“That’s it. Game over man. Game over…”
…although it’s not quite “game over” yet for Andrew Brooker who continues his challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days.
“That’s it. Game over man. Game over…”
…although it’s not quite “game over” yet for Andrew Brooker who continues his challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days.
All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.
OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).
Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?
We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.
Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.
Welcome to the Week In Film! Steve returns from a short break to provide you with a round-up of everything worth knowing in the world of film that has occurred in the past week.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
The slow drip feed of info about the next instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued this week as a brief synopsis of Avengers: Age of Ultron was released.
It revealed that Ultron was not created by Tony Stark, as previously thought due to Hank Pym not being introduced as of yet, but Tony Stark ‘releases’ Ultron by messing about with some old tech stuff.
With this in mind could we be seeing a Pym/Ant-Man cameo in Age of Ultron? And with a Doctor Strange movie announced and strong rumours of a Black Panther movie could we see either a cameo or mention of these popular Marvel characters?
I Know What You Did In a Summer Ages and Ages Ago
Sony are looking to remake I Know What You Did Last Summer. While it was an enjoyable teen slasher film, is there really any need to reboot it? I imagine they will attempt to spawn a franchise.
Hollywood needs some new ideas. The amount of remakes, reimaginings, prequels and sequels is getting pathetic.
Ben Hur is set for a rehash by Hollywood. Charlton Heston starred in the successful original, famous for its chariot race and Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman are set to star in a new version written by 12 Years A Slave’s John Ridley due for a 2016 release.
More sequel news as Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have agreed to return to the Bourne franchise. Previously it was thought that the character had gone as far as it could and Damon stated he would not return without Greengrass, which is what led to the reasonable but not as good as the originals Jeremy Renner outing.
How this will tie in with the Renner ‘Legacy’ film (if at all) and any further plot details are some way off, but if it is as good as the first three…? There’s certainly potential for expansion in this franchise.
An Original Origin Story
It appears that almost every character on the silver screen must, at some point, have an origin story movie. Judge Dredd looks set to have one, based on the comics, but King Kong, whose early life on Skull Island has only been briefly touched on in other cinematic outings, and looks set to get his own movie looking at the back story of the big monkey.
Max Borenstein is set to write. He is the same man who wrote the recent Godzilla movie so he has experience when it comes to monster movies and perhaps we could see some lizard vs. ape action in the future.
Tom Hiddleston is set to star, in what role we do not know. Perhaps as a motion capture monkey.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.
ROOOOOOOOOOOOAAAARRRRR! Welcome to Critic Island, and we’ve assembled a cavalcade of monster critics to discuss the legendary Japanese kaiju, Godzilla. King Steve and MechaOwen are joined Space Matt Lambourne, and the returning Three-Headed Monster, James Diamond.
As well as reviewing Gareth Edwards’ modern take on the Godzilla series, the team also discuss some classic (and not-so-classic) films from the cult series, while Owen’s very own king of monsters (not his penis) attempts to destroy his house while we record.
Join us next week for our review of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
It comes maddeningly close to excellence, but Godzilla is fatally flawed.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
You ask people why Jaws works and most will reply that it’s because you don’t see the shark all the time. Jaws is paced expertly, saving the big reveal until the very end and instead spending its run-time teasing you with little glimpses of it and showing you the effect of its terror, constantly baiting the audience with the threat of the shark and the promise of the shark but realising that it doesn’t carry much impact if it’s on-screen too often. They wouldn’t be wrong, it’s a key component of the suspense tease of the film, but it’s not the whole reason. Jaws also works because it has characters; real characters with multiple dimensions whose plights were just as interesting as that of the chaos the shark was wreaking. They didn’t feel incidental to the plot and, most importantly, it didn’t feel like their existence is just marking time until the shark can turn up and do its thing. That’s why their boat trip to the sea to find the shark is so captivating: you’re scared for people, not just waiting for fireworks.
