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Review: Shin Godzilla

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I finally saw Shin Godzilla, the new Japanese Godzilla film from Toho Studios. What follows is a review with minor spoilers.

This really is a very different Godzilla film! One could argue that there are many Godzilla films which are different from one another and you would have a valid point. In the case of Shin Godzilla you would have an even greater point for this movie is unlike any that have followed before it. To begin to understand this movie one needs to comprehend that this truly is a Japanese movie made for a Japanese audience to provide both commentary and satire unique to the Japanese culture. Having said that, it doesn’t mean these elements of the film are not beyond the reach of a non-Japanese audience.

If you have heard or read the rumor that this movie has many scenes where people are in government conferences as they debate and discuss what to do when this giant morphing creature threatens Japan. These rumors are true and therein lies the heart of this story which is commentary and satire focused at the government of Japan. If you think Godzilla is the central focus of this movie then you will miss that point and may not walk away with understanding this film. Although commentary and satire toward the Japanese government is the focus that doesn’t mean this movie lacks the proper elements that we Godzilla fans and fans of Kaiju movies.

Therefore, the simple plot of this movie is, after an unexplained creature attacks boats in Tokyo Bay the top government officials focus on military strategy and civilian safety, while Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi is put in charge of a task force to research the creature. Due to high radiation readings, the creature is theorized to be energized through nuclear fission. The US sends a special envoy, Kayoko Ann Patterson, who reveals that a disgraced zoology professor, Goro Maki, had been studying mutations due to radioactive contamination and theorized the appearance of the creature but the US covered it up. As the creature, The creature, now named Godzilla, reappears, now twice its original size, and makes landfall near Kamakura en route for Tokyo. The Japanese Self Defense Forces are mobilized, but their attacks have no effect on Godzilla and they suffer major casualties. Yaguchi’s team discovers that Godzilla’s fins and blood work as a cooling system, allowing them to theorize that through the use of a coagulating agent, they could trigger a reaction and cause Godzilla to freeze. 

Generally in my reviews I offer both the Pros and Cons of a film. For every film whether I enjoyed it or not will have varying degrees of Pros and Cons. In the case of this film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the Con are not outweighed by the Pros in the first place.

Pro: Great Monster destruction. Isn’t this what most Godzilla and Kaiju fans come to see? Gone are the model miniature sets..which is sad…but in its place is a real world setting and real world destruction with great CGI. Godzilla’s atomic breath just has to be seen and the amount of power and destruction it delivers is the best of the entire franchise in my opinion.

Godzilla’s three forms. I really enjoy the many different designs of Godzilla. While this Godzilla isn’t actually a traditional design it really works for this movie. This is the largest Godzilla ever seen!

Great depiction of scale and Size of Godzilla. Although I have always loved the man-in-the suit approach coupled with model building one never really did get a sense of size and scale in a Godzilla movie…until now. With Godzilla 2014 and Pacific Rim (Godzilla 1998 to some extent) those movie were able to really demonstrate the massive scale and size of the creatures within the movie. Shin Godzilla finally achieves that sense  massive scale and size and to me it is awesome!!

An interesting story. Once you understand what the movie is trying to say, it really becomes interesting to watch these government officials stumble and bumble their way through the bureaucracy until they reach  a point of action.

Con: An uninteresting story. I will contradict myself. Yes, I do like the story and I understand the commentary on the ineptitude of bureaucracy, however, there are times that it is too much and goes on a little too long.

Lumbering Godzilla…or shall I say… Zombie Godzilla? While I do like this design and despite the epic destruction this Godzilla brings, there are times when all he does is walk… very…very …slowly.

While Shin Godzilla will not go down as my very favorite it is up there in my top 10. Once the DVD/Blu-Ray comes out this film will have many viewings in my home. The destruction scenes alone are worth the price of admission. A very different and still enjoyable Godzilla film!

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Godzilla’s Enemies: Part VI

21. MUTO: The MUTOs were the monsters featured in the 2014 American Godzilla movie. I have to say they are my favorite enemies! They are design very similarly to the Cloverfield monster, a design I really like, plus, they give Godzilla a great fight. Through the use of CGI these monsters look life-like and the way the director showed the scale of them they look huge! I hope we see them again some day.
22. Orga: Orga is a unique monster. Featured only once in the film Godzilla 2000, Orga was the creation of aliens that had been resting in their ship for 65 million years. Made from cells from Godzilla this shape shifting alien takes on a hideous form and they way Godzilla defeats him is pretty creative. This is one of my top favorite foes to fight the big G.
23. Rodan: Sometimes Rodan is an enemies and some times he is not. He looks like a giant Pterosaur and outside of Godzilla Rodan is one of my very favorite monsters from Toho studios. He will be used in one of the sequels to the American Godzilla movie and I look forward to seeing how life-like he will be designed.
24. Spacegodzilla: This monster, which is just another version of Godzilla himself except he is larger and has giant crystals protruding from his shoulders and his spines are also crystals. The movie, Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla is one of the less popular Heisei movies. I like the movie it does have some good points but Spacegodzilla himself is just way too silly and hokey for my book!
25. Titanosaurus: Titanosaurus is the name of an actual dinosaur. However, the Toho monster of the same name looks completely different. This version has a very long neck and sweeping fish like tail. I have mixed feelings about this monster. On the one hand I do like monsters based off of dinosaur designs. In the movie he is in (?????) the long neck is not stable and makes his head bob up and down and that is very distracting. His roar is also one of the more irritating roars from Toho’s monsters. With a tweak to the neck design and given a new roar it would improve this monster in my opinion.
26. Veran: Veran, like Rodan, also had his own movie. I really didn’t care for it. He is a giant flying squirrel type of monster who also was seen briefly in Destroy All Monsters. He was going to be used in Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters all out Attack. But the powers that be in Toho studios rejected that idea in favor of a more popular enemy. I know he has his fans but I see him as a pretty forgettable monster.

Rating Godzilla’s Enemies: Part I

There have been 29 Godzilla movies, 30 if you count the 1998 TriStar film (and I do) by and most don’t and since this is a piece about the enemies Godzilla has fought it really doesn’t count because the 1998 Godzilla did not fight any other monsters. The 1954 and 1984 Godzillas didn’t fight with any monsters either. Since 1955 with Godzilla Raids Again Toho has pitted Godzilla with a number of different and unique foes to varying degrees of success. I haven’t always been crazy about the foes Godzilla has been up against. Some of the monsters are like Godzilla himself, dinosaur like in many aspects, and those are my favorites. Others have been designed after bugs and other insects, crustaceans; while some have followed the fantasy route.

The Godzilla franchise encompasses three distinct eras. The Showa eras (1954-1975), The Heisei era (1984-1995) and the Millennium era (1999-2004). Many of these monsters, such as Mothra, were used in all three eras, while some only saw action in one area (Jet-Jaguar, Showa), (Biollante, Heisei) and Orga (Millennium). In rating these monsters I need to view them across all eras. Each monster was designed differently when used in other areas. Sometimes that re-design was significant, and other times it was not. There were times the redesigned monster influenced whether or not I enjoyed the character.

Here in alphabetical order is my review of each monster.

1. Anguirus: Anguirus was first seen in the movie Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis, the Fire Monster in the US) and he was the first monster that Godzilla ever fought in a movie. He is said to have been a mutated Ankylosaurus. At first Anguirus was an enemy of Godzilla but in subsequent films he became an ally of Godzilla joining him in battles against other monster threats. I like this monster due to the fact that he is like Godzilla himself, a mutated creature that is also a force of nature. My only complaint is that he walks on four legs which means that when he is portrayed by a suit actor the actor will be on his knees giving the monster a very strange stance, although the film makers try hard to hide the fact that he is on his knees. Anguirus was seen in seven Godzilla films. Godzilla Raids Again, Destroy All Monsters; All Monsters Attack(stock footage); Godzilla vs Gigan; Godzilla vs. Megalon; Godzilla: Final Wars
2. Baragon: Baragon is another mutated dinosaur-like creature who made his first appearance in Frankenstein vs Baragon. He is a strange monster. He has big floppy ears and a large horn on his snout and he likes to burrow underground. He is another monster that walks on all fours and suffers from some of the same problems that Anguirus suffers from while being filmed. Other than his first appearance Baragon has not seen a lot of action. He was seen very briefly in Destroy All Monsters and there is stock footage of him in Godzilla: Final Wars. He did have a large role to play in the movie Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters all out Attack. In that film Baragon is the first of the guardian monsters to fight Godzilla in what is one of the most enjoyable monster fights ever. Baragon is sorely outmatched but this plucky little monster gives it his all fighting against one of the most powerfully depicted Godzilla’s ever on film.
3. Battra: Battra is the evil twin to Mothra. He is only depicted in the Heisei era film Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle For the Earth. Although Mothra is a giant moth-like creature, Battra doesn’t resemble a moth but more of an flying insect with horns protruding from his head and he has glowing red/orange eyes. Like Mothra, Battra also appears in his larval form. However, he doesn’t have to go into chrysalis in order to metamorphose into his adult form. I do enjoy the movie he is in and although I am not crazy about monsters that are based on insects, Battra is executed very well.
4. Biollante: Biollante is one of the all-time strangest monsters Godzilla ever had to face. I have mixed feelings about this one. Biollante only features in one Godzilla movie, the Heisei era: Godzilla vs Biollante (although it is seen briefly in a flashback in Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla). In my opinion Biollante is one of the most creatively designed monsters and also one of the most silliest in regards to looks and origins. Biollante was a monster created by a scientist. He mixed Godzilla cells with that of a rose and somehow the spirit of his dead daughter got thrown in the mix and viola! A giant 120 meter rose/plant monster with a large snout and many rows of sharp teeth!! Yeah, it is very silly. Like other Toho monsters this one goes through several metamorphosis until it reaches its final stage. The final look of the monster is pretty cool I must admit. Despite the very silly premise Biollante does show Toho studios thinking outside of the box and creating something entirely new.
5. Ebirah. Ebirah is nothing more than a giant lobster. His two appearance were in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster and Godzilla: Final Wars. The only thing I liked about this monster is the fact that in both movies they use him to really show his size and scale. One of the stranger usages of Ebirah is in the movie Final Wars were the mutants fight him in some industrial setting. You would think they would have placed a giant lobster somewhere in the sea.

Godzilla 2014 vs. Godzilla 1998

Now that I have seen Godzilla 2014 I just have to compare it to the other American produced Godzilla movie, the 1998 version. If you are a regular reader of my blog you may know I am one of those rare Godzilla fans that doesn’t hate the 1998 movie. I enjoy it. Also, I am not into competitive comparisons. I don’t think in terms of what movie is better or worse. I actually enjoy both movies for different reasons and since these two Godzilla movies are so different it is like comparing apples to oranges.

Although many fans call the 1998 movie GINO (Godzilla in Name Only) they do so in a derogatory manner. I may use the term GINO but not in a derogatory manner. He is much different than his Japanese counterpart and I have come to see this monster, now called Zilla by Toho, as a completely separate monster all his own with his own identity. I do love the design of Zilla. He looks menacing and he is quick and fast. I also like the new design of Godzilla for the 2014 movie. He is a little fatter than I would have liked and his spines could have been a little bigger, but other than that the 2014 does look and act like the Japanese version.

I am one that was not upset that the 1998 Godzilla did not act like the Japanese version. I knew going into the film that he would be different. Plus, even as a young fan in the 1960s I had wondered what Godzilla would be like if he were depicted to act more like an animal than a lumbering guy in a suit? The 1998 movie gave me an answer to that question and I happen to like the answer.

Besides Godzilla 98 not acting like Godzilla the biggest difference is in the tone of the two films. The 2014 movie is like many recent films in that it is supposed to be “grounded in reality.” That translates into, “what if these events were happening in the real world?” The 1998 movie is filled with humor and the tongue firmly planted in the cheek. Although the new movie is grounded in reality that doesn’t mean that the movie is joyless either. Throughout the movie there is a sense of wonder concerning the monsters and even a scene or two that is more light hearted. One example is the scene in a Nevada casino where we see the MUTO on the TV screen headed our way. All the patrons are oblivious that a giant monster is headed in their direction. Suddenly all the lights go out and then the giant MUTO comes crashing through the roof. It may not seem so light and fun on paper but it is on the screen.

The tone of the 1998 movie is very similar to Emmerich’s other film…Independence Day. While these films are not campy they are not all that serious either. Many films of the 90s, such as Twister or the Lethal Weapon series for example, mixed drama and comedy in a natural stylistic way where neither the comedy or the drama dominated the film. Since these movies were meant to be fun entertainment they didn’t take themselves too seriously. Godzilla 98 fits well in that style of film.

