I want to preface this Spoiler Free review by stating I’m a huge Godzilla fan, own all the movies, and I love them. As super fan of giant monsters, Kaiju and other films that feature strange beasts, this movie has everything a Kaiju fan could ask for. Great special effects, superb actors, giant monster battles, human drama, some comic relief all woven into a captivating and engaging story.
This Kong is not the same as the one depicted in the 1933, 1976 & 2005 movies. No this Kong is molded after the 1962 Kong featured in Toho Studios film “King Kong vs. Godzilla. In fact the Kong depicted in “Kong: Skull Island” will grow up to fight the Godzilla from the 2014 Legendary Studios film “Godzilla.” I look forward to when hese two juggernauts will battle toe-to-toe in their own feature film “Godzilla vs. King Kong” in 2020. This time out Godzilla will get top billing.
But in this movie Kong is King and the star of the show. Rendered wonderfully in detailed CGI Kong is brought to life and is the focal point. He isn’t the only star shinning in this extravaganza though. Delivering stellar performances are John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson (any movie he is in is made even more enjoyable), Tom Hiddleston, the lovely Brie Larson and John C. Rilley. I do want to say a little more about John C. Rilley. From the trailers I knew going in he would provided some comic relief. I was fine with that because I do not always care for dark and gritty films and like a balance of emotions in movies. I feared that his comic relief may render the movie too comical and that it wouldn’t be taken seriously. Yes, John C. Rilley does provide comic relief but that isn’t all. He is not only central to the plot he has some very serious and dramatic moments and I am safe to report his excellent performance really steals the show.
All in all this is a very satisfying entry into Legendary’s Monsterverse and it sets up more films in the franchise that I eagerly await.
This post isn’t about a movie review of the 1998 American Godzilla movie, its more about the personal reason why I like the 1998 Godzilla monster and the design along with enjoying the movie. One of the reasons for this post is that last week there were a couple of Godzilla related groups that were once again bashing the movie and the creature. So this is an answer to the frequent Godzilla 1998 bashing.
Some background information. I have been a Godzilla fan since I was about 5 years old back in 1968 or so. I remember seeing “Destroy All Monsters” in the theaters. I watched Godzilla in my youth and young teens. But between Godzilla’s hiatus between 1975 and 84 I didn’t see a lot of Godzilla as many TV stations that I liked on cable didn’t show them as often as they did when I was younger.
I have always loved the many different designs of Godzilla and like the Starship Enterprise creative people can take that simple design and reinterpret the beast in many different ways. Godzilla had always been a lumbering slow creature acted by a man in a suit. I never disliked that approach and I still do not. I love the old films.
Then came Jurassic Park in 1993. For the first time I saw CGI dinosaurs rendered in a very life-like manner. Therefore long before Godzilla 1998 was on the big screen my mind was thinking about the possibilities for Godzilla. In my view the need for the lumbering walk and stance and for a man-in-the-suit portrayal of the character was no longer necessary. From that viewpoint I began to desire to see Godzilla in a more traditional dinosaur stance and animal like depiction. He no longer had to be a slow lumbering behemoth.
So low and behold when I saw the 1998 movie it gave me exactly what I wanted to see…a more dinosaur like depiction of Godzilla! To my eyes this new portrayal of the monster was more naturally animal like than any depiction prior to this incarnation. and since they went the way I was thinking how I would like to see Godzilla, I was happy with the results. It was different and something new. I also enjoyed the movie..although I do think the part with the raptor-like baby Godzilla’s slows the movie way down. But overall I was/am happy with the depiction and the movie.
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!
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.
18. Megaguruis. This is another one of the insect type of monsters that Godzilla has fought. I apologize to Mothra but this is my very favorite insect monster that Godzilla fights against. He/or she…I think it is a queen, appears in the Millennium series Godzilla vs Megaguruis. I generally don’t care much for giant insect monsters but this one is an exception. I like the design, much like a giant dragonfly, and the battle between Godzilla and he is pretty epic and well done.
19. Moguera: Technically not a monster but a machine similar to Mechagodzilla. This machine, which looks like a metallic penguin, appears in the movie Godzilla vs Space-Godzilla. Since the prior movie in the series already featured Mechagodzilla Toho wanted a different mechanical type of thing fighting Godzilla. It is a bit silly looking but over all I am a bit ambivalent toward this creature not hating it but really not liking it too much either.
20. Mothra: Mothra is a giant Moth with wings that are very colorful. Mothra is the only monster in the Toho panoply that is female? (with the possible exception of Megaguiris) In some movies, such as Destroy All Monsters, Mothra appears in her larval form throughout the movie. In other movies Mothra appears in both her Larval and adult forms. Sometimes she appears only in her adult form. I do have mixed feelings about Mothra. Although I recognize that she is one of the more popular monsters to fight against Godzilla (or with him when he is the good guy). I am just not that crazy about insect monsters. Mothra just doesn’t seem that threatening of a monster. Mothra is often accompanied by twin fairies called the the Shobijin and I must say that the Mothra song they sing to summon her is a great song.
14. Kumunga: Kumunga is a giant spider first seen in the movie Son of Godzilla. Nothing special to this monster in my opinion. Just a giant spider that gives Minya or Manilla (which ever name you choose for Godzilla’s son) a run for his money and a lesson in learning how to fight. Kumunga, called Spiga in the American version of Son of Godzilla returns very briefly in Godzilla: Final Wars where Godzilla makes short work of him.
15. Manda: Manda is a giant snake like monster that doesn’t do a heck of a lot. I remember him most fondly in Destroy All Monsters when he wraps himself around a bridge. Other than that he was frozen and in the movie Godzilla: Final Wars and then destroyed by the ship Gotenga
16. Mechagodzilla: Mechagodzilla is a giant robot that looks like Godzilla. He has had various incarnations throughout the history of the franchise. When he debuted in 1974’s Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla the franchise had taken a kiddie friendly turn by then so I found Mechagodzilla to be rather silly back then. In the Heisei and Millennium series the Mechagodzilla character took on a more serious tone and grew in credibility in my opinion. My favorite movies featuring Mechagodzilla were the two from the Millennium series Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Tokyo S.O.S. where Mechagodzilla was given the name Kiyru.
17. Megalon: Ah, Megalon. A monster from what many fans consider the worst Godzilla movie ever made. While I do not think it is the worst Godzilla movie ever made it is a one of the very cheesy kid friendly movies. Megalon, is a giant Cockroach type of monster released on earth by the Seatopians an underground dwelling race of people who want to punish earth for their use of nuclear bombs. Megalon has drill bits for hands and a star on the top of his head but other than that he resembles a a Cockroach that is standing upright. I have to say that this is one of the goofiest monsters Toho ever made and while I really don’t care for this monster I don’t exactly hate it either.
10. Kamacuras: Kamacuras is a giant praying mantis. First seen in Son of Godzilla. In the movie there are many giant praying mantis that grow to an even larger size during a weather experiment. Honestly, I am ambivalent about this monster. Giant bug monsters are a staple of science fiction movies. I think they server there purpose but I don’t really get attached to them in any significant way.
11. King Caesar: King Caesar is a mystical monster. He is actually a statue that is magically brought to life to fight Godzilla in the movie Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla. Standing 50 meters tall he has a leonine head, floppy ears and a lower half of the body that is all made up of scales. Oh, and it has a lion like tail with a fluffy poof-ball at the end of it. In my opinion this is one of the silliest monsters Toho ever sent down the pike. He was again seen in Godzilla Final Wars. This suit looked a little better but I must say it is my least favorite monster.
12. King Ghidorah: King Kin Ghidorah is considered Godzilla’s number one enemy. His origins are said to be from outer space. He is a giant three headed golden dragon with giant wings. I do like this monster although he has a design flaw that bothers me. The monster has no arms! Many dragon like creatures have a wing/arm combination. In other words the arms are incorporated within the wings. On Ghidorah they are just wings and no arms making him look like he is missing something. Often Ghidorah towers over Godzilla and with him being depicted as pure evil it allowed Godzilla to transform from the villain into the anti-hero and then hero that defends the earth. On one occasion Ghidorah is smaller and and portrayed as the good guy against a very evil and malevolent Godzilla. Some fans did not like seeing Ghidorah used as a good guy but to me it made sense. With Godzilla being particularly evil who but Ghidorah has the history with Godzilla and could be depicted strong enough to stand up to him? Ghidorah was the obvious choice.
13. King Kong: This Kong is different than the one used in the Universal Studios movies. This one is 148 feet tall compared to the one that is either 25/50 in the other movies…depending on your source. So far these two famous behemoths had only one match that came to a draw. Seeing how well Pete Jackson brought a CGI Kong to life I would love to see a remake of this movie!
6. Gigan: This is a monster I both love and hate. Gigan is a cyborg monster that has extraterrestrial origins. He has sharp hook like claws for hands and a buzzsaw protruding from his abdomen. I find the design very silly and ridiculous. In the 70s, when he debuted, his suit made him look flabby. By the time Gigan showed up in a Godzilla movie the movies had become very kid friendly due to the influences of Gamera and the Ultraman series. Gigan was not used again until the last movie, Final Wars. In this movie he had a bit of a dramatic make-over. He was much slimmer and swifter and more powerful. I liked this design so much better! So I didn’t like Gigan from the 70s but the one used in Final Wars is a pretty cool design. Movies he has appeared in” Godzilla vs Gigan, Godzilla vs Megalon, Godzilla: Final Wars.
7. Gorosaurus: Gorosaurus is a plucky little monster that made his first appearance in the Toho/Rankin Bass movie King Kong Escapes. Although no relation to the 1933 movie King Kong, Gorosaurus plays the same role as the T-Rex in the 1933 movie. He is a victim of Kong abuse and is defated the same way the T-Rex was defeated in the 1933 movie. The next time we see Gorosaurus is in the movie Destroy All Monsters and his notable scene is bursting up through the ground destroying the Arch de Triumph. Gorosaurus was seen again in stock footage only. I like this monster. He looks like a T-Rex and in that way is the only monster that resembles Godzilla himself. I would to see Toho use him once more. With the advent of CGI they could make a more life-like and fierce looking Gorosaurus!
8. Hedorah: Hedorah had creative origins. He was a product of our environment. The 70s was a time of awareness of the environmental issues that was causing problems all over the world. Hedorah (aka the Smog Montser) was the result of mankind trashing his environment. In the movie Godzilla vs Hedorah (Godzilla vs the Smog Monster) he develops via stages from a tad-pole like creature to a giant monster that likes to suck off the fumes from smoke stack belching factories. The idea is much better than the execution. Given the suit making at the time the final stage does look a little goofy in my opinion. Hedorah appears briefly in Final Wars. I do mean briefly! As soon as he appears on screen he is literally roasted by Godzilla.
9. Jet-Jaguar: Jet-Jaguar is not really a foe of Godzilla. He is actually a robotic pal from the movie Godzilla vs Megalon. In the movie Jet-Jaguar teams with Godzilla to defeat the combined forces of Megalon and Gigan. Jet-Jaguar is a robot that has a silly grin on his face that can magically grow to the size of 50 meters (the same size as the Showa era Godzilla). Again Jet-Jaguar was inspired by Ultraman and is very silly in my opinion.
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.
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.