Gareth Edwards’ remake/adaptation (whichever you want to call it entirely comes down to your personal perspective) of the classic 1954 Japanese monster movie Godzilla is a master of The Tease part. It gets that having Godzilla turn up from frame one and tear sh*t up until the last of the 123 minutes the film runs for are done is a bad idea, one that would create fatigue for the audience and end up making his rampage duller the longer it ran on. It gets that you don’t give a clear shot of the monster until it’s close to wrapping up time because that lets the audience fill in the blanks, an act which is frequently scarier than whatever you’ve actually come up with. And it gets that you don’t deliver on your promised monster smackdown at the hour mark of your two hour film because that leaves you little else to go after for the second hour. It gets all that, and its masterful approach to The Tease is why every even-slightly prolonged section involving a monster is giddy-inducing instead of “seen it all before”. It gets that better than any film I have seen in the cinema in a long while.
What Godzilla forgot, though, in the gorgeous execution of The Tease, was to add any characters. This basic, fundamental tenant of pretty much any great film is completely lacking here and that fact is what almost kills the film. Godzilla gets so much right, The Tease, the cinematography, the score, the effects, that it comes close to excellence; when this film is on, it is frakkin’ on! But by skipping out on this one thing, this one crucial element, the film is kneecapped irrevocably. What could have been an excellent film, a strong contender for one of the year’s best if/when some of the Summer’s more promising titles flop disappointingly, is instead a frustratingly good one where its flashes of greatness are heavily outweighed by the one thing it does wrong which, not coincidentally, makes its biggest strength almost just as much of weakness.
OK, that’s the spoiler-free version. I’m not saying that the rest of this review is going to dive into every single aspect and plot-point or anything, but it is going to have to reference something that a fair bit of the marketing material did a good job of hiding if you weren’t voluntarily looking for it. And, honestly, I kinda wish I didn’t know it going in, because then I might have appreciated The Tease even more. So, if you haven’t seen the movie or you just plain don’t care, stop reading now. You basically already know what I thought about the film by this point, anyway. If you have seen the film or just plain don’t care, keep reading. Again, there are no giant spoilers (the thing I’m referring to is basically made explicit by the 45 minute mark) but you may enjoy the film more if you go in dark to its plot and stuff.
Still here? OK, then. Let’s talk about The Tease.
Wisely, Godzilla saves its giant monster smackdown, between Godzilla and a new creature classified as M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object), for the final 20-or-so minutes. In addition, you don’t even get a clear shot of the titular monster until the very last minute of the film. Instead, the film baits you and teases you. A shot of his enormous foot here, the disappearance of its tail as it slinks around a half-destroyed building there; as you probably expected. What you probably won’t be expecting, though, is just how far the film takes that tease. Godzilla doesn’t just limit The Tease to a shot of the monsters, it also limits it to the destruction in general. There’s a section where a M.U.T.O. begins destroying Las Vegas in broad daylight, but the film cuts away to the aftermath just as the destruction is ramping up. The M.U.T.O.’s escape from its dormant pod is shot in low light, with occasional flashes teasing us as to its appearance but it also basically cuts to black when it seems like we’re really about to see some mayhem. And, in the film’s standout example of how it gets The Tease, there’s a bit in Hawaii that I absolutely refuse to spoil because it will be the point where you are either on-board with what the film is trying to do or where you check out in frustration.
If you can’t get what the film is trying to do, you may find the whole experience the film equivalent of yelling “either sh*t or get off the pot!” at someone. I, however, adored it as it trained myself to savour any piece of monster destruction I could get; it made those moments hit that much harder. And when the film finally lets go of the reigns and gives you what you came here to see? Man, it is an amazing feeling, let me tell you. The fight itself is a slow, primal, animalistic affair, like watching two mad caged animals going at one another (which makes sense, considering the fact that they kind of are animals), that may have been underwhelming for most audiences in a post-Pacific Rim world if that build-up hadn’t been so masterful as to make a release, any release, feel like the coolest thing in the entire world at that moment in time. I cackled with maniacal glee multiple times during this film and that was even before the really amazing moments entered the fray. Edwards and his team get it, they get how to make what otherwise would have been mundane instead be a super awesome piece of ridiculous fun because they build up to it near-perfectly.
Credit should also go to the cinematography and visual effects. In line with the teasing nature of the film, the cinematography holds off on giving you a clear shot of monsters causing carnage until near the end of the big fight. Instead, it opts to show the action from a ground level, from the perspective of a bystander in the chaos, to fully impress upon you the scale of the action and the destruction. It more than works, the first time the M.U.T.O. clambers out of its hibernation pod and effortlessly breaks through the containment barriers is shot on the surface just above the containment pit which makes the reveal of one of its legs that much more of a “sh*t has gotten real” moment. There’s a section on a train bridge which manages to communicate the pure terror of being in the same area as a giant monster better than a lot of recent films I have seen. And then there’s the entrance of Godzilla himself, which takes about an hour to occur, incidentally, and which really needs to be seen to fully grasp the effect of.
However, and thankfully, Godzilla also gets that shooting action from the perspective of bystanders (to make it feel like you are really there) does not give carte blanche to make the action incomprehensible. Shaky-cam is kept to an absolute minimum and pretty much any action depicted on screen is shot by cameras that are steady and clear. You can always tell what is going on where and who is involved when. Everything is clear, everything is viewable and you have absolutely no idea how happy I am to finally see a Hollywood film that understands that shaking the camera like an epileptic having a stroke at a flashbulb convention does not make things more exciting. And on that note, yes, a lot of the destruction and more monster-heavy sequences are shot at night under cover of darkness. But, and this is crucial, the film still lights proceedings enough that, combined with the stable camerawork, you can still tell what’s going on at all times, which works gangbusters during the finale.
The score, meanwhile, handled by Alexandre Desplat, is damn near perfect here. Eschewing both the gritty drone of your Hans Zimmer (or Hans Zimmer wannabes) and the faux-John Williams score of a lot of modern day blockbusters in favour of something that resembles classic Hollywood that’s been a bit updated for the modern day. There’s a lot of brass, drums and urgent violins, bombast, that recall the style of classic monster movies from the 1960s. But when the action slows down and the film is instead trying to create a more unsettling atmosphere, Desplat is more than happy to oblige with severely off-key instruments or, in a segment that I’m pretty sure took place on the Golden Gate Bridge, a choir that sounds like its announcing the incoming apocalypse. It backs the action exceptionally; creepy and portentous at one moment, bombastic and energy-filled the next. I realise that I’m doing a terrible job describing it, it’s one of those things you really need to experience to get why it works.
As for the effects… well, you don’t really need me to tell you how good this film’s special effects are. You’ve seen the trailers, you know what to expect. The M.U.T.O.’s design is excellent, heavily indebted to that of a bat but twisted enough to make the result much more nightmarish with its long, spindly arms and horrifying eyes, face and mouth. Godzilla, meanwhile, is likely going to be more subjective. Yes, he is much bigger than anything else in this movie and the scales on his back are rather a bit terrifying when they’re all you can see of him swimming through the water and bearing down on the camera, but his face is also rather a bit cute. He looks strangely endearing and a bit huggable at certain angles which should spell the death-knell for his design… if it didn’t fit with his character in this particular film, which it does. When it comes time for the monsters to make some destruction, though, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that things look great. Not only do things get smashed real purdy-like, the monsters move with real weight and heft. Not clumsiness, but force, how one would probably expect two animals of their size to move and duke it out and it is ultra-convincing.
So, right now, I imagine that you’re prepping to go to the cinema and fling all of your hard-earned moneybills at the people who hand out the tickets. You’ve probably read all of that and decided that this is officially your favourite film of the summer, sight unseen. And, in fairness, were there not this giant, puss-filled flaw blemishing Godzilla’s face, you’d probably be correct. There were a tonne of highs in this film that I am expecting the rest of the summer to have a hard time matching. Unfortunately, Godzilla has a giant problem that keeps dragging down the rest of the film the more and more it ruminates in my brain. Hell, if everything else surrounding this problem wasn’t so good, it would have killed the film outright for me. So, here’s the problem.
Godzilla has no characters.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Callum, that’s not a problem for me. I didn’t come here for world class storytelling. I came here to see giant monsters tear sh*t up.” And you are more than welcome to want that out of your movie. That still doesn’t stop it from being a problem, though, and it becomes a major problem because it almost serves to undermine the hard work that The Tease puts in. We spend so much time with these humans whilst waiting for the next glimpse of a monster that the realisation finally sets in: I don’t care about any of these characters because none of these characters are characters. At best they’re exposition machines, at worst they are quite literally nothing.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who, to put it in the bluntest possible terms, does nothing. He has a wife (Elizabeth Olsen), a kid, a father (Bryan Cranston) who lost his wife, Ford’s mother, in a nuclear power plant destruction 15 years prior that he insists was not an accident, and he works in the army as a bomb disposal expert. All of this is just window-dressing for the fact that he does nothing. At no point during the story does Ford have a narrative reason for being in a scene, at no point during the film does he alter the course of the plot (barring one instance in the finale that seems to have been engineered to stop me going on this rant, take a guess how that turned out) and at no point does his character display any personality or charm or charisma that makes spending time in his company in any way worthwhile or interesting. I could excuse this if the point was to show what the perspective of the film’s events would look like to a guy on the ground, except that most of the carnage scenes don’t involve him or even focus on him, instead locking onto various other crowds of bystanders. His scenes feel poorly copy-pasted on from a much less interesting and dull version of Godzilla; you could excise them entirely and lose nothing, yet pretty much the entire first hour involves him or characters and events relating to him (because OF COURSE), even though they add nothing to the film.
This focus on Ford and his various acquaintances comes at the expense of a much more interesting angle involving the U.S. military and two scientists’ (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) attempts to stop the monsters and contain the damage, with the military trying take care of things themselves, making things worse in the process, and the scientists (one of whom is the world’s leading expert on Godzilla and WHY WAS HE NOT THE MAIN FOCUS OF THE FILM) attempting to convince them that Godzilla is their only hope. Unfortunately, thanks to the focus put on Ford and his attempts to get back to his personality-less family, nobody here gets to do or say anything that doesn’t amount to spouting exposition which, again, means that Godzilla has no characters and nobody worth giving a damn about. I’d call the humans one-dimensional but that insinuates that there’s enough going on with them to class them as one-dimensional. Maker, I cared more for the M.U.T.O. and that’s supposed to be the villain and had that caring come from one single ten-second scene!
Which, ultimately, is what nearly causes The Tease, which I have already named as the film’s secret weapon, to become its biggest weakness. By spending so much time in the presence of these non-entities masquerading as people we’re supposed to care about, it makes the appearance of some monsters that much more of a treat. However, it also makes the quick snatching away of that treat even crueller because we’re thrust back into the company of these characters that have no bearing on anything and barely factor into or appear during the carnage caused. This should either have been focussed on the military and the scientist’s attempts to save people from the wrath of the monsters or a personal tale of people stuck in the middle of the chaos trying to get away. Instead, Godzilla wants to do both and it does so at the expense of the two coalescing and crafting characters that we, the audience, are supposed to give a damn about. Rather than having the human side feel just as relevant, it feels like we’re just marking time until Godzilla is allowed to show up. None of these scenes are dull, it’s just that they coast by on the promise of more Godzilla and have no real reason in this film to exist.
Oh, and whilst I have the time, I’d like to quickly comment on this. Because the film doesn’t have real characters worth investing in and it can’t be bothered to go back and craft some, Godzilla instead tries to engender some sympathy for the people stuck in the wreckage of the mayhem by putting kids into the centre of it and going “LOOK! WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!” It does this three times, which is three times too many, and it never works. It even strands an entire school bus full of children on the Golden Gate Bridge in gridlock when Godzilla shows up, for the love of the Maker! That’s how blatant it is in trying to get a “OH, NO! PLEASE DON’T HURT THE CHILDREN, GODZILLA!” reaction out of you. It’s cheap, overly-manipulative and I’d get angry if were done with a single bit of effort or care, which is not. Can we please retire this device and instead invest some effort into creating actual characters that we, the audience, will care about in future? Is that too much to ask?
I am really glad that I don’t have to score films here on this website, because I’m honestly stumped with regards to this film. Look, when Godzilla is on, it is f*cking on and the feeling that comes from those moments of genuine excellence have been almost unparalleled for me, so far this year. When it works, it more than works. It’s never anything less than an enjoyable and watchable film, even with the total lack of characters. The issue is that it touches excellence so often that it can’t help but call even more unwanted attention to that “no characters” issue, not helped by the fact that only Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe & Sally Hawkins seem to be putting in any effort (with Watanabe’s facial expressions and general mood leaving hints of a far better lead character story, that for some reason the film chose to ignore in favour of Lieutenant Beef McFaceSlab), and that issue is retroactively spoiling the film for me. Hell, it may even happen to you, too!
Godzilla, then, is ultimately one of those movies that comes at you with a tonne of potential and fulfills maybe half of it. When it does deliver on that potential, it is sensational, but it also makes those times when it doesn’t sting even more and ultimately makes the film a disappointment. A great time, but a disappointment all the same.
Callum Petch wades through the buildings towards the centre of town. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
In a look ahead to his most anticipated film of 2014, Failed Critics’ in-house Kaiju aficionado Matt Lambourne talks through the Godzilla mythology and why you should be getting excited about one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters!
Back at the Failed Critics end of year podcast, we all made our case for the film we were all most looking forward to in 2014. My fellow critics chose shrewdly, perhaps projecting their my refined cinematic tastes to better educate our listenership. I however prefer to stick with dead-certs. I take comfort in knowing precisely what gets my blood-pumping, what really unleashes my inner-child as only a good movie experience can stimulate (see my 2012 film of the year review for Dredd, as an example).
Since I first heard Hollywood was taking another stab at Godzilla, I’ve been apprehensive. It’s not a source material particularly known for its calibre of strong acting, emotive storytelling or character building. Our editor-in-chief at Failed Critics, Mr James Diamond made an excellent point during our most recent podcast, that Hollywood has not always treated comic book material with the respect it deserves, however the Superhero movies of the last 10 years have been made by people who grew up reading and idolising the source material and the results really show.
Godzilla I truly hope will be the same. When Roland Emmerich completed work on the 1998 Hollywood incarnation of Godzilla, I met it with optimism initially. As I cast my mind back as an excited teenager at the time, it featured a fairly mouth-watering sneak-preview a good 12 months before it was even released (click here). Unfortunately the movie was everything wrong with American remakes and the Godzilla mythology was utterly disregarded by Emmerich, save for retaining the original Godzilla roar being the only homage paid to the Toho original.
It’s fair to the say, the world hasn’t been crying out for a sequel to the 1998 abomination. Toho, the owners of the Godzilla trademark were so intent on removing the US version from the record books that they reinvented the US monster as a different character entirely, known as Zilla in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars. The pain lasts long in the memory for fans of the Japanese work and so we can be forgiven for being tentative about committing to the new American vision for Godzilla.
That said, much like the recent return of great comic-book movies, 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, a man who respects and cherishes the mythology. The film is getting a Godzilla geek but with a Hollywood budget to hopefully create something very special and I for one am very excited.
So who is Gareth Edwards?
You’re forgiven for not knowing much about him, this is his 1st major film. His most prominent work is 2010’s ‘Monster‘, which did not exactly set any box office records alight, yet he achieved a very interesting premise with almost no budget and certainly caught the attention of some of Hollywood’s moneymen. Edwards is a self-confessed Godzilla nerd, who much like myself got his first experience of Godzilla watching Channel 4 late night specials, akin to the sort of thing we’d get on Film4 today.
It’s fair to say that Edwards understands what the the central motivation for Godzilla really is… not the silly WWE style tag-team wrestling matches against other monsters as the series slowly dilapidated into, but more the fear of nature at its most savage and how catastrophe will ensue when men dabble in powers they cannot possibly hope to control.
This should mean that Edwards’ Godzilla is more akin to the 1954 original.. a murky and pessimistic view of a society still reeling from the affects of the Atomic Bomb and ever paranoid that it may happen again. My hopes were substantially raised when I saw the initial (supposedly leaked) preview trailer, featuring Robert Oppenheimer quoting an exert from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. That was all the reassurance I needed to know this film will deliver on a massive scale!
So why get excited?
You should get excited because this will not be like the 1st American effort, or even the majority of the cheesey Japanese ones. This is the spiritual successor to the 1954 original. If you’re not familiar with that movie it is a fine exercise of praying on the insecurities of its viewership, much like the original Alien perhaps was, however you’re substituting Nuclear Holocaust for Phallic shaped violation, but whatevs.
This isn’t a monster versus monster movie, it’s not going to be kidnapping any good looking women and holding them hostage and certainly isn’t going to get Jamiroquai another gig. This film will be a dark disaster movie, kind of like if Armageddon was directed by Game of Thrones’ George.R.R Martin. There will be few lights at the end of even fewer tunnels, people will experience pain and suffering and it will be all in the name of humbling the human-race into its rightful place of being a slave to mother-nature and that we should not fuck with it.
The good news is, that to depict the human element, Edwards has recruited some top talent that are actually worth watching (no Ferris Bueller). The casting of Ken Watanabe (The Last Samuari / Inception) straight of out the Japanese Premier League of casting is a massive seal of approval for that market. Along with the ever lovely Juliette Binoche (Chocolat) and Kick-Ass‘s Aaron Taylor-Johnson we can hope that the dialogue will be snappy and engaging. Then comes the leading male role, as served by the ever popular Bryan Cranston, whom Edwards has gone on record as stating he never saw him in Breaking Bad before casting him! If that is true then respect must go to Edwards for not surfing on the proverbial public wave of love currently being shown for one of TV’s greatest ever series, and signing him up purely on artistic merit.
Hopefully, that has you chomping at the bit as much as I am. Living on a cinematic void like the Isle of Man, I am flying to Liverpool on release weekend to enjoy my not-so guilty pleasure in the glory of IMAX. If you need to research or simply get warmed up, I have a top 5 Godzilla movies for you to enjoy in anticipation of the May release, just over 6 weeks away!
One of the highlights of the Heisei resurrection of Godzilla movies, G v KG is one of my favourite of the Monster battle royale type movies and is packed full of great action. It’s unique in that it was distributed by Manga Entertainment for its home release, who are better known for their Anime work and thus introduced Godzilla to a new generation in the 90’s. The film also has one of the more sophisticated science fiction plots of any Godzilla movie, featuring a genesis story that stays true to the original 50’s Gojira, whilst binding it to a complex but sensical time-travel story.
The time travelling, meant to rid the world of the birth of Godzilla (via Nuclear testing), actually duplicates him and also births King Ghidorah, arguably Godzilla’s greatest rival in all of the mythology. It also produces one of my all time favourite ‘bad quotes’ from a scene featuring non-other than Steven Spielberg’s dad!
A member of the original Toho series of movies, Destroy All Monsters should be appropriated renamed ‘Kaiju All-stars’ as it’s a wonderful coming together of all the monsters in the Godzilla mythology up until that point and was originally intended as the final ever Godzilla movie.
The film predominantly takes place on Monster Island (Jurassic Park for Kaiju, basically). It features undertones of intelligent thinking, friendships and allegiances between the Monsters and a prevalent good versus evil plot that makes this a great gateway movie into the Godzilla universe, especially for children who will appreciate the variety of Kaiju on show.
The film’s highest is a massive 7 Monster tag-team (who side with Godzilla) attacking the massive 3-headed Space Kaiji, Ghidorah in what is a series highlight reel, with the various monsters showing off their individual abilities to defeat their adversary. Definitely one of the geek’s favourite fight scenes in any Godzilla film.
3. Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla 85) (1984)
Following a decade-long hiatus, this is the first Godzilla movie of the Heisei rebirth (also known as the Versus series). It’s a retelling of the original mythology as this is a direct sequel to the original Gojira that conveniently forgets the other 15 or so or movies that took place during the original Toho series.
It’s one of my favourites as it features my preferred incarnation of the Monster itself (also seen in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah), as after many years of being portrayed as a human-friendly super hero of sorts, Godzilla returns to being the villain. Yes, he pretty much turns up, destroys shit and threatens world peace. This provides an interesting sub-plot, as Japan unleashes a new flying weapon known as the Super-X to disperse the monster, whilst the Russians panic into launching a nuclear missile him! Interestingly enough in the US re-edit the Missile appears to be deliberately aimed at Tokyo instead! Nice bit of Cold-War politics playing havoc with the edit there.
This film features the most aggressive and perhaps most scary version of the monster in all of the films to date and whilst not as charmingly campy as some of the older movies, it has some satisfying action sequences and improved effects over its predecessors make it a real landmark film in the mythology.
The last of the Heisei series and being that it was Toho’s 40th anniversary special, they just decided to knock it on the head. Yep, Godzilla… the indestructible force of nature, dies in the movie. Obviously, we know he returns in Godzilla 2000 so don’t get too upset, although I will admit to shedding a tear or two in the climatic sequence to the film *sob!*.
The film is the most sentimental of any of the series that come before it, featuring Godzilla and Godzilla Jr fighting a monster that was spawned from the man-made Oxygen Destroyer that took down the original Monster in Gojira. To make it easy for the kids of today to understand, the Monster Destroyah is a little ‘OP’… basically kicking the ass of Godzilla and son for the duration of the movie, whilst Godzilla Sr’s body is in meltdown due to his atomic heart giving out on him.
We basically witness the slow dismemberment of Godzilla prior to the army, who by the way have had zero ability to harm any Monster in about 30 films, manage to take out the Monster that’s just killed Godzilla. *say what?!?*. Anyways, the action in this film is quite brutal and witnessing the death of Godzilla will be a very hard image for any fan to take. That said, the film ends beautifully with the death of Godzilla and his energy transferring over to the dying little Godzilla Jr, who then becomes empowered and sets things up convenient for the Millennium Series, starting with Godzilla 2000.
Put yourself into your most comfortable chair, darken the lights, get some snacks as we’re going to be here for a while. Gojira comes less than 10 years after the original Atomic Bomb attack on Hiroshima and really prays on the insecurities of a paranoid and fearful nation. If you put yourself back a few years and remember the reaction to films about the 9/11 attacks and the reaction they drew (even if they were terrible), then imagine how it must have felt to have lived in the generation that survived two nuclear attacks and then see Gojira? I can only imagine it was pretty terrifying.
Gojira, unlike its successors, isn’t a B-Movie, it’s a real catastrophe movie. There are no other monsters involved and the film takes a very serious tone, unlike anything that came after it. Gojira itself is a symbol of Atomic annihilation, created by minds who experienced the real-deal in the 40’s. Being a 2nd World War buff, I have a lot of respect for this movie and understand why it’s held in such high regard as a cinematic classic. Really it should be reviewed entirely separately from all other Godzilla movies as its intended purpose is much different.
So, in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, Gojira is the Japanese name for Godzilla, loosely translated as Gorilla-Whale, although fans of the series would almost universally agree his closest comparative species are that of a T-Rex and Stegosaurus. The monster is of course a man in a rubber suit, which sounds like a barrel of laughs but it was no such thing for Katsumi Tezuka & Haruo Nakajima (Seven Samurai) who shared responsibilities for portraying the Monster. The suit was notoriously uncomfortable for its incumbent through its weight, thickness and lack of agile movement, not to mention the operator couldn’t see!
The suit operator regularly fell ill to heat exhaustion and they would often lose tremendous amounts of weight during the filming of the initial Toho series, talk about suffering for your art! But back to the film, the atmosphere really makes it a convincing plight for the residents of Tokyo, it’s grim and foreboding and only enhanced by its lack of colour… even the Monster is scary! Overall, the movie is very tense and for such an old film it puts together a remarkable Science-Fiction plot and ties together the genesis of Godzilla very well, something I fully expect Gareth Edwards’ film to pick up and run with.
The film’s climatic scenes are full of inner-turmoil, whereby a professor creates a weapon powerful enough to kill Godzilla. However the weapon threatens the existence of life on Earth at the same time creating a perfect analogy to the nuclear disaster that Japan had only recently experienced. Initially the professor is reluctant to release the Oxygen Destroyer but, as with Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb, he is forced to relinquish it for ‘the greater good’. An uncomfortable premise for anyone’s disposition.
I’d recommend picking up the subtitled Japanese version as the US re-edit is very much tampered for US audiences, featuring actor Raymond Burr (yes, Perry Mason) narrating over almost the entire movie, an early attempt at audio description if you will. Gojira is the most standout film of all the series and if you have to watch only one Godzilla film before Godzilla 2014, I recommend you enjoy this. It’s an important piece of cinematic culture and will even sit unashamedly in your World Cinema collection.