Do I have a preference? No, not really. I may prefer the special effects of the new movie and the life-like depiction of both Godzilla and the MUTOs, although I do feel the CGI in Godzilla 98 has held up pretty well. The monster battles in Godzilla 2014 does give it the slight edge. However, in the end I enjoy each movie for what it is and both will continue to get viewed depending on my mood.

Godzilla 2014: My Review

If you have not seen the movie spoilers are ahead!

I have been waiting for this movie for a long long time. I first heard of this production in 2004 when it was going to be a short IMAX film. That eventually morphed into a feature film that was going to be made by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. The film was announced in 2010 for a 2012 release. It spent a little while in development Hell and for a while I thought it wouldn’t be made. Then in 2012 it was announced Gareth Edwards was to direct the film and it would shoot in 2013 and be released in 2014. I followed every bit of information on the filming of the movie and the design of the new Godzilla. Since I didn’t see it in the theater (I don’t care for movie theaters) I didn’t remain spoiler free. No, I knew a lot about this movie when I sat down to watch it Saturday night. Therefore I could understand both the praise and the criticism I have read about this movie. That is why I needed to sort through my feelings to see what I felt about the movie and let go of the words of others.

Before I give my review I will give a short synopsis of the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In Japan the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity. Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra and a team of technicians into the reactor. While the team is inside, the reactor is breached, releasing radioactive steam. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin. Fifteen years later, Joe’s son Ford, a US Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe, determined to reveal the disaster’s true cause, persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home within the zone to retrieve vital data. They successfully retrieve the data but are captured and taken to a secret facility within the plant’s ruins. Inside, a giant winged creature emerges from containment and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and later dies. The incident is reported as an earthquake.

Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a US Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga to search for the creature, dubbed “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism,” (“MUTO”). To Ford, the scientists reveal how a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla, a prehistoric alpha predator; how early nuclear tests were really attempts to kill it; that Project Monarch was formed secretly to study Godzilla; and that the MUTO caused the Janjira destruction. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something. The task force follows Godzilla, projecting that the monsters will meet near San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure the monsters to a safe distance from the city and then detonated to destroy the monsters. Ford returns with the military to California and joins a team delivering the warheads by train. The female MUTO destroys the train and devours one of the warheads. The remaining warhead is airlifted to the city and is activated, but the MUTOs capture it and take it to a nest in the downtown area, where the female deposits her eggs.

After the military fails to stop Godzilla when it arrives at the Golden Gate Bridge, Stenz accepts Serizawa’s advice and orders the military to withdraw to allow the three monsters to fight. While they battle, soldiers, including Ford, enter the city by HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to disarm the warhead at the nest, they put it on a boat for disposal at sea. Ford destroys the nest, causing the female to leave the battle. Godzilla then kills the male, using its tail to crush the MUTO against a building. The female finds and kills the team on the boat but Ford is saved when Godzilla kills the female by firing atomic breath down her throat and decapitating her. Godzilla then collapses from injury and exhaustion. Ford pilots the boat out to sea, and is rescued before the warhead detonates. The next day, Ford finds his family at an emergency shelter. In the city ruins, Godzilla, thought to be dead, suddenly awakens and returns to the ocean after a final roar.

My Review

Overall, I really, really liked this movie, despite some quibbles with it. I am going to get one of the first quibbles out of the way. While I liked the story and the MUTOs looked great and were excellent monsters, I think my slight disappointment with the movie was over what could have been. The 2012 Comic-Con teaser showed us a Godzilla with a quote by Robert Oppenheimer that was reminiscent of the 1954 original and Gareth Edwards had said he was going to bring Godzilla back to his roots….but in the end he really didn’t. Now I knew that going into the film that he didn’t make a movie similar to the 1954 original, its just after seeing this movie I really would have loved to have seen a movie with a malevolent Godzilla that arises our of the ocean to wreak havoc on humanity. Instead, what we get is a Godzilla that was prevalent during the Heisei era and some of the Millennium movies: a Godzilla that is a force of nature but also the anti-hero. I like those types of movies too, its just that with all the modern CGI and special effects it would have been nice to have gotten a story in the spirit and tone of the original. I would have liked a solo Godzilla movie where he alone is the focus and the main goal of the movie would have been to try to stop this unstoppable force. In my opinion this movie should have been a sequel to that type of Godzilla film.  The tone of this film is serious but it still has the air of a summer popcorn movie. It isn’t too dark and serious but it is a good old fashioned giant monster movie.

