Thursday, August 1, 2013


(Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidorâ: Daikaijû sôkôgeki, 2001)
Directed by: Shûsuke Kaneko
Written by: Kei'ichi Hasegawa, Shûsuke Kaneko, Mashahior Yokotani,
Starring: Chiharu Niyama, Mashairo Koabayashi,Ryudo Uzaki, Mizuho Yoshida, Akira Ohashi, Rie Ôta
Synopsis: 50 years after the first attack, Godzilla comes back to Japan and now the ancient Guardian spirits have to defend the earth.

If there's anything to be taken from my entries the last few weeks has been that I cannot stand the hell out of these Millennium movies. They have been uninspiring, boring, cheap-looking, and have had some notably bad acting. GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, or GMK, changes this for me. In what is yet another a reboot, the movie features a more metaphorical stance on Godzilla's role within the world and gives a new spin on fan-favorite characters that have been sorely missing for a while.

First of all, let's talk about the big guy himself. He is a total asshole. This version of Godzilla was purposefully re-made to be more of a villain, and it works beautifully. His pupils have been removed out of his eyes, and all you see is a terrifying white. His design is much more menacing than it has been in the last couple of movies. Godzilla, in this universe, hasn't been seen since the original 1954 Godzilla was killed. Strangely enough, there's no mention of the Oxygen Destroyer, but G been more of a legend now taught in classrooms. Best part? There's a jab at the '98 American "Zilla" in the opening sequence.

As mentioned before, Godzilla is a menace that is not written or given any chance to be heroic. He is a menace that has to be stopped. One of the biggest criticism of the movie is the amount that it takes to build up the fact that Godzilla is back. We know he has returned, and there is no tension from dragging that plot point out. Given how literal the last few movies have been, it was a nice surprise to find that this Godzilla was a both a commentary on the issues of nuclear power and the atrocities committed by the Japanese people during times of war. Once again, looking at the political climate of the early part of this century should be important. Godzilla has always been both a symbol of a heavy wound the country took but also that of the general sense of threat that comes with scientific inventions like the atom bomb. In this new iteration, however, Godzilla has an added layer of guilt about the country and how it treats its own misdeeds by having Godzilla's existence being explained as the culmination of the souls of dead soldiers who took over Godzilla's bones and brought the creature back to life.

As the title of the movie implies, GMK features some classic Showa era kaijus: Baraga, Ghidorah, later King Ghidorah, and Mothra. Previously we had the first two kaijus as Godzilla enemies with the latter being an ally. Here, they are all Guardian Spirits, creatures who roamed earth long ago but were killed by humans and subsequently worshiped who were prophesied to one day come back and defend the earth against a great evil. It's up to human protagonist Yuri Tachibana, daughter of Admiral Taizû Tachibana, to raise the Guardians through some serious journalist detective work. This section of the movie, while being in danger of being a drag, was actually a pretty good bit of character work. Both Yuri and her dad have quite the stake on Godzilla, even if the Admiral has a better motive.

To get back to the kaiju, the new iterations of the three Guardians are a nice take on the characters. Baraga for example doesn't get too much of the characterization, but he has some really nice changes to his design since the Showa era, particularly his bigger, floppier ears. Unfortunately, that dick Godzilla kills him off pretty quickly to the point that he isn't even billed in the title of the film. Mothra this time is not a protector of an island that has a culture built around her, the twins that she is usually associated with are nothing more than a cameo, and Power-wise, she only sparsely uses her signature dust to immobilize enemies. Instead, uses a very XTREME shotgun-style burst of stingers that are pretty powerful.

Of course, the main attraction in terms of monsters is Ghidorah himself, who gets the most attention in this movie by getting a rather dramatic resurrection sequence where his giant heads pop up up from a frozen lake in a cave. Relevant to both Ghidorah and Mothra is the CG used in the movie. There has been a lot of talk of the CGI in this series so far. It is a shame that a both of the flying kaiju were given a lot of CGI scenes, especially since in the previous movies had decent flying scenes in costume and practical effects. At the same time, the aforementioned scenes were really dynamic, and it was interesting to see Ghidorah move around a little more freely and like an actual dragon.

The biggest problem of the movie is, for once, Godzilla. With his role as the villain, the director Shûsuke Kaneko and the writers wanted to make Godzilla a strong opponent that couldn't be defeated easily. The thing is, he was too powerful. As any good storyteller knows, the aspect of a fight always has to do with tension. Never mind the fact that in most stories you know that the protagonist will survive, he'll slay the dragon and rescue the princess, but you have to actually fear for his safety at one point of the other. In Godzilla's case, there was never a point where he felt threatened by any of the Guardians. Not even when Mothra dies and gives her energy to a fallen Ghidorah to make him into King Ghidorah (basically a bigger, more threatening version). The fact is, his atomic breath can and does kill quite easily, and he can use it almost instantaneously taking the tension out of a fight.

Another thing that distinguishes the movie from a lot of the previous movies is that you see death in a more graphic manner. A lot. There are some specific scenes when Godzilla walks through a city near a hospital, and a woman in a freaking cast screams for her life. Once you think G is gone, his tail decimates the hospital. This was of violence/death. It was actually pretty gruesome, and shows Godzilla in a newer more menacing light. This is not to say that Godzilla hasn't destroyed buildings and killed people, but it's actually very interesting that the various directors have shown this destruction in such a personal and explicit way. For far too long has the big lizard been given a more heroic role in his movies.

Taking a look at the human characters, this was a rather enjoyable movie. There was tension between father, the stern military man, and daughter, the hippy journalist for a struggling news station. While we unfortunately follow Yuri for the majority of the movie, Admiral Tachinaba is a more compelling character. He has an actual motive. His parents were killed by Godzilla, and he has a vendetta. just another snappy young reporter in need of a big story. But both stories have a satisfying emotional pay off, however. The one thing that felt bothersome as a knee jerk reaction was the fact that Admiral Tachinaba was the one that kills Godzilla given how much stock is given to the guardians. Upon further contemplation, this is actually one of the most hopeful endings, symbolizing the hope or at least the potential that man can be responsible about the things that it creates when they go awry.

This is the best movie that the Millennium series has put out, but even then, it's nothing that would compare to the best of the Showa and Heisi era movies. What it does well is bring old characters back to life in a new way, it gives Godzilla a more pronounce villain role not seen since the original, and a good human side to the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment