This month I will be doing something a bit different with the blog. Those of you who know me personally already see my undying love for kaiju, particularly for that king of daikaiju, Godzilla. So in celebration of Shin Godzilla and October, I'm going to watch all the Godzilla films I own. 30 films in total. Then every Sunday I will write a review of all the shows I have watched.
Starting this tradition off will be me watching two Godzilla films and then reviewing them. The reviews will all be similar. I will analyze the story, characters, themes, and acting to rate where I think they fit on the Godzilla totem pole.
Today, we will be looking at two Godzilla films. The first one is Godzilla 1984 aka known as Godzilla Returns. Then we will go back to 1966 and watch Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster aka Ebirah: Horror of the deep.
Godzilla 1984 aka Godzilla Returns
Toho had stopped making Godzilla films in the eighties, due to the financial failure of Terror of MechaGodzilla. Multiple times in the 80's a reboot had been attempted, and more films even one attemped to get an American director. Most of those plans fell through, and eventually Toho brought a team to create a sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla film. That would become Godzilla 1984, and would return to the darker roots of the monster.
Godzilla 1984 begins on a boat where fisherman during a volcanic eruption see Godzilla appear. Godzilla awakes and wrecks havoc on the world once more. We are introduced to our main character Goro Maki a reporter who finds Hiroshi Okumura, the sole survivor of the tragedy.
Goro wants to report the findings, but can't as Okumura's professor from his college days Makoto Hayashida has confirmed that the monster is Godzilla and the government forces a gag order on all reports dealing with Godzilla. During this time Maki sees Hiroshi's sister Naoko and for some reason or another is drawn to her. He is the one who reunites brother and sister.
Eventually, Godzilla sinks a Soviet sub looking for nuclear energy. This creates an international incident which almost makes the US go to war against the the U.S.S.R., but the Japanese government led by Prime Minister Seiki Mitamura stops the contention by releasing the information about Godzilla. To make matters more complicated the Soviets and the US want to test nuclear weapons above Japan if Godzilla appears. The Prime Minster gets them to call off their nukes, and instead favors the SDF new weapon called Weapon X.
Godzilla attacks a nuclear plant, drawn by the energy. This incident is important for two reasons. The first being this is the first time we actually see Godzilla in all his glory, but it is also important because this is when we find out that Godzilla has a magnetic part of his brain like a bird which homes in like a bird. Professor Hayashida wants to use this to try and trap Godzilla in Mt. Miura.
Professor's proposal is gawked at by most of the Japanese cabinet, but the plan is still allowed to take place as long as Project X doesn't end up destroying Godzilla. It is pretty much their back-up plan.
Godzilla comes to Tokyo and starts destroying it. Weapon X confronts Godzilla and we get some tension of our main characters as they try to escape Tokyo in the ensuing chaos. Weapon X uses Cadmium rounds to make Godzilla go to sleep. This allows Hiroshi and Hayashida to flee and set up the trap while Maki and Naoko stay and escape Godzilla's rampage.
Although the cadmium rounds work, a misstep by the Soviets allow a nuke from their satellite to launch, which gets intercepted by the Americans. This creates an EMP field which temporary disables Weapon X, but causes a lightning storm that revives Godzilla. Once he is awakes he makes quick work of Weapon X, ultimately destroying it by sending a skyscraper on top of it. Then Godzilla is lured to Mt. Miura where he falls into the crater and dies.
The story works as a return to form, many reviewers have called it boring. It defiantly is not the most action packed Godzilla films. The tension is not really there and the sense of dread unlike the original Godzilla is not there either. They force tension with the scenes in Tokyo with Maki and Naoko, but those are ultimatly pointless scenes. We already know people are running from Godzilla, so adding those scenes to try and put in ethos doesn't really fill the void.
The story may fall flat and is quite boring, but the characters and acting are phenomenal. Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki the main character is quite an interesting character who has a motive in the beginning, and stays with the scientists through his somewhat attachment to Naoko. I feel his character arc would have been improved by making Naoko a stronger character. She just simply exists, and isn't really a strong female character. This is remedied in Godzilla films to come as they will all star female cast members who kick butt and are memorable.
The real actor who steals the show is the prime minster played by Keiji Kobayashi. His acting in the film is the best. He is always trying to do something best for his country. The scenes with him are enjoyable, because he just has that presence that controls the scene.
The themes of this film go back to the original Godzilla with threat of nuclear war. This is in the end of the Cold War, and Japan a country that had seen not one but two atomic bombs. The director wanted to bring back the fear of nuclear weapons, and the nuclear threat was important theme used. Godzilla himself is a nuclear weapon, a living nuclear weapon as they say in the film.
There is a hint of anti-Soviet propaganda as it is the Americans who defeat the Soviets weapon. The Soviets are the ones who are attacked by Godzilla, and you almost see them as the victims. But, the biggest victims is that of the Japanese people. The destruction of Godzilla and nuclear weapons is ultimately defeated not by Super X. Godzilla is defeated by man using nature to get rid of it's problems. Working with nature can man defeat it's demons. This theme of the power of nature as an ally is what defeat's Godzilla.
They use the magnetic homing trait of Godzilla to lure him into the volcano. The volcano destroys Godzilla. Life finds a way, yes I stole that from Jurassic Park. Godzilla was created by power-hungry humans, and was destroyed by humans working together with nature instead of exploiting it. This is a very Miyazaki theme, although this predates the Miyazaki films that use that trope, it still fits to describe this film.
In all Godzilla 1984 is an interesting Godzilla film. It may not have the best story, but Godzilla films have never had the best story or plot. If you want to see Godzilla as a bad guy and not a good guy mixed with themes of man vs. nature and a cold war rhetoric then this film is for you.
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster came hot from the heels of other 60's era Godzilla film. Godzilla continued to fill in for Gamera as the protector of Japanese youth. The main characters are all 60's Japanese teenagers and the film has a very hippy vibe. The teenagers use their head and are creative against the man. Although, the man is a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo who have at their disposal a giant lobster named Ebirah: The Horror of the Deep.
The story starts off with a psychic telling a mother that her son is still lost at sea. Ryoto goes in search of his brother. First he teams up with some friends to win a dance contest. After befriending these individuals he goes to look at boats. Once on a boat they see a suspicious person in the boat who says that it is his boat.
The three stay on the boat with the crazy man who may or may not be a wanted criminal who is a lockpick. While they sleep, the boat maniac Ryoto has already sat sail in search of his brother. On the way they are attacked by Ebirah and wash up on Demon Island.
On Demon Island they see the evil organization called Red Bamboo who enslave Infant Islanders to make a yellow liquid which stops Ebirah from attacking them. They rescue a girl named Dayo and hide in the caves on the island.
It is in the caves that they see Godzilla hibernating in a cave. Not wanting to stay in a cave for Godzilla and wanting to know more about the Red Bamboo the group of five head into the Red Bamboo base. They find out that Red Bamboo are making nuclear weapons.
The five of them escape, but in the escape are split up. One of the dancer friends, Nita is captured by the Red Bamboo and is forced into labor like the islanders. Meanwhile Ryoto jumps on a surveillance balloon and lands on Infant Island , where he is reunited with his brother.
In the ensuing chaos and now in dire straits the remaining three decide to wake-up Godzilla. They do this using some wire that Dayo mistook for a necklace from the Red Bamboo base. The wire and a sword as a lightning rod that they found earlier wakes up Godzilla. Godzilla battles Ebirah in the sea, allowing Ryota and his brother to escape the monsters wrath.
While in captivity Nita brings the islanders together and they decide to delude the yellow liquid and make phony copycat to teach the terrorists a lesson. Meanwhile Godzilla appears on two occasions, one time to scare away the Red Bamboo and another time to destroy the base. In the destruction, the captives are set free, but one of the scientists sets the nukes off to blow the island to smithereens. They try to stop it, but to no avail. Instead the Infant Islanders awaken Mothra who saves the islanders and Godzilla who defeats Ebirah, also tries to fight Mothra briefly before Mothras creates a dust storm allowing it and Islanders to leave.
The film is a very cheesy 60's take on Godzilla. Continuing with the very silly Godzilla who is more of an anti-hero than a villian. The common themes of nuclear weapons is addressed like in many Godzilla films. This film also has a few more themes such as brain over brawn, which is show in the case of the lockpick/safecracker and even Nita as he suggests that they delude the yellow liquid allowing Ebirah to get rid of the terrorists.
The acting is typical acting, and no real characters stand out. Too many characters to focus on and none really have character arcs. I will say I noticed that all the male actors had a thing for Dayo as they kept touching her on the ass. It might have been just a nitpick, but seriously everyone was touching her in the butt. Overall, the film is hilarious. It isn't bad, but it isn't good. The writing falls flat and characters do interesting things, but the writing isn't anything worth crying over. If you like Godzilla as an anti-hero and Deus Ex Mothra endings then this is for you.