You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat – Jaws

1 10 2014

Jaws (Universal Pictures - 1975)

Imagine you are being pursued by a terrifying creature, but you don’t know what it is. You turn around for a second, lose some running time and momentum and you see the horrible creature that wants to kill you and eat you. That want and desire to know what is after you, do you really need to know? Movies are filled with such creatures, ranging from The Alien and Predator, to Dragons and The Host. But when you watch said films, there is a level of reassurance in them in which you know they don’t exist. But what if the creature is real? What if a film could make you scarred of something that is real and make you think twice before engaging in an activity in which, while rare of course, means there is still a chance of meeting the creature. Well, there is one film that has done just that for nearly 40 years now.

Jaws (Peter Benchley - 1974)

Released by Universal Pictures in 1975, Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name; Jaws is highly perceived as one of the best films in the world, helping to launch the career of Steven Spielberg in the process and to this day being one of very few films on Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% fresh approval rating as well as becoming a major moment in the history of cinema upon its release. All of that for a film about a Great White Shark.

J12

The film begins on Amity Island with a young girl called Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) who goes skinny dipping before being pulled under water. The following morning, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) who lives on the Island with his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) and two sons Sean (Jay Mello) and Michael (Chris Rebello) goes in search of Chrissie meeting up with Chrissie’s supposed boyfriend Cassidy (Jonathan Filley) and Amity Police Deputy, Jeff Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) who has found the remains of Chrissie’s body washed up on the shore. Chief Brody waits to hear from the coroner who tells him that Chrissie died from a Shark Attack. Brody spurs into action wanting to close the beaches, but the island’s mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) however persuades Brody to keep quiet, so that he can keep the beaches open during the summer period. Brody decides to let it slip and go with the coroner’s new statement suggesting that the incident was a boating accident. While relaxing with his family on the beach, Brody spots something odd happening in the water and calls everyone to get out of the water, however, a boy named Alex (Jeffrey Voorhees) has disappeared, and the mother of the boy, Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) puts up a $3,000 reward for whoever can kill the shark that killed her son. At a meeting to discuss this, Brody states he is closing the beach, but the mayor says only for 24 hours. Everyone is then drawn to the appearance of local Shark Hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) who says he will kill the shark, but demands $10,000 in return.

J6

The next day, fishermen head out to the ocean to hunt the shark. Meanwhile, marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives on the island and looks at Chrissie’s body and states that she was in fact killed by a shark. The fishermen then catch the supposed shark but Hooper states that it is a Tiger Shark, and not the shark they are looking for. That night, Hooper goes to have dinner with Martin and Ellen, saying he would like to look inside the caught shark’s stomach, but the mayor wouldn’t allow it. Brody and Hooper do it in secret and find no trace of Chrissie. They go out to sea and find a boat belonging to local fisherman Ben Gardner (Craig Kingsbury). Hooper goes underwater to look at the wreckage and finds a sizeable tooth but drops it after he sees the fisherman’s corpse. Brody and Hooper try to persuade the Mayor to close the beaches but he doesn’t listen and decides to keep the beaches open for the fourth of July.

J4

Tourists arrive in their hundreds to enjoy the sea-side resort while Brody and Hooper do what they can to keep the beaches safe. The mayor persuades people to go into the water and everything goes ok until a prank caused by a couple of kid’s forces everyone to run out of the water. The pranksters get found out, but a shark fin is spotted going into a pond/estuary where Brody’s son Michael is on his new yacht. A man in a rowing boat (Ted Grossman) is killed and Michael goes into shock. Brody has the mayor sign a contract to give Quint whatever he wants in return for killing the shark. Quint immediately falls out with Hooper but reluctantly agrees to take both him and Brody on the voyage. The next day, all three men head out to sea and Quint has Hooper drive the boat and Brody putting chum out to attract the shark. Quint has something hooked onto his fishing rod and tries to pull it in, but the identity of whatever it is remains unknown and eventually let’s go. Brody puts more chum out but sees the shark and is shocked by the size of it by saying the famous line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. The three men manage to tag a barrel onto it but the shark manages to get away before they can attach another.

They stay the night and talk to each other showing each other their scars before Quint reveals that he was on the USS Indianapolis, the ship that delivered the Hiroshima Bomb before being sunk by a Japanese Torpedo and where a large number of the sailors were killed by sharks. The boat is then attacked by the shark. The following morning, the three men attempt to repair the boat but the shark returns. Brody tries to call the coast guard but Quint destroys the radio. They get another barrel attached to the shark and then attach both barrels to the boat, but the shark pulls the boat flooding the deck and engine. Quint, now consumed with killing the creature burns out the boat’s motor while trying to suffocate the creature in the shallow waters. With the boat now sinking, Hooper suggests a radical new plan to go down in a shark cage and poison the shark. The plan fails though when the shark attacks the cage, with Hooper narrowly escaping. Back on the boat, the shark attacks the two remaining men eating Quint in the process. With just Chief Brody left, Brody attacks the creature throwing a scuba tank in its mouth. From Hooper telling him the previous day that the tanks would explode, Brody climbs the mast of the almost completely sunk boat and shoots several rounds at the creature before finally hitting the scuba tank, causing the shark to blow up. Hooper returns to the surface and the two men swim back to shore.

J3

Jaws is an incredible film, a point you begin to realise the more times you watch it, the more you begin to understand it, and even more so when you discover that Jaws was supposed to look a lot different, and if had originally come to fruition may not be as good or as highly regarded as it has become. Jaws cast are terrifically portrayed from Minor to Major. Characters that only appear briefly such as Brody’s children, Mrs. Kitner, Meadows the reporter and the town’s upper-class woman Mrs. Taft (Fritzi Jane Courtney) have their own major points. Meadows (Carl Gottlieb) has a great yet brief on-screen presence, while Brody’s children add an extra level of depth to the Brody family giving them more of an emotional attachment to the screens setting as well as a connection for the audience also. Mrs. Taft is a great character as in she is an incredibly stiff upper lip toff type who is an absolute rotter to be around and acts in such a manner that makes herself feel superior to be around others but doesn’t achieve any sympathy from anyone and everyone else, particularly the audience. She is in the same league as the mayor and his cronies and believes more in stature and glory than in safety or the lives of other people wanting the beaches open instead of closed and possibly safer as a result. Scenes with her also include not laughing at jokes made by others and even protesting that she doesn’t find them funny, you know, the kind of person who believes that standards are more important than anything else. From here we go into the more major members of the cast. The character of Chrissie is only seen very briefly, but she is the all-important first victim. When she is grabbed from under water and pulled under you do see a level of terror in her eyes and the way she is portrayed, even more so to the point when she also has the look of someone who has no idea what is attacking her and it is more the fear of the unknown and death on the whole than what exactly is about to happen to her, a realization that becomes more clear as the scene carries on and as she screams for help.

Ellen Brody holds the point of sanity for her family trying to keep Brody on the relaxed side of what is going on and not get too involved or in-depth with his new enemy. She is generally more patient and holds a great scene presence when she is on, appearing to be more calm than emotional, but that doesn’t stop her getting emotional when Michael is in danger or when Brody is going out to sea. Next to that you have the character of Hendricks; the deputy of Amity Island. He doesn’t appear to have much in this film other than to be the bumbling buffoon secondary policeman who doesn’t do much in the way of standing up for himself and mostly just takes orders than showing his own opinion. He is also however the only real political support that Brody has and is seemingly the only one in a political stance who believes Brody’s judgement on the situation is correct and trust that he knows what he is doing. He is also not devoid of much life as he takes his position seriously and when he finds Chrissie’s body, a real sense of emotion comes to light as the remains are not pleasant and he shows that he is in fact human and not at all a fool, but just seen as one. Then we move onto the Mayor of amity Island, Larry Vaughn. He is a man who is much in the same league with the higher end civilians of the own who believe in the accumulation of money being the biggest priority. A fair judgement for a small island as the island very much requires a lot of tourism in order to survive, however, when it comes to the appearance of a killer shark, Mr. Mayor and his higher-ups still want to keep the beaches open and at first think nothing more than this just being a passing incident, but when it continues, he still thinks solely about the money. He is in many respects a secondary villain after the shark as he is very single-minded in the pursuit of what he thinks is best, although it really isn’t and provides the film a good opposite comparison and something for Brody to put his frustration on as Brody has safety in front and the mayor doesn’t. He is also a very dodgy character in the way that he will use whatever persuasion skill he has to get what he wants, even having the coroner change his professional opinion as to what happened to the first victim. He is overall played very well as he is the type of character, along with Mrs. Taft that you have not the slightest bit of sympathy for and it is only from pure experience in the end that he learns the error of his ways, but still tries to shift the blame off himself in return.

