Top 10 Godzilla Films

29 06 2016

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It should come as no surprise that my favourite film series is of course Godzilla. I don’t know how many times I must have mentioned it to people I know, people passing by, or the number of posts I have written on the subject on this very blog that you are reading now (speaking of which, did you know this is my 500th post?). Yes, I love Godzilla movies! Ever since I was a young boy to right now and probably beyond, I have had a craving fascination for a film series starring a Giant Nuclear Irradiated Japanese Monster. While there are a lot of really great movies out there not including/starring Godzilla, it should come as no surprise that my Top 10 absolute favourite films are all Godzilla films. But which ones though? You see back in 2014, after the release of the 2014 Godzilla film, I thought I would finally work it out. What do I mean by that, well, you see the thing is that for many years I had always said which ones were likely and which ones would be high up but I never actually had a defined list of which were my top 10 favourites, just an idea. So with the 2014 film out of the way and to sort of celebrate I thought I would work it out.

Godzilla 2016

To zone in and find for definite which ones are my favourite and then order them was always going to be trivial. How I actually did it was like this:

  1. I ordered the films in order of when they were released starting from the original 1954 film, to the 2014 film.
  2. I then picked out the ones I thought were terrible (and there are 3 I can think of) and deleted them off the sheet.
  3. Even after cycling through some bad ones, I still had near 25 to choose from, so I just worked through them from there, picking out ones I did not feel strongly for until I get to a more definitive list (between 15 and 20) to then think more carefully about.
  4. As the process continued, some of the remaining films became obvious as to being ones I absolutely loved, so I then began to order those ones around a little.
  5. From there it became a process of difficult elimination as I analysed the films in my head and said to myself; “Is that one better than that one?”
  6. In the end it came down to 12 films and a difficult choice to get to specifically 10, so I worked hard and finally whittled it down to just 10 films.
  7. I then repeated step 5 to put the surviving 10 in order from 10 to 1.

Making this list was actually rather fun and interesting experience, and one I look forward to doing again in the future, but to which series I do not know (probably Studio Ghibli once I get more head on into it). There is a little bit of an issue with the choosing process, and that is I have not actually seen Invasion of Astro-Monster or Son of Godzilla. Invasion of Astro-Monster is on my shelf, and just haven’t got round to watching it yet, whilst I do remember seeing something of Son of Godzilla from when I was about 4 years old, but as I cannot currently get a copy of it, I am pretty much stuck. If anything, the only other one I have not seen is Godzilla Resurgence…..which has not been released yet. As this list goes though, there are still plenty of surprises…possibly. Some surprises for me as some films I was sure of being on here are not, and some surprises for you my wonderful readers as to where some films have been placed, however, being the Godzilla fan that I am, I will not have put it in that position unless I thought that it deserves to not only be on this list, but also in that position. Anyway, introduction’s over, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I have enjoyed working it all out. So sit back, relax (not unless you are like me and have to lean in on a computer to read something), and find out what my Top 10 Favourite Godzilla films are.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1974)

10. Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla – An Ancient prophecy begins to come to fruition when a dark cloud in the shape of Mount Fuji appears in the sky. The prophecy states that a Giant Monster will come along to destroy the land. Things take a confusing turn however when the Monster that appears turns out to be Godzilla. Things take an even bigger twist when another monster, who also looks a lot like Godzilla appears also. With everyone by this point really confused, the first one decides to shed its skin and reveals itself to be a cybernetic clone.

Mechagodzilla

The 1970’s were not a great time for the Godzilla series. From the start of the decade the series was already beginning to slump with the mediocre release of Godzilla vs Hedorah. Things then got even worse as the two films that followed were mostly made up of Stock Footage and very little were actually filmed. This landslide from Great films to terrible films appeared to be unending, until veteran director Jun Fukuda returned. Having previously done three Godzilla films in the past, and being one of the most important directors in the series, it came down to him to turn Godzilla’s fortune’s around; which he did spectacularly. Out with the stock footage; back in with actual film making. This film in the series was also made up with a lot of firsts: While Godzilla and Anguirus make an appearance in the film, both King Caesar and the now legendary MechaGodzilla both made their debut in this film. The film manages to cram a lot of human story and character elements into it also, with the characters having to help the Monsters as best they can; because otherwise, the green-skinned ape aliens would win. With a very jazzy soundtrack from Masaru Sato and also showing how fun a night time chase around a ferry cruise could be, Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla remains one of the series most stand out and thoroughly enjoyable entries into the series.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2002)

9. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla – In 1954, the monster simply called Godzilla attacked Japan and left Tokyo in ruins. Over the next 40+ years; several more Giant Monsters including Gaira, Mothra and a monster that looks a lot like Godzilla attack the nation. Having had enough, the country of Japan launches a new weapons program to build a machine specifically designed to defend themselves from these attacks. The machine code-named Kiryu is built on the fossilized skeleton of the original Godzilla. When Godzilla suddenly reappears, Kiryu is sent into action. After hardly any battle, Godzilla leaves, but Kiryu runs amok in Tokyo, but why?

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Since the release of Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, MechaGodzilla has been redeployed in a film sense on several occasions. But the 2 times between this and the original did not fare so well and did not impact all that greatly. By the Millennium, and with the new series in full swing, Toho brought MechaGodzilla back, and created one of the Millennium Series most stand out films. In comparison to the above mentioned film, this one is not crammed full of characters, with instead only 3 really appearing as leads; but in this instance they are worked on in a great deal. The story and setting produce an initially terrifying but also heart-warming story telling of the connection between man and machine while also creating an initial yet terrifying plot twist, with not Godzilla necessarily running amok, but the weapon. Still providing the best in monster mash-ups, and up to date special effects as well as terrific pieces by Michiru Oshima for an unforgettable main movie theme, Against is an absolutely superb film and is easily Mechagodzilla’s best film appearance to date (not unless Legendary have plans).

Godzilla (Legendary

8. Godzilla 2014 – In 1954; something is discovered by the American navy; this thing is quickly covered up and supposedly destroyed. Nearly 50 years later, a nuclear power plant is destroyed supposedly in an earthquake. Sometime later, the husband of a scientist who died in the power plant goes mad trying to prove it wasn’t an accident, and he was right, as inside the power plant is a Giant Monster which escapes it’s confines and goes on the rampage.

Godzilla Beach

In 2010, Legendary Pictures announced it was going to make a brand new American Godzilla film, even though in the end we had to wait 4 years for it to be released. I went to see it on opening night, and absolutely loved it. It was near perfect, Godzilla himself was perfect, and the new MUTO’s were amazing creatures, all combined into a very human story (that seemed strangely similar to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe) supported by a terrific selection of cast, special effects and heart pounding music (composed by Alexandre Desplat), all brought together by Director Gareth Edwards. I enjoyed it so much that I went to see it another two times at the cinema. But for me, the real proof of the pudding came the Saturday after it was released. I had the night off, and really wanted to watch a Godzilla film for some reason, so I watched Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, one of my favourite Showa films and one I have always enjoyed. But right there and then, I was struggling to enjoy it as much as I used to…..I wonder why?

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1966)

7. Ebirah: Horror of the Deep – A young man who is looking for his brother lost at sea, finds a couple of people at a dance contest who take him to see some boats. They go aboard one, and the following morning the young man steals it, which ironically has already been stolen. After several days at sea, they get caught in a storm and the boat is destroyed by a giant claw. They all wash up on shore and discover that the giant claw belongs to a giant Lobster called Ebirah. Yet more nightmares are to be realised however as the island is the base for a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo, and the island boasts yet another secret.

Ebirah

With the Godzilla film series now in full swing, directing duties were handed over to hot up and coming director Jun Fukuda. Most of his previous work involved comedy and mystery, but in all fairness, Ebirah wasn’t any normal Godzilla film. It was originally intended to be made as a King Kong film, but Toho decided to make it a Godzilla film instead; such is why Godzilla does not smash-up a city, as well as show off several un-Godzilla like traits including attacking Mothra after supposedly now being friends. Any who; as a young boy, this one stood out for me a lot as for quite a while it was the only Godzilla film I had VHS access to, until the collection grew. As time has passed and other films have come that I prefer to it, this remains one of the films I have enjoyed the most. It’s not just a connection to my youth, but also a film that I have come to love with a great deal of memory and passion with many scenes, quotes and a heart thrilling caper like soundtrack being many a highlight. It’s place on this list always a guarantee; more than any other Godzilla film, it’s possibly the most enduring and one that I have conceivably the most memories of just watching it over and over again, even remembering specific times and days of watching it.

The Return of Godzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1984)

6. The Return of Godzilla – In 1984, it’s been 30 years since Godzilla attacked Japan, but has not been since. His presence has still cast a shadow over the nation even as it progresses into a modern high-tech future. Out at sea, a fishing boat is discovered where only one member of its crew survived. He talks about seeing a Monster and as time passes, more incidents get reported, and it’s all revealed to be true, that Godzilla has indeed returned.

Super-X

After nearly a decade since Godzilla’s last movie appearance (Terror of Mechagodzilla), Toho finally decided to bring the monster back during the ever-growing tensions of the cold war. It was perfect, with the monster having lost his terrifying persona over 20 years of film making, they brought him back to his terrifying self in a movie that ignored all events of the films in between this and the original. This was also only the second time in the series that Godzilla attacked a city and did not fight another monster. Yes, while we all love a good fight, Toho showcased how terrifying, realistic and enjoyable a Godzilla film could be when he is not surrounded by other Monsters. This film would go on to kick-start the best era of Godzilla movies to date: the Heisei series; and while Godzilla the hero would come out to play a couple more times, the producers worked really hard to maintain Godzilla’s terrifying position and persona throughout. More than any film, this one ensured Godzilla’s long lasting cinema presence, one that is still being seen to this day.

Destroy All Monsters (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1968)

5. Destroy All Monsters – The year is 1999 (hypothetically), and all the monsters of the world have been collected and made to live together on an island decidedly called Monster Land. All of a sudden communications with the control station nearby is lost, and the supposedly ‘contained’ monsters all start attacking the Major Cities of the world, all except Tokyo?

Mothra, Gorosaurus, Rodan, Kumonga, Anguirus, King Ghidorah, Varan, Godzilla, Manda, Baragon, Minilla

What was originally intended to be the final Godzilla film, and as such was given a much bigger budget, remains one of the most popular in the series. Having just done some research, I have discovered that this is one of only a few Japanese Godzilla films to have a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, for about 11 years, this was my favourite film. What sets this film apart from others is its large cast of Monsters. Loads of Monsters appear in this film, some remaining real favourites and some of the most endearing monsters in the series. Plenty of city destruction takes place, with others than Tokyo being hit for once, all the while setting the early instigations into an alien conspiracy. Expect some of the most memorable pieces of music, and some of the best military vs monster scenes to date as Godzilla leads the charge of the Monsters (which includes but is not limited to: Gorosaurus, Rodan, Varan, Manda and Baragon).

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1991)

4. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah – In 1992, over the sky of Tokyo, a UFO is spotted. It is eventually tracked, where it turns out not to be aliens, but people from the future. These people go on to talk about the future non-existence of Japan as a nation and that the country is to be finally destroyed by Godzilla. They send a team back in time to an island battlefield in World War Two, where the Dinosaur that would become Godzilla first appears; sending it to the bearing sea, preventing it from evolving into Godzilla. Returning to the present day, rumours of a new monster begin to circulate.

MOTHER

This film easily remains one of the most beloved films in the series by fans. After struggling to get Godzilla going with the release of Godzilla vs Biollante, it was decided that for their next film that Godzilla would fight his arch-nemesis for the first time in nearly 20 years: the three-headed golden dragon; King Ghidorah. This new film in essence is based on the popularity of the time travelling element in the recently released Back to the Future films while also combining it with a story that focusses on how Godzilla became Godzilla. Its story; while basic does achieve quite a bit, with the implication that with Godzilla removed from history, King Ghidorah takes his place and is under the control of people with vengeance on their mind, only for their plans to eventually backfire. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah in the process creates some terrific scenes of city destruction, as well as not one but two incredibly well fought battles as Godzilla goes one on one with his Greatest Nemesis, in a battle that leaves one monster horribly scarred for life.

Godzilla (Toho Co., Ltd. - 1954)

3. Godzilla 1954 – Out at sea, several fishing boats are mysteriously destroyed. On a nearby island, the village is destroyed a few days later. A team is dispatched to investigate, and make a chilling discovery, one that will bring repercussions for the country of Japan for decades to come.

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1954 was a big year for Japanese cinema, especially more so for Toho. A few months earlier they released the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece Seven Samurai, but on set; apparently everyone was talking about something called Gojira. After trying to produce a film in Jakarta which ultimately fell through, Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka took two pieces of inspiration: the Lucky Dragon 5 fishing boat incident and the Ray Harryhausen film; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and in the process created Japan’s first movie Monster. Taking into account the destruction dealt upon Japan at the end of World War 2 by not one, but two Nuclear Bombs, Tanaka created a creature born of the forces of Nuclear Power and Nature’s answer to humanities destructive attitude and set this new monster loose in Japan’s Capital. Backed up with a terrifying soundtrack by composer Akira Ifukube, and the latest in Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, all under the direction of Ishirō Honda; I believe they say: “The rest is History!”

Godzilla vs Mothra (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1992)

2. Godzilla vs Mothra – Out in space, a meteor strikes earth, and a Typhoon ensues revealing a giant egg. A team is dispatched to investigate the island where they find the egg and are told a harrowing tale of how an ancient battle was fought between Earth’s guardian Mothra, and another monster similar in design called Battra, who might have reawakened.

Battra

For over 11 years or so, Destroy all Monsters was my favourite film, until by chance I was able to get a copy of this film, and within one showing I knew this was my new favourite film. What is basically a film telling something of a lesson of the importance of keeping earth clean, and what is renowned as being rather rushed, is also a fantastically enjoyable film. It is rife with elements of tension; lots of city based destruction, and so far the only film in the series to contain one of the series best creations, the creature known as Battra. Containing some great acting, a fully thriving in-depth story and some amazing Monster Powers to create a full on power play of a Monster Battle climax, Godzilla vs Mothra in sense recreates the story of Mothra vs Godzilla, but ultra-charges it into the early to mid-nineties, and in the process creates one of the series best films to date.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2001)

1. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack – Across Japan, several incidents take place, in each one a Monster being spotted. It has been nearly 50 years since Godzilla attacked and has not been seen since, and his print on Japan’s history is slowly being forgotten. Meanwhile a young Science Fiction TV Presenter goes on the trail of an ancient legend concerning the reawakening of several monsters, monsters determined to make sure Japan does not forget its history, but more importantly, make sure Japan is defended from the return of the King of the Monsters.

Baragon (2001)

During Christmas 2007 (I think it was 2007), I received a couple of Godzilla DVD’s from my parents. One of them was this, with the other being Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. I was certain that Tokyo S.O.S. was going to be the better of the two, boy was I wrong. I had no real clue as to what this film was going to be like, but boy did I enjoy it. Directed by the man behind the Gamera Heisei Trilogy: Shusuke Kaneko and including a mystical based soundtrack from Kow Otani, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack is a very different film to its predecessors. What we have here is less a modernistic take on Godzilla, but more one that relies on the myths and legends of Japan’s history and combining it with the terror that Godzilla should stand for; and that’s what we get. We get three Monsters teaming up to take on Godzilla which includes Baragon, while Godzilla himself shows off his real power. He has bare white eyes, and can create an atom bomb like explosion from the power of his atomic breath. The monsters are relatively smaller than before, but their power isn’t by far. Its story of a Mystical history is addictive, its cast is effective, its soundtrack is enchanting, its effects are magical and its ending is terrifying. I watched this film many a time before I finally realised that this was my favourite film, and my favourite film it remains. To me at least (how long this will last is yet to be seen, but for now), of this I am certain; this is the best of the best, My Favourite Godzilla Film.

GENEPOOL





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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

GENEPOOL





The Giant Lizard And The Giant Plant – Godzilla vs Biollante

25 05 2016

Godzilla vs Biollante (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1989)

How much of a Gardener are you? Ok, weird question I know. I myself am not much of a gardener, I don’t know much about growing plants, last year I tried growing one in my room but due to the lack of an instruction booklet, I wasn’t very good. Not to mention my failures in the past trying to grow and look after Bonsai Trees. I am just generally bad at it; but how about you, what are you like? As I probably do not know who you are; you may have to just tell me in the comments, but if you are a talented gardener there are some kinds of plants you may want to avoid growing. Obviously there is such a thing as a Triffid; in which case you may want to give that one a miss. Though growing a Triffid is probably not all that a bad idea compared to growing a Biollante. Not there is anything bad in that either if you are talented enough to grow a Biollante; it’s just probably not a very good idea.

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Released in 1989 by Toho, directed by Kazuki Omori and produced by Shogo Tomiyama; Godzilla vs Biollante is the 17th film in the Godzilla series and the second film in the Heisei series following directly on from The Return of Godzilla released in 1984.  This time around Godzilla returns to attack the good friendly people of Japan once again, this time however having his own body caught up in a large scientific conspiracy which ultimately leads onto the creation of a brand new and terrifying monster known as Biollante. This film is something of a one-off departure in the series as it refrains from the tried and tested but simple formula of Giant Monsters just fighting each other, and goes in to explore man’s desire to create and prolong life and what the consequences of such actions can be.

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Tokyo is in ruins in the wake of Godzilla’s attack in 1984. The city is near completely destroyed as crews commence the clean-up operation. On the site, a piece of Godzilla’s skin is discovered and stolen by a group of soldiers, who in turn are killed by an assassin known only as SSS9 (Brien Uhl). The assassin takes the skin sample to the Republic of Saradia, to deliver them to the institute of Science and Technology, whom the President wants to try and turn the country’s vast desert into greenery and end the Republic’s dependence on foreign imports. Dr. Genshiro Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) and his daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) are enlisted to work on the project, but the labs are bombed, and Erika is killed in the resulting explosion. 5 Years pass by; and the Volcano known as Mount Mihara begins to spew lava but not yet erupt. Young Psychic Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) and head of the ESP Institute Asuka Okochi (Yoshiko Tanaka) work with young children who all one night have a dream of Godzilla returning. Lieutenant Goro Gondo (Tôru Minegishi) and Scientist Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) head up a project to turn some Godzilla cells into Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, or ‘ANEB’; in the hope of having a weapon to fight Godzilla with should he return. Gondo and Kazuhito try to get Dr. Shiragami’s help who has since returned to Japan. He agrees only if he could have access to some of the Godzilla Cells before they begin work. One night, Shiragami merges cells of a rose with Erika’s DNA in it, with the Godzilla Cells. With other bio companies and the Republic of Saradia still wanting access to the cells, the bio company known as Bio-Major send two agents to Japan to steal them back, while SSS9 follows them. The three agents break into Shiragami’s lab and get into a fire fight, until suddenly, a giant vine attacks them, killing one of them before the other 2 agents flee the scene. Gondo and Kazuhito arrive to find out what happened and question Shiragami’s work there.

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At Lake Ashinoko across from the Lab, a Giant plant emerges which Shiragami calls Biollante. He explains that the creature is made up from the Godzilla Cells, a Rose, and Erika’s Soul. Gondo and Kazuhito meanwhile receive word from the government that Bio Terrorists have placed explosives at the top of Mount Mihara, and will detonate them, thus releasing Godzilla unless the Godzilla cells are turned over to them. Kazuhito and Gondo head to the meeting point, but both them and the Bio-Major agents are interrupted by SSS9 who shoots the Bio Major agent and steals the Cells. Gondo and Kazuhito try to flick the switch to disarm the explosives, but the timer runs out, and Godzilla is freed. The army is called out, and the newly built Super-X2 is deployed to attack Godzilla directed by Major Sho Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima), but the attack is mostly a failure. Godzilla instinctively heads for Biollante, sensing something like him, and he quickly dispatches the creature. The military set up a plan to counter Godzilla, but accidently set up in a location opposite to where Godzilla decided to go. On his approach to Tsuruga, Miki; using her psychic powers gets up and close to him, successfully diverting him to Osaka instead. Another plan is launched to attack Godzilla with the ANEB. Gondo and his men deploy themselves inside Osaka’s Business district, while Major Sho leads the Super X2 in another confrontation. The attack is something of a success with some ANEB even getting inside Godzilla’s mouth, but Gondo is killed in the attack.

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Several hours pass by but Godzilla appears to be unaffected from the attack. Acknowledging that Godzilla might be a cold-blooded creature, Kazuhito decides that they should try to increase Godzilla’s temperature. Another attack plan is put in place to raise Godzilla’s body heat by using the M6000 T.C. System, a weaponised open air microwave like weapon. The plan doesn’t really appear to work, however suddenly; Biollante returns in a new form much larger than Godzilla and attacks him once again. After a prolonged battle, Godzilla is able to use his Deathray on Biollante once more, but then exhausted falls on the floor near the ocean. Biollante disintegrates and spores fly into space. Shiragami, watching the scene and having seen an image of Erika in the spores is shot dead by SSS9. Kazuhito chases after him, and after a small fight, SSS9 dies after stepping onto one of the microwave emitters from the M6000 T.C. System. Theorizing that everything is now OK, and that the ANEB has worked, Godzilla awakens, the sea water having cooled his body temperature down and then returns to the ocean.

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Godzilla vs Biollante does standout more than most Godzilla films when it comes to its narrative output as it tries to be different by sending more of a message out than simply putting monsters in a city sized wrestling ring. It’s a pity that such writing craftsman ship was sort of abandoned after Biollante because this films narrative makes the foundations for a classic piece of science fiction; in a literal form at least. The film begins with a reminder of what happened in the previous film and immediately turns to show the remaining devastation. It acts like not just a reminder but a tie-in and a clever opening as it uses this setting to begin what becomes one of the key plots; that of the Godzilla cells. This use of the opening though, allows the film to work and act as more of a direct sequel than just an ordinary singular sequel or spin-off. To this end we get a film that creates and carries on the themes and ideas it creates. It makes me think of the aftermath of the 911 attacks and the memorials built to remember what happened. In this case though (and about 12 years before the 911 attacks) we see how buildings destroyed and even imprinted by Godzilla are kept and turned into their own memorials. These scenes are very brief, but the idea and attention to detail in a fictional setting (especially after 911) is impressive and incredibly believable to say the least. This though acts as more of an introductory narrative to get the film started and set up the past for audience members. The real narrative begins during the post opening title credits as it starts the process of describing the benefits of the Godzilla Cells and then it evolves from there as to what they can do and how valuable they are.

The Return of Godzilla (Toho Co. Ltd. - 1984)

Another narrative that is explored briefly is that of detecting Godzilla’s return and the departments involved. From here we get two viewpoints. One of the ESP institute, and that of a small department run by Gondo. These two pretty much work in tandem from the word go. This leads to a couple of funny scenes, well one scene and an idea. The scene takes place when the psychic children have a dream, and when asked to draw what was in the dream, it’s sort of a laugh out loud moment when they all hold up pictures prominently featuring an image of Godzilla in them. The build up to the scene is the suggestion that something has gone wrong, but the delivery is excellent, especially when the pictures reveal what the issue is, and the idea that all the children draw the same thing. The other scene (well, more like an idea) is that of a government department run by Gondo whose sole responsibility is the handling and planning of affairs including the preparation of defences in case Godzilla returns. For some (or at least me), it would be something of a dream job, but for Gondo however, it is more of a burden (or maybe even some form of punishment), as given the department’s sole purpose relies on Godzilla actually being around; it’s more boring than exciting as Godzilla is currently buried in a volcano, nor is a current threat. A further narrative asset on to this comes in the form of the Godzilla Warning system which helps drive the plot forward to Godzilla’s eventual rampage. The idea though of such a department’s existence is rather clever and fun and one am surprised that doesn’t come up more often. It’s sort of like: imagine a country like the UK, or USA, or Russia, China, or any other country’s ministry of defence having a small office run by no more than 2 or 3 blokes whose sole responsibility it is to watch and plan for attacks from Giant Monsters, despite the grand highly likely possibility that it will never happen……….but then it does.

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These strong starting points help to deliver early on a very in-depth idea based plot; but where you find strengths, you are bound to find weaknesses. As the plot develops, there is constant mention of the country of Saradia. This works in tandem with the conspiracy and secret agent story about a terrorist Bio group who are the ones in the end who release Godzilla. That scene in the end is pretty fun and suggests more of an imagination from them in comparison to others in film. I mean what’s more creative than threatening a country with a Giant Monster? But the ever-increasing mentions of Saradia, plus the mingling with its agents (who sound more Greek than Middle Eastern if that was supposed to be the idea) is just silly. It does not really provide anything or benefit the film except for a minor piece of backstory. In the end, it simply provides a reason for the SSS9 agent to keep running around; who is somewhat of a good thing, I think. The thing is, this story gets a little tangled up within itself, and always finds a way to divert itself. It’s supposed to be about the ethics of biology and science, and how rare/valuable biological material can be used to great effect when used properly, but also how dangerous it can be when used wrongly, and the consequences of such actions. The main one being (or at least should be) Biollante. The Problem Biollante has is that despite being in the title, she is seen very little of. It’s similar to the argument ‘suggesting’ the lack of Godzilla in the 2014 film (although I disagree). In this case however I find the issue is that despite being on even terms with Godzilla in the film’s title; Biollante is not shown that often to really warrant her name in the title. In fairness though, her appearance is early on enough to really include her, but after a few short-lived scenes and a fight with Godzilla, she disappears for nearly an hour. From that point on it becomes more of a film about a nation’s attempts to defend itself from a fire breathing atomic tyrant. I’m not saying that is a bad thing necessarily. In fact given the lack of such content in comparison to other films in the series; this is a real standout: but it’s not what it’s supposed to be about! Eventually Biollante does return, but only engages Godzilla for less than 10 minutes, before disappearing and showing a rose in space; but what does this even mean? It’s pretty similar to both Godzilla vs Destoroyah and Godzilla vs Megaguirus in that both films, despite once again featuring in the title; both monsters are pretty much side-lined for an entirely different and possibly irrelevant plot and just become mentions: although this is not so much the case for Destoroyah as he has much greater part than the instances involving Biollante and Megaguirus. In the case of Biollante it feels more like there could have been more for and of her (in this film).

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A point I feel brings us on quite nicely to talking about the film’s cast. Now I will attempt to do this bit quickly as I have still a lot more to talk about (not to mention a 100 metre tall lizard). The cast of characters is quite a nice build of memorable characters whether they be tertiary, secondary or primary, with all of them playing an interesting but still memorable parts, but of course you have some who are not as big as others. These are not necessarily bad or good, more like they have more a part compared to others, when you want them to have more of a part than others. Biollante does mark something of a start in the series for some tertiary characters who would become a mainstay for the series for many years to come, such as one Japanese Military official played by Koichi Ueda. These kinds of parts are usually tertiary, and even if portraying different characters in later films, they begin to get really recognisable due to the amount of times they are cast in small or even larger parts. Some of these occasions they can become rather annoying, but once in a while, they can do something better, sometimes perfectly. There are also other instances as well of characters from other films, mainly later in the series that turn up, and you instantly recognise them, as them. In this case we have one of the Super X2 pilots (Kosuke Toyohara) who would later appear in the lead human role in the film following on from this one (Godzilla vs King Ghidorah). Alongside him in the Super X2 role (sort of off the point topic I know), there is another character (Kyôka Suzuki), this time not a pilot, but featured well in the dynamic of the two roles being shown. Ok, they’re not shown in great depth compared to all the other characters, but they’re still memorable to the point they deserve a mention. There is also the case of a cameo appearance from Demon Kakka in a small role, but I had not heard of him until I had watched this film a few times, noticed him in a 10 second scene, and then looked him up. It’s a nice representation on modern culture of the time, but also a nice funny moment, especially given his appearance and what he says just after Godzilla is released. Now onto the primary cast. Kazuhito does have the sort of lead human role, but I find him rather bland and boring. Alright it’s not a great shout out to a strong cast, but I just have no feeling toward him or his character, and just feel like he is just in the way. On a similar case you have a character like Major Sho. He is presented like a sort of rogue or cool military commander, I just feel it doesn’t work. He has his moments and becomes something of a secondary hero saving Katsuhiro’s life at the end, plus his moments directing a counterattack are ok, plus the other moments where he is in more a professional capacity but still military, they are ok. I just don’t think he really delivers anything to benefit the film, he is less in the way than Katsuhiro, but I don’t get him.

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Next to them you then get leader characters, leaders and more mature characters like Gondo and Shiragami. Shiragami for instance plays something of a tragic version of Doctor Frankenstein. He creates a monster, but for a tragic reason, which then just causes more problems. It’s the sort of situation that is understandable, but goes against ethics. The character that loses someone, wants to bring them back and put things right, but does not have the skills. Is then given an opportunity but the end result is not what he really wanted, and chaos lets loose. He then becomes something of a standing assistant for the rest of the film, which is something of a shame, but he delivers it really strong, and in the end becomes the tragic sacrifice presenting something, presenting an idea. Maybe as to say as it started with him, it had to end with him, or that he succeeds in keeping his daughters soul, spirit alive, but he dies to accomplish it. I don’t really know, I am just guessing here, but something along those lines maybe. Despite his tragedy though, he is a nice enjoyable character and less of a scientific character that you usually get in monster films. Not of someone to explain what is going on, but maybe more like Serizawa from the 1954 film, someone who creates, does something else, but that something is questionable. On an opposite but equally enjoyable side we have someone like Gondo. Now I have already said a lot so I’ll (try to) keep it brief. He is a more witty character than a serious one in comparison to someone like Shiragami. He is in charge of a division of which he is the sole employee, he finds a way out and gets involved in a more important task with Katsuhiro and becomes a very respected and well thought about character. This level of development plus his level of character and on-screen time make his death more of a powerful one. It’s not just some character dying; it’s one you’ve come to care about. When he does die though, he goes in a great scene going near head to head with Godzilla, not many people can say they have done that.

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Asuka meanwhile who plays the female love interest to him is far more interesting and has real scene dynamic with all characters involved plus delivers power; providing reason to being in the scene. She is more of a leader than a supporter, and the film’s strongest form of human reasoning, even if she spends the third act as more of a questioner than an answerer. Her scenes with Miki (speaking of which) are a bonus. This is the first time Miki is seen in the film series, a character who would become the only mainstay of the Heisei series from this point on, and one of the longest running characters in the whole film series to date. This time around though, we finally get an introduction. Ok, I say finally, that is mostly due to how long it took fort me to see this film, due to release issues, but that time has passed so let’s move on. Now, she has reason and purpose rather than being someone included with no backstory until discovered, now she has been introduced. Miki this time is a very young girl, still touching teenage-hood, but her strength is already on show. She is mostly an informer to the situation and mostly works on a co-dynamic role assisting Asuka. There is actually more of Miki I feel in this film than others. Not in number of appearances, but more in who she is and what she can do. She plays more of an interesting part than being a background assist. It just feels like this was a film designed more for her character her role, and the others just included her, and it feels like something of a shame now, because it works.

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Right, I think that’s enough people talk, let’s talk MONSTERS! This film is one of those even rarer occurrences in recent films to feature new stuff, and in this case, we have a New Monster. Biollante (Masashi Takegumi) is very different to other Monsters, not saying that all monsters are the same. I meant more as in while all the others have something of a clean crisp look; Biollante is more of an abomination. Yes she is a plant, and begins looking like a giant rose with giant leaves and vines. Then transforms into something very large, even larger than Godzilla. Something with a huge crocodile like mouth and lots of sharp teeth (although those same teeth can be seen to appear in rose form, with is also very scary but still grotesque). Biollante is a scary creature, but her sweet cries, almost wisp sounds produce something else, suggesting something trapped inside the body of a monster. Suggesting possibly that Erika does live inside, but is crying for what has become of her, that she is no longer who she was. Biollante as a design is fantastic, and the concepts regarding her appearance and abilities including details such as spores, or the bodily moving mass despite the lack of Legs really produces a sight to behold. Here we have a creature that is more than a match for Godzilla, but not necessarily one you can use all the time. Biollante could make a return, but would require a well thought out plot like this to happen. For now at least, we have an incredible new monster on show, presented in a horrifyingly near realistic interpretation that will continue to scare and spook all those who want to give it a go, until we see her again.

Biollante

Which brings us nicely round to Godzilla. Yet another appearance for Godzilla (Kenpachirô Satsuma), but as that is who the films are about I suppose we can allow it. Godzilla is back in a similar role to those he had when he left in the 1970’s. Remembering of course that the previous film was more about him on the loose than fighting another monster, here he is back to fight monsters. This time though he is once again a (please excuse my language) ‘Badass Villain’. He is no longer out to save the world, but as the frightening force of nature who symbolises the destructive might of Nuclear Weapons on the world who made them, and as mother nature’s Punisher come to, well, punish. Yes, he is back and not happy. Setting up his role in the previous film and mentioning the previous film’s events, Godzilla of course starts off more as an idea, a non-existent threat, one who is there; but is not coming. This idea builds until his release from volcanic imprisonment. From there it is back to the city crushing, fire breathing leviathan we have all come to love so much. He maybe a baddy but we do love him in our own quirky way (right?). This time around though he has other quirky little bits we have not seen him do before, like get up close and personal with some characters, even to sneaking up on people like Gondo. Before he would never do something like that, just ignore it, but now, he is doing new scary things. His appearance has some issues I think, from an angle and to the sides he looks pretty good, like he used too, but now even more terrifying, but from the front, it sort of reminds me of King Kong vs Godzilla, where a direct front view looks rather flat, and like an entirely different monster. Apart from that though, it’s him. I don’t exactly know what to say other than to point out cool new traits in him that stands out more from what there are normally about him; I mentioned his look too, but other than that it’s the Godzilla we all love (again?).

Godzilla (Heisei)

Visually Striking! That is how I can best use to describe how this film is presented. The film contains a lot of visually striking moments, more than any other of the series films to date. Such scenes range from important narrative to just general background shots. Mount Mihara for instance features a lot early on in the film as that is where Godzilla is currently residing. Most of this coverage though is in the form of volcanic activity, but one sweet moment lies early on when Asuka and Kazuhito are talking in the foreground, and the active volcano of Mt. Mihara can be seen in the distance, a ring of red at the top, and the sound of the activity in the distance. I like that shot. But it’s not all reserved for Mount Mihara however.

GVB1

Other shots of spectacular note include the beautiful business centre of Osaka just before it gets pulverized, the area outside and inside Tower 2, the platform Miki stands on as well as when Godzilla is within reach, Godzilla’s lifeless carcass near the road, Godzilla sneaking up on Gondo, the many showcasing’s of digital battlefield mapping, the stormy weather near the film’s conclusion, the final battle seen on the hill-side, the military manoeuvres, the ruined remains of Tokyo after Godzilla’s rampage from the previous film and not forgetting of course, Godzilla’s glorious return from the Volcano he was put into, walking out in his own time to preserve the majesty of his reappearance. You see, I can talk about Special Effects, describing the uses of miniature sets and suits, but as we have already come to know these things, how am I supposed to rehash these every time and retain interest. On this occasion you see however, that it’s not the effects that stand out most here, but the visually striking shots of the world that becomes the battleground here, and those remain with me most than most things about this film. It is such a well-used piece of filmmaking, and those kinds of things should not be wasted by the audience, nor be forgotten in an analytic review.

GVB5

It’s not just the imagery that’s memorable either, as the soundtrack can say one or two things about that. Composed this time round by Koichi Sugiyama with his one and only entry into the Godzilla series; where he produces something that could be thought of as a black sheep to the soundtrack collection. Sugiyama produces a soundtrack that is a mix of the wonderful to the bizarre, the strange to the ridiculous, and the unique to the downright silly but overall has this relatively light feel to them. There is hardly a dark or heavy tune in there with the one main exception being the opening credits which is more of the original Dark Godzilla theme combined early on with this sort of repeating drum snare or even rasp that just captures your attention even before you see the head of the film’s lead Antagonist.

There is a feel of super hero type stuff in this soundtrack with those feelings coming out at times such as when the Super X2 comes out to play or when the countdown to Godzilla’s return comes to light. This piece in certain however also contains something of a possible trademark to his work on this film as it sort of diverts, changing feel and tune in a different direction. Yes this moment does sound a bit silly and a bit caper-y, but does ramp up the tension (although when it does change note it sounds very similar to the soundtrack for Airplane). Yes the soundtrack does have its silly points such as the Saradia theme tune, but generally, most of the soundtrack is rather fun and light and enjoyable to its overall core. Two pieces though that really stand out more than most are two points where the music is different, not just generally, but completely in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack. The first of these is the Bio Wars tune of which there are 2 versions. This I feel is like the filmmakers trying to include a sort of ultra-new wave Bond theme at a time when the Bond series was on Hiatus. It feels really sort of future spy like, I don’t know how best to describe that other than “listen to the guitar.” It’s a nice fun piece which adds a level of mystery and conspiracy, especially to scenes when including SSS9 in the middle and end.

The other occasion though has nothing to do with the composer. Much like the inclusion of a popular figure like Demon Kakka earlier on, the film tries to add a piece of popular music briefly. It adds a level of confusion as to what is going on, as it is used during one of the moments when you see through Godzilla’s eyes like you do in Jaws when he comes to the surface. It cuts in and plays. It’s different and rather fun, before getting cut off completely to feature a local rock concert being put on hold because of Godzilla being close by. It’s a nice fun little tune from Yuki Saito called Into A Dream. It’s similar I find to the inclusion of Claude Francois‘s Stop Au Nom De L’amour in X-Men: Days of Future Past as it enriches the film that little bit more in atmosphere, if only very briefly.

Godzilla vs Biollante is a very different film to the rest of the films in a series that is currently 30 strong (31 in July). It’s different in its presentation. It has great narratives relatively unexplored to this point and since. It features visually striking shots of what an Amazing country Japan is (one of which I still want and need to visit). It incorporates interesting characters, not forgetting terrific performances from both Godzilla and a brand new monster. It hosts a soundtrack that is relatively light, but also spectacularly fun to listen to. It is a very different film indeed; one made with such careful attention and craftsmanship and in the end produces one of the series most stand out and enjoyable films. While it may not be the strongest, most standout or best film in the series (depending on who you ask); what this film does provide is just a stellar excellence and an exceptional experience.

GENEPOOL





Godzilla News – Bad News

20 05 2016

Godzilla 2014 (Legendary Pictures - 2014)

In June last year, I put up a minor post that was just a teaser for Godzilla 2. I basically put up an old poster for the film and just said coming soon or something along those lines, and posted it for the same day as the planned release day for Godzilla 2 in 2018. Well, on Sunday evening I just went online to remember that day to possibly plan a new little teaser once again, and I got an immense shock!

Godzilla 2014 Nuclear

What I discovered is that Godzilla 2, which is still on course and is still going to be produced, has been pushed back. Not by a month or so, but to March 2019. Yes, the film has been moved back by nearly an entire year. The reason for this though was not apparent until I discovered another shock: that of the loss of the film’s Director; Gareth Edwards.

Gareth Edwards

To cut a long story short, back in 2014, after the release and success of Godzilla, Legendary Pictures announced plans to create a sequel, and possibly an entire trilogy starring the big nuclear Lizard. However, before they could sign him, Edwards signed a deal with LucasFilm to direct the first stand-alone Star Wars film. With Legendary wanting to keep the Director, they decided to give him some time to go away and make that ‘Space Movie’, and then once complete, for him to then start work on Godzilla 2. Now while this would mean a 4 year wait (again) for this next Godzilla film; I was sort of ok with waiting in the meantime as it would allow the studio to get the next one right, especially with the announcement of the possibility of Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah making an appearance in it. Anyway, it was announced that Edwards decided to split from the project to make his own smaller films after the release of Rogue One later this year.

Rogue One

This is a major loss for the studio and series as Edwards did a fabulous job and now with no current news of a director, it is going to be rough period as the studio goes looking for one. It makes sense in a way that the release be pushed back as a new director is found. In all honesty it’s rather more annoying than that. It means, that if Edwards had not signed on to do Godzilla 2, we could have had it by next year at the latest, but now we have to wait an agonising -3 more years for the new film. To be honest, part of me wondered if this might happen, if Edwards would be dropped, just so production could finally get going. To be honest, it’s also good news, in one respect. You see, last year, after the release of Jurassic World, a sequel to World was also announced, and the date was within the same month and same year as Godzilla 2. So, this sort of comes as good news for Godzilla 2 also as it does not have to compete alongside another movie involving big monsters.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

So far, the news is just shocking and sad. I am finding hard to cope, but will have to as it is not going to come any sooner. So far, still no news on how it is going to differ or connect as a sequel, and even more terrifying, no news as to whom will direct it either. Already I am having a few ideas, including Bong Joon-Ho, Guillermo del Toro and Jordan Vogt-Roberts. It’s yet another bad piece of news regarding the future of Monster Movies; especially more so after what is going on with Pacific Rim. Hopefully soon, things will happen, and in the end, I am sure I may be able to wait another 3 years. It could be an exciting time, who knows?

Pacific Rim (Legendary Pictures - 2013)

GENEPOOL





This Is Just Ridiculous!

27 04 2016

Gorgo (King Brothers Productions - 1961)

I like Monster Movies, that is a pretty well-known piece of information about me, and one I have discussed many a time here on this blog. I absolutely adore Giant Monster movies from works such as the obvious Godzilla, to the lesser known Gamera, and a whole host (pun not intended) of independent and mainstream Movie Monsters, I have a great passion for the subject. I will happily admit however, that I have not seen every Monster Movie; in fact I bet there are still some I have yet to hear of…..I think.

The Host (Showbox - 2006)

Of the films I know I have not seen include classic films like The Giant Claw, Reptilicus, Garuda, Yonggary and Gorgo to name but a few. It’s the case that some of these are not shown on TV all that much and some are hard to get on Home Media. Some of the time; such films do require a relative amount of interest and reminding myself about them when looking into what films to get for my collection, but on occasion, you will also get instances such as the Godzilla films not being readily available in the UK due to DVD region codes and International movie distributors. It is really annoying, especially when you are such a fan of these films, and it makes you wonder whether or not you’ll actually ever get to see them. One of the above mentioned films however I have discovered is similarly hard to get in a UK home media format, but saying that alone is just the chip of ridiculous.

Gorgo Monster

Released in 1961, Gorgo is a Giant Monster movie originally created to be a homage to the original Godzilla film. It was originally set in Japan, but eventually just got set in Britain. It features the storyline ideas of Sea Monster gets discovered and is put on display, only for that creature’s Mother to show up and cause a significant amount of damage. The film was produced using similar techniques to the Godzilla series including the use of Monster suits and miniature buildings. It is something of an icon to the Monster Movie genre as it is something very different, but also very standout, as the film’s effects and setting suggest a very realistic setting and monster (but that is about as far as my knowledge on the film goes). Even when you look at pictures of the Monster or even in the trailer, you see similarities to the Original Godzilla in the creature’s arrival, bobbing out of the water and rampaging through a yet to be polluted skyscraper skyline. Plus it’s also interesting to see a city other than one in Japan or America get trampled on for a change.

For the most part, my knowledge on this film only comes to the point of things I have seen and read. My first real attention came a few years ago when it was suggested that Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright was considering doing a remake. While anything has yet to come out, it did sound interesting enough to take a deeper look into the film. I still don’t know much, but that is likely to change once I have actually seen it, which is also why I am writing this post; because well, you’d think that a film made and set in Britain would be ready available in Britain wouldn’t you? Well, it’s not!

Godzilla 1954 DVD

When I looked on Amazon.co.uk a couple of weeks ago for a copy, all I could find were a bunch of American imported DVD and Blu-ray copies. While this may not be an immediate issue for me as I am capable of watching such formats; I just found it absolutely ridiculous that a film set and made in this country, is somehow not readily available in this country. I was expecting this film to live up to a classical form, live up to being something you’d maybe find a rare copy of in HMV, something that you could find in nearly all major DVD shops in the UK of some size. I thought it would be a in a classic section with copies of the original Godzilla and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms nearby. You know what I mean? I just thought that all being well, such a film that is considered a classic Monster Movie, would have a status big enough for copies to exist in the country it was made in…..but it turns out that the answer to that is NO (or at least unknown)! And then there is the language issue. Despite once again being made in Britain, for some reason, the DVD copy of the film only comes in French Dubbing. It has English Subtitles, but in order to experience the English Dubbing (which I thought would have come as standard for a British Film), you have to buy the Blu-Ray copy. Why can’t it be the case with both, that both languages are available in both options? How bad must a DVD copy be that only one language is dubbed? Not saying there is anything wrong with the French language, I just don’t understand why the DVD copy does not come with English as well, if Amazon is to be believed!

Mini Rant over (I was originally writing this really tired at 2am in the morning after a celebratory night after being a runner-up in a story competition I entered), so, what to do? If I was really desperate to watch this film, I would probably just allow this one to slide, but due to how ridiculous this feels, I thought that as a British Monster Movie Fan, that it was something of a duty of mine to point out this near if not completely stupid situation…..then end up buying it in its current form eventually under the knowledge that my words are highly unlikely to change a thing, and just suck it up and give up! Why this film does not receive simple air-time in its own country is beyond me, surely this thing must’ve been shown on Film 4 or something at least once since it was made? Well, you can’t blame me for trying. In the end, I may like it when I get round to it, in the meantime though, it’s just a sad situation that when Britain does get its own Giant Monster, it has to live a life mostly outside his own country of birth, and speak a language not his own, it’s presence and existence relatively unknown to that country’s residents.

Gorgo Blu-ray

GENEPOOL








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