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





They Were Trying To Kill It (Part 2) – Godzilla 2014

2 07 2014

Godzilla 2014

Following on from last week of my review of what is at the moment The Best Film this year, which by all counts is going to be hard to beat, at least to me, but the previous post looked at the human side story of the film, cast and soundtrack, but really this is the big one as I will be looking at the BIG G himself. From special effects to both Godzilla and his new companions to comparisons in story with another monster movie series as well as how this new film compares in not too much detail with the original monster and also why I think it is not just the best film this year, but one of the best film’s in the series, and that comes with evidence.

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The film’s special effects are really well done, and I mean really well done at that. The film’s producers have obviously taken great time and effort into not just making Godzilla look like, well himself for a start, but also both believable and naturalistic as in the viewer being able to see what is in front of their very eyes and believe that the creature could exist, like your eyes do not deceive what you are seeing. But the detail is also in the close up. For several parts of this film, Godzilla is seen to be in the state of minimalistic. So you may not see his entire shape or size for the most part, but even those scenes show a level of detail that is perhaps not as explored. I mean these are giant monsters, obviously and the film takes the standing point of the viewer on the ground, the human element, seeing it through their eyes. So you naturally jolt your head back to look up at them, but because of their size and depending on how far away you are from them, you may not see all of them, but when you are close up the little details are not forgotten, they are included. Godzilla’s hands on the Golden Gate Bridge (anyone else notice that it’s not the first time the same bridge has been attacked by a Giant Monster in less than a year?), close up details of the MUTO’s when on the ground and really close for comfort, Godzilla’s irradiated damaged flesh, and the detail in the shape, form and material of all three monsters from head to toe. Not only does all of this exist, and in such great detail, but it is also terrifying; and if the special effects achieve such a thing on something that (as far as we know) does not exist, then the effect has been achieved.

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The monsters themselves have been beautifully crafted, but there is more to a monster than just what meets the eye to which the filmmakers and the audience have an unfair advantage over the people in the film who are too busy running away. The Muto’s are the newest edition of a long line of monsters to tangle with the king, so let’s start with them. The Muto’s are nicely well designed and have essences of real life animals in them presenting themselves as creatures that are definitely of the world and not from space. I do like how there are major differences between the two. The male is smaller and can fly and whose body structure makes him look like a praying mantis on the ground and a bat in the air. Whilst the female is much larger and while exhibiting the same mantis like look, has more in common I would say with a spider as in she is reliant on walking and so perhaps needs to walk as such. They of course share the same features in the face and the look of the MUTO’s is nicely made to make them look sinister. During the night shots this works to their advantage and when the let out the under voice almost clucking, it sounds like a measurement of laughter but it could just be more the sound of the wind passing through their immense bodies. Little things such as the facial features really help to cement their positions as the real villains of the film. this idea also is used to great effect by having them the first monster that truly gets revealed. TO begin with you believe that Godzilla is the one responsible for the attack on the power plant, so far he’s the only creature been mentioned, but by revealing that it was actually the MUTO’s not Godzilla, it adds that emotional connection and presents them as the actual ones to do the damage and as such become the villain and it means that you as an audience member want and need a hero, and it cements Godzilla’s role in the film from the moment he is fully seen for the first time, to the point that he leaves. It is interesting use of both perception and suggestion from the film makers that gives a very big surprise early on and one that hooks you as you wonder, If that is a MUTO, what is Godzilla?

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The thing is though, look and sound and abilities are not enough and the thing that makes the monsters in a Godzilla film stand out is personality. Godzilla as a monster and as a series has survived on several key structures and points but one of those core elements is personality of the monsters themselves. If you look at other past American Monster Movies, they have all been referred to as “it” or “the”, they are all things. But if you give something a name, its presence means a whole lot more. You could just call your family pet (if you have one) “the cat” or “the dog” but you give it a name and refer to it by name and as such it feels more like a friend and part of the family and as such you discover the pet’s personality. The same is true for Monsters. By referring to Godzilla by it or the, it could be any one of a number of things but because of the description, it requires an explanation every time it is talked about. But now that you have labelled him, given him right to a personality, you just need to say the name, and people know who he is. For the MUTO’s it really is more of an it or a thing as MUTO is technically a designation for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. While the word does sort of become a name as the film goes on, they are still these things and even though they show signs of care towards each other and their young as well as a level of passion, they are just still designated creatures or animal. So while they definitely have a level of passion and character for such well-designed and thought out animals, they are unable to come out of their shell fully due to their possibility for personality restricted, which is a general shame because I really liked them.

Godzilla on the other hand actually looks like Godzilla (something that did not work out at all 16 years ago). Great care and attention has been taken to make him look like the monster we all know and love, but also to have his own spin so that he is not too much like his Japanese self and so this look can be more independent as well and as such does not need to rely on those films and allows this film to work on its own merits. So his size in this film (the biggest to date, and possibly a bit fat) belongs to this film, but attributes such as his scales, dorsal spines, head and tail are like that of the original Japanese monster. One such item is easier to see also now thanks to the film’s point of view and that is of Godzilla’s broken skin which is supposedly caused by the damage done to him by nuclear weapons testing. This goes to show that Godzilla is invincible to man’s most powerful weapons and supports the idea of him being the force of nature and as such unstoppable, but shows a more human element too showing that he still has those scars from long ago battles which on top of that could be emotional ones too but decides to wear them than think about them. His overall look particularly in the facial features when he is first revealed in the Hawaii airport scene makes me think of dragons. You get a brief second or two to look at his face, you get this overall feeling of terror like you are looking at a destroyer, a creature of such great magnitude and ferocity and while his features make him look like a cross between a dog and a lion, the essence of the dragon like nature is there and this helps with the tales of myths and folklore that surround him, and from this he isn’t just a monster, he feels and looks like a dragon too, and this gets your heart racing.

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But while the look of him is amazing and is true to the Japanese Monster, there are more new editions to the creature but these are more in what he does than what he looks like. But at least one of the things he does isn’t new and has been with him since 1954, any guesses as to what they would be? You got it, his Atomic Deathray. Yes, we were promised a Godzilla true to the Japanese monster and a monster that all we wanted to see but come the final fight I was lost wondering where the Deathray was. Everything was perfect but no sign of that. But then, in the darkness, a shadow grew with a long blue light drawing upwards, I was on the edge of my seat, hoping it was what I thought it was going to be, and then, when his Atomic Breath blasted across the screen, I was so happy, I jumped forward (sort of, more like leaned, not much of that can be done in a cinema seat) and thrust my arms and fists forward and down in a hammer like motion in a gesture of celebration. It was great. It’s not that it’s just there, but the characterization of Godzilla with the power rising up through his scales and then also being the right colour meant that I was so happy and the scene was amazing. I really did enjoy the use of the dorsal spines like shark fins as even after the reveal in Hawaii, it meant that Godzilla still had some screen time but in order to keep something’s under wraps, he could keep that mystery about him but also have that extra element of something huge is coming, and it’s sightings in the water have their own power behind them being seen as you know something big is about to happen. The new roar is really good; it really helps to give this new film its own sense of credit, especially to Godzilla himself. Instead of doing what Emmerich did 16 years ago by taking the classic roar and just extending it, the filmmakers here have created their own unique sound. The sound he produces is still very much like how a Giant creature would, it shakes the ground and produces a lot of noise thanks to the huge inner spaces within its own vocal chords and while it kind of makes me think of perhaps an elephant or other large mammals instead of reptiles (which can’t actually roar)and is overall very well produced to make an absolutely great sound.

Godzilla’s personality exists brilliantly in this film but his characterization which adds to this is different in many respects to what he was when he first started but these changes are not a bad thing in any way, shape or form. Godzilla is made out to look like a super predator, the alpha male top dog of the natural world. This is presented with the idea that should a creature like the MUTO’s arise, therefore threatening his turf, the predator comes out to play to reassert his dominance over the natural world. This idea may sound a bit corny in that sense, but it is a great way of bringing Godzilla into the story in a way that actually makes sense. This animal like approach helps him to fit more easily in the position of him still being a creature of nature even if he is definitely more than that. This comes even more into the fray come the battle sequences where; when rises out of the water his body movements represent that of something which is more gorilla like. While he fights and acts more like an animal now or at least something that is believable to the natural world, attention has been made to how such a creature could fight if say a giant lizard could stand on two legs, had a big tail, big head (Atomic Deathray) and large arms. But making him like the world is not the same as placing him in it. While it has been stated that his build up to appearance is like that of Jaws with the Dorsal fins in shot and no major reveal for a while, this idea does work splendidly, so while you can see him, you still have no idea what he looks like. Much like the original 1954 film as described by Enthusiast Tony Luke for a BBC Documentary in 1998 said “As the film progresses over the next hour, you just get hints of something big and dark and evil smashing its way through northern japan”. Now while the creature in this film is not like that in characterization, he is like that in the sense that you know something is coming, but even when it is first spotted, you don’t know what it is, and can only see a small portion of it. Another form of characterization and personality was thanks to the opening screen credits. Now while the 1998 film did something partially similar, this time around, it was very clever how they pulled it off. There was still the connotation with the use of Nuclear Weapons, the extra points of A) seeing Godzilla to begin with if only in his submerged form meant that he is at least mentioned from the start along with that great soundtrack, and B) the relation with sea tales of Giant Sea Monsters including sightings of sea serpents and the Kraken which represents his connection to the sea and world but also shows his connection to mother nature herself for always being there when he is needed to be. This use of old folklore tales is very well done and a nice technique by the filmmakers.

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While the use of him being an alpha predator is well done, in story terms, I feel like I have seen this before, in another monster movie starring another Japanese cultural icon; Gamera. Last year, I reviewed Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. The first in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy. Now for those un-aware, Gamera is another giant movie monster, but taking on the guise of a fire breathing, rocket-propelled flying turtle. Gamera first appeared in Japanese Cinema in 1965 and thanks to a growing popularity which particularly after the Heisei series has gone on to become an icon himself (please refer to my What is Gamera post). In Guardian of the Universe (rephrased to GGOTU) an ancient species of bird comes to life and wreaks havoc in Japan (like all other monsters do) only for them to suddenly have to deal with the appearance of a Giant Turtle. The two then fight with Gamera acting like the superior creature being sent out to take care of the appearance of a new threat. While a brilliant film, I can’t help but feel that the same story structure has been applied to Godzilla. Big creature comes out of the woodwork, bigger creature comes to deal with it, they fight, bigger one wins. I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing but I do feel that it is sort of weird that this new film has been almost based on the story from and even the characterization of the lead monster (and even some of the design of the MUTO’s look a bit like Gyaos) comes from the series biggest competition.  Mean Gamera himself in that film is an ancient creature created by a lost civilization, much like Godzilla’s ancient history. This is more of something that you may need to make your own minds upon. If you have not seen the Gamera Heisei Trilogy, I do highly recommend it (particularly the last one). But for those who have already seen GGOTU, what do you think?

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

As for the main part of the story itself, there is a lot of talk in it about the want and urge of man to control nature. After going to see this a second time with a friend, she mentioned that it is a lot like Jurassic Park which does use a lot of the same elements. I myself recently read the book by Michael Crichton which shows an urgent need to control nature as well as the refusal to admit when you are wrong and the ignorance of man who just wants to continue. This film uses ideas like that a lot of the time but does show the learning side as come the end, at least for now there is no real want to control Godzilla. But knowing how the American Military is usually portrayed in films, I bet there could be the possibility of them wanting to find some means of control over Godzilla in future films. Also on the nature note there is also the amazement and sense of discovery that occurs when something amazing has been discovered and shows that while we do live on this planet there is still a whole lot more that we don’t know about and perhaps our strive to find it and control it could lead to the end. I do find myself thinking a lot about Blake Snyder’s book; Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, which talks about how films are written to connect with the audience through the use of primal urges, and one of those early settings is described by Snyder as “Monster In The House” to which he further describes by stating that “It’s not about being dumb, it’s about being primal. And everyone understands the simple, primal commandment: Don’t… Get… Eaten!”. This is very much true with this film as the point of view of the audience is that of the people on the ground during the events and the urge to survive the power of the super predators. Much like a Japanese Godzilla film as well, there is a lot of mentions about the use of Nuclear weapons, from the beginning to the end and I particularly enjoyed the scene between Stenz and Serizawa when Serizawa shows him his watch which stopped on the day of the Hiroshima Bomb. It showed a sense of understanding from Stenz about the use of nuclear weapons as well as a possible sign of regret showing that the world has moved on and understand such power more and don’t take things so lightly, but connected with that is the lesson of not being able to control nature too and the understanding that comes with that. And much like how stories in cinema work with the characters having to grow and change, the same is applied here while also showing the growth in the human mind over the last 60 or so years with mentions to Nuclear dominance being one of them.

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I absolutely love this film from the ground up. It gives a well-deserved new light onto a character whose reputation was dented back in 1998 and corrects everything that the said film did wrong. It respects the design and meaning of a character that has been on-screen for about 60 years now and is beloved by millions of people all around the world. Using a great amount of new expertise in film making including special effects, lighting, shooting and even a soundtrack of extremely high qualities and added to that a film’s cast who each have their own loveable quirks and then Monsters whose design and characterization is of such a high standard, all coming together to make one fantastic film, a film that I have fallen in love with from start to finish. This is the film that I have been waiting to see and while it may have taken somewhere between 4 to potentially 10 years to produce, in the end it was worth waiting for and the confirmation of a sequel just means there is more to look forward to. In part 1 I said that this film is one of the Best films in the series, a comment I stand by, and while it is not my favourite, I do believe that the quality of this film really does make it so. And one other thing on that. A couple of days after seeing this film for the first time, I watched one of the all-time classic best films in the series; Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, one of the ones I like a lot, and I did not enjoy it as much as this one. So while its place in the film series and general cinema is still probably going to be debated; if it is able to make a Godzilla fan as big as me happy and not disappointed, it has succeeded. And that is why I love this film, and shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal of films? To Be Enjoyable. Thank You Godzilla.

GENEPOOL





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

10 06 2013

GGOTU1

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.

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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.

GGOTU6

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

GGOTU2

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.

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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.

GGOTU10

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.

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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).





Announcement: June Reviews

6 06 2013

June Poster

Hello Everyone. As it is once again June, that means it is once again the biggest Film Review Month of the year for my Blog. I have had this one planned out for months with hope of reviewing five of the Greatest Japanese Films in Cinema history. Those films were going to be:

  • Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla – Godzilla meets both his rival and one of his Ancestors in one of the best films from the series.
  • Gamera Guardian of the Universe – The first in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy about the Giant Rocket Powered Turtle.
  • The Hidden Fortress – The Akira Kurosawa Classic which would later inspire George Lucas when he produced the original Star Wars.
  • 13 Assassins – The Best Period Piece since Seven Samurai directed by Takeshi Miike.
  • Battle Royale – The cult classic about children being forced to kill each other on a deserted island.

However, due to the timescale available to me I have only been able to review three of those films. Now I can just say what they are in bullet point format, but instead I am going to tell you what they are in Haiku format, try and work out which ones they are.

1. A Giant Turtle

A Great Supersonic Beast

Flying through the Sky.

2. The Monster Tyrant

His Ancestor now encased

In a Metal Shell.

3. A Class of the Dead

Brought to a long-lost Island

To kill each other.

Did you manage to work out what films they were? Still unsure, well I’ll tell you. The films (in review order) are:

1. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

2. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla

3. Battle Royale

So please return here every Monday in June to witness the reviews of three of the Greatest Japanese Films produced. Who knows, if you have not seen them, maybe you’ll be interested to see them. Enjoy.

GENEPOOL








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