With that out of the way, one of my other concerns was over the fact that I had heard Godzilla doesn’t have a lot of screen time. That was my biggest worry. Although I love the movie Cloverfield I was disappointed in the amount of screen time that monster got and I feared the same fate was in store for Godzilla. My worst fears were not realized. While Godzilla doesn’t have the screen time he has in some of his movies it isn’t as bad as some people report. Sure, I would like to have seen him more but what we do see of him in the movie is well worth it. I also loved the design of the MUTOs. They are very reminiscent of the Colverfield monster, a design I really love. To see Godzilla and the MUTOs in life-like CGI is the best part of the movie for me. Yes, the MUTOs do have more screen time than Godzilla but that doesn’t bother me at all. The time focusing on the MUTOs was well spent.

When Godzilla and the MUTOs are on the screen both together and separately not an inch of film is wasted. They are all money shots. Meaning, they all look spectacular. Some more spectacular than others. When the male MUTO arrives in San Francisco and greets the much larger female MUTO through the clouds and smoke that is an impressive sight. Equally impressive is when Godzilla rises about the two buildings and lets out a snort. The monster battles are epic in scope and detail. This does not look like men in rubber suits! It looks like three giant animals fighting as animals do in the wild.

Before I close out this review I want to say a few words about the acting of three main characters. Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody and Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. Many who did not like this movie loved Bryan Cranston in this role. Cranston has gained considerable popularity as the star of the award winning show Breaking Bad. Since his character is killed off early in the film many fans complained that he was the only good part of the film. I disagree. Although I think he played his part well, I didn’t exactly enjoy the character. Bryan Cranston/Joe Brody was Mr. Intensity throughout the time he was on screen with a few exceptions. Honestly, I don’t think I could have taken an entire movie filled with that much intensity.

On the opposite side of intensity it has been reported that Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrayal of Ford Brody was rather stiff and wooden. Again, this view is dependent on your overall view of the film. I liked the movie so I saw the character as a typical stoic military type. I can however empathize with those who say his performance was wooden and I wouldn’t have complained if they had had a more charismatic actor in that role. However, it really didn’t bother me as much as Cranston’s character.

The one that did bother me a bit was Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. His critics have said that he also was a one note actor in the film and only had one expression throughout the entire film. He had a look of intense befuddlement and also it seemed like he was spaced out through the film and not really connecting with anyone. I have to agree with this assessment. His character does serve to give a lot of exposition on the film and he has a purpose in the movie, but I was waiting for him to snap out of his daze and speak like a normal individual, but that never happened. My favorite performance of the film was by David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz, USN. An Admiral in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy. He is the commander of the United States Navy task force in charge of tracking down the escaped MUTO. He gave the role the gravitas that it needed while also projecting a warm father-like figure.

All-in-all an enjoyable movie. I would have liked a little more focus on Godzilla but the story is engaging and this movie has the best monster battles I have ever seen in a Godzilla movie.

I give this movie a solid A.

Next week I will compare the two American Godzilla movies!

2014 Summer Blockbuster’s.

I am a little late this year with these, but these are the movies I want to see this summer.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5-2) Part of this movie was filmed in Rochester NY which is near my home town. I really liked the reboot and hope this one is just as good! Spiderman continues his life as a crime fighter and this results in making more enemies. Some of these enemies are connected to the death of his parents.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4-4) As Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America) adjusts to modern times he becomes and Agent of SHIELD along with Agent Natasha Romanoff they must fight off international terrorism. Roumor has it that this is one of the best movies in the Marvel cinematic universe.

Godzilla (5-16) I am a huge Godzilla fan! This movie looks awesome and can’t wait to see it!! Giant MUTO’s attack Hawaii and Vegas and Godzilla comes to save the day.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (5-23) Never cared for the X-men comics but I have loved the X-Men movies and really looking forward to this movie. There seems to be some fan confusion that this movie may erase others from the continuity.

A Million Ways to Die in the West (5-30) The second live action movie from Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. I loved last year’s movie Ted and this one looks to be just as funny.

Maleficent (5-30) This is the story of Sleeping Beauty. I am keeping my fingers crossed on this one. I liked the trailers and this movie certainly has eye candy. I liked the trailers for Snow White and the Huntsman but did not end up liking that movie…so with this one I am being cautiously optimistic.

Edge of Tomorrow (6-6) I love Tom Cruise in science fiction movies. I really liked Oblivion and this one looks good. I guess it is a futuristic take on Groundhog day.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (6-27). I am not a big Transformers fan. They came out when I was an adult. I do think the premise is a bit silly, alien robots that can take the shape of human transportation, but I did like the first and third movies. The second movie I did not like at all. This one looks like a new and fresh approach.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 (6-13) I love dragons!!! I love movies with dragons mostly. Loved the first movie and this one looks even better.

Jersey Boys (6-20) This is not a science-fiction film or a fantasy film but I am making an exception with this one. I love musical bio movies. Directed by Clint Eastwood this depicts the rise to fame of the 60s group Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7-11). I liked the first one…after seeing the trailer for this I am cautiously optimistic. I hope it doesn’t turn into a basic dystopian post apocalyptic shoot em’ up movie.

Hercules (7-25). Dwayne John as Hercules. This is just as great and logical of casting as Arnold as Conan. This looks good and I have no doubt I will love. I really enjoyed Johnson in The Scorpion King and this movie looks to be just as enjoyable.

Guardians of the Galaxy (8-1) I am unfamiliar with this Marvel comic. However, it looks like a fun lighthearted science-fiction movie. In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan. In order to evade Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a group of misfits including Gamora, Rocket, Drax the Destroyer, and Groot. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand – with the galaxy’s fate in the balance

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (8-8) I never was a TMNT fan. They came along when I was in my 20s. But this look likes very good and I will give it a try.

Into the Storm (8-8) You may have to find the trailer on YouTube for this one. It has been jokingly called Twister II. Previously using the production title Black Sky, Into the Storm is an upcoming 2014 American disaster film directed by Steven Quale, written by John Swetnam, and starring Richard Armitage.

 

CGI…What is the problem with it?

As many of you know I do frequent a few science fiction related message baords. I have learned that there are many individuals who are not fans of CGI and often complain about its usage or over usage. I am a fan of CGI so I wonder what is exactly the criticism of this tool? I beleive that CGI has come a long way in looking realistic, it still has a way to go in looking exactly realistic. I have heard this complaint with the recent Man of Steel movie and some have lodged the same complaint about not only Peter Jackson’s recent Hobbit movie but also about his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. A Facebook friend and great musician Chris Bannister said this recently about CGI…

Watching The Hobbit I realised that I’m totally bored with huge, CGI set pieces and that these kind of movies look terrible in super high def, the makeup looked rubbish and the aforementioned special effects looked laughably unrealistic.

I do admit there are times when CGI loses some warmth that other special effects can deliver.

In 1993 Jurassic Park really raised the bar for CGI when some of the depictions of the dinosaurs in that movie were done solely on computer. It is ironic then that director Steven Spielberg has claimed that an audience can always tell the  difference between CGI and real-life action. He even went on to say that had he been directing Jaws today he would have done the Shark in CGI but says that the success of that film was due to the model fo the shark looking realistic.

I am reminded of what the late great Ray Harryhausen said about his own work. He said that when doing his creatures he felt there needed to be some degree of being unrealistic to let the audience know these movies are fantasies. I don’t think anyone ever accused Ray Harryhausen’s work looking fake! There is a concpet in literature called  verisimilitude which refers to the believability of a narrative—the extent to which a narrative appears realistic, likely, or plausible (regardless of whether it is actually fictional or non-fictional). In film verisimilitude refers to the believability  realism as reflected in the over all tone of the film. So lets take Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films (Lord of the Rings plus the Hobbit). These are fantasy films loaded with CGI. The creatures do look life-like yet the  verisimilitude of the film clearly is adapted to show that we are in a fantasy world.

Let me take another CGI laden film…Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong. I am not going to review the film, just the use of CGI. The movie, set in 1933, has the verisimilitude of a fantasy. We are not in the real world. In that sense the CGI works to create that sense of fantasy. I also think Kong looks spectacular in this film. In the previous incarnations of Kong he has been depicted using stop-motion animation and a guy in a suit. This is the very first depiction of Kong where he truly looks and acts like a giant gorilla. Let me contrast this with the 1976 remake of King Kong. I am not going to review the film, just the special effects. The setting in this movie are real and look good for the most part. The wall on the island where Kong lives was done very well. The problem with the effects? Kong himself looks terrible! The man in a suit look just doesn’t work well for this movie. I much prefer the CGI kong.

