Tuesday, February 19, 2013

#Godzillla 2013 Entry #3 - GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN

Directed by: Motoyoshi Oda
Written by: Shigeaki Hidaka, Takeo Murata and Shigeru Kayama (author of Gojira)
Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki and Takashi Shimura
Synopsis: Godzilla comes back to Japan but this time, he fights another radioactive dinosaur. Hilarity ensues.

Thanks for checking out my thuird #Godzilla2013 entry. Before I begin, I need to give up mad props to one of main Internet homeys, Nik Sardos. Not only is he a dashing i09 featured artist, but he was kind enough to send me the copies of his Godzilla movie collection, so I didn't have to spend time tracking them down, and now I can see the original Japanese versions of the movies. You can follow him over at @t16skyhopp and @niks_animation on the Twittersphere. With thanks out of the way, here's my review of 1955's GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (Gojira no gyakushĂ»).

Sequels are a very tricky thing. Most of the time, the movies they follow are not intended to have a sequel, but they do anyway. Or they were planned out, and they don't end up being as great as the original ones. On the rare occasion (EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, GODFATHER 2) you will have a sequel that will improve upon the original. Well, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN is a little bit of both. 

I have to admit that I'm not sure what the cultural context of the movie is, and it really does feel like it was a cash-in for the unexpected success of GOJIRA. The story is simple in that it deals with the return of Godzilla. This time around he's fighting a mutated "Ankylosaur" called Angilas/Anguirus depending on who you ask. So of course, we get to see the story through the eyes of two pilots who work for a tuna canning company.

I do want to give major kudos to the screenwriters for keeping a level of continuity that feels unprecedented, even today's "world building" Marvel movies. To begin, when the nameless scientists gather to figure out how to destroy Godzilla, they actually explicitly reference Serizawa. He was the scientist that invented the Oxygen Destroyer weapon that killed the original Godzilla. We come to find out that he has passed away by this point, and just like in the previous movie, he had burned all of the notes on how to make the weapon. Not only that, but they mention some of the techniques that were used in the first film that didn't quite work, such as trying to electrocute him with wires and that leads to the major plot point of using lights to draw away Godzilla from Osaka.  

This Godzilla is not the one we saw in GOJIRA. From the very last line of the original, we are told that as long as nuclear testing occurs, another Godzilla will occur. Well, it turns out that humans are really stupid in this fiction because this Godzilla is another very similar creature. I would have really liked to have seen a little bit more of a background for this particular Godzilla, considering that this is the creature we will follow for the next few movies in this series of the movies. The first time that you see him onscreen, he's fighting Anguilas, and that's about it.

On a more visual level, the Godzilla suit looked a hell of a lot of better. There was some very goofy "choreography" going on during the kaiju fights, but I think that just going off the fact that we got to see a lot more of Godzilla himself was an accomplishment considering that movie came out only one year later. Angilas was also very well done in terms of the suit. I mean, I must've hurt the actor to be on all fours all day long, but the it was a good looking monster. There was also a certain brutality to the kaiju fight scenes that I really appreciated.

To be perfectly honest, the human's story wasn't all of that compelling. I'm pretty sure I'll be reminded a lot
of the disastrous TRANSFORMERS trilogy where director Michael Bay chose to focus on an annoying POS rather than the titular robots. Whereas in GOJIRA, I felt that both story felt a little more intertwined throughout the movie, but here, in GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, the human's story doesn't feel that important in relation to what's going on with Godzilla. They sort of just seem to mention Godzilla a little bit, and then go on with their days. For example, when Godzilla destroys one of the tuna canning plants, some minor characters just get transferred to a different canning plant in Japan like it's not a big deal, and life goes back to normal for most of these characters.

I think what kept me from truly loving this movie is the lack of depth. It was just a standard monster movie without the great allegory. The movie was a relatively rushed sequel, so that might have something to do with my issue with the movie's tone. I know that a while ago I thought of how, tonally-speaking, most slasher movie franchises change and shift from what made the original so great. I think that this is what will happen with Godzilla, and RAIDS AGAIN is only the beginning. Maybe my expectations needs to be lowered from now. I guess we'll have to see.

That's it for me this week, if you want to read my progress on this project so far, you can check out the rest of the #Godzilla2013 movies here.

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