If You’re Going To Kill Somebody, Kill Them! Don’t Stand Around Talking About It! – Van Helsing

26 10 2016

Van Helsing (Universal Pictures - 2004)

Are Heroes Overrated? You know, some evil thing is stalking the planet, only for the hero to come in and save the day, as they do. It is all rather common at the moment, and it appears that there are a lot of heroes out there that can do the same, so is it all a bit overrated? I mean, if there are many who can do it, why do we bother putting so much faith in one Super Hero when chances are there is someone else out there equally qualified to do the job of ‘saving the day’. Why do we need to worry if something evil comes along, when we all know too well right now that someone is likely to come along at some point to solve the problem. Maybe we should all just get on with our lives, in the fullest knowledge that there are heroes out there tackling things that go bump in the night, and in the meantime we can all sit down, flick on the TV and drink Hot Chocolate!


Released in 2004 by Universal Pictures, Directed by Stephen Sommers and Produced by Bob Ducsay; Van Helsing is a Fantasy Action-Adventure film which intends to pay tribute to the Universal Horror/Monster films of the 30’s and 40’s released by Universal and based on the works by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Set in the horrifying (maybe not in real life, it may actually be really pleasant, who knows) area of Transylvania, the film follows the adventures of Monster Hunter Van Helsing; inspired by the character of the same name from Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. The film endeavors to include other monsters in it story too alongside Vampires including Frankenstein’s Monster and Werewolves.


In 1887, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) has successfully created a monster with the help of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Dracula though wants to use the creature for his own evil plans and Kills Frankenstein. While his castle is raided by the local villagers, Frankenstein’s Monster takes his creators body to a nearby windmill which in turn is burned down by the villagers. In Paris one year later, the renowned monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is wanted by the police, but before he leaves he quickly dispatches the elusive Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane). He returns to the Vatican in Rome, where his superior; Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong) tasks him with yet another mission: to go to Transylvania, and kill Count Dracula. The mission being to help the last bloodline of the Valerious family, who may not enter Heaven until Dracula is killed. Jinette also suggests that Helsing may find out answers to his nightmares and forgotten past there too. Before setting off on his mission, Van Helsing gets weapons and gadgets from Friar Carl (David Wenham) who also accompanies Helsing to Transylvania. Meanwhile in Transylvania, Velkan (Will Kemp) and Anna (Kate Beckinsale) Valerious try to kill a rogue Werewolf, but Velkan is seemingly killed in the pursuit, leaving only Anna left.


Van Helsing and Carl arrive in Transylvania, where they get less than a warm welcome from the townsfolk, especially the gravedigger Top Hat (Tom Fisher). Anna arrives and tries to get their weapons off them both, but then Dracula’s Brides Verona (Silvia Colloca), Marishka (Josie Maran) and Aleera (Elena Anaya) attack. After a quick attack Helsing manages to kill Marishka, which makes the other two flee. Back at his castle, Dracula orders his remaining brides and his little minion Dwergers with their supervisor Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) to prepare Castle Frankenstein for an experiment. Back at her home, Anna is knocked out by Helsing determined to protect her, only for her house to be broken into by Velkan now a Werewolf.  Anna and Helsing track him to Castle Frankenstein where they discover Dracula is trying to give life to his dead-born children using Velkan’s Werewolf DNA to power Frankenstein’s lab. The experiment fails however, and after a brief confrontation with Dracula; Helsing manages to escape from Dracula, rescuing Anna in the process. The two then stumble into an underground cave where they find Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley) who tells them that without him, Dracula cannot successfully give full life to his offspring. Believing the creature not to be evil, Helsing tries to get the creature to Rome with the help of Carl and Anna. During the night they are attacked by the Brides and Velkan, now fully consumed by the curse. Verona and Velkan are both killed but Helsing is bitten by Velkan, meaning soon he too will turn into a Werewolf. To make matters worse; Aleera kidnaps Anna and takes her to Budapest, and informs Helsing that Dracula will trade her for the Monster.


At a Grand Masquerade ball, Van Helsing rescues Anna from the clutches of Count Dracula, but watches on in horror as Igor manages to capture the Monster. With only a few hours left until Van Helsing transforms into the Werewolf, and Dracula manages to put his plan in motion, Carl reveals that Anna’s great ancestor was the father to Dracula. Dracula was murdered but in turn made a deal with the Devil. Not wanting that on his soul, Anna’s ancestor makes a pact with the church, for his entire family and bloodline to go to Heaven as long as Dracula is killed, but was unable to do so as he could not kill his own son. He did leave messages however as to how they may be able to accomplish it, and in turn are able to find the location to Dracula’s castle. All three go there, and find out that Dracula holds a cure for Werewolves, because the only thing that can kill him is a Werewolf. Anna and Carl head off to get the cure, running into and a foul of Igor in the process, while Helsing tries to save the Monster. Too late however, Dracula’s offspring are born. Aleera tries to kill Anna, but with help from the Monster and Carl, Anna is able to kill her and proceeds to get the cure to Helsing. Meanwhile, Helsing runs into Dracula, and at the stroke of midnight he turns into a Werewolf, strong willed enough to attack Dracula, eventually killing him. Anna arrives and is about to inject the cure, but Helsing attacks her. Just as Carl is about to kill Helsing, he notices that Anna managed to get the cure into Helsing, who takes the dead body of Anna in his arms, howling into the night as he slowly becomes human again. The following morning, The Monster is given its freedom and rows out to sea. Meanwhile Carl and Helsing hold a pyre funeral, but then Helsing sees Anna and her family’s spirits finally ascend into the clouds.

Now just to be clear in case anyone got confused by my introduction, this is not a Super Hero based movie. It does not feature anyone in brightly coloured flamboyant costumes nor does anybody wield any amazing super powers that they use on and off willy nilly. In all honesty this film actually has more in common with spy films along the lines of James Bond. Yes, it is at heart a fantasy adventure film with lots of interesting well designed monsters and creates some interesting ideas in its story, however I do get the feeling that more detail could have been provided. When watching this you will be forgiven for thinking it’s a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, lots of near swashbuckling adventure scenes like those of Indiana Jones (or at least I think so) while also containing a gadget based scene not too similar to Q Branch in the 90’s and 2000’s. Once you get past those near comparisons however you can finally get in-depth with this film. It’s adventure style works quite nicely and the action is well done, but what this film tires to do is create a fun fantasy film, incorporating creatures and stories of the kinds that modern Gothic fairy tales are known for, continuing to show a real sense of peril and danger, while also making it light-hearted enough to be enjoyed to the full, and not needing to hide behind your seat.


When looking at the film’s plot, it is quite interesting to note that this film is near two hours long, but the lack of thorough detail makes you think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong; it is beautifully crafted and creates some ideas and goes on to generate incredible twists, it just doesn’t feel all that smooth, more blocky and jumpy, like as to say they could have included a bit more detail here and there. The ending is rather anti-climactic and it feels like it is trying too hard to move onto the next scene throughout. I just feel that in the end it could have revealed a lot more; it feels like there is some stuff that is mentioned, or answered little bit but not fully. This whole history between Dracula and Van Helsing especially, the idea that there was history between them, but as to exactly what that was goes relatively unanswered, more suggested. When walking away from this film you’ll begin to wonder if Helsing is the Arch Angel Gabriel and the one responsible for Dracula’s death in the first place, something sort of suggested but again; not really answered. It is something of a shame that there isn’t enough bite, there is a squeeze of teeth and the story does try to wrap up everything neatly but I think it just tried to do too much in the end, and couldn’t wrap it all up either; however the history of Dracula is still a pretty interesting scene.

Van Helsing is made up of a rather interesting selection of cast members, all who do their role well. Well when I say well, there are a few who just fall short of the mark. While you do have people in much smaller parts like the Gravedigger who is a rather nice addition to the cast, and whose appearance be it all a bit small, he is the kind of character you want to see more of; whereas the brides of Dracula are rather annoying. Not annoying because their villains, but annoying because they are annoying! While it is fair to say that the vampire voices are rather generic and possibly a bit camp, all three brides are just over the top. Their look in Vampire mode is definitely over the top and their human presence is far more interesting, but to me their look is too, sort of, Sultan. They look like extras picked from a movie version of Arabian Nights. What did it for me is that Marishka is the better performing of the three, but when you take in all their voices together, plus a brief moment of Marishka posing off in the village, they look and sound a lot like the actress Valeria Golino in Hotshots! Part Deux. It’s just off-putting and rather unnecessary, they don’t even make good villains. With those 3 are out of the way though, the rest of the cast are pretty good. Although I would say that I think Velkan is rather over used, not as much as the three brides, but is sort of toyed around with a bit too much to the point where it is not really necessary anymore. To begin with he is, and it is a great way to show how the Werewolf curse works for the sake of the story, I just think for someone who is meant to be a Werewolf, there is a lot of human scenes.


The film does struggle with some moments of casting I feel, especially when you consider having Alun Armstrong in a part and only have him on-screen for about five minutes. The same could be said for Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Hyde, a very interesting character that you just want to see more of, but is more used as an introduction. It’s just a shame that not one, but two high-caliber and very experienced actors, are not used in a much longer or greater position; I mean I could understand more if you had lesser known or relatively newer actors in those parts, but why the other way around. Just want to point out though that both Stephen Fisher and Samuel West do good jobs, if very minor ones for the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Victor Frankenstein respectively.


As for the films main sightings after the above, they all do really good jobs in the roles they have been asked to do. Igor for instance does well of being conveyed as the foolish and simple Igor, who at times shows some level of his own will and even levels of grumpiness toward Dracula. It is meant to be a more comedic role, but as the film progresses you can see more of his strengths, and even who he really is as he begins to talk more sadistically and even gets into a fight, and that voice is pretty chilling too. Frankenstein’s Monster similarly has a wonderful voice; more operatic which makes me think of Dynamo in The Running Man (but thankfully not all the time). The monster is very much like the creature he is based on, at least in the popular media light fashion, although is seen to be more physically active, and a real fighter. But deep down he is not muscle; but a man wanting his right to be alive in a world that will not accept him. A lot of work has been put into his back story, and he shares some brilliant quotes with the rest of the film’s cast, especially the line: “I Want to Live!” He is a great addition to the cast, and a very entertaining one, maybe a little over dramatic in places but a real good entertaining character while also not being in any way, shape or form; the comic relief. That is more handed down to Igor and Carl equally. Carl is something of an assistant as well as a librarian, not much of a fighter, but more like Willow in Buffy. He is a researcher, someone who shows the important side and value of good research. He is something of a minor fool, who sounds like someone trying to responsibly not get into trouble, but does. In the end though, he shows his true strength, and even a little attitude, as without him they would never have been able to defeat Dracula, as in the end it came down to reasoning and understanding as well as a touch of philosophy too.


The film’s main trio are made up of some really fine acting talent. For many years now, I have said that Richard Roxburgh’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is my favourite, and still do. Here we get a rather more different performance with him as Dracula. Yes the voice could be considered Generic, but I would not say the passion was. The way he can just say the right things in the right fashion of voice is amazing. Sometimes he could be sorrowful and sad, others he can be mysterious and cold, and others he can be grand and excited. He too has some really good quotes from talking about his lack of heart, to his lack of ring in the final fight with Helsing. Richard Roxburgh delivers in what is a rather fine and fun role, making sure that Dracula lives up to the vampire we all know and love (I know) while also making sure that we know he is the villain and why he should always be the villain; a very enjoyable character, possibly also my favourite depiction of Dracula. Kate Beckinsale meanwhile plays not a damsel in distress, but a brave and confident vampire hunter. She does possibly overplay the accent a little too heavy, but for everything else that she does, she too, like Roxburgh is rather enjoyable. Be it living up to the Indiana Jones like performance, to the voice of reason unlocking the true person of Van Helsing, to of course being the ruthless lady of vengeance. It is hard to really see her in a role like this; however I cannot see anyone doing a better job than she does. She is very Countess of Monte Cristo like in how she performs and how she talks, but in that essence she is rather cool and fun to watch. It’s hard to really pin her down as to whom she is and what she does and what makes her so good. It’s another one of those je ne sais qua moments, where she is/doing something really quirky and cool, but you don’t know what?


Hugh Jackman is of course playing the titular character of Van Helsing. Here he plays the Vampire Hunter of course who at least to begin with is rather cold and callous, more being a simple Monster Killer than anything else. He is a man with a history, and much like Wolverine (weirdly) is a man whose history is currently not well known (and as explained in the plot section above is still rather unknown to the audience). As the film progresses however he begins to learn more about compassion, first showing it to the Monster, and then learning it through desire for Anna, who helps him see more. In her part, she is more of a secondary object, but he too begins to learn and realize more and begins to see her in a different light (although I feel that him immediately coming onto her by the end is a bit clichéd and could have been developed more). This new character though is definitely different to the one who first appeared in the streets of Paris, although his search for his missing past definitely takes something of a back seat and it seems as in the end he does not really care. One thing remains though throughout is how cool a character he is. This ranges from the way he acts to how he talks, but one thing that certainly helps is this Undertaker like look: The Hat, Jacket and standing in the shadows with a pistol.


Van Helsing, much like many other fantasy films comes with a whole castle full of visual special effects, some of which are absolutely gut wrenching. The effects on the whole are done quite well and are mostly visible in monster designs. The Dead Born vampire spawn are really icky and creepy while also hanging around in those pulsating pods which are near stomach wrenching. Mr. Hyde is a nice little effect although be it not a long one, as too is Dracula’s Mirror Scene and the Transylvanian Horses scene. Dracula’s monster form I would say is ok, but all of these effects really tremble under the majesty of what has to be the most impressive Werewolf in movie history, that of Van Helsing’s transformation. The transformation is quite creepy, especially where the skin appears to fall off (similar to another icky effect early on with Dracula’s healing burned face), and to begin with he looks more like a gorilla than a wolf, but then when his snout takes form, and as you see him standing over Dracula, it is such an impressive sight (I keep wondering why on earth Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban couldn’t create one just as awesome), and the fight between the two I feel is not as long as it could be, and nearly wastes this amazing Werewolf. If I was a Werewolf, I would want to look like the one at the end of Van Helsing, who wouldn’t? For me that is the whole highlight of this film.

Which is more than can be said for the soundtrack! The soundtrack composed by Alan Silvestri does actually sound rather pleasant and for the genres that this film is trying to convey is a suitable fit. It’s just it’s rather overused. Not as much as The Last of the Mohicans (which I am certain only has one piece of music in it); but still quite a lot. It does have some nice pieces of music, the End Credits is good, some of the battle scenes, the funeral, the Masquerade ball, and the adventure style theme tune used prolifically throughout are all pretty cool; however, there are two pieces of music which sound near exactly the same (unless they are just one piece) which is used nearly every minute during the last great battle, and it is so noticeable (like Last of the Mohicans) as it is used prolifically in scenes that suggest Indiana Jones like action: Like swinging on a rope for instance. It’s not exactly annoying, just irritating, because the music on show is pretty good but nearly let down by one (or two) piece used too much.

On the whole though, I think this is a really cool film, maybe not the best or the greatest of Fantasy Adventure films, but overall I think it’s a really cool, fun film. It has an interesting story, a cast made up of categorically worthy actors but not overplaying their roles; keeping their roles fun and interesting, some cool special effects helping to create some certainly breath-taking Monsters and one of those soundtracks that is now rather recognisable for certain pieces used elsewhere. Yes, it does have its issues: Some cast members are near gratuitous, the plot is a bit sketchy with bits not even answered and there are a lot of uncivilized bits as scenes and effects go. Though for everything that does not work, there is more than one that does altogether creating an entertaining yet very cool and sincerely engrossing film.


Well, Here’s To The Big One – King Kong (1976)

8 06 2016

King Kong (Paramount Pictures - 1976)

Do you ever get that dream where you go to a faraway island in search of oil only to eventually discover that the oil is not ready yet; and while that is going on, your potential girlfriend gets kidnapped by a very large hairy bloke, so you go into the jungle to rescue her, and then decide to take the hairy bloke to New York who then decides that New York isn’t really his thing and so runs amok, climbs one of the two tallest buildings in the world before being brought down by a squadron of Helicopter gunships? Well you can stop dreaming, because it really did happen.


Released in 1976 by Paramount Pictures, Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Directed by John Guillermin; King Kong is a remake to the legendary monster movie of the same name originally released in 1933 by RKO Pictures. This film, like the original features a Giant Ape known as Kong who lives on an island, has women sacrificed to him, gets captured and put on display in New York City before running amok. While based on the original screenplay of King Kong by James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; this version of King Kong does things differently, by placing the world and setting of the film in the modern era of the 1970’s (as compared to its original modern setting of the 1930’s) and instead of a film maker looking for an island and animal of legend for his next movie features an oil company exploring new ground to find something completely different.

King Kong 1933 Log

In Surabaya, the ship Petrox Explorer captained by Captain Ross (John Randolph) sets sail en-route to an undisclosed location. Executive to the Petrox Oil Company; Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), basing his idea on an infra-red image of an undiscovered island hidden behind a fog bank in the Indian Ocean, believes he has hit the jackpot with possibly the largest untouched reservoir of oil on the planet. During his briefing though, he is interrupted by Primate Paleontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) who stowed away on the ship. Jack states that the island may have been visited in the past and that the fog bank may be caused by an undocumented giant beast. Believing him to be a spy, Wilson has him locked up. While being escorted away, he spots a life raft. On the raft is Dwan (Jessica Lange), a young aspiring actress who was on a boat belonging to a director which sank. Wilson does some digging into Prescott, discovers he is telling the truth as to who he is and appoints him the expedition’s official photographer. Eventually, the ship reaches the fabled island surrounded by a fog bank. Wilson along with Dwan, Prescott, oil expert Roy Bagley (Rene Auberjonois), First mate Carnahan (Ed Lauter), sailors Joe (Jack O’Halloran), Garcia (Jorge Moreno) and Boan (Julius Harris), land on the island to have a quick explore, and discover a giant wall made of tree logs. Wilson still believes the island to be deserted, but then the group hears music.


Venturing inside, they find a ceremony taking place with a man dressed as an ape (Keny Long). The island villagers though spot the group and demand they hand over Dwan. The group beats a quick retreat, but that night a group of villagers steals Dwan from off the boat. Finding evidence of the villager’s presence, Prescott runs to get help, and soon the sailors arrive on the island. Too late however, Dwan, under some kind of drug is put into the same ceremony the group saw earlier, with the villagers chanting the name KONG. Eventually the big doors are opened and she is tied to an altar beyond the wall. With the villagers still chanting, something big approaches the village, smashing and pulling down trees in its wake. Eventually, it appears in full view to be a giant Gorilla. It snatches Dwan and takes her into the jungle. Prescott and the others arrive too late to save her, but after Wilson falls into the creature’s footprint, Prescott, Carnahan and some of the sailors head into the jungle to rescue her.

The following morning, Dwan tries several attempts to get away from Kong, but besotted with his new bride, Kong won’t let her go. He begins to soften to her constant ramblings and when she falls into some mud, he takes her to a waterfall to get clean and uses his great lungs to blow her dry. Prescott, Carnahan and the others continue to look for Dwan with no luck. Wilson meanwhile finds out from Bagley that the oil in the pool at the village needs roughly another 10,000 years before it is anywhere near ready to be put into people’s cars. Wilson annoyed with this takes inspiration from an Esso slogan and decides to try and capture Kong to be the company’s new mascot. While still out searching for Kong, Prescott and the others encounter Kong who dispatches most of the team dropping them into a large ravine. Prescott survives and continues looking for Dwan, while Boan reports back to Wilson. Back at the village, Wilson puts the men to work building a ‘monkey trap’. At his mountain lair, Kong tries to undress Dwan, but is then attacked by a giant rattlesnake. While Kong battles the Snake, Dwan is rescued by Prescott who both then flee to the village. Upon defeating the creature, Kong follows them back to the village where he falls into the pit and is knocked out by chloroform.

Jessica Lange

Kong is locked away in a large tank on a Petrox Oil Tanker and causes trouble for everyone on board. Dwan though manages to calm him down. In New York, Kong is put on display and Dwan is cast as his bride to be. Prescott however has had enough and leaves, but stays round long enough to watch the show. The show opens with a giant petrol pump containing Kong held in a cage and with a crown on his head. Upon seeing Dwan harassed by reporters, King Kong breaks free of his supposed ‘escape proof cage’ and runs amok. Everyone attending the show runs for their life, several of them, including Wilson getting crushed under his huge feet. Prescott and Dwan manage to evade Kong, although the Ape’s attempts to find Dwan nearly get them caught. The military begins closing off the bridges to Manhattan and Prescott and Dwan manage to cross over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan before going into an abandoned bar. Prescott, realising that the Twin Towers look a lot like the mountainous terrain of Kong’s Lair calls the mayor’s office and tells them where Kong is heading so he can be safely captured. Kong however finds Dwan and takes her out of the bar and heads for the Twin Towers. Upon reaching the World Trade Centre buildings, Kong climbs to the top with Dwan. Prescott chases after them taking the lifts, but is however unable to get onto the roof. The military pursue Kong up the building and attack him with flamethrowers. Kong jumps across to the roof of the other building and dispatches the guards. He is however then attacked by a squadron of attack helicopters. He puts up a fight, but in the end its pointless and he collapses before falling to the ground. Dwan goes down to comfort him, but he dies from his wounds. The crowds surround the carcass of Kong while Dwan is harassed by reporters and though he attempts to help, Prescott is unable to reach her.


It may not come as much of a surprise to either the people I know or the readers of this blog, that I am a fan of Monster Movies. It is a pretty solid fact with plenty of evidence. King Kong as a Movie Monster is not one I think regularly about in comparison to say Godzilla; however, this film in particular is real close to my heart. Ok, yes, it was the first time I had ever seen a King Kong film back when I watched it in 1998. Since seeing this film several times I have come to love it with a passion and consider it one of the very best Monster Movies of the lot. I have of course seen the other 2 versions of King Kong, but the thing is the one I talk about the most, and have enjoyed the most remains to be this one. Could it be that it was the first one I saw; perhaps, but the thing is, I truly love this film every time I see it.

King Kong (RKO Pictures - 1933)

King Kong 1976 is a very different film compared to its original predecessor; however there are snippets to the original one plus things that have not changed at all. Starting with the obvious, it’s set in modern times. Now while it may have been set in the New York of 40 years ago, the look of New York City hasn’t really changed all that much since. It’s still as modern then as it is now. The setting is modern, the vehicles are modern. What it’s basically doing is grabbing a classic story form the 1930’s, and doing it all over again but setting it in the here and now. It’s not like Peter Jackson who just remade the original film (although how he was able to make a 3+ hour-long movie out of what was originally an hour and forty minutes remains a complete mystery) in the same period. This film, remakes, but puts it in a time that is easier for the audience to connect with and believe, and feel like it could happen to or around them. It makes 2005 look just like a film, whereas this feels like an experience. Out goes the story of the film maker, in comes the greedy oil tycoons. Yet another piece of modern belief; out goes exploration, in comes discovery but only when it sort of latches onto a more profound statement of the world today. The need and desire of energy in a world that is losing it, Man’s Greeds and Needs in a dying world only to find something completely primitive but still incredibly dangerous. The story of greedy oil tycoon’s works in quite well and is constantly mentioned; even to point out the marketing campaigns of other companies and how this inspires the film’s dodgy oil executive. Other major changes of course lead us to the use of not the Empire State Building, but the now non-existent World Trade Centre buildings. Why these buildings instead of the Empire? I think it’s because that at the time those buildings were brand new but also far taller than the Empire, and so to continue to amaze the audience, who are already amazed by the figure of a Giant Ape, amaze them more with having said ape climb to the top of the Tallest buildings in the city instead. The incorporation of these building’s is of course handled in the story early on, but does not lead anywhere until the film’s final act. These changes are of course worked into what is basically the same story as the film that precedes it but are once again adapted into the story, so that in its bones it is the same film; but on the surface, it is technically very different in the raw core if not necessarily in the already visible flesh.

World Trade Center

The setting of this film is not held down to just New York of course. King Kong as an idea is not one to come knocking on your roof. Kong is always a creature that needs to be discovered, his original appearance came about in a film that was before the time that Monsters started coming to cities instead of brought. One, Kong is less a force of nature but still not technically just an animal, and why on earth would he want to go to the city if he is happy where he is, on an island worshipped as a God? To this end, we go to an island, an island in the middle of a giant fog bank that keeps the island a secret until someone finds it. On which we find a tribe, a lost tribe, one who has no knowledge nor care for the outside world. The tribe has its own culture, beliefs, and ethos. Once though that this is threatened, they demand some form of penance, and go out of their way to get it. They then use this to their advantage to pull off a major marriage ceremony by putting this form of penance against an outside tribe in a relationship with their God. This God is part of their world, one they fear, but one that they believe carries a level of Magic and belief and brings them down to a real humble level, when he gets captured. From there the island does not look like much, until along comes 1: A Giant Ape, and 2: A Giant Snake. Apart from that, the island looks like some kind of haven like it would be a nice holiday resort (and one I have seen in at least one film since, it’s so obvious it’s that location). This island though has character to it. It’s a lost part of a planet that we have already covered and know so much about. It has a very primitive but still well thought out tribe with a deep culture, and on this hidden island, are hidden secrets. From the lost tribe to the island’s great King, it has a lot. But maybe it was hidden and lost for a reason, because the island contains special elements, special things that we have come to squander and take for granted, in as such this film is not just showing us the raw power of nature, but also shows us what we have lost, and that maybe we don’t deserve any of what we have, and that for the sake of history, one small bit should remain preserved for all time.


Now that’s the profound stuff out the way, let’s get to the characters. This film does hold something of a barrage of acting talent of people who were either already stand outs at the time of production to those who have become stand outs since. Now there is quite a lot of small tertiary and secondary characters who deserve some talking time, so that’s where we’ll start. Most of these (well, in fact I think all of these) were with the crew on the Petrox Explorer, but later on the film you do get one or two people. From an army commander watching Kong head to the final show ground (the bit where the lights come back on behind him, in some kind of old roman looking archway), to the rather entertaining helicopter pilot (George Whiteman) leading the attack on Kong, to the political governor character (John Agar) who shows no real sympathy, at least from me. But in turn you do get really good stand outs from the ship’s crew. Leading the pack is Carnahan who throughout his time alive in this film portrays this nice secondary and respectful character who is a real on-screen joy to watch. Along with him you also get sailors Joe, Garcia and Boan, with Boan being the only one to survive, however, all of these guys get a good time in and produce some really cool mini scenes even if most of these have nothing to do with the plot. Similarly, the ship’s radio operator has a nice early on scene but is not really seen since. In a similar fashion this leads us up to the ship captain. He is strangely very entertaining as well as a strong figure-head that consists to produce a level headed approach and provide some of the only real sanity this film has. Much the same could be said for Bagley who; one the one hand is the film’s scientific advisor but not in the sense of apes, more on the subject of oil. Both characters carry some level of wit but are not comedy installations, more the voices of reason to bring the film down from the high edges of ridiculous to the point of sanity once more. Although these two are sort of on other sides of the coin, the captain is more respectful, while Bagley is a little wild, but both carry a real enjoyment factor that they are two characters you do not want to ignore.

Charles Grodin

Then on to that we have our 3 main leads. Charles Grodin’s character of Fred Wilson is quite a fun character. He is not really defined as hero or villain. What he is really is something of a diva. Someone who desires and demands the spotlight and is to go far out to show how he needs wants and deserves more. He sort of gets more atrocious as the film goes on, but he carries this amazing presence throughout, so that even if he becomes a villain, he is too likeable and you just let it go. He’s like a nice chap, someone you could be really good friends with. He’s sort of like Dr. Cox in his funny wild moments, and sort of keeps that energy going despite the scene intentions. I don’t know if that was the intention, but it works and I like it. Which is more than can be said for Dwan! Dwan is something like a bottle of champagne. She is someone who has a cork that is itching to blow, but when it does, she can’t stop fizzing. I find it very hard to understand anything she says or does, and is in one sense like Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill, in that she is more a screech, not scream, Queen and doesn’t know when to stop. He place in the story though presents itself differently. Unlike her acting, she creates something of a double tragedy. A forbidden love between her and Kong creates an ending where his love for her brings him and her to a fall, and the real love of her life, is one that finds it hard to control or persist for. In turn, this creates a double tragedy; tragedy for her and Kong…..while Jack looks on. Jeff Bridges meanwhile is the film’s real anchor and lead. He is someone who’s just generally a nicely going guy who has an interest and knowledge of the island and persists to go. He makes friends quickly, even though he and Grodin tussle a bit, but quickly persists to help Dwan, not knowing what he is getting himself into. In the end, he has no idea what to do with her, and love does not win or succeed, it just sort of perishes under the weight of emotion. Throughout though, Bridges persists to provide a character who is fun-loving, but still a serious counter balance against the antics of those around him. One who understands the seriousness of the situation, and works hard to maintain a professional but still caring attitude. He is sort of a Jack of all trades in his chosen field of study, and in that, helms this film rather nicely, if in the end providing a dark temper as he goes.

Jeff Bridges

When I think of King Kong, just imagine him in my head the first thing that usually comes to mind is the scene where Jessica Lange is sacrificed to the great ape, and Kong walks through the forest, pulling down trees and yelling at his high voice. This for me is what King Kong is supposed to be like, not some generally big animal like gorilla, but something more God like, something that is not necessarily a force of nature, but still a powerhouse of a creature, one so special that he does not act like a normal animal. Here, we have one that stands and walks upright like a person. That scene at the wall is one I like a lot, as it is the first time we see Kong, and first impressions are important. So we see him, just his face or back of his head, then towering over Dwan, shouting and yelling before grabbing her then simply walking away. This first impression though gives us one important point of imagery; that in the way he is posing. By standing upright he looks big, he looks strong, he looks powerful. TO explain that further one could point to how George Bush (the recent one) used to put his arms out to the side, like a monkey of sorts, but it makes him look bigger and more powerful as a result. But the clearest way of saying that is to think of times when Animals are scared of things bigger than they are. By having Kong positioned like this, he looks daunting and un-nerving, but also makes you already consider that he is more than simply an ape. Kong though is not just about power. In here, we get a sample of behavior that he expresses which in turn shows what he is like deep inside. Yes, he is besotted by his bride to be, but he cares for her, even offers her a shower and blows her dry. Yet, his inner instinct is very man like as later on he tries to undress her, giving in to a more primitive man like temptation to desire what is underneath. Could it be that his signs off affection are selfishness, or could it be that he is looking for a way to connect to be closer to her? He shows great levels of defense for her too; even to defend her from a Giant Rattlesnake and even the Press, but this could once again be him, trying to keep hold of her for himself. However, this relationship is far more believable, as she can see it’s not going to work (where as for some reason Naomi Watts seemed to be actually falling in love with Kong, like that Simpsons episode). But that is not say that he does not understand that, but in the end, she does show a level of sympathy to his death, as it was really for her that he did die.


King Kong as a film utilizes of course a large level of special effects to pull off what is a very big film. These could be considered relatively primitive to today’s output, but, for the most part, still work. Kong is of course a Suit, but a pretty good suit, in fact it’s very lifelike, and supposedly because the now legendary Rick Baker, (and Peter Cullen, and Will Shephard) a human is in the suit (Cullen did voice), the actions are very lifelike. All the scenes containing the suit are incredibly well done and really go far to present the image of an ape that big actually being in existence. Scenes such as tearing down the gate, bursting through the trees at the introduction as well as the chase aftermath, and even climbing the Twin Towers. It looks real, because it is a real suit, in a real shot and being performed (by evolutionary standards) by a descendant or at least relative of apes like Kong. Combine that though, with other stand out moments of special effects that were revolutionary for their time and you still gets some interesting perspectives that just enhance the film further. Things like the staging of people on a wall, looking down on a suit that is as big as the wall and is still tearing down trees. That shot only appears a couple of times but is a nice detailed shot that makes you think that you are really there.


Similar moments of staging happen earlier on when Kong goes after Wilson at the first wall, or when at the second wall, Kong can be seen walking on and through the crowd from a low-level shot. Sadly, this is not continued throughout, why, because, well, for the sake of the film, a large full size animatronic was built for scenes where they felt that might not be achievable. But the thing with that is, is that it’s obvious when the scene changes to show the large animatronic instead, I don’t even need to point them out, just look for them, it’s easy. All though, I would say that the animatronic hand of Kong, is actually pretty good and is able to convey enough fluid movement to look real, and those scenes where it’s just the hand and arm, look fabulous, yet similarly terrifying. Altogether the design for Kong is fantastic, and at times can look incredibly terrifying when the scene demands it, but also rather humbling. While those effects are one thing, the film does have moments when it suffers from others. The only one that really gripes me enough is some use of fake backgrounds, which just look atrocious. The film especially in the New York scenes works hard to convey an empty city, one under panic and horror from the might of the situation, but some scenes sort of rid themselves of either set pieces or staging, and instead layout a near 2D image of an island view or city street. If it wasn’t for the content in the middle, the shots would be pure ugly. These moments are rare but also sadly noticeable, and even worse, as Kong climbs the tower, they use real shots of the beautiful city scape of New York in the background to provide real perspective. So why they couldn’t have done that earlier is anyone’s guess, because those shots are beautiful and in the end, more of those could have been great. But like I said, those situations are only rare.


What isn’t rare though thankfully is the film’s soundtrack composed by the iconic John Barry. The film has different tunes all the way through, but manifestly it uses and carries three distinct pieces of music which it sort of adapts all the way through. Sometimes they are mixed in, but in the end, we get three rather interesting tunes. One is the Romantic Theme which is used in spots of light moments between Dwan and Kong and Dwan and Jack. It’s pretty simple but it sort of works and is positively not over the top, or camp. It’s more of a filler, but it’s used wantonly throughout. The second starts and builds from the islanders chanting. It stays this way for a bit, but then builds from that each time it’s used and becomes the main Destruction Theme for all rampages involving Kong, especially his arrival. The third though, is my all-time Favourite. The soundtrack does have its moments of irregularity. The main theme is a combination of most while trying to continue a sense of both wonder and amazement. On the other hand though you get things like the parade music which then leads into a sweet near electronic disco sort of piece which is a nice break, but rather bright compared to the scene of Dwan and Kong in the Ship’s Tank where there is a real Baroque heavy pounding tune probably from a brass section which really sticks in your mind and brings feeling to an even darker situation and is used again when Kong begins the climb. The third distinct piece though, is different to all the rest, as it’s this near replica to all villains residing in an inner sanctum playing an organ. This Organ Theme is used a lot, but I really like it. It’s on show the most when Kong arrives into the city arena and it builds, but for the brief few seconds that it plays, it has this real level of feeling about it. It’s not dark, it’s not bright. It’s chilling, like something is coming, possibly wearing a cape, coming, but taking its time, time for you to behold their presence before it brings you your doom. It’s a real nice theme, chilling, yes, but nice.

I regard this film as one of the all-time best Monster Movies. Its many things really, all of which I have gone into. Many of the people involved in this film I have found were either successful when it came out or have gone onto become successes in their field not forgetting the Prolific John Guillermin, the Powerhouse Dino De Laurentiis and the Iconic John Barry. It contains a nice select and enjoyable group of actors, which together with the filmmakers produce one of the best adaptations of classic film making to date. Posting it in a more believable modern and realistic setting and in turn make it feel like something that could really take place in our world; all the while, not forgetting the true star of the film, in turn bringing new life and a new audience while also creating new memories that are still true, as today as it did 40 years ago. King Kong, remains one of my favourite Monster Movies, and is one that I will always cherish and give time for when it is shown on TV, and more bizarrely is a film I end up having dreams about on a more consistently regular basis. I love this film; with as near a passion as King Kong loves a beautiful lady, and for me, at least for the time being, will remain, the real and true; King Kong.


Steel Heroes or Monsters (Part 2) – Pacific Rim

5 08 2013

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

One of the more standout features of Pacific Rim was the Special Effects in the CGI department. For many years I have consistently stated that Jurassic Park had the best Special Effects to date, even after Avatar was released. But now, for me anyway that has changed to Pacific Rim. Pretty much all of the Robot and Monster Scenes were CGI except for patches where it was more on a level with the human cast. The effects are most apparent in the Hong Kong fight. The effects used for the Giant Stars were not clumpy in their look or movement, they looked real and had a more fluid motion in what they did, be it punching or throwing or something else. The movement was most fluid though for the Kaiju as they are a more organic life form and when they moved it looked more like an animal than a big robot.  The lighting also worked brilliantly with light not only bouncing off the Iron/Steel Jaegers, but also off the rain. The fire and water effects were lovely altogether even if the scene took place underwater, you could see what was going on clearly in a dark setting but it did not just look like some kind of blank void.


When I went to see Pacific Rim, I went to see it in 3D. At first I was unsure of seeing it in 3D at first given my past experience with 3D films. I have previously seen a couple of films in 3D since this sort of new wave of 3D films. One was Up which featured two noticeable scenes where 3D was used and the other was the new Clash of the Titans where the only bit of 3D was in the trailers. When I went to see Pacific Rim however, the 3D effects actually worked. In this case though, there were almost no scenes that didn’t have a piece of 3D about it. From the start of the film where stars are moving around past your eyes, to points part way through when you could see a blue monster brain at the corner of your eye, and it felt like it was right next to you. While 3D does seem to be diminishing, Pacific Rim shows that it can be done properly and effectively providing that the production team work to do it effectively. Current 3D presentation at best is when it is a frequent occurrence in a film and not just every (Unnoticeable) now and again as well as pulling off the right effect.


A great lot of work has gone into the detail of the films main point, the Giant Robots. Shortly before the film’s release, Legendary released a couple of videos showing off how the team went on about designing both the Kaiju and the Jaegers. The Jaegers do have a look about them which is reminiscent of the machines seen in Japanese Anime but are not copies of them. To me, the designs look a lot like the Megazords from Power Rangers and Super Sentei as they do have a human look to them. A surprising amount of detail has also been added to the smaller parts of the machines as well. It’s as if the producers of the films designed manuals for each machine as if they were actually built. The design of each Jaeger also have a sense of steam punk about them as they do look very industrialized while also showing off some connection with the country they come from. The American machine (Gipsy Danger) is very tall but does not look lumbering and is clearly designed for good old hand to hand combat, something it shares with the Australian Jaeger (Striker Eureka) while the Chinese Jaeger (Crimson Typhoon) on the other hand is more like a lumbering brute but has a martial arts sense about it with its combat style, spinning blades and its three arm advantage and one eye look makes it look menacing. The Russian machine (Cherno Alpha) meanwhile is an ancient machine and looks the part; this in turn is represented by its style which looks more like it was designed for defence first with its big head and then attack second with the idea that strength is everything.


The Kaiju in comparison are more animal like. The Kaiju have many traits about them which relate to those of animals in the real world. One of the early Kaijus looks like a Crocodile as well as a Goblin Shark, while the big bruisers later in the film are more like Gorillas while keeping a reptilian appearance. This gives the big monsters their own independent look instead of just randomly produced or just the same creature over and over again. When designing the Kaiju monsters, the production team tried to make their appearance similar to those of Japanese Kaiju films with the idea being that you have to imagine a man being inside the creature, like a Monster suit. This is achieved brilliantly and makes the fight scenes, while completely CGI, more fluid in their fighting and more believable as result. The slightly humanistic look of their fighting styles also raises tension due to the uniqueness of it and less animal like which is more random. The more animalistic part of the Kaiju comes into it when they are moving about and stomping/crushing on buildings. Like the Jaegers, the Kaiju have had a lot of detail done to them on the smaller scale to including scales, the hands, wings, legs and arms and even more so to the face which includes emotions. It is also not the design of the creatures that have subtle hints towards Japanese Kaiju films, but also in the Kaiju theories. The Kaiju in the film are rated in categories depending on their overall size and power. This category system is named the Serizawa Scale which is a nice little tribute to the original Godzilla film as one of the characters in the film was named Serizawa. I think that’s quite nice.

You may be thinking that with this level of detail for the monsters and robots that the human may have been shunned to one side in production. Well they haven’t, a lot of detail has been put into the human part with elements of Monster religion as well as other things. The main bridge for this is through the use of the Kaiju Black-market which also introduces these other elements as well as show off smaller elements about the Kaiju.


Pacific Rim’s soundtrack (Produced by Ramin Djawadi) is one of the standout points for me personally. The soundtrack has a nice range of themes for such an epic scaled film with pieces that are best used when they are in a large open space to show the size and scale. The soundtrack though gets better on the human point of view when the Jaegers are in shot. The film’s main theme is used a lot when Gipsy Danger is in shot. it comprises of lots of brass sections with some electric guitars and gives a hero element to the machines, it shows that they are not just weapons, they are heroes. It’s just like if Superman or Batman were to arrive on scene, you know that things are a bout to change in the face of conflict, you feel safe and secure; something that the main theme for Pacific Rim does well.

The best part of the soundtrack though is when the Kaiju are in the foreground. When you see the monsters, particularly during the Hong Kong scene the soundtrack gives out a loud low note or element. It is the kind of sound produced by heavy brass sections of an orchestra and traditional Asian drums. The soundtrack in this instance sounds a lot like a Japanese Kaiju film. In professional wrestling there is a wrestler known as The Undertaker who has a very familiar entrance where the bongs of a bell can be heard before he makes his appearance. It is the same here but with a more traditional Asian feel. It’s the entrance of the Kaiju if you will, it gives them their own unique soundtrack from the rest of the film, and it feels amazing. It brought back moments for me of Monster films like The Host when the monster surfaces for the first time. But more than that, it felt a lot like a Godzilla film. Instead of just making a run of the mill Monster Movie, it showed the commitment and passion needed into making a Good Monster Movie.

Pacific Rim also did something extra special which is not done as regularly as it should be done in Cinema. Many films these days have an extra scene in the credits, a spoiler for a sequel usually or maybe just a funny extra scene. Pacific Rim however did not do this, it did something extra special. It had a dedication, a dedication to two of cinemas greatest film makers. The Late Great’s Ray Harryhausen and Ishirō Honda. That is something which does not happen a lot these days which is a real shame, they appear not to take time to say thank you to those who have helped to shape and build cinema by doing things that captured the eyes of those that they entertained. Ray Harryhausen is of course the Special Effects master who produced many Monster Movies including The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and the original Clash of the Titans. Ishirō Honda (my Favourite Director) is the man who produced many Japanese Kaiju films with films like Atragon and Mothra but was best known for his work in the Godzilla film series as the director of 8 films in the series including the original 1954 film. Pacific Rim is a fitting tribute to the careers of these two Amazing people.

Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda

Pacific Rim is an Amazing film. I am so pleased that Travis Beacham proposed the film in the first place and that Guillermo del Toro joined the project, because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have had this Amazing film. Films of this scale and size are rarely produced these days, which is a real shame, because they are absolutely incredible. But Pacific Rim does show films like these and Monster Movies in particular still have the power to WOW audiences of all ages and can adapt without losing their integrity. It is now less than a year to go until Legendary Pictures release their new Godzilla film, so while we wait for that, we have another Amazing Monster Movie to enjoy here and now. Pacific Rim is the best film so far this decade.

GENEPOOL (Pacific Rim is practically perfect, there is only one thing that the film is missing).

Steel Heroes or Monsters (Part 1) – Pacific Rim

29 07 2013

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

It has been consistently evident in Monster Movies that the human race is powerless in attacking Giant Monsters. If you take a look at any Godzilla film (except for the obvious one) that Tanks, Planes and even weapons in general come off second best against the monsters. It is more likely that Tanks will be crushed or in some cases melted against the might of the monsters. In many cases outside the Godzilla series, more ingenious methods have had to be employed in order to achieve victory. Some examples of this include Atomic Isotopes (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), Freeze technology (Atragon) and even traffic poles (The Host). One of the more suitable options though would be to build weapons as big and as powerful as the monsters. However, though this idea has not really been implemented as often as you’d think (Except for 5 Godzilla films and 1 King Kong film). However that may change as Pacific Rim does that, and it seems to work very effectively.


I have known about Pacific Rim as a film for well over a year now, but my discovery of it was mostly by accident as I was looking up the actor Idris Elba. After reading up on the idea, I was hooked but it was not until this past December when the first trailer was released just before the End of the World. The trailer looked Amazing, the scale, the beauty, the machines and the monsters. Every now and again I would watch the trailer again and again until the next trailer was released. As the film approached its big release, more and more stuff was announced, then it came to a point when I saw the film on opening night, in 3D, and the first thing I want to say after you have read that is that this is the first, proper good new wave 3D film. But I also want to say this; Pacific Rim is the best film so far this decade.

PR3 (Not the first time that the Sydney Opera House has been attacked by a Giant Monster).

The film does not waste any time getting into the main plot and opens with an introduction from the films lead character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) describing what has happened in recent years. The monsters called Kaiju came from a large portal called breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The first Kaiju appeared in San Francisco and it took 3 days to kill it. But a few months later another one shows up. In response weapons are built to combat the colossal creatures, Giant Robots called Jaegers, giant robotic fighting machines, and eventually the human race starts winning. Raleigh Becket is a co-pilot of one of these machines as the neural processes required to use the machines cannot be done solo. He is dispatched to fight a Kaiju in Alaska in his machine Gipsy Danger. However things don’t work out, he loses his co-pilot (also his brother) and beaches his Jaeger in Alaska. Five years later faith in the Jaegers is starting to dwindle due the experience of the Kaiju with the machines gets better and so a Wall is being built to protect humanity instead. Becket works on a section of the wall when Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) who runs the Jaeger Program asks him to return to active duty.


The Jaeger program and all remaining Jaegers are moved to Hong Kong which has no current Wall section. In Sydney a Kaiju attacks and breaks through the wall in one hour. The creature is subdued by one of the best Jaegers despite it being moved to Hong Kong. Becket is introduced to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) who is in charge of putting Gipsy Danger back together after what happened. Pentecost has a plan to destroy the rift that the Kaiju use with an “Acquired” nuclear weapon. The only problem for Gipsy Danger is that it needs a co-pilot. Mako really wants to do it but Pentecost does not allow her. While Becket tries to find someone to be his pilot, one of two scientists named Newton (Charlie Day) links up his brain like the drift for the Jaegers with a Kaiju brain to try and work them out. While this angers his colleague; Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) it is somewhat successful. After a lengthy process, Pentecost allows Mako to co-pilot Gipsy Danger and the start-up test sequence for Gipsy Danger appears to go well until one of Mako’s memories goes haywire and almost destroys the base. Gipsy Danger is grounded for the time being.


Newton goes into Hong Kong looking for the head of the Kaiju Black-market, Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) to try and get another Kaiju Brain. All of a sudden, two Kaiju appear to attack Hong Kong. The Chinese and Russian Jaegers are put into action with the better Australian Jaeger put on defence of the city as it is vital to the plan to destroy the rift. Very quickly both the Chinese and Russian Jaegers are knocked out and the Australian machine goes into action only to be disabled. Gipsy Danger is deployed while  Newton goes into a shelter only for the Kaiju to find him thanks to the connection he made with a Kaiju Brain. Gipsy Danger is successful in defeating both Kaiju and Becket and Mako are cheered as heroes. In Hong Kong, Newton and Gottlieb manage to get inside the Kaiju brain and learn more about it and how the plan to destroy the breach needs to happen in order for it to work. Before they can properly relay the information, the plan goes into action with only Gipsy Danger and the Australian Machine. When they arrive at the breach they are attacked by two Kaiju and an even larger Kaiju. The Australian machine sacrifices itself to allow Gipsy Danger to get inside the breach unopposed. Newton and Gottlieb relay the information for the plan to work properly. This is achieved and Gipsy Danger falls through the rift allowing Beckett to set off the nuclear reactor powering the machine to destroy the rift. He along with Mako manage to escape from the machine before the explosion goes off.


The film is of an epic scale that you just don’t see with many films these days. The size of the content and setting plus the story is huge to say the least and it is all brought together by Legendary Director Guillermo del Toro. He has built an incredible world of Monsters and Robots while also keeping it altogether and not exploding into one big mess. The film contains traits of great monster movies from the past while also doing something completely original also. The film’s special effects also work alongside his artistic style of film making. The amount of detail that has been made for just this one film shows his passion for both cinema and the Monster Movie Genre. Not only would it be interesting to see a sequel to this film, but also see him direct another Monster Movie.

PR7 - Guillermo del Toro

The film’ cast are an interesting point. In the past, when it comes to mainly American Monster Movies, notable actors of the time would be asked to appear but the acting would be moderate at best with most of the fame and attention going to the monster and little to the personal lives of the films characters. Pacific Rim does not do a reversal of this but more includes them on a more even standing with the monsters. Like the old American films, notable cast members are included in the film such as Idris Elba (The Wire, Prometheus and Luther), Charlie Hunnam (Cold Mountain and Sons of Anarchy), Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Blade II and Hellboy) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel and the upcoming 47 Ronin).

Ron Perlman, CHarlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba

Beckett is someone who is trying to live with the consequences of bad choices made as his time as a pilot, while Mako is trying to distance herself from a horrible memory, one that almost causes chaos. The drift mechanism is a great way to introduce and show characters their personal lives as one thing could expose a horrible past. Pentecost is an amazing leader who is trying desperately to protect Mako, the reason why is later revealed but is trying to do this in a not so strict way becoming her adoptive father, but deep down he too is trying to hide something, he also presents one of the film’s best lines. The other main pilot characters are a nice mix also but it is interesting to see how the Australian pilots almost act like tough, rough Americans but this adds to the tension one poses between him and Becket. While many of the other pilots are pretty much silent throughout the film, they do show their personalities from several different ways including how they walk as well as fight. Newton (who to me looks like J.J. Abrams) and Gottlieb are a couple of stereotypical science nerds who bring a lot of humour to the film but are also an integral part also and not complete jokes. Hannibal Chau is one of my Favourite characters overall. While he holds the stance of a crime lord, Perlman plays the character in a similar style to Hellboy (Directed by Pacific Rim Director Guillermo del Toro) without becoming Hellboy. His scenes offer a sense of humour about them but also allow time to be serious.

Hannibal Chau and Newton

Returning to Mako briefly, her character begins almost like a scientific receptionist but turns into a warrior after she begins to pilot the Jaeger, much like someone growing up, you grow up with her as the film progresses and she becomes one of the best characters in the film. Her flashback scene contains a lot of emotion in her and it is a scary scene and you feel for her during it. While she is younger at the time, the young actress (Mana Ashida) is amazing and shows real human emotion, not just fake screaming or anything of that sort, but actual terror and fear.


The sets are brilliantly designed with a large amount of scale and size depending on where things are. One of the most detailed set features is the cockpits for the Jaegers which have a lot of similarity in them which show how the machines became standardized in construction techniques over time, but each separate identity of Jaeger has its own independent features. Also when the Jaegers experienced issues inside the control room, you would see the flames and water gushing all over the place and in some cases you would feel the shaking about thanks to clever use of the camera work.


GENEPOOL (Click Here for Part 2).

The Tortoise And The Bird – Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe

10 06 2013


In 1954, a Japanese film studio released a film that would change cinema. It would inspire many around the world and today its name still resonates through the minds of people all around the world. The film was called Gojira, later Americanised to Godzilla. The huge successes of the film led the film studio to create an entire series of Monster Movies starring the film’s central character. In 1965 a challenger to Godzilla’s throne emerged in the form of a Giant Turtle named Gamera. While he too would become a hit in Japan, particularly with children, he was not able to upset Godzilla’s position in the slightest. 30 Years later though (15 years after the last film); Gamera re-emerged in a film of truly magnificent proportions.

“Gamera finally has a film to rival Godzilla” – Popcorn Pictures

The above statement rings true on practically all levels throughout the film. The special effects, the soundtrack, the acting, the direction and most importantly, the story. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko (who later directed The Best Film In The World), this film is not just any Monster Movie, It is one of the Best Monster Movies as well as the first film in an incredible Trilogy.

Gamera Heisei 2

The film opens up with a tanker and patrol boat out at sea, the tanker reports running aground. After a quick inspection it turns out that it has been run aground on an atoll, which is moving. An inspection into the incident begins lead by Naoya Kusanagi (Akira Onodera) along with marine officer Yoshinari Yonemori (Tsuyoshi Ihara who would later star in 13 Assassins). Meanwhile on an island in the Goto Archipelago, a fisherman and a cop are running from some unknown attacker, they try to get off the island but are both unlucky. Ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is called to the island by a police Inspector Osako (Yukijiro Hotaru) after he received a call from someone from the island stating he was attacked by a Giant Bird. After a brief look at the damage, Nagamine believes the damage is of a man-made origin, this is however until a Giant Bird pellet is discovered and inside it contains an item belonging to a scientist friend of hers. After a brief search of the island the bird creature appears and looks more like a pterodactyl. It attacks and eats people on another island close by before being chased back to its own island by the air force, it is here that it is also revealed that there is more than one. A plan is put in motion to capture the creatures.


After an in-depth search, the atoll is found and is investigated. On the surface, several strange beads are discovered as well as a giant slab with some markings on it. After a closer inspection, the slab collapses and the atoll breaks apart. Several of the investigators fall into the water, including Yonemori, who sees a huge eye and tusk while underwater. Back in Fukuoka the plan to capture the birds begins. The birds are guided to the Fukuoka dome where they will be trapped by the closing roof and tranquilized. The plan is initially successful, however Yonemori turns up and reports that a 60 meter long creature is approaching the city, but no-one takes much notice. The plan is initially successful with two of the birds getting captured, the other one escapes towards the harbour before being destroyed by a Giant Turtle. The new monster goes on the rampage (not the only time in 1995 that Fukuoka was attacked) in the direction of the dome, when it reaches it, the two bird creatures manage to escape before they can be destroyed. The new monster ignites its jet boosters and flies off into the sky in pursuit.

GGOTU3 (The film is not in Black and White, it's just that this is a Good Picture)

Back at his house, Kusanagi reveals to Yonemori and his daughter Asagi (Ayako Fujitani) that the inscription on the slab reveals the names of the two monsters, the bird like creatures are called Gyaos and the Giant Turtle is named Gamera. Yonemori then gives Asagi one of the beads discovered on the atoll as a gift, which begins to glow in her hands. Kusanagi, Nagamine and Yonemori are called to an area of Kiso Mountain where a small village is being attacked by one of the Gyaos. Nagamine tries to rescue a little boy but collapses on a bridge, Yonemori goes to rescue them both while a Gyaos bird targets them as its next meal. Gamera then arrives and destroys the Gyaos. Another Gyaos then shows up and attacks the bridge, but Gamera places his hand over the group and gets his hand injured protecting them, he then flies off in pursuit of Gyaos.


Asagi learns that Gamera is in the Area of Mount Fuji and goes to find him while nursing a strange wound on her hand. The army approach Gamera in preparation to attack and the attack begins just as Asagi arrives to watch. Gamera is then attacked by Gyaos and receives a mortal wound on his arm, at the same time that Asagi receives one too. Gamera manages to fly away. At a hospital later that night Kusanagi arrives to see his daughter who immediately falls asleep.


Nagamine and Yonemori discover that the Gyaos was created by an Atlantean civilization to wipe out pollution, but the creatures became too powerful and so the civilization created the Gamera’s to destroy them, however the civilization could not repair itself and so preserved the final Gamera for future generations as a defence should the Gyaos reawaken. It is also revealed that the Gyaos only has one pair of chromosomes and is an almost perfect creature and did not evolve. It is also discovered that the creature can have offspring by itself. The final remaining Gyaos has increased in size and attacks Tokyo. The government finally decide to attack Gyaos instead of Gamera and put a plan into action to kill Gyaos. Nagamine and Yonemori try to persuade Kusanagi that the bead necklace that Asagi is wearing connects her to Gamera, which he dismisses until after a long slumber she finally wakes up.


The following day Gyaos is attacked by a now fully revived Gamera. Kusanagi, Nagamine, Yonemori and Asagi go in pursuit. After a long fought battle, Gamera fights Gyaos in space, before Gyaos cuts its own leg off to survive. Gamera seemingly dies in a huge explosion caused by a power plant beneath him, but revives and fires a huge fire-ball from his mouth destroying Gamera. Using some of his remaining strength, Gamera heals Asagi’s wounds with some unknown power before heading back out to sea in Victory.


The films cast and characters offer a range of people from the strong to the unique. Many of the main cast like Kusanagi and Yonemori offer a good supporting character as well as a strong main character when one is needed. Many other characters offer a good performance including those of government characters and military personnel. But all these characters are sort of shadowed as it were by the two real lead female characters in Nagamine and Asagi. Nagamine is an understandable person with not much in the way of Ego. She makes her point clear and stands by it despite huge opposition. Her expertise in her field also offer huge insight and guidance in any situation. Asagi meanwhile to me is the real human star. With Great acting from Ayako Fujitani (the daughter of Steven Seagal), she offers a different perspective in situations as a complete outsider only drawn into the situation by those around her. With her connection to Gamera she also offers support to the big turtle as well by being his connection to the human world. For the reasons of this film as well as the two sequels to this film, Fujitani is one of my Favourite Actresses.

Shinobu Nakayama and Ayako Fujitani

But the real stars of this film are of course the Big Monsters in Gamera and Gyaos. Gyaos is a very well designed creature with a personality (like all Good Movie Monsters). The idea that the creature eats people as well is a nice touch which brings the creature down to a more human level, something that is not done all that much in Monster films. Several scenes in the film also help Gyaos’s character by making Gyaos look not only dangerous, but also, incredibly sinister. Gyaos’s design is more of that of a Pterodactyl than a bird but this help with the terror of the creature. The creature’s reveal also helps out this terror by not showing until its second scene but have hints towards how terrifying it is during an early scene.

Gyaos (1995)

Gamera is well presented; this is a character that has not had the best history when it came to Monster Movies. But many years later it turns its fortunes around in a fantastic way. The Atlantean origins give a good and understandable origin instead of the usual and gives Gamera more of a purpose than simply being a Giant turtle. The connection with Asagi is mysterious and reveals itself in time, and at the end of the film almost bonds like a friendship with Asagi by healing her wounds. Gamera does have a sort of super hero look and identity in this film but does not get silly with it and so therefore does not spoil the entertainment value of the film.


The film’s special effects are fantastic. Many Japanese Monster movies, in particular Godzilla do involve a lot of work with miniatures and maybe some close ups for detail. Gamera on the other hand, it’s like the producers have really tried to stand up to Godzilla, to rival it and used mainly the real thing. There are several scenes in this film involving close-ups of army tanks moving across the landscapes, and they are real tanks too. How they did the shots is one question, but the effect works. When you use something real, it looks far better than trying to make something real with CGI. You can’t beat the real thing. Most of the vehicles used in this film for certain shots are the real thing, and it looks Fantastic. Scenes including the opening scene with the ships, the scene with the tanks amassing to attack Gamera, the Missile loading scene, scene involving helicopters with their lights on the Gyaos, It is very tempting to stick the film on just to watch those scenes again and when music is added, Its Fantastic. The only time that military equipment is not real is when missiles are fired and these scenes make great use of early but still magnificent CGI.


The Monsters are magnificent. Compared to the effects used for the monsters when Gamera first appeared in the 1960’s, you could easily tell it was a suit and looked poor. The suits used in this film look real, as if a Giant Turtle was used to shoot those scenes. The Monster attack scenes on cities look terrific, and the fight scenes look intense and realistic. It is hard to really say how great the effects are without showing you. Not only did this film rival Godzilla in a story sense, but also a special effects sense, when you look at the Gamera scenes where he is either rampaging through a city or in a fight with Gyaos, it’s magnificent.  To me the effects beat those of several other monster films I can name including some Godzilla films. It’s not too much of an overstatement for me to say that the special effects used in this film, are some of the best I have seen in the whole of cinema, and some of the most realistic too.


The film’s soundtrack (provided by Kow Otani)  is incredible; there is almost a piece of music for each scene. The opening scene has large parts where they help show the size of a scene, and possibly importance, while on the other hand there are great mystical sounds for the parts talking about the origins of the creatures depicted in the film. Some of my favourite pieces though are the military scenes as stated above. Scenes like when the tanks are amassing to attack Gamera or one scene where Gyaos is flying and the piece works well with the seriousness of the situation but adds tension. Gamera’s theme is good also as it depicts him not like a hero as such but as someone coming to save the day and so when he arrives or leaves the scene it sounds incredible. One thing of note to point out about the soundtrack is the sometimes apparent use of native Japanese instruments for some scenes, while the film does also use non-native equipment in its soundtrack; the use of them adds to the film culturally and also adds to the mystical properties of the films story too.


On the whole, as you may be able to see, this film is incredible. Great Cast, Brilliant Story, Amazing Special Effects, Wonderful Music and Amazing Directing from Shusuke Kaneko to bring all this together and create one of the absolute Best Monster Movies to date. While I could go on some more, I don’t want to ruin it for everyone else. While this film may not be able to compete with some Godzilla films, I can think of some that this film easily beats. Whatever tastes in film you fancy there is something in this film for everyone, I guarantee it.  Godzilla finally had a rival, and what a rival he was.

GENEPOOL (To think that if this film did not happen or was not to achieve the success it gained, we wouldn’t have Gamera 3).

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