Persoanlly I don’t have aproblem with CGI and there are times I really like the fantasy worlds they can create. Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films and Zack Snyder’s films are good examples of fantasy worlds come to life with CGI. Next year Godzilla comes to theaters once again I am looking forawd to how Double Negative, the special effects company that will render Godzilla, in a realistic and life-like manner! I also still like more conventional special effects and they work well.  

In conclusion I really do not have a problem with CGI. I think it goes a long way in setting the tone of a film and taking the viewer to another world, place and time. While I also recognize that there is different levels of quality in CGI there is nothing wrong with using it. If people could enjoy and accept some of the cheesy special effects from science-fiction fantasy films of the 50s-60s and beyond, I really do not understand why they object to the usage of CGI today.

Jurassic Park IV on Hold and other monster related news.

It was reported last week that Jurassic Park IV is on hold. Not permanently I hope. Bryce Dallas Howard and David Oyelowo were front-runners to join the cast. Colin Trevorrow has been tapped to direct the next film but Universal Studios has canceled the release date from June 13, 2014 but no other release date has been Set. Universal Studio said that the reason was to give the film more time for development in order to “bring audiences the best possible version.” Does this mean that JP4 will be stuck in development hell? I don’t think so. It doesn’t sound as if there is a major crisis with production. It just seems like, to me anyways, that the release date they set did not give them the time to produce the quality movie they want.

I was not upset by this news. First of all next year Legendary Pictures is releasing Godzilla and I am really looking forward to that. That may be enough dino-action for me. Godzilla is filming right now as production has moved to Hawaii and the release date for that movie is set for May 16, 2013. JP4, on the other hand, has not even started filming yet! So there was no way they were going to meet the June 13, 2014 release date. I would rather have them take their time than rush a movie onto the screens.

Speaking of Universal Studios…There was news last week that Legendary pictures (LP), who has been in partnership with Warner Brothers Pictures (WB) may be parting company. LP & WB have produced such recent hits as the Nolan Batman trilogy, the new Superman movie, Clash of the Titans, 300, Wrath of the Titans and others. They are also jointly producing Godzilla. If they do part ways I have been told it will not hamper anything related to the Godzilla movie.

However, there was a rumor that is the split does happen LP might team up with Universal Studios! Now, as a Godzilla fan that would be sweet music to my ears! I am pretty certain that if Godzilla is succesful then there will be a sequel. Universal Studio owns the rights to King Kong and many fans would love to see a remake of the 1964 classic King Kong vs Godzilla. A remake of that movie with state-of-the-art special effects would be a dream come true!! I doubt that this will happen but a Nerd like myself can dream!! 

Pacific Rim: My Expectations

I am going to start by copying the plot outline from Wikipedia. Forgive my slothfulness.

In the near future, giant monsters identified as “Kaiju” arise from a crevice in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a war which takes millions of lives and quickly consumes humanity’s resources. To combat this new threat, a special type of weapon is designed: massive robots, known as Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. As time passes, even the powerful Jaegers prove almost defenseless in the face of a relentless enemy. On its last stand and on the verge of defeat, the remaining defending forces of mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes—a former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)—who are teamed to pilot a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the early trials of the mechanical titans. Together, they must stand as the human race’s last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

I just love giant monster movies!! They are one of my all time favorite science-fiction subgenres. However, I must confess I was not always a fan of the giant robot theme in Kaiju films. I was about 11 when I saw Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974) and even at that age I found it to be, well, a bit too corny. Even at that young age I din’t want my monster movies that had a verisimilitude too far beyond the plausibility of real life experiences. In other words, I could accept giant monsters but not robots that looked like giant monsters. That seemed silly. Why create a giant robot that looked like Godzilla? In Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla the giant robot looked like Godzilla, actually was at first covered to look like Godzilla’s skin, was a ploy by aliens to fool people. But it still seemed silly. Well, that was my thoughts as a youth. I have come to have a greater appreciation, love and respect for the giant robot aspect of these films.

That brings me to Pacific Rim. Honestly, my expectations are not too different from my expectations for Godzilla 2014. I do expect to see great monster/robot action and destruction. I have heard director Guillermo del Toro say that Pacific Rim will have a different tone than Godzilla 2014. Both movies are being produced and distributed by Legendary Pictures. In light of del Toro’s statement then my expectations are for a more lighthearted action and adventure movie.

