Yeah, it’s for perhaps the lamest kaiju character in the whole series, but it had to be done.
Yeah, it’s for perhaps the lamest kaiju character in the whole series, but it had to be done.
Being the huge Godzilla fan that I am, I of course had to check out Netflix’s Godzilla: Monster Planet anime, supposedly the first in a trilogy. And…yeah, I didn’t care for it.
The story is that humanity has been driven off the planet by Godzilla and the other monsters, but have failed to find a suitable alternative world, despite the help of two alien races (who are basically the Xillians and the Black Hole aliens from the original series: a cool touch). After searching for twenty years, with their resources depleting rapidly, they decide to return to Earth – which due to relativity has been abandoned for 20,000 years, to see whether they can return.
It’s a pretty cool set-up: a ‘what if?’ scenario for the world of Godzilla that posits a not-unthinkable consequence of the established elements. But there are problems. Big problems.
In the first place, the animation is not very good. Oh, there’s a lot of detail, the characters look nice, and the designs are very good, but it’s too dark. Almost all the scenes are in heavy shadow or fog, so that not only is it hard to see what’s going on, but keeping track of the characters or even telling one from another is next to impossible. Plus the characters all move in a stiff, stop-motiony kind of way, as if they were semi-articular action figures.
There are plot holes too. The idea of Godzilla driving humanity off the planet isn’t a bad one, but it kind of requires some explanation: dangerous as he is, Godzilla can only be in one place at a time. So, why is it whenever humanity has anything important to do, they seem to be doing it right next to him? When they arrive back on Earth, a probe quickly tells them where Godzilla is. So why would they land in the same location? Even if their plan is to confront and kill him, wouldn’t it make more sense to set up somewhere it would take him a few days to get to, so they could be well prepared? I mean, they have the entire planet to choose from here.
And it’s slow-moving. And there’s a lot of repetition in the script: explaining the same things over and over. And things that don’t make sense or are established, but don’t pay off (for instance, it’s explained that a certain plant is as sharp as steel and can puncture a spacesuit. This never comes into play again).
But the biggest problem is Godzilla himself. Hoo, boy, let’s try to explain this:
In the first place, they changed his backstory and basically the entire concept of what he is. That’s not too bad in itself; this isn’t Godzilla the character, but kind of a variation on the idea of Godzilla. I can go along with that, even if I prefer the original. The trouble is, again, the animation. Oh, my goodness, what were they thinking?!
If the human characters look like semi-articular action figures, Godzilla looks like a non-articulate figure. As in, he doesn’t move. At all. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. He’s incredibly stiff and moves extremely slowly, so that half the time it looks like they just have a still image of him that they’re shifting about the screen. I cannot tell you what a disappointment this is.
It seems to me the whole point of doing an animated version of Godzilla is to make him more alive, more natural, more energized; to free the artists to show the full extent of his power and ferocity. Why turn him into basically a statue that occasionally shoots off an atomic ray? Heck, Talos from Jason and the Argonauts – an actual metal statue – was more mobile and seemed more alive than this!
That’s the problem: he doesn’t seem alive. In the live action films, whatever else he is, Godzilla always seems alive, because for the most part, he is. That’s the glory of suitimation; the character is really on screen and really moving the way a living thing should. Even at his stiffest, even when the effects were at their worst, Godzilla always at least felt alive (though I haven’t seen Shin Godzilla yet). Heck, even when he was literally a demonic zombie, he still moved more and had more character than this!
It’s awful, that’s all I can say; the way they portray Godzilla here is awful.
It’s not a waste of time, and I am glad I saw it. The action is kind of cool, the ideas are somewhat interesting, and there are some nice scenes. I especially like when they first arrive back over the Earth and everyone rushes to the windows to exclaim over the sight, especially the people who had been born in space who are seeing the planet for the first time. Then there’s a very interesting and kind of touching conceit involving the ruins of cities.
I suspect I’ll watch the next two films when they come out, since I am interested to see where they go from here. But I’ll go in with lowered expectations: I’m much more looking forward to the second Legendary Godzilla film.
For those just joining us, one of my hobbies is video editing, and for several years I’ve been slowly making a series of music video tributes to each of the Godzilla and Gamera kaiju. Just finished and uploaded my latest, for Barugon: Gamera’s first foe
I’ve just learned that Haruo Nakajima, the stuntman and actor who originated the role of Godzilla himself, has passed away at the age of 88 of pneumonia. Now all the major players of that greatest of monster films are gone, with the sole exception of Akira Takarada.
Mr. Nakajima was a stuntman and bit player at Toho studios (he played one of the bandits in Seven Samurai) when he was picked to play the monster in Tomoyuki Tanaka’s massive gamble Godzilla. Since they pretty much had to invent the different special effects techniques as they were making the film, the suit they designed was notoriously difficult to work with. Mr. Nakajima suffered terribly for the role, enduring temperatures up to 140 degrees and often leaving a whole cup of sweat behind him. The suit weighed over 200 pounds and included numerous bits of machinery to operate the mouth and tail. Though a trained athlete and a powerful man, Mr. Nakajima fainted more than once during the shoot.
Yet he returned for twelve films, finally retiring from the role after Godzilla vs. Gigan. In the process, he helped give Godzilla the distinctive personality that made him such a memorable figure on screen. Mr. Nakajima was known as a very good humored, playful man, and that side of him sometimes came across through the mountains of coarse latex. Those who remember Godzilla clapping his hands in mockery of King Kong, or leaping with excitement after sending King Ghidorah packing will see Mr. Nakajima’s personality shining through. At the same time, he could lend remarkable dignity and poignancy to Godzilla’s movements, as seen in the underwater confrontation at the end of the first film, or his interactions with Minya in Son of Godzilla.
Few may know his face or name, but Mr. Nakajima helped create one of the great figures of cinema, and for that he will always be remembered.
Rest in peace, sir, and many thanks.
Dipping my toes in the semi-embarrassing, but oh-so-fun world of fan fiction. I believe the below image speaks for itself.
Here’s a sample. Read Part One here (Part Two will be up in a few days):
“So, that’s all I know,” said Twilight as the six friends finished up their cider. “And I couldn’t find one word about any of this in any of my books.”
“I gotta say, Twilight, that’s weird; even for us,” said Applejack. “And you have no idea who this here ‘King of Terror’ is?”
“None whatsoever,” sighed Twilight. “I even asked Sunset, but she doesn’t know anything about it either, so it’s not from her world.”
“And we’ve been combing the library all morning looking for anything that might even remotely be related, and came up with nadda,” Spike said.
“Hm,” said Rarity. “I suppose if it comes from another world, there wouldn’t be anything, would there?”
“But then how are we supposed to prepare for it?” said Twilight. “What was the point of warning us?”
“Apparently, not so that you could read up on it,” said Rainbow Dash.
“Yeah!” put in Pinkie. “If that was it, I’m sure the Shubba-Wubbas would have told you what book to read.”
Twilight elected not to address Pinkie’s pronunciation of ‘Shobijin.'”
“Okay,” she said. “But how will we know how to fight the King of Terror? Or even who he is, or when he’s started his attack?”
“Uh,” said Spike, looking out the window. “I’m pretty sure we’ll know.”
He pointed. The ponies all looked and gasped. A huge shape was approaching at high speeds, beating the air with enormous wings.
“Dragon!” Rainbow Dash shouted. Fluttershy shrieked and dived under the table. Twilight telekinetically pulled her out and the six ran to meet the oncoming monstrosity.
“You think that’s the King of Terror?” asked Applejack.
“It’s certainly scary enough,” said Pinkie.
“But it’s just a dragon,” said Rainbow Dash. “You’d think something from another world would be, you know, different. I mean, we have dragons; there’s nothing special about them.”
“Yes, there is!” said Fluttershy, still trying to escape Twilight’s magic. “They’re terrifying!”
The monster dragon soared lower and lower, making for an empty field about a mile or so outside of Ponyville. The six raced to intercept him. Then Spike realized something.
“Hold on,” he said. “That’s Torch!”
“Who?” asked Rainbow.
“The former dragon lord,” said Spike. “What’s he doing here?”
“So…not the King of Terror?”
“No way,” Spike answered. “Just an ordinary, home grown…giant dragon.”
Fluttershy squeaked in terror.
“Don’t worry, Fluttershy,” said Spike. “He’s…well, he’s not nice, but he’s all right as dragons go.”
“Besides, he’s Princess Ember’s father. You like Ember, right?” said Twilight.
“Yes, Ember’s nice,” said Fluttershy, who seemed comforted enough to at least stop trying to fly away. “I hope her dad isn’t angry about anything.”
The six ponies and Spike galloped into the field before the enormous dragon. Torch was almost as large as Twilight’s whole castle, and he looked exhausted. Not only that, but he was bruised and bleeding from numerous fresh-looking injuries, and his armor was rent and dented in places. His daughter, Princess Ember the Dragon Lord, was riding on the top of his head. The blue-and-gold dragon was considerably smaller than her father; not a whole lot bigger than Twilight, in fact. She soared down to meet them, looking just as haggard at her father, though she was free from injuries. The Bloodstone Scepter that marked her status was still in her hand.
“Spike,” she said. “Princess Twilight. We need help.”
“What is it?” asked Twilight. “What happened?”
“We’ve been overthrown,” Torch growled.
“You remember Garble?” said Ember. “Well, he’s back. And he’s…different. Bigger; a lot bigger. And much more powerful! He must have gotten his hands on some kind of magic or something; I’ve never seen anything like it! He just suddenly attacked this morning and overwhelmed us.”
“I don’t understand,” said Spike. “Shouldn’t the Bloodstone Scepter make it so that he can’t do anything against your orders?”
“Yeah, it should,” said Ember. “But it didn’t do anything! He didn’t even flinch when I ordered him to stand down. He just flew right up and attacked my father and…well…”
“‘E threw me about like I was a tiny manticore!” Torch admitted. “Absolutely destroyed me. Never had anything like that happen in a hundred years!”
“I ordered every dragon in the area to help, but all it did was slow him down a bit,” Ember went on. “Finally we just flew for it, leaving him in control of the dragon lands. We came here hoping you could help us.”
“Of course!” said Spike. “We’ll do everything we can!”
He turned to Twilight.
“Uh, which is…what?”
Twilight tapped her chin, thinking. This had to have something to do with the King of Terror…but that couldn’t mean Garble; she’d met Garble before, and he wasn’t from any other world.
“First of all, we should discuss this with Princess Celestia. If Garble’s taken over the Dragon Lands, he’ll be heading for Equestria next. Come on, Ember; there’s something I need to tell you about on the way…”
My latest piece is up at The Federalist, using King Kong and Godzilla to describe the human condition. Because I do that sort of thing.
I say an anti-war message doesn’t suit Kong because, especially as depicted in this film, Kong is a warrior, and really doesn’t have the option to not fight. His presence is the only thing that allows the island’s natives to live in a cartoony utopia (that, for some reason, doesn’t include smiling) and possibly prevents the rest of the world from being threatened. Godzilla was in much the same position in the previous film, as the only thing standing between humanity and destruction by the electricity-draining MUTOs.
In either case, the image is of a world that is only allowed to continue in whatever state of peace or safety it has because there’s a ferocious warrior standing guard, ready to push back the things that threaten to destroy it. “Godzilla” made this link explicit by casting soldiers as its human leads (in fact, “Godzilla “was the closest thing to a pro-war, or at least pro-warrior, movie I’ve seen in a long time), while “Kong” has its chief human warrior character as an Ahab-like antagonist.
The good news is that “Kong” has more than enough sheer creativity and enthusiasm for the material that makes it worth sitting through tired anti-Vietnam agitprop. Also, the medium undermines the would-be message. The very nature of a kaiju film like this forbids any kind of triumphant humanism. In a world where monsters the size of buildings stand guard against creatures that can shut down a city with a single move, there really is no room to hope that mankind has the wherewithal to end the perennial ills of the human condition.
A respectful, interesting, and long-overdue interview with the man who was Godzilla.
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