If you kind of like Godzilla and haven’t seen the trailer for next year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s right up there. I think I’ve watched it fifteen or twenty times by now, to the point where I can easily tell you that the exposition voice over is unnecessary and kind of annoying. Look, just skip to 1:10 in the trailer for all the good stuff. The first time I saw the part at 1:23, where Mothra spreads her wings, brought out that same inner child feeling that I got when I saw the Millennium Falcon at the end of the The Force Awakens trailer. Needless to say, I’m kind of binging on Godzilla right now, to the point where I’m watching bits of him here and there when I can.
I finally got around to watching Shin Godzilla the other week. I remember being so excited to hear that it was coming out to theaters, since the last time I saw the big man on the screen was over a decade ago when Godzilla 2000 came to theaters here in the states. Unfortunately, Shin Godzilla was only out for like a week or so and life got in the way, so I ended up missing it. I’ve been putting off getting it on Blu-Ray, because I’ve been waiting for the price to drop, but it just did not happen. The only reason I got it now was just because I couldn’t wait any longer. So I watched it, and I enjoyed it, but uh, I can’t say that it’s my favorite. I don’t even think it’ll grace the top five.
Don’t get me wrong. It has a lot going for it. Godzilla himself was downright scary in this movie (as scary as a kaiju monster can be, that is). In a lot of depictions, he’s nearly invulnerable to human weapons, and that’s by design. Ishiro Honda was quoted as saying
- If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.
Visually though? That’s where the gold is. He’s got these gnarly, jacked up teeth that sometimes kind of gives him a serial killer grin. His skin is all black and rough textured, making him look legitimately diseased. Just the thought of what it might feel like if it was real and what it might do if I touched it makes my skin crawl. The best part though? The best part are his google eyes. They may seem dumb, but they work. They make Godzilla look like a unthinking, soulless, hollow shell of a monster. Does that make him more evil because it shows he just doesn’t give a damn? Or does that make him more sympathetic because maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing is wrong? That’s kind of up to viewer interpretation I guess.
On the flip side though, while Godzilla does absolutely wreck everything, he doesn’t actually do it by doing much. He kind of just stands there, firing off beam weapons. While it makes for a good spectacle, it’s not as fun as watching some old fashioned Kaiju destruction. It kind of makes the beam battles of the Heisei series seem conservative and restrained. Additionally, I’m kind of disappointed that Toho went with a CGI Godzilla this time, instead of using the wonderful suitmation they always used in the past. It turns out that this movie is going to be a one off though, and after Legendary is done with Godzilla, Toho is gonna start a new series. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll go back to suitmation when that happens.
The storyline itself was pretty decent as well. While there’s a few messages that can be pulled from it, the message that resonated with me was the ideals of egalitarianism and personal responsibility versus a rigid social structure and how the fear of making mistakes can prevent people from acting prudently and decisively. One of the best scenes in the movie is when the military is first attempting to engage Godzilla with helicopters and the pilots have to request permission to fire, a permission that’s repeated up the chain of command four or five times, only to be halted because there’s two civilians crossing railroad tracks in the vicinity. It was equal parts funny and frustrating to watch and I think that’s what the writers were going for. For everything that is covered in the film, from politics to international relations, reality is much more nuanced. The film feels almost satirical in its approach, which in a way, adds to the charm.
One of the things I liked most about this movie, which I also liked about Gojira ‘54 (and also Yongary) was all the scenes of people sitting around discussing what to do policy wise or how to figure out how Godzilla ticks and the best way to get rid of him. Some people may think that’s boring cinema, but to me, it makes for a more realistic movie because that’s exactly what we’d be doing in real life. Without them, the idea of a giant monster loses all seriousness and that’s what makes a lot of Kaiju movies in general lean a bit more on the campy side.
That said, there were a lot of characters in this movie, and half the time I was struggling to read both the subtitles of what the characters were saying as well as the titles depicting who people were or where everyone currently was. I honestly think they could have trimmed the characters down to about a quarter and the movie would have lost nothing.
While I don’t think it’s in my top five Godzilla movies, over all, it’s a lot of fun and if someone confesses to me they like the franchise but hasn’t seen it yet, I’d encourage them to watch it.
Godzilla: The Series
Recently Dala and I found ourselves somewhere that had those bargain movie bins. In it was a DVD with the first 10 episodes of the series for $2. That’s probably the easiest, no-brainer purchase I’ll make all year. You can’t even park downtown for an hour for that cheap.
This cartoon series is loosely based on the ‘98 Tri-Star Godzilla movie. I say loosely, because legend has it that the people creating the cartoon series didn’t get a lot of information about the movie. Being fans of Godzilla though, the creators did the best they could to stick to the spirit of the franchise. As a result, in the cartoon you get Godzilla shooting fire the old school way, standing more upright, and getting into battles with massive monsters.
Random aside, the ‘98 Tri-Star Godzilla movie isn’t a bad monster movie. Its fun in its own way. It’s just not a good Godzilla movie because, well, that’s not really Godzilla on the screen, is it? If I’m mad at Tri-Star, it’s less because of this movie being called “Godzilla” and more because the localized Heisei movies I have on DVD by them are English dub only, with no option for Japanese audio and English subtitles. That’s not a very nice thing to do to people, you guys.
But I digress . . .
On the back of the DVD case is a quote from David Johnson of DVD Verdict saying
- . . . the show moves at a fast clip and the animation is solid.
I can agree that the show moves at a fast clip. What’s really interesting is that, seeing as how a lot of cartoons I watch today are either ten minutes in length or two stories told in a twenty minute time slot, watching a whole twenty minute story seems to take longer now than it did when I was younger. Which is totally fine, by the way. If you can’t tell, I love me some Godzilla, so the more I can get, the better. That said, the stories are brisk, easy to follow, and action filled, which is exactly what you’d want for a cartoon aimed at a bunch of kids. The monsters are diverse, creative, colorful, and above all awesome. The fights are fun to watch. All in all, it’s not a bad show.
But wouldn’t I call the animation “solid.” No. It legit runs at probably fifteen frames a second, if that. It feels like the people animating this show realize that showing someone walking or picking something up using ten frames is just too much effort, so they’ll do it in three. When a missile is launched at Godzilla, it takes about three or four frames to reach him. Not because the missile is that fast, but because the animation is that lazy. Or I have a seriously and bizarrely defective DVD.
But! Like men dressing up in rubber suits to beat the crap out of each other in a sci-fi hybrid of pro wrestling and interpretive dance, the crumby animation kind of adds to the charm. What can I say? The DVD cost two bucks, I’m watching the show while doing chores, I got a good deal.
An Aside About Gojira ‘54
If there’s one Godzilla movie I always recommend people to watch, it’s this one. While much of the franchise is about embracing fun and adventure, this is a serious movie and if watched seriously, it’s seriously good.