Mothra vs. Godzilla (Godzilla #4)

b00006fd9h.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Mothra vs. Godzilla
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The 1964 film Mothra vs. Godzilla is the fourth film of the Godzilla franchise and second of the Mothra that were matched up after the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla two years before and the successful solo 1961 Mothra film.  The screenplay was written by Sinichi Sekizawa following up his work on the 1961 film while Ishiro Honda directed his fifth kaiju film.

A typhoon wrecks the coast of Japan and the aftermath is covered by reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi and unknowingly find a radioactive scale from Godzilla.  Later that day, a giant egg is discovered off shore and the duo go to investigate it, trying to interview Professor  Shunsuke Miura who is testing the egg when he is stopped by entrepreneur Kumayama who has bought the egg from local villagers to make it a tourist attraction.  Kumayama is the front man for Jiro Torahata of Happy Enterprises and during a meeting they are confronted by a tiny pair of twins who want the egg released, but they try to grab the girls.  Sakai, Nakanishi, and Miura are meet in the same hotel when they come across the twins and agree to help them, but their efforts come to naught and the twins leave with Mothra to Infant Island.  The Godzilla emerges from under typhoon debris then begins ravaging the countryside, killing Torahata after he kills Kumayama after the two have a falling out, even though the Japanese and American militaries attempt to stop it.  Sakai, Nakanishi, and Miura go to Infant Island to ask Mothra for help though they have to convince the atomically assaulted natives and the twins to allow them to speak to the native kaiju.  Mothra agrees knowing it’ll soon die and battles Godzilla to protect its egg but can’t last, but Godzilla loses interest in the egg when the military reappears.  The egg hatches and two larvae emerge and battle Godzilla, forcing it to retreat to the sea before heading to Infant Island.

With a runtime of 88 minutes, the film is an attempt by Honda to be a message of warning for the consequences of atomic warfare however unlike the original film that message is undermined.  Without a doubt the best features of this film are the top-notch special effects and the kaiju battle in the last third of the picture.  Unfortunately, the lead up to the kaiju showdown was underwhelming as the human subplots were well written either because they didn’t make sense, meandered, or had no point other than just taking up screen time to get to the kaiju battle.  The Kumayama/Torahata subplot was a total waste of time as it added nothing to the overall film though sent the other human subplots on tangents that hurt those subplots.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is built on the kaiju battle and delivers, however the road to get there meandered in sense or had no point that it frustrates the viewer that just wants to see Mothra and Godzilla go at it.  Given that these two kaiju are probably the two most popular in the genre that this film is so poor is disappointing but if you can make it through the first two-thirds of the film the battle delivers.

Godzilla

Godzilla Raids Again (Godzilla #2)

Godzilla Raids AgainGodzilla Raids Again
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again, is the second installment in the kaiju franchise following up the hugely successful first film just the year before. Takeo Murata and Shigeru Kayama once again wrote the screenplay and story along with Shigeaki Hidaki thus giving continuity to this Motoyoshi Oda directed film.

The film begins with two pilots, Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi, employed by an Osaka based fish cannery hunting schools of fish for the company’s fleet. Kobayashi’s plane experiences a malfunction forcing him to land near Iwato Island, Tsukioka looks for his friend and finds him safe only for the two men to be confronted by strange sounds then discover two monsters fighting. Tsukioka instantly identifies Godzilla before the two monsters crash into the sea. When meeting with government officials and scientists in Osaka, Kobayashi identifies the other as Anguirus. Amongst the group is Dr. Yamane who states that the two monsters were probably awakened by the hydrogen bomb testing that woke the first Godzilla, but unlike before they do not have the Oxygen Destroyer and must find another means of saving the country. Based on a recommendation by Yamane, the city is blacked out and the military uses flares out at sea that get Godzilla’s attention and moves him away from shore. Unfortunately a group of criminals breaks out of their transport and begin racing around the city, one of the chases leads to a fiery crash at industrial building that causes a larger fire getting Godzilla’s attention. Godzilla heads into Osaka when Anguirus emerges from the sea to attack him, they battle throughout the city before Godzilla kills his rival in the rumble of Osaka’s iconic castle. With their cannery destroyed, Kobayashi heads to their Hokkaido cannery where he is joined by Tsukioka a few months later when news breaks that Godzilla has been sighted again. The two pilots join the search, Kobayashi in his company plane while Tsukioka has been called up to the military. Godzilla’s atomic breathe disable Kobayashi’s plane and he crashed into snow covered mountain, but a sadden Tsukioka realizes they can shoot missiles at the mountain and cover Godzilla with an avalanche. It takes two waves of planes to complete the task and many pilot lives, but Godzilla is buried thus saving Japan.

Running almost 20 minutes less than the original, the film takes a completely different approach from the start. The introduction to the films main protagonists and the monsters is within the first ten minutes and letting the story flow from there. The use of clips from the original film and the reappearance of Dr. Yamane gave continuality from the previous installment while also giving information that this was a different individual Godzilla not the previous one come back to life. Like the first film, the special effects are top notch and essentially make this film live up to the original in that aspect. However, like the previous film there wasn’t much in character development through there was an attempt to give one to Kobayashi to make his death more meaningful. Yet the overall story felt off because after Godzilla had killed Anguirus and the characters vowed to rebuild, it felt like the film was over only for the setting to suddenly shift to Hokkaido.

Even though it is not as symbolic or high quality as its predecessor, Godzilla Raids Again was a good sequel that essentially made the franchise possible. The inclusion of two of the original writers provided for continuity from the first but keeping this film distinct. Although the story isn’t prefect, the special effects more than make up for it thus making for a fun watch.

Godzilla

Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (Godzilla #1.5)

GodzillaGodzilla: King of Monsters!
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The 1956 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters!, is the Americanized version of the original 1954 film that introduced the character not only to the United States but a worldwide audience.  The film’s English dubbing and insertion of Raymond Burr as the star of the film took away many of the political, societal, and anti-nuclear themes of the original.  However, it’s portrayal of the Japanese as both heroic protagonists and sympathetic victims that deal with the destruction wrought by the titular character were a first after World War II in the United States.

The film begins with American reporter Steve Martin being taken to a hospital with other victims of Godzilla’s devastation of Tokyo.  Through flashbacks Martin relates the events leading up that moment beginning with Japanese cargo ships and fishing boats begin disappearing around Odo Island, for the locals it is the return of an ancient sea creature “Godzilla”.  Because of the mystery around the waters of Odo, reporters arrive and begin interviewing people as well as learn about the local beliefs about what’s happening.  Then that night, a huge storm arrives as well as something else that demolishes and consumes parts of the village.  The resulting coverage and demand to relief results in the government sending an investigative team lead by paleontologist Dr. Yamane, who is on the island when the creature is seen for the first time in daylight proving it to be a living dinosaur awakened by atomic and nuclear testing.  Though the Japanese government attempts to keep their findings secret even as they attempt to kill the monster and more ships go missing, when Godzilla appears in Tokyo Bay and does some damage on both land and sea.  With the secret out the Japanese Defense Forces attempt to kill Godzilla, but only make the creature angrier which results in Tokyo getting devastated.  Yamane’s daughter, Emiko goes to her former fiancé Serizama and convinces him to use his scientific discovery to kill Godzilla.  Using his Oxygen Destroyer, Serizama kills not only Godzilla and himself to prevent his discovery from becoming a weapon.  A recovering Martin observes a hopeful conclusion at the end of the film after the monster’s death.

The Americanized edit transformed the film into a documentary style film taking away some of the dramatic effect, but was actually easy because of original director Ishiro Hondo’s original story had been told in somewhat a documentary tone.  Spliced throughout the film were scenes featuring Burr meeting stand-ins for the Japanese characters—seen only from behind—thus inserting him into the narrative easily but keeping a but 16 minutes of the original film in this edit.  These 16 minutes covers the love triangle of the original film that was not the best story arc of the film, but also cut a lot of “fleshing” out of Serizama.  Also among that missing footage is the truly anti-nuclear language, which the American audience would not have liked but there was enough nuclear elements that audiences would think it related to other atomic-mutation B-movie monsters.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters! while not as high quality as Gojira, yet the meddling of American and Japanese film created film monster legend in the United States that most likely made the Godzilla franchise what it is today.  Though my personal preference for the original film overshadows this Americanized version, I won’t deny its importance for the character and the franchise as a whole.

Godzilla

Gojira (Godzilla #1)

GojiraGojira
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The 1954 horror-science fiction classic Gojira, aka Godzilla, is the original film that launched a film franchise longer than any other in the history of cinema as well as spawning numerous spinoffs around the globe, particularly the United States.  The film directed by legendary filmmaker Ishiro Honda, written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama was released during the “golden age” of Japanese cinema after the Post-WWII Occupation which along with the atomic bomb plays a background theme of the theme.

Japanese cargo ships and fishing boats begin disappearing around Odo Island, for the locals it is the return of an ancient sea creature “Godzilla”.  Because of the mystery around the waters of Odo, reporters arrive and begin interviewing people as well as learn about the local beliefs about what’s happening.  Then that night, a huge storm arrives as well as something else that demolishes and consumes parts of the village.  The resulting coverage and demand to relief results in the government sending an investigative team lead by paleontologist Dr. Yamane, who is on the island when the creature is seen for the first time in daylight proving it to be a living dinosaur affected by the testing of atomic and nuclear bombs.  Though the Japanese government attempts to keep their findings secret even as they attempt to kill the monster and more ships go missing, when Godzilla appears in Tokyo Bay and does some damage on both land and sea.  With the secret out the Japanese Defense Forces attempt to kill Godzilla, but only make the creature angrier which results in Tokyo getting devastated.  During all of this Yamane begs that Godzilla be studied not only because of his uniqueness but his resistance to radiation even while his daughter is in the midst of a love triangle that will result in finding out the method in killing Godzilla by her former fiancé, Serizama.  Using his Oxygen Destroyer, Serizama kills not only Godzilla and himself to prevent his discovery from becoming a weapon though Yamane is fearful that more nuclear testing will result in another Godzilla.

This brief synopsis of the nearly 100-minute film, gives a faint hint at all the nuance that is within the picture.  The slow build up at the beginning of the film of Godzilla’s actions, though the monster is unseen, and the grief-stricken and stressed reactions of the survivors of sailors lost at sea by unknown means hearkened back to World War II and the loss of soldiers and sailors during the war.  Godzilla’s rampaging through Tokyo several times causing massive damage is a painful reminder of the American bombing campaign during the war.  Then there is Godzilla himself, brought to the surface because of underwater nuclear bomb tests in the film but obviously a stand-in to the long-lasting effects of radiation from the atomic bombs that were just then being understood.

Yet not everyone wants to go really in-depth the meaning of some films, so what of the face value of the film itself?  Gojira isn’t perfect especially when it comes to the human-centered story and the characters themselves.  Of the all the named characters with significant time, only Dr. Yamane and Serizama are the best fleshed out and only the latter shows any character development from when we first meet him in the film to his decision to die so his superweapon won’t be replicated.  The reason this film has become a classic is the special effects.  Using techniques the Japanese cinema had honed for decades under state control wanting war films, the industry learned to recreate real-life locations in miniature and editing techniques to make things look as realistic as a film in the 1950s could.

While subsequent ToHo films featuring Godzilla are not as high quality as the first, they do not take away anything from Gojira.  This horror-science fiction classic’s use of symbolism to express the underlying currents of Japanese society and culture a decade after the end of the World War II still speaks to those viewers today that look for it.  And for those who do not, the first and original film to feature Godzilla is a recommended must see given the worldwide culture impact the character has had.

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