I was very excited when I heard about the premise when this movie was in pre-production. When I saw the very first trailer I was slightly disappointed. It had too much of a Transformer vibe too me. I don’t mind Transformers, although I hated the second installment, I was expecting a different tone to the film. However, upon seeing other trailers are other marketing materials for the film my hopes once again were raised.

Both the robots and the giant monsters are designed very well. The tone of the film does seem like a fun action and adventure movie with great special effects. The human aspect of the story, triumph in the face of great adversity, also looks to be very interesting. So I greatly expect that this will be a movie I love and it will have many viewings when it comes out on DVD.

Godzilla 2014: My Expectations

We are little more than a year out from the next Godzilla movie being released to theaters. I am actively watching for news of the production. From the last bit of news I found was that production has shifted to Hawaii (where I am told Jurassic Park IV is currently filming). As I wait for this movie I have read online the expectations people have for this movie and I have contemplated my own expectations.

This movie will be the 30th Godzilla movie. 28 of them were Japanese productions and one other movie, the 1998 Godzilla movie, was the first American produced Godzilla movie. This movie will be the second American production. I can envision some readers having a fit or a stroke by the mere fact I mentioned the 1998 American Godzilla movie because many fans call the movie, and the American Godzilla, GINO (Godzilla In Name Only) and to this day the mere mention of this movie will produce a volume of outrage and hatred. I understand from my reading message boards and other sources about the 2014 Godzilla is that their main concern is that this new American production will not resemble the 1998 version. While I enjoyed, and still do enjoy the 1998 movie I am pretty confident that this movie will be nothing like its 1998 counterpart.

Some of the fans seemed concerned that they will get another design of Godzilla that will not look or act like the Japanes version of Godzilla. After the bad reviews and the outcry from fans over the 1998 Godzilla movie I have no worries about the design of Godzilla for 2014. The studio isn’t that crazy to put out a multi-million dollar Godzilla movie and have it be where the monster doesn’t look like Godzilla. I don’t think Legendary Pictures will make the same mistake.

Director Gareth Edwards has stated that he wants this to be a serious movie like the 1954 original. He want to portray Godzilla as if these events were happening in real life.  One of the stars of the film, Elizabeth Olsen, described the film as “definitely not lighthearted. It’s kind of going back to its roots of the original Japanese film.” These statements also have me thinking about the tone of the film and my personal expectations. With so many Godzilla films that I enjoy there is a diversity of themes and tones to choose from.

Godzilla 54 is a very dark movie in tone. As the series moved on it also moved away from that serious tone. At one point it moved so far away from that serious tone that movies such as Godzilla vs Megalon are like a Saturday morning kiddie show! In later movies Godzilla did return to a more serious tone but it never would reach the seriousness that the very first movie achieved. It seems that Gareth Edwards wants to be the first to return to the tone of the 1954 movie.

I am very excited about that because in many ways the first Godzilla movie was the best. But I do have one slight concern. Although I think Godzilla, King of the Monsters (and the un-Americanized Japanese version, Gojira) are the best films, they are not always the most fun to watch. More often I am in the mood for a more lighthearted romp through the streets of Tokyo. So I am hoping that this serious tone will also be equally enjoyable to watch. I don’t have too many concerns that it won’t be.

That leads me to my next point. They story. Screenwriter Frank Darabont is on record saying that not only will Godzilla be returning to his roots as force of nature but that the film will add a “very compelling human drama.” I am encouraged by that but I must confess that I am pretty sure that even if the story isn’t that great I will probably still enjoy the movie. First of all, of the 29 Godzilla films already produced not all of them have great human stories to begin with. Yet, I really like ALL Godzilla movies therefore my expectations on the human story are not that high. If we get a real good compelling human drama then that will be the icing on the cake.

Face it, most Godzilla fans watch the series for good monster action and destruction. I am as guilty as charged in that area. Also, if you have been following this blog, I am unapologetically a special effects junkie. We are in a Golden Age of special effects. I know many people complain about CGI and I think good quality CGI is very enjoyable and I love how it can whisk you off to other worlds. Double Negative is the effects company that are doing the special effects. Follow the link and the bottom of the page to see the stellar work they have done. So I am pretty confident we will ge a life-like Godzilla, unlike any we have seen before, with other spectacular effects to go along with it.

So my confidence is high for this movie and from everything I have read I really do not have anything to worry about. If you’re a Godzilla fan I don’t think you should worry either.

http://www.dneg.com/