Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Godzilla original (1954)

I watched the original Godzilla after watching the 2014 Reboot because I wanted to gain perspective. For the record, I will point out that it was the unedited Japanese version "Gojira" rather than the Americanized "King of the Monsters". I will examine plot, character, and polish and then assign a grade. Comparisons to the 2014 reboot will follow when necessary.


This film has a horror/mystery sense to it. The early scenes are dedicated to figuring out what's going on and how to deal with it. The scenes jump between numerous groups before settling on Emiko and Dr. Serizawa. This gives a greater sense to the immensity of the problem of Godzilla. Even when he's not on screen, people are affected by his presence; daily living decisions have to account for this monster.
This sort of atmosphere is missing in the 2014 reboot, which tries too hard to make the audience care about the Brody family. The soldier going home plot is a parallel and competing plot thread with the "rampaging giant monsters" thing instead of contributing to it.

This original film has a moral dilemma that makes its conflict poignant. Godzilla was awakened by a super weapon, nuclear bombs, and the only feasible way to stop him is with another new super weapon, the oxygen destroyer. If its existence is revealed, then it too would ravage the world as others would seek to use it in the future. The anguish that Dr. Serizawa  feels as he watches Godzilla rampage is finer than any drama film I've ever seen.
It's also missing in the reboot. Instead we have stuff like "This giant monster is the consequence of nukes so we're going to hit it with a bigger nuke." Only the new Dr. Serizawa realizes how stupid this sounds. It's Godzilla's gravitas that's missing. No one gives him the respect/fear he deserves until the end of the movie. "King of Monsters-Savior of our City?" is one of my favorite parts.
It's the MUTO that feel like the main monster in the reboot. Their first destruction and casualty causing is in a nuclear plant. Then they raid a nuclear waste facility and steal an armed warhead and bring it into a heavily populated area. It's like they stole Godzilla's shtick. He himself feels like a side note in comparison. This is another point in the original's favor and against the reboot.

The climax has a great emotional pitch. Dr. Serizawa  uses his invention and in such a way that it will never be misused. It's quite an achievement that he can make his own (off-screen) death more dramatic and compelling than the giant monster being stripped to the bone.
The final line is about the possibility of other Godzilla and how irresponsible uses of nukes could wake another one up. It is very much in line with the rest of the movie, both in message and in tone.
The reboot feels confused about its climax. It's messy. The humans scurry around like ineffective ants and Godzilla simply leaves after killing both MUTO. The message, if any, is as follows: If confronted with two or more hostile giant monsters, "Let them fight".


A success of the original film is how it personifies the common japanese citizen. Instead of forcing an everyman audience surrogate who is supposed to represent everybody, there are numerous small scenes. There's the old fisherman talking about old legends, there's the woman and her Famous Last Words next to her children, the reporter with his Dead Line News, the council trying to get a handle on things and decided what to do with the information they have, the team that analyzes the footprints and such. It's a lot of non-protagonist attention and it works much better than the reboot's obsession with the Brody family.

Dr.Serizawa is fantastic. Despite his isolation, eye patch, and oxygen destroyer, he's not a stereotypical mad scientist. He's a morally upstanding guy who wants to make the world a better place, and just happens to stumble upon a potential super weapon. He really doesn't want to be come a "destroyer of worlds" and at the same time he can't stand watching Godzilla rampage.
His actor does a great job as well. He's cold and aloof to the reporter but it's clear to see his anguish in private. The expression he makes when he burns his research notes is tragic; it's like he's building building his own funeral pyre. You can see him mentally preparing himself for his heroic sacrifice.
I see Brody Sr as his reboot counterpart. He is someone I would like to see more off. As I stated in my previous review, he has the passion and motive that could have made him a compelling character. I can imagine him and Godzilla forming an Enemy Mine situation to kill the MUTO; the former for revenge and the later for a meal.

Ogata is also good. He's a got a job to do and he does it, even if it means confronting giant radiation breathing monsters. He makes a great contrast with Dr.Serizawa. He's like "I get your Scale of Scientific Sins problem, but people are dying."
You could say that Brody Jr is his counterpart in the reboot. He's a soldier, he has family issues, and he's trying to kill the monsters. The difference is that the reboot forces the movie to follow Brody Jr to the expense of other characters. This weakens the movie.

This is where the original movie losses points with me. Given the era and the movie's budget, the special effects are silly. When you get a good look at Godzilla's face, you see googly eyes. The destruction of cities and such are clearly model sets. I remember a scene where a car crashes and, mid-frame, it transforms into a toy. The rampage is still effective but only when license is given for the real life context.
In that respect, the reboot blows the original out of the water. Godzilla and the MUTO truly look like a giant reptile and insects instead of men in rubber suites. The atomic breath is breath-taking in its awesomeness. The destruction couldn't look more real and devastating. If there's one thing I can praise without reserve about the reboot then it is how it brought life and immensity to Godzilla and his two giant monster foes.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Gojira" an A

I watched the 2014 reboot because I've heard a lot about Godzilla but never watched one of the films. The closest I'd come was the cartoon series based on the 1998 film. So I bought the original. In the time to come, I'm going to go through the rest of the franchise. Perhaps then I will have a different perspective on the 2014 reboot. Until then, you can read what I think about it in the previous post: Godzilla 2014 review

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Godzilla 2014 review

I watched the 2014 reboot of Godzilla a few weeks back. It was my first Godzilla movie. Before that my only Godzilla experience was watching the animated series (featuring the son of Zilla) when I was a kid. It wasn't quite what I was expecting so I did a little reading while composing the first draft of this review. I decided to watch the very first Godzilla movie (Japanese original, not  "King of Monsters" adaption) before finishing this review.  Next week, I'll post a review for the original, kind of like what I did with the original and reboot of Robocop.

What we have here is jumbled. The prologue starts in 1954, in the ocean. Then it jumps forward half a century to the Philippines, and then another time and space jump to Japan and then another of fifteen years to America. At the start of the first act, the protagonist then immediately goes back to Japan. As if that weren't enough, the movie shifts back to America a couple scenes later. It's disorienting and it makes the movie feel like it's confused about its identity.
The focus on Ford Brody increases the confusion. He is only tangentially related to the MUTO or Godzilla by way of his father's research. After his father's death, he spends a good portion of the movie simply trying to go home and this coincidentally puts him in the MUTO and/or Godzilla's path. There are frequent splits between traveling and MONARCH working with the Japanese and/or American military trying to get a handle on the giant radioactive monster situation.
The plan to kill both monsters is stupid. You have a creature that feeds on radiation and your plan is to throw a nuke at it. This is despite the fact that the first scenes of the movie is a similar plan failing. The scientists point this out, and the military basically says "that plan failed because we didn't throw big bombs at them". 
Considering the solution and its dilemma in the original, I wonder if the writers for this reboot watched it. If they did, they've either forgotten or didn't care.
The MUTO steal the warheads, take them to a heavily populated city, and the military has to radically adjust their plan to getting the bomb out before it goes off. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa says "let them fight" and this time the military listens.

Now, about Godzilla and his treatment in this film. I say the following after having watched the original uncut Godzilla (Gojira) in the original Japanese (with English subtitles).

I understand the whole "build up anticipation" thing and "nothing but action gets boring" thing.  It works very well in the original. The problem in this movie is that it is not "sneak peaks" and instead teasing. When viewers see a full body shoot of Godzilla, hear him roar, and he's facing another monster, they expect to see a fight. Instead, the film immediately jumps forward to after the fight and only shows a couple seconds in a in-universe TV. That's not delayed gratification. That is laziness and saving on the budget.

I think the Monster Delay trope works well in the original. I don't think it's handled well here. At least, it's not in regards to Godzilla. The MUTO are handled better. That early scene where they cause the tragedy at Janjira is perfect as an introduction scene. It has alarms, mechanical destruction, and all that stuff that is nice to set up danger. A couple scenes later, there is a dark and shadowy scene where a MUTO fights soldiers. That's also good. Everything else until the climax is simple chain jerking.
The ending feels...off. After killing both monsters, Godzilla goes back into the sea. Since he was described as an "apex predator" I would have liked to see him eating the dead MUTO.


There isn't much to talk about in regards to characters. The military guys, including our protagonist Ford Brody, are kinda dull and interchangeable. The scientists guys are mostly here for exposition. The civilians, like the Brody family, are here to scream and run away. This is the case for the better part of two hours.

Ford Brody feels like a plot prop. He emphasizes how isolated his father has become in his search for the truth of the Janira Incident. He provides a piece of knowledge to MONARCH after his father dies. He enables the plans for the nukes because he's a bomb disposer for the military. Besides this skill and his marriage, there's nothing to his personality but Stoicism. He watched his dad die when they were on the verge of reconciling and this doesn't matter for more than a scene and only because MONRACH needs the above state nugget of knowledge.

He doesn't seem to care that there are giant monsters running around and at times it sounds like he wants to leave the story entirely and fade into the background like one more civilian.

The problem I have with this movie, and all the Word of God and hyper defenders and apologists of it, is just this. They talk about the minimal Godzilla and monster fighting because they want something more human, emotional, and True Art instead of sheeple-pleasing CGI and destruction. YET THE HUMAN CHARACTERS DO NOT DELIVER. Thus, it sounds like an excuse to save on special effects than anything "artsy".

 The one exception to this is Dr. Brody. He is a passionate man. He has a connection to the plot through the Janjira Incident. He has a personal tragedy and a drive to overcome it that makes him cheery worthy. I don't understand why the plot starts with him and then time skips fifteen years to focus on his son. The only reason could be to prove that Anyone Can Die, but you'd think that they wouldn't hand protagonist duties over to someone as uninvolved in the plot as Ford.

The giants monsters, MUTO and Godzilla alike, are stronger characters than Ford despite their lack of lines and screen time. They are more active characters to be sure. They have a plan and carry it out. Despite being on screen for less than ten minutes out of two hours, they carry the entire movie. Without them, there would be no movie. The humans are interchangeable and lesser in importance. If you want a disaster movie, use a tornado or something.


The pacing is funky. It's like start and stop in a car. If the climax were the only scene to have the monsters, that would have been sufficient. My problem is the constant jerking away.

Godzilla and the MUTO look great. The revealing shot of Godzilla, in particular, is fantastic. Starting with the foot of stomping, trailing up the body to show a full shot and cap it with a roar. It was awesome! Now if only they didn't cut away until after the fact. Seeing them on TV is a let down, and now that I think about it, a Take That against the audience.

The final battle is also awesome. There's an extended full fight between Godzill and both MUTO. The Big G's breath weapon looks amazing. Watching the soldiers HALO jump into their midst and sneak into the MUTO nest was also pretty cool.
Trickster Eric Novels gives Godzilla 2014 a C

I might as well say right now that I prefer the 1954's original, man-in-a-suit and all. You can see why in my next post: Godzilla 1954 original

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Young Miss Holmes casebook 1-2

This is not a review request. I found out about this book from wandering about online. It looked intriguing but I was worried. 

I thought it was going to be a Cousin Oliver style Mary Sue. In other words, a lame story exploiting Sherlock Holmes' name for an unrealistic child protagonist.  That is not the case. Sherlock Holmes remains the number mystery solver here and no one knows this better than Christie herself. She sometimes calls herself his "stupid niece" because she can't measure up to him. He's a regular character here and important to many storylines but he's still not in the "main cast" or takes the spotlight from them. 

The plots are the original Holmes stories but from the perspective of the Young Miss Holmes, Christie Hope. However, these are not simple re-treads with a younger and cuter protagonist. There is a lot of original content built up around the cases, and because Christie has her own way of solving crimes, even the cases themselves aren't the same. I read the original Red-headed League after reading this one here and it is very much a difference experience. You know those games where you can play through the same event as different characters? It's like that.

Christie is called "Holmes in miniature" by several characters and this is a concise way to put it. She is academically brilliant and solves cases for fun rather than Great Justice. Her social skills are marginally better and she has a great deal more compassion but she'd rather stay in the family library than gossip. While intelligent she is still a child and thus immature, and this where her Watsons come in.

Christie has "three Watson" so to speak: two maids and her governess. In place of the bromance of Homes and Watson themselves, this is more of a two big sisters and mother-substitute thing.  Grace, the governess, takes the biggest role in raising Christie to be a proper lady, because her parents are in India, but at the same time she also teaches her how to become a better detective.

The artwork is fantastic. It's cute without being cutes-y and does a great job conveying story as well as the manga's humor.

 There is a lot of funny stuff here. I have only read two of the original stories, so I may have the wrong impression, but I don't remember there being much to laugh about.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Young Miss Holmes Casebook 1-2" an A+

Click here for the next book review (a true review request): God's Forge

To see the previous book review (also a true review request), click here for "Crisis On Stardust Station"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Answering Review Request: "Crisis on Stardust Station"

John Taloni asked me to read his story "Crisis on Stardust Station". It is about intelligent and telepathic cats that live in a space station and help humans repair it after a freak solar flare. I will examine plot, characters and polish before assigning a grade.


The plot starts off with world building and character introduction during a peaceful time. I find this necessary to set the tone of the story. It's like something written by Vulcans; all serious and logical. At many times someone says something along the lines of "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one." Overall, it's interesting to see the tripartite world of the space station: human astronauts, Civilized Cats and Free Cats.

I would classify the rest of the plot in two arcs: Repair and Prepare. The Repair Arc follows the space station's attempt to fix the damage done to the station by the solar flare and the Prepare Arc follows their attempts to shield themselves against the next solar flare. The primary work is done by the Civilized Cats and Free Cats with the three humans providing knowledge of the station and the necessary work to be done.

Aside from the intelligent and telepathic cats thing, it is a hard space science fiction work. I will freely admit that I don't understand how space stations and solar collector satellites function so my confusion at the events is likely due to my own ignorance. If Mr.Taloni were just making stuff, I wouldn't be able to tell. However, it sounds plausible enough. Nothing techno babble or P particles.

On the other side of the coin, it's not completely science-y. There's other stuff too. There's a culture clash between the Civilized Cats and the Free Cats, discussions about leadership, and also a very tiny love mystery. These things provide that Human/Cat element so you know you're not dealing with robots.

Ending is good. There's a climax and then falling action to resolution, and finally a sequel hook. I like that pairing.

There's a large cast of named characters. The more prominent have good development and I will highlight some of them. On the whole the cast feels more like an ensemble without a "main cast".

Shadow is the leader of the Free Cats. He's powerful and a skilled hunter. As the crisis unfolds, it's interesting to see him transition from "forest hunt leader" to "space hunt leader". It's kind of like a Industrial Revolution thing; that transfer of skills. Instead of catching mice he's catching packages in space.

Speaker is a Free Cat misfit. He's a poor hunter and "paths" i.e. (telepathic transmits) much louder than others. It turns out that he has a special skill for long range telepathy and going deeper than others. On Tvtropes, we'd call him a Woobie, so it's nice to see him "find his highwalker" in Alice.

John the human and Mrrowl the cat are like the same person in two different bodies. Both of them are studious, inquisitive, strong willed and take the long view of things. If one removed descriptions and saw only dialogue, it would be easy to imagine them being old friends of the same species. Being on the same wavelength likely helps Mrrowl add John to the "Deep Path", a Hive-Mind like group telepathy session.


No spelling or grammar errors.

Like I said above, there's a Vulcan style tone in this book. It's serious, logical, presents the facts and gets stuff done. It reminds me of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories in that way.

 This is not to say that there is no emotion. For instance, when Shadow goes off to make his Heroic Sacrifice, there is a great deal of emotion. In fact, scenes such as these stand out all the more because they are rare, and therefore more memorable.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Crisis on Stardust Station" a B+

Click here for the next book review (which is not a review request): Young Miss Holmes casebook 1-2
Click here for the previous review request: Dawn of Steam: First Light