Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Godzilla’

Word has come that Haruo Nakajima has passed away. Nakajima was the Japanese actor who originated the seminal role of Godzilla (1954). Clad in the trademarked gray rubber suit — the initial films were in black and white — he stormed across the countryside and laid waste to cities in a dozen Godzilla movies.

Nakajima worked hard in his role. To develop Godzilla’s distinctive walk, he studied the movement of animals such as bears and elephants. Just to wear the suit was physically demanding. Some versions weighed over 100 pounds!

Although Godzilla was Nakajima’s best known creation, he also wore a different rubber suit to play the part of King Kong in 1967. His career, which lasted until 1973, included some 50 films, often war movies and samurai dramas. As he later joked, “I was the guy who got killed.”

For all the technical limitations and hokey plots, Godzilla remains one of the world’s most beloved film franchises. Not a bad legacy for a guy whose face was never seen on camera.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

Read Full Post »

Here’s my newest dragon friend, Hafzilla.

Hafzilla

Hafzilla


Hafzilla is a foundling dragon. I was riding my bike and stopped to pick up a water bottle from the curb, when I noticed something bright green in a parking lot. Turns out it was part of a Godzilla toy. You know, the wind-up kind. It had been crushed by a car. What I salvaged was the largest piece.

Normally I hate litter, but who could resist poor little Hafzilla?

Read Full Post »

Last weekend my husband and I watched the live-action rendition of Space Battleship Yamato. Don’t recognize the name? Hmm, how about Captain Avatar. Wave motion gun? Well, trust me. It was an important anime series created in Japan during the late 1970s under the award-winning director, Leiji Matsumoto. This was translated in America as Star Blazers during the early 1980s. For many fans, it was our first introduction to anime with long story lines and complicated characters.

So how was the movie? It’s been a good 20 years since I watched Space Battleship Yamato, but the basic scenario and characters seemed faithful. The creative team stuck with much of the original design and sound effects, which I enjoyed hearing. Funny how a particular noise can really take you back!

The major update was adding a few female characters, both in speaking roles and as extras. Particularly, the sake-swilling Dr. Sado became a woman in the live action. I know this will bother purists, but gender parity really is not optional in today’s world.

The previous character of Yuki Mora was strengthened considerably. She is now a fighter pilot rather than a nurse, and speaks her mind quite a bit where in the original Yuki mostly stood in the background worrying about her boyfriend, Kodai. There are a few unfortunate lapses near the end, though. Midway through, one of the men, Saito, is possessed by an alien entity and remains fully clothed, though levitating. When Yuki is possessed by an alien, her uniform is blown off and she then goes around in a tank top and sweat pants for quite some time. She also apparently forgets all about being a  soldier and lets Kodai drag her around by the hand instead of grabbing one of the weapons that are lying on the ground. (But, to be fair, Kodai also ignores these weapons in favor of his cute stun ray.)

But what does this have to do with Godzilla, King of the Monsters?

Well, the setup for Yamato is that aliens are bombarding the earth with “meteor bombs” that irradiate the surface, destroying all life and forcing humans to live in squalid underground cities. In real life, during the 1950s, Japan actually had endured radioactive fallout from nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The incident of Number Five Lucky Dragon and its enduring legacy made a deep impression. The opening scenes of Godzilla directly relate to nuclear testing. It appears the same experience again found expression in the setting for Space Battleship Yamato.

Read Full Post »

Okay, Godzilla is assured of huge, monstrous enemies in every film where he appears. But of them all, one stands out: King Ghidorah.

Ghidorah is another very recognizable daikaiju, a two-tailed, three-headed, winged dragon that breathes lightning. His appearance was inspired by the Hydra of Greek legend, although Hydra breathed poison rather than lightning. He first came to Earth from outer space in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. This was the fifth in the Godzilla series. Invaders from Mars attacked Earth, with Ghidorah at the forefront. Godzilla reluctantly teamed up with Japan’s self-defense forces to stop them. Like most daikaiju, Ghidorah was driven off but not truly defeated.

This character represented a huge advance in the animation process known as “suitmation.” Where Godