Kong Vs. Godzilla (Part Two of Two)The Dark Herald
In 1975 a poll was conducted on the average American. Name the most famous Japanese person you know. The number one answer was Godzilla.
In case you are wondering, number two was Bruce Lee and number three was Hirohito.
Interesting choices since none of them are Japanese.
Emperor Hirohito came closest but there is a huge legal question mark over whether or not the royal family of Nippon is in fact, Japanese citizens. They don’t have the all-important Family Registry. They can’t vote. And they have some rights that no Japanese citizen has and are under some fairly unique restrictions as well.
Still, Hirohito was a better choice than an ethnic Chinese, born in San Francisco.
Finally, there was Godzilla, who was born (hatched) in the Bikini Atoll, which at the time was an American possession.
So, in answer to the question, “name the most famous Japanese person you know?” We came up with two Americans and no Japanese.
That is how well, Americans instinctively get Japan.
The truth is my people have no business making Godzilla movies, we can’t get him right. We just can’t.
Admittedly, the Japanese have missed the mark more than once on the big G themselves.
The first set of Godzilla movies running from 1954—1975 are referred to as the Showa era Godzilla movies.* Although, realistically, the first film probably shouldn’t count because Godzilla died at the end. The rest have a somewhat, more or less shared continuity.
After a nine-year hiatus, Godzilla 1984 was made. This was the first of the Heisei era (1984-1995) Godzilla movies, despite the fact that Hirohito was alive for the release of the first two of them. These films had their own shared continuity distinctly separate from the Showa era Godzilla. This series ended in 1995 with Godzilla Vs Destroyah; at end of this film Godzilla dies and Godzilla Junior suddenly grows up to become the new Godzilla. Not that it mattered since this was the end of the series and Toho has never revisited the Heisei era cinematic universe.
Honestly, the Heisei era was kind of weak. We aren’t talking Third Star Wars Trilogy weak, but Second Trilogy weak would be a fair referent.
The Millennium era (1999-2004) Godzilla films were quite a bit stronger. Each of these movies had no continuity with any of the others except for Gojira (1954) as a common starting point. It let the creators spread their wings a bit and the results were generally better than Heisei era movies.
The Heisei era Godzilla films were also a bit on the political side. Godzilla, as I noted earlier, was technically an American and frequently seems to have been a stand-in for Japanese American relations. When Godzilla is evil and a terrifying threat, Japan is usually having problems with the USA for one reason or another. When Godzilla is a protector, (albeit one that oafishly smashes skyscrapers flat), they tend to be good.
It’s not an ironclad rule. Shin Godzilla (2014) came out at a time when American/Japanese relations were pretty good and Godzilla was very much a bad guy in that one.
Shin Godzilla is rather interesting from a narrative standpoint. This is “a Godzilla film with no protagonist and almost no Godzilla.”
This flick is basically a fictional documentary. What would really happen if Godzilla suddenly appeared in today’s Japan out of the blue.
This film tries to recapture that feeling of the original 1954 movie to the extent that it can.
It primarily shows the frustration of the Japanese with their government by Old Men. When Godzilla attacks, the first thing the Prime Minister does is hold a meeting. Then he holds a second more serious meeting and then a third and even more serious meeting as this unprecedented situation spirals out of control. The most frantic concern of the bureaucrats isn’t saving Tokyo it’s trying to figure out whose department this thing falls under.
“Unprecedented” is the word that keeps getting used and it is clearly being used in contempt.
The biggest problem the younger men have is convincing the Old Men that this thing is a disaster and they need to move fast. To underscore this, Godzilla keeps morphing. Initially, he’s just an odd if gigantic sea snake if they had acted quickly enough, he could have been killed with relative ease. By the time they decide they have to bring in their biggest guns, the creature has become the full-size King of the Monsters and there is no way to stop him with conventional arms and nukes will probably just get him mad.
The funny part is that there really isn’t much in the way of Anti-Americanism present. We weren’t blamed overmuch for its creation. When American help is finally asked for, the USA tries to stop it using our most advanced weapons and fails. The attitude is that America is the biggest and the most powerful country in history, but it failed so we have to try and do this thing ourselves.
Oh, and speaking of Americans I HAVE to introduce you to Kyoko Patterson, the token American in this film. She is hilarious.
Contempt for Japan’s political inertia is as thick as a Korean fake mink blanket, (if you have one you know what I mean) in this picture. “When will we stop being a Post-War Japan?” One of the young men asks in disgust.
There is no way to spoil a story you know by heart, so I’ll fill you in on the details. The SDF fails and in desperation, the Japanese government calls in the Americans, and even we can’t stop the monster. So it’s up to the Kaiju Otaku (Okay officially they were a study team but they were clearly all meant to be Kaiju Otaku) to stop the monster. And they succeed.
The end of the film shows a Japan that has defeated the undefeatable and is now ready to stand on its own. It’s nationalist entertainment.
The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm.
That covers Japan’s post Showa era Godzilla iterations.
America’s attempts at making Godzilla movies have all been laughable failures.
The first out of the gate was Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998). He was riding a big wave of success having revived the disaster movie genre of the 1970s. After Independence Day he looked around for another way to demolish New York and decided to go with Godzilla.
There was no aspect of the King of the Kaijus that Emmerich got right. He indulged himself in creating new and improved canon, which went over with fans about as well as the reimagined Luke Skywalker did in The Last Jedi. Americans didn’t like this new version and the Japanese hated him so much they licensed Emmerich’s version just so that the “real Godzilla” could defeat him with humiliating ease in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). A lot of scenes were straight-up rip-offs from Jurassic Park. Emmerich couldn’t decide what size he wanted Godzilla to be. The actors clearly were just in it for a paycheck. And the human side plots were all dead ends that contributed nothing to the overall story. Godzilla 1998 was a student film on a big budget.
Godzilla 2014 was the first of the Legendary Films’ attempt to turn the Kaiju with the atomic breath into a billion-dollar franchise.
At first it looked promising. It started off in Japan, that was a nice for change.
But the truth is the only reason I gave it a chance was that I thought Bryan Cranston was going to be playing an American Doctor Serizawa. That seemed like a pretty interesting idea and Cranston was just off of Breaking Bad, I was sure he could something interesting with it. He died in the first fifteen minutes, leaving a LOT of movie time to be filled without him. And for that matter without Godzilla himself. He had very little screen time and what little he had you were usually just seeing one oversized part of him. In truth, I understand why the director did it. He was hoping that projecting oversized this and that against a modern background would make the monster seem more believable. The fundamental problem with this approach is that if you are watching a Godzilla movie for the realism, you are doing it wrong. Which he did.
After that came Kong: Skull Island. It was slightly better, given that Legendary wasn’t trying to make a Godzilla movie. Not that it was good either. The annoying part is that the beginning was pretty promising. An American and Japanese pilot crash on Skull Island in WWII. They immediately start fighting to the death but then are interrupted by Kong’s roar. Cut to opening credits. And then the damn movie jumps ahead thirty years leaving me yelling, “Wait! Woah! Stop! Go back! What the fuck!? I wanted to watch that other movie!” No such luck, the film was no stuck in the Seventies. I might do a more thorough takedown depending on how bad Kong Vs Godzilla is.
Finally, we had Godzilla King of the Monsters. One of the dumbest and weirdest movies I’ve ever seen in my life. It starred Tywin Lannister and Elle from Stranger Things. The plot was that Elle’s brother was killed in Godzilla (2014). Elle’s mother decides to avenge her son’s death by becoming an eco-terrorist and this is portrayed as a really good thing! Her plan is for Godzilla to destroy civilization and that will bring about an eco-utopia. But it turns out her ally, Tywin wants to go too far and kill all the humans. Making him a bad eco-terrorist. Lots of stuff happens and Elle… Screams… A… Lot. It’s damn near all that Millie Bobbie Brown does in this movie. I try not to loath child actors, what they turn into isn’t really their fault but it doesn’t change the fact that she is becoming the new Emma Watson fast.
And she is prominently featured in the trailer for KKvG. In the end credits for Godzilla King of the monsters, Elle’s mother’s insane plan appeared to be working perfectly. I am assuming AOC was the script doctor on this one (which would actually explain everything).
But in the trailer for the new movie, things have apparently gone wrong with the brilliant plan of destroying civilization. And Godzilla is no longer interested in protecting Gaia. He wants to avenge Mother Earth (I guess) and wipe us all out. So they’ve decided to go with the JSDF plan from 1963 and sic King Kong on him. Probably by promising him tons of Red Berry Juice and assuring him that Fumiko has forgotten all about his forgetting about White Day. Fumiko would be seventy-seven now but I guarantee you there is no way in hell she forgot about Kong blowing off White Day.
Yeah, it’s gonna suck.
*The Showa emperor being the aforementioned, Hirohito.