Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#Godzilla2013 Entry #12: GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Gojira tai Hedorâ, 1971)
Directed by: Yoshimitsu Banno,
Written by: Yoshimitsu Banno, Takesi Kimura
Starring: Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, HIroyuki Kawase, Haruo Nakajima, Yasuzô Ogawa, Toshio Shiba, Keiko Mari
Synopsis: When an outer space creature, Hedorah, begins to mutate thanks to the pollution in Japan, it's up to Godzilla to destroy him.

Now THIS is an amazing movie. GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (its actual English title is GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER) is up there with some as one of my favorites of the series so far. Not only is the psychedelic aesthetic so much fun, but for the first time since King Ghidorah, Godzilla has an insanely powerful adversary in Hedorah to the point where I was actually fearful for the big guy's safety and well-being. At the beginning, there was a bit of a fear that the movie would take a similarly kid-friendly tone as GODZILLA'S REVENGE, since the first part of the movie is all about a small kid character, Ken. Just like last movie's Ichiro, Ken is a big fan of Godzilla, but not in a weird meta sort of way, but like he is a kid that knows that Godzilla has been a destructive force in his world but still sees him as a real hero.
In terms of chronology, this film appears to take place during the same time period of which it was shot, while the last "real" Godzilla movie, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS took place during the end of the 20th century with the futurist technology and the inclusion of Monster Island. None of this is mentioned and given that there's a very.....LSD-soaked vibe of the whole movie, it can only be assumed it indeed takes place in the late 60's/ early 70's.

Calling back to the environmental tone of the original, this is definitely a cautionary tale. This time it's not nuclear bombs directly messing things up for the humans, but rather pollution. During the opening monologue, there is an explicit monolouge stating that the waste of nuclear and hydrogen bomb testing and all of the everyday pollution helped create Hedorah.

Now, Hedorah is an interesting monster in just the sheer amount of factors that went on creating him in his final form. In a weird way, he's a proto-Pokemon with four stages of evolution. First, he is constantly evolving through osmosis. The first time that we see him, he's just a little tadpole guy from outer space. But as we later find out, given to his creation through pollution and being originally a water-based creature, he becomes a gigantic tadpole. Then, he goes into a land-based form, which at this point in the movie, he uses to soak up the pollution from smoke stacks. The third form is the one that you see Hedorah in the most, and that's his weird aerial form, which is admittedly his most deadly form where you hear more about the people that he has killed.

Having taken in all of the smoke and pollution from the stacks, Hedorah can propel himself through the land, but while doing so, he excretes this toxic air that corrodes metals and basically disintegrates people. It's during this time of the movie that we see some of the most violent imagery in the series so far with people melting away into skeleton after even just being around Hedorah. What's insane is that according to the movie, his casualty rate is upwards of 2,000 people, which we've never seen an actual death toll in other films. He finally transforms into a horizontal amalgamation of the last two versions of himself, which is the version that Godzilla ends up battling the most. In this version, he actually ends up gaining the power of Crazy Red Lasers that burn up Godzilla pretty badly.

Speaking of Godzilla, he seems to have now transitioned into the full-on heroic radioactive lizard mode.  Ken kept on cheering him on, and the military actually ended up aiding him and vice-versa in order to defeat Hedorah. This was a deadly opponent for the big guy. Now that Hedorah has full blown pollution powers, he consistently makes use of his acid to burn Godzilla to the point of taking out one of his eyes for the majority of the movie. The fact that Hedorah is from "outer space" and thus his molecular structure is different from anything on earth, renders him basically invisible to the signature attack atomic breath attack of our hero. By the end of the movie, Godzilla has come away with a hand that's basically been burnt off and is missing an eye. Another first for the series is the inclusion of severe injuries. Whether the injuries will show up in the next movie remains to be seen.

There's also a lot of crazy, trippy imagery in this movie as well. Hell, the intro starts out with a rather Bond-like with a very cool lady singing a song against a lava lamp background. There's some very weird touches that are put throughout the movie. To begin, in first parts of the film, there are animated interludes, such as the one you see above, that come out of nowhere and have never been part of the overall Godzilla series. I enjoyed the hell out of them, but I wish that they had been shown throughout the whole movie.

The whole vibe and palette of the movie is full of weird colors. There's a point where they show you the molecular structure of Hedorah, and it looks insane. Apart from the aforementioned intro, there's also a couple of other instances of psychedelic rock. One with a concert that had weird skeletons and a pretty cool guitar solo. The other example was an instance of what was basically a suicide group that has given up hope on the military or Godzilla would be able to save them, so they say, "Screw it!" and have a crazy field party that just happened to include a full electric guitar set up and drums in the middle of a field.....and then true to form, they all end up dying thanks to Hedorah. Speaking of dying, you will almost cringe at the way that "spoiler alert" Godzilla kills Hedorah. I'll let you guys watch it, and if you want to talk to me about it in the comments section.

The humans of the story are largely inconsequential, leaving us only with a handful of characters to follow. Dr. Tori Yano is the "main" character in that he is the one person that is constantly discovering new things about Hedorah and eventually create the electrode machine that will help defeat Hedorah. Apart from that, there's Ken who was already mentioned and Dr. Yano's brother who shows up for a small part of the movie and then dies randomly during the crazy field party scene. What's funny about this is the fact that no one mourns or acknowledges the fact that he died.

And to finally top off the craziness, we have Atomic Breath Flying Godzilla!!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Godzilla has had the ability to fly by way of his fire breath as a propulsive force this whole time, and he has been skimping out on it. GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH is my kind of crazy, and the violence, the guitar solos, and the badass villain make this an amazing movie to see. As a small bonus, check out the crazy European poster for the movie and the trailer that best showcases the tone of the movie below.

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