Lorraine Gary, Jeffrey Kramer and Murray Hamilton

Despite all these great qualities though, the films three main cast members are the highlights.

Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider’s character is that of the concerned outsider. It’s obvious that he knows what he is doing when he hears about the shark, closing the beaches and everything and while he may not be an expert or fully aware on the subject of sharks he does know the best course of action. However he does get a bit too committed and paranoid over the whole thing. There is also the problem that while his job is to uphold the law and protect others, there are those higher above him who have the authority to tell him what to do and will make him do, even if it’s the wrong course of action. The result then is that he is unable to do his job properly due to the shady characters who tell him what to do and as such becomes frustrated with the whole affair, especially when the body count continues to grow and knowing that if politics didn’t get in the way, he could prevent deaths. The use of a policeman character is also well done and makes the film not just an action film, but something of a crime drama at the same time with the policeman being the detective, closing in on his suspect and the shark the murderer but in a similar twist, it shows that the goody-goody policeman has to become as focussed as the killer and tap into his natural primal instincts in order to finally achieve the end result. He therefore gets overly committed to this result and by the end; he is a much more different person than the first time the audience sees him.

Roy Scheider

Richard Dreyfuss on the other hand starts off as something more of a decent guy. He is brought in as a marine biologist and at first you grow to like him as he knows what he is talking about but is not just some professor or lecturer. Monster Movies have always required a level of science for the audience and usually achieve this through a character who might know what he is talking about. Hooper on the other hand does not look like a lecturer or acts like a mad scientist, instead he dresses more casually and connects to the audience as a likeable guy as such as he becomes more approachable. However this nice guy attitude eventually begins to dissipate, mostly at the point he meets Quint who also doesn’t take a liking to him either. At this point Hooper takes much a defensive stance and as he continues he begins to grow more distant from everyone else, in particular Brody who originally both start off as friends but who are now at constant loggerheads with each other. It’s only at the very end when the shark has finally been killed that they return to normal. As the final act progresses though you begin to see more of a normal person in Hooper though as he jokes and has a few laughs when he and Quint observe each other’s scars, just showing that while he may be the expert guy, he is also a human being inside too and while he may go astray for a while during the final act, he grows more in person as a result too.

Richard Dreyfuss

When I first watched Jaws when I was about 6/7 years old, I always had Robert Shaw’s character (Quint) down as a bad guy, because well, he wasn’t really pleasant and so when he dies I always assumed it was a good thing. In more recent years though, particularly more so in the last year, I have grown to like Quint a great deal and observe him no more as a villain, but as the film’s best character. From the first time you see him he is unpleasant, scraping the chalk board making everyone’s ears hurt, demanding everyone to listen to him, talking about what he does and demanding more money to achieve it. When he appears again much later in the film nothing has changed, he still appears to be somewhat dodgy and angry and points out things about other people, mainly Hooper, has fun about things people do and takes the position of a lazy fisherman on the boat but when the shark arrives becomes something of a Captain Ahab type character getting transfixed on his shark and bounty up until the moment he gets killed. Sounds unpleasant and almost like he say what was coming to him. But when you look between the lines and real study who he is, he becomes much more likeable as a person. When he demands more money, he is not just some greedy Bounty Hunter; he is an experienced Shark Hunter who knows what he’s doing. When he falls out with Hooper, he is not being horrible, he just despises those he thinks are getting a better way of living for doing much less, when he is fishing and having others do his work for him, he is keeping close vigil on the water and knows how best to hunt the animal and requires the other two to do what he asks fully to achieve this. It’s only towards the end when he gets too committed that things begin to go bad for him. He is a hardworking man and believes he is getting the most out of his job in order to do well at it.

Robert Shaw

On top of that though, he is a man of experience, and not all of it good. Why is he a shark killer, because he knows what sharks can do from first-hand experience and when he tells his tale of life on the USS Indianapolis in what is a terrific monologue, you begin to get the real insight on him? You begin to fall in line with him, and try to question his position wondering if he does his job to live, or is looking for revenge; like Captain Ahab and his whale. From then on, and every time you watch the film from then, you really begin to understand him as a character and know not to judge a book by its cover, because while on the outside he is a committed man who appears to be very unpleasant, inside he is a normal human being and you become like a friend to him and understand the way he acts, because he doesn’t want to appear weak, but also you understand what he has gone through.

The characterization of the shark is terrific achievement too. When the film was initially produced, the plan was to use the shark animatronic from early on and to see the shark from early on, but the shark did not work all too well and so Spielberg adopted an approach inspired by Alfred Hitchcock in which to suggest the existence of something underwater but not to show it, and more have a look that suggests that you are looking through its own eyes. This works as it makes the shark not just an animal but more like an actual killer, as you are seeing it pick its targets. It’s only until very much later on that this technique is held off together as the audience member is with Brody, Hooper and Quint out to kill the creature, and so you no longer are looking at the creature’s perspective but the perspective of those out to kill it. To begin with though, the shark is more positioned as the animal and also the mysterious killer. When you get to the final act out at sea, you begin to see the shark take on new traits, that of taking things personal with the crew by attacking and damaging the boat to fully chasing them and picking them off one by one. This trait of revenge makes the final few moments really hectic as each character goes to extreme lengths to survive and for the shark to increasingly damage the boat to get at them or get them in the water therefore fully transforming the creature from killer shark to monster.

J9

Another way that the shark is shown is through great effects in using a combination of Real Life footage with animatronic. The real life footage of the creature from a distance helps the thing to look real as it indeed is a real shark on the footage. The animatronic is more used for shots of real sharks that they had to fake because a real shark wouldn’t be able to really act for them, it would more likely just swim away, or eat the film crew. Such realistic shots are mostly used for underwater shots with the cage, such as seen far away, swimming away and tangling with the cage after Hooper gets out. The animatronic fills in the rest. The actual shark animatronic, it’s actually pretty good. While the effect looks very much outdated and almost cardboard/wooden like, it still holds an element of realism in it as the thing worked pretty perfectly in close up shots towards the end and while now may look more silly, thanks to the film building up the appearance of the creature, you are now fully in the scene and the possible silliness of the creature today is almost completely removed when the creature starts eating people close up. When the animatronic is used in the water too, from the perspective of above the water, the effect is brilliant as while it may not carry a lot of close-up detail it does enough to show the size of the creature as well as what it would look like at that angle.

J7

The film’s soundtrack produced by John Williams also aids in the shark’s portrayal. The film for the most part uses a soundtrack which covers different topics from tense mystery moments, to everyday life in amity, happiness, sadness as well as moments of wonder. The film generally uses pieces over and over again but they are pieces that work. The moments on the land with no Shark use great themes and soundtrack for moments of joy and happiness as well as general life and that is used to great effect to portray those moments. However it is the moments with the shark that produce an interesting contrast. When the shark is being hunted a piece of music plays which sounds more adventurous, like something used in a sailing, pirate film which sound like a celebration theme as the three men attempt to kill the shark. On the other hand to that though, you have the film’s main theme, that of the shark’s theme.

The shark’s theme is iconic to this very day but its actual quite simple. It suggests the presence of something mysterious, but is not overly joyful. It sounds bad, it sounds dark, as there is a real danger approaching. The theme then builds into a tense action paced sound as the danger arrives and is now in view of sorts and you know you can’t get away, it is the approaching predator. As the theme is used into the later parts of the film, the same piece is transferred into another piece and becomes more of a piece of last stand music as Brody fights the shark alone and the tense sounding music begins to grow more desperate before finishing on a final high note which allows the film to use one more note of silence as to question what the final outcome is.

J2

Jaws is as amazing as it is regarded to be. The film is brilliantly shot with combinations of island life, to the perils of sea until its final conclusion out to sea with a sense of moral danger and adventure. While the film’s look and effects (not to mention Quint’s cool looking boat the Orca) may be outdated, they are still able to hold a great element of terror too as they are used to great effect. The film’s soundtrack is terrific and the portrayal of all the film’s major cast including the shark, are enjoyable from start to finish and at no point get boring. For nearly 40 years now this film has entertained and (but probably mostly) terrified audiences the world over, and still will do for decades to come. If you have not seen this film yet, you should. It is one of the true classics of cinema and still holds true to this day. While some monster films may use creatures that are entirely fictional, there is nothing more terrifying than using a subject and creature that is real, and continues to remain a real life danger as long as they continue to survive. Jaws is so well done to this point that you will be scarred of going back in the water for some time, unless it’s a swimming pool, well, because a Great White Shark can’t get into a swimming pool………………………..can it?

GENEPOOL (Has anyone else noticed that the film’s three main cast members all have names which begin with the letter R)?





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.

G22

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.

G25

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?

G21

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.

G23

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.

G24

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.

G27

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








%d bloggers like this: