous films, she has kin do become the main star after Godzilla. The character of Yuki is Interesting but I can’t say any more than that really. But Professor Gondo (Towako Yoshikawa) is the one who really shines. A character who is genuinely a nice person who cares a lot for Yuki. It is a shame that she does not appear again in the series. It would be good though if the actress in question could receive another central role in future Godzilla films to the same style of Character as professor Gondo. Akira Nakao returns to play the commander of G-Force as he did in Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 2. Nakao would make several appearances throughout the series in later films usually as a commanding figure, he is one of the series top actors when he plays these roles and should not be overlooked.

The films tone of being slightly more Superhero element than Monster Movie does let it down a bit and this is also the case in the music, but that does not mean the music is bad. The music is quiet nice and keep a lookout for the theme of Godzilla when he is attacking Kagoshima. What is most odd is that when SpaceGodzilla begins to emit energy it is almost like he is choosing Suicide. For most of the early part of the film he has the upper hand but now he is losing he can’t stand it. The film’s ending is a bit abrupt and could be better. Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla is a bit of a weak (mostly towards the end) film which is a shame because most of the early parts of the film are actually very good and if it could keep this pace it could have been one of the strongest entries in the series. I do sometime find myself thinking about it because I do like it, it is a bizarre entry in the series but in some way it is one of the most memorable (I do sometimes consider it to be one of the best in the Heisei series) So while it is let down towards the end of the film it is worth watching to see the early parts but also in my opinion it is not a bad film, ok it is not great but it is entertaining and enjoyable (It may be better if the producers had another go at it as long as they can keep the same cast of course) with some really good cast and really good monsters. Watch it and see for yourself, who knows you may be surprised, you may even like it, at least I do (I like it, what’s wrong with that).

GENEPOOL (I have just realised that this is the 40th anniversary film)





Attack Of The Giant Moth – Mothra vs Godzilla

5 07 2012

Out of all the Godzilla films made this is regarded as one of the best, and I agree, it deals with many issues in the world including nuclear testing, ownership of objects, the environment and Giant Insects. If you had an insect problem in your house you could easily ring up someone to come and deal with it, but what would you do if the insect is almost 100 metres long and weighs 25000 tons?

Mothra 1961 - Present

Mothra vs Godzilla came out 10 years after the original Godzilla film and so is a sort of celebration, and what a celebration it is. The film is produced once again by the big four consisting of Ifukube, Tanaka, Honda and Tsuburaya and is the third film in the series to have a Monster fight in it. The previous year of course saw the release of King Kong vs Godzilla, well for this film another Toho Monster was used, Mothra. Mothra previously had her own film in 1961, but since making her debut in the Godzilla series not only became one of Toho top 5 (Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan and MechaGodzilla) but became one of the companies most loved and most well used monsters, she holds the most wins over Godzilla, and if you have still not figured it out yet, yes Mothra is a Giant Moth.

The film begins with a massive typhoon; the following morning while work is being done to clean up the area News reporter Ichiro and photographer Junko find something strange in the wreckage. Meanwhile at a fishing village a monster egg has been discovered. The villagers decide to keep it under the idea that it belongs to them. While Professor Miura studies the egg he is interrupted by a business man called Kumayama who has bought the Egg and seeks to turn it into a tourist attraction. Ichiro, Junko and Miura are disgusted at this and discuss it at a hotel, just as Kumayama checks in. Kumayama goes to see the head of happy enterprises Jiro Torahata. While the two are discussing the idea, 2 little fairies turn up and ask them to return the egg; they instead try to capture them. The fairies escape and meet up with Ichiro, Junko, and Miura. The fairies tell them that they have come from Infant Island, an island that has suffered from Nuclear Testing. The egg itself belongs to Mothra and the egg must be returned as soon as possible because the baby Mothra inside the Egg could cause a lot of damage when it hatches in its search for food. The fairies tell them that Mothra is nearby and wants their help too. The three people then see Mothra through the bushes nearby.

Miura, Junko and Ichiro go and see Kumayama and ask him to give the egg back and also show him the fairies, which he instantly recognises. He tries to buy the fairies but the three people leave. The three people try to come up with ideas of how to give the egg back to the people of infant island, but the fairies decide to leave with Mothra. Due to the lack of interest in editorial pieces about the egg, Ichiro gives up. At this point Junko arrives and tells them that Professor Miura wants to see them. They enter a containment area and are sprayed by strange purple gas, Miura tells them that they thing they discovered in the wreckage is incredibly radioactive. The three go to the site of the wreckage which has now been cleared up and don’t find any radiation. A couple minutes later, while taking some photographs Junko notices the mud moving, Miura checks the radiation level and finds that there is a lot of radiation in the area of the moving mud. Eventually Godzilla appears from underneath all this mud (this shows that the mysterious thing is part of Godzilla’s flesh and that when it was discovered by Ichiro and Junko they were standing a short distance from him). Godzilla proceeds to attack Nagoya.

Junko and Ichiro along with the professor head to infant island to ask for Mothra’s help. When they get there they see the destruction caused by nuclear testing, they are captured by the islanders and are told by the chief they cannot ask for help because they failed to return the egg and because of the nuclear testing on the island. The three of them go and see the fairies and they refuse to, until Junko talks and really argues the case for asking Mothra’s help. The fairies talk to Mothra, who agrees to help although it is likely that Mothra will die because she has almost reached the end of her life. Back in Japan the military build large electrical pylons to use against Godzilla. Kumayama ends up broke from his venture and tries to steal money from Torahata, who shoots him only to be killed himself as the hotel is levelled by Godzilla. Godzilla heads towards the egg, possibly to destroy it but then Mothra shows up and fights him. Mothra initially gets the upper hand and almost beats Godzilla, But Godzilla uses his Atomic Death Ray on Mothra’s head and she flies to the egg and dies when she lands on it.

The Military attempt to deal with Godzilla in a 2 stage plan and almost succeed until they get way ahead of themselves. The fairies and the island natives sing for the egg to hatch and 2 caterpillars come out of it. Godzilla attacks a local fishing village and heads to Iwa island where a party of school children are stranded. The caterpillars go to attack Godzilla while Ichiro, Junko and Miura go and get the children, they are successful and the 2 caterpillars successfully wrap Godzilla in cocoon string as he falls in the sea. The children are returned to the mainland as the 2 caterpillars and the fairies return to Infant island.

The films cast is a good mix of characters. The film’s human villains, Torahata and Kumayama are nicely played by Kenji Sahara and Yoshifumi Tajima. They do look like gangsters in the way they are played but also can play the crowd to the point that you just don’t like them, Kumayama in particular looks and acts like a fool, which he is. The character of Junko is a good supporting character but only makes a few independent pieces. The same actress would appear in Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster the following year but not as the character of Junko but as a completely different news reporter. One of the real privileges though is Hiroshi Koizumi who plays Professor Miura. His part is a more noble character filled with wisdom and more level headed in a situation. This is Koizumi’s second role in the Godzilla (Godzilla Raids Again being the First) series and would continue to star in another 4 films, usually playing the role of a professor. He actually returns to a similar storyline in the 2003 film Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. which has a similar plot involving Mothra. A couple of other good roles in the film include the island chief on Infant Island (Akira Tani) and the Japanese Military Commander (Susumu Fujita). Both of these characters show that commanding presence that the characters are and are two memorable characters even if they are not the main characters.

It is interesting to compare Mothra from how she looks in this film to how she looks more recently. Of course back then they did not have the same technology as we have today but the original effects are still pretty amazing. By using something real, it appears to be real and can easily captivate the audience. The same goes for Godzilla, this is one of my favourite and best well-remembered appearances for the King of the Monsters. His scenes where he is attacking cities are nicely made with some scenes showing him in the background and some in the foreground, you do get a sense of scale with something like that. His attack on Nagoya and the castle is nicely made as well. The scenes where the military attacks him with the tanks, aircraft and pylons are some of the best in the film, the best of which in my opinion is the night time one where tanks are moving in to attack something but you don’t realise until the camera pan around that they are not far away from him. These are some of the best military attack scenes in the whole series. One way of showing how much technology has moved on is in the way of animatronics, particularly on the Mothra twins. When you consider the mouths in this film they just open and spray but in more recent films you could see a lot more detail in the movement. There is also the Egg to think about which is nicely detailed in both as a miniature and large pieces for close ups but if we were to look at the Egg from Godzilla vs Mothra 2 we could see a lot more detail in it. For me though the best monster scenes are the scenes involving Godzilla.

Akira Ifukube’s pieces of music are great for this film. Sometimes in the film series pieces are recycled from previous films with not much new stuff but in this there appears to be several new pieces, almost as if the whole thing has its own independent soundtrack except for the Theme for Godzilla of course. The military sounding pieces work very well with the scenes that it is used while the pieces that are set on Infant Island have the nice sense of mystery, and Mothra’s theme when she is first sighted as a sound of shock and mystery, almost like going “What is that”. One thing that should be pointed out of course is the music sung by the fairies which would become a theme by itself for Mothra and in most films involving Mothra would make some kind of appearance in the soundtrack.

Mothra vs Godzilla is a Great film and you can see why fans of the series like it a lot. It has a great group of characters, Great Monsters, Great Fight Scenes, Great Military Scenes, a Great Soundtrack and Great everything really. It is another on of Ishirō Honda’s films which has his sense of Storytelling and makes sure it does not go too fast for people new to the series while still keeping fans entertained. There is nothing more to say about it than it is A Great Film and a must see for Everyone and I mean Everyone.

 

GENEPOOL





Clash Of The Titans – King Kong VS Godzilla

23 12 2011

I started the year with a Bang and I am ending it with a Bang. The title is no joke, King Kong and Godzilla have had a fight in 1962 (1963 if you are American). Just imagine two of cinemas greatest icons having a battle with each other.

The film was made by Toho who have made every Japanese Godzilla film to date. Universal were the distributors for the film in non-Asia countries. The film is a result of several attempts to make a new King Kong film over the years before this film. This is the first time that both King Kong and Godzilla appeared in Colour and Widescreen and it is still the most commercially successful title in the Godzilla Series.

So we know a bit about the film now let’s look at the combatants:

In one corner we have King Kong, the giant ape who was captured from his home, climbed to the top of the empire state building with the girl he loved in his hand and was the shot down by a group of airplanes. How is he still alive to fight Godzilla? Well in the case of many films what happened in New York did not happen in the timeline of this film and so he is still alive.

In the other corner we have Godzilla, The giant lizard who woke up after H-bomb tests and destroyed Tokyo before being killed by a secret weapon. Then another one appeared and had a fight with a creature called Anguirus (one of my favourite Toho monsters) and then gets buried in an Ice avalanche.

The two monsters are ready to fight so let’s see who wins the fight of the previous century.

The film starts out with a news team reporting an earthquake in Chile and then tell of some mysterious red berries that help in medicine and that the natives on the island don’t want to give it up because of the monster on the island. The head of a pharmaceutical company decide to send 2 people to the island to bring back the monster for their advertising. Meanwhile a group of icebergs are melting and so the United Nations send a submarine to investigate. They go towards an iceberg that is glowing and then crash into an iceberg. They set off an emergency signal. The submarine then catches fire as the sound of a creature’s roar is heard. A rescue helicopter arrives and watches as Godzilla emerges from the iceberg. The news is reported (on the television news channel which rather annoyingly constantly makes appearances through this film) and japan gets ready for when Godzilla attacks, they even think about using the nuclear bomb. Godzilla then attacks an army base.

The 2 men sent to collect the monster arrive at Faro Island and talk to the natives who allow them to stay after showing the chief a radio. As the natives perform a ceremony the Monsters roar can be heard. In Japan a plane crashes in Hokkaido  and a girl’s boyfriend was on the plane and she goes to see if he survived. As she leaves a news report says that Godzilla may attack there next. The 2 men look for the monster on the island and get caught in a land slide. They get back to the tribe village and as one of them sleeps a small boy goes to get some of the red berry juice. A giant octopus attacks which is then attacked by a Giant Gorilla (King Kong). Kong drives the octopus away. Kong then drinks some of the red berry juice and the natives start singing and dancing causing Kong to fall asleep. The 2 men decide to take Kong off the island.

Japan declares that King Kong is not allowed to enter Japan. The boyfriend (Fujita) arrives back safely in Tokyo and just finds out that his girlfriend’s train is going in the direction of where his plane crashed and Godzilla is in that area. He goes off to find his girlfriend. Godzilla moves towards the train. Fujita finds his girlfriend and takes her away from the area. Kong wakes up from the raft he is tied down to and the 2 men blow up the explosives tied to the raft to blow him up. However Kong survives and heads towards Japan. Godzilla and King Kong have a quick fight with Kong retreating after getting burned by Godzilla’s Atomic Deathray.

Plans are made to stop Godzilla from attacking Tokyo. They decide to build a grid of electrical wires around Tokyo thinking it will stop Godzilla. It (Strangely and I will explain why later) does and Godzilla moves away. However electricity (somehow) makes Kong stronger and Kong arrives in Tokyo. After stopping a train Fujita’s girlfriend is captured by Kong who then climbs to the top of the capital building (National Diet Building). Using the red berry juice and the sound of drums the army use the same technique used on the island to put Kong to sleep. Using balloons and some special wire from Fujita the army airlift Kong out of Tokyo and move him to where Godzilla is in the hope that the 2 monsters might destroy each other. The 2 monsters meet and after a hard-fought fight Godzilla initially wins but when lightning strikes it wakes up Kong and the fight continues. The 2 monsters then fall into the sea and then cause an earthquake. Kong the appears out of the water and swims home with Godzilla nowhere to be seen.

Here is a clip from BBC Monster Night in 1998 if you want to watch the main fight.

King Kong vs Godzilla is an entertaining film with some good scenes. What is interesting about the special effects side is that King Kong is a suit this time whereas in the original he was a Stop Motion Animation. The Godzilla suit does look pretty good but the suit does get bigger and better as the current series (showa) goes along. The King Kong suit also looks pretty good but there are parts in the film where it looks like it is out of control and the movements are not as fluid as they are in other parts. There is also some interesting uses of the cameras with a front view of Godzilla shown where as in most films he is seen from the side.

As I said earlier there is something strange about the electricity scene with Godzilla. In the 1954 original Godzilla destroys the electric grid with ease like it does nothing to him. In the film following this one electricity does not affect him in any way at all. So how come in this film he does not like it and runs away.

While the film is fun to watch and is quite entertaining the film seems to be a bit too Americanized. Some scenes look like a America Monster Movie and not a Godzilla Movie. It is almost like the film was made by America with some help from Japan. While it is fun to watch these elements stop it from reaching its full potential and that is why it’s not one of my top favourite Godzilla films (even though it is a lot better than some films I the series).

Overall it is a fun and entertaining film but in my opinion there are some Godzilla films that are a lot better than this one. Because of the Americanized style of this film it is more of a monster movie and not a Godzilla Movie. While you may find it fun to watch do not look at this and assume this is what Godzilla is about until you have watched some of the stronger films in the series. (please leave a comment if you want me to recommend any).

OH who won the fight. Well Godzilla won the first round and King Kong won the second so it looks like a draw. Maybe this calls for another film to be made. Who do you think Won?

GENEPOOL








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