29 May 2009

The Champ is Here

King of monsters? Can it be disputed? No not really. Godzilla has a massive 28 movies under his belt (29 if you count the 1997 American one, some do some don’t) and this is part 16 and in a way part 2. The Return of Godzilla invites you to forget all preceding Godzilla films, except for the 1954 original. So it’s a sequel, he hasn’t been seen for 30 years, horror fans get into Halloween H20 mode. The Return of Godzilla feels like one of those back to basics films. When a franchise gets out of control, goes too far from the source material, gets too silly, you strip it all back and start again. So there is no Godzilla versus, no other monsters, no hero Godzilla coming to the rescue, and best of all no Minilla (the annoying son of Godzilla).

So what we have here is good old bad ass Godzilla coming to shore and smashing things up; skyscrapers, power stations, bullet trains, power lines, you name it he smashes it. Yes! That’s what we want, none of this mamsy-pamsy friendly Godzilla. The film starts strongly with a cool initial encounter where Godzilla is kept in the shadows, we see glimpses of him, a scale here, and radar blip there. When he does get revealed we first see the world from his point of view has plods ominously through the mist and tackles a nuclear power plant for brunch. Then in a technique usually reserved for sexy blonde eye candy, the camera pans up from his feet (no stilettos) all the way up past his chunky frumpy thighs, to reveal that famous pug-like boxer snout of the great beast himself. Now keeping in mind the world hasn’t seen him for 30 years, this is pretty cool stuff.

Then comes the low point. Humans. The human cast and characters are almost exclusively the boring ingredient to any Godzilla film. They usually seem to be taking part in another movie altogether. In this one it’s something to do with a fisherman, a professor, the fisherman’s sister (who is coincidentally the professors assistant), a journalist, the Japanese Primemister and the US and Soviet navies. But seriously who cares. The film lights up at the beginning of the third act when the human foreplay is over and big boy makes his way to Tokyo and oh yes; it’s clobberin’ time. The attack on Tokyo harbor is fantastic as the military try in vain to keep Godzilla out at sea, that plan is a fairly epic failure. But this scene is pulled off to a plumb, showcasing all that is great about the Toho style of monster movie filmmaking. The only thing that can stop Godzilla’s rearranging of Tokyo’s architecture is a strange flying submarine known as Weapon X, and to be fair to it, it almost lands the knockout blow. But then the bizarre US Soviet subplot comes to fruition when their respective nuclear bombs detonate in the atmosphere above Tokyo causing a radioactive lightening storm that strikes Godzilla waking him for one last Balboa style round. Only in Japan. Now if that’s not an odd enough plot point things get more surreal. For no reason what so ever Godzilla is respondent to the high pitched frequency given off by migrant birds! Making winter attacks a real shitter for him. So the professor and his human chums lure Godzilla to his ultimate demise inside a volcano by mimicking the pitch of said birds. Utterly bonkers Japanese rational but fantastically entertaining and importantly they succeed at times in making the king of monsters scary again.

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