Mar 30 2010

Article XX – In Which I Finally Do a Column with DINOSAURS!

This week, we have dinosaurs

I’m in the double X’s now.  I’m cracking open a Mexican brew as we speak to celebrate.  Do you want me to make a “Most Interesting Man in the World” joke?  I find myself unmoved by such an obvious and datable pop culture reference.  And beer doesn’t have anything to do with this week’s movie.  Oh god, where did I go so horribly wrong?  The lack of effort put forth in making this article a reality is over(under?)whelming.  I don’t even seem to care anymore.  What does XX stand for, like 2,000 right?  God, I’ve been doing this forever.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, this week’s movie is the black and white film Gojira.  Or for you English speakers out there – Godzilla.  I watched this movie with subtitles rather than with dubbing because I didn’t want to force myself to reference the terrible and clichéd dubbing that happens with kaiju films.  That’s not to say that the subbing was the most amazing translation either, there were some problems there, as well.  But whatever, the bottom line is I watched the film as it originally came out in 1958 – while surfing Facebook and texting all my friends fly honeys.

I just want to stress: this is NOT the Roland Emmerich 1998 film starring Matthew Broderick.  If you’re expecting a review on that piece of crap, get the hell out of here and come back in like 4-5 years when I have time to review shit movies with mildly cool special effects.

Gojira has a simple plot: A prehistoric missing link between the fish of the Paleozoic and the land walkers of the Mesozoic eras is awoken from its slumber in the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean by nuclear testing and grows to a size big enough to topple Tokyo.  Then it proceeds to topple Tokyo.  Naturally, the humans of the area try to fight back with tanks and guns and screaming and Oxygen Destroyers.  In all, the end result of the film is Gojira: 1 destroyed Tokyo, Tokyo: 1 dead Gojira.  That’s right – it’s a no win scenario for anyone.  Except we, the viewers!

As the first of the Japanese Kaiju films – Gojira is a landmark sci-fi in that it created an entire sub-genre by itself.  Giant Monsters, often serving human villains beating the crap out of the world/cities/each other are the focus, obviously.  AND WHAT AN AWESOME FOCUS IT IS.

The special effects are probably the second weakest part of the film.  Although not shabby by anyone’s standards – except maybe that hack George Lucas – the miniatures look like miniatures, and Gojira himself looks like a man stomping around miniatures dressed as a giant lizard thing.  Just because it doesn’t look real, doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good, though.  There are parts of the film where Gojira is downright scary.  The black and white composition of the film makes the blurring of real and miniatures all the more effective, and in the end, we kind of get more of a feel than anything else about how the effects are supposed to work.

Gojira hates your city.

Of course, the weakest parts of the film are the acting and about half of the pointless side stories.  I mean, I don’t speak Japanese (as I’ve mentioned in other articles) but I think I have an idea of how human emotions work and what someone’s face is supposed to look like when they are sad.  I just didn’t see it in a lot of the acting in this film.  The dialogue was so-so.  But Gojira’s roars…man, unforgettable and poignant.  I mean, you could really hear the anguish in this poor creature’s voice, the desperate cry for destruction understanding and compassion and love.

Okay, that might be fake, but later movies explore that a lot…so I don’t think I should discount it completely.

In Gojira, the monster is a force of nature.  We don’t get any notion whatsoever of him having feelings or remorse or even knowledge of what the hell kind of awesome destruction he is letting loose.  He’s a living representation of the Atomic Age.

Yeah, I’m going to get into some pretty heady stuff with comparisons and abstract thought, so my dumber readers might want to skip ahead and look at some of the pretty pictures I’ve posted on here before looking at my ultimate feelings on the film.

Gojira is a perfect analogue for the Atomic Bomb.  Coming from Japan, watching such widespread and massive destruction, essentially reliving Hiroshima all over again, it would be hard not to take this film as a direct reference.  It’d be like watching Cloverfield and pretending that it’s not about the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  (It’s not.)  Actually, I can’t think of a direct American counterpart to this film, so you’re just going to have to imagine how a radioactive monster that has misty radioactive breath and is impervious to harm might be a parallel to the atomic bomb.  If you’ve seen the film and can compare it to easily found clips of atomic detonation tests on the internet, you’ll see what I mean.  It’s obvious.

Now the score…this isn’t meant to bring up any recollection of any kind of bomb, that I know of.  The score to this film kicks so much ass.  How to explain it?  At the end of the film, when all the ridiculous destruction and death is just about over, and Japan is trying their last ditch effort to kill the monster, Tokyo and the rest of Japan is in flames – the film switches to a point where every one of the main characters is on a boat (mothafucka – look at me) getting ready to go into the deep with their Oxygen Destroyer.  Up till now, the score has been this awesome thundering brutish noise, perfect for Gojira.  However, we finally get underwater and see the monster in its natural habitat, and this perfect soft theme sets in.  It’s the only time in the film where we feel sad for the monster, where it’s humanized.

I could have put a picture of the actors...but this is better amirite?

It really pulls the whole film together.  Although it may be about the atomic bomb, the film takes a morose twist which is completely overdone in sequels, turning Gojira into a sympathetic character, a by-product of man’s nuclear powered enlightenment.  And you feel sad when they are forced to kill him.

I felt sad when they were forced to kill him.

It’s okay though.  There are literally 29 more films featuring our favorite giant dinosaur…and I’ll be reviewing them all.

One.

At.

a.

Time.

One Response to “Article XX – In Which I Finally Do a Column with DINOSAURS!”

  • Mitzi Says:

    Now this article is my new favorite!

    And by that I mean it’s one of the best, because I don’t like crap. Crap is not my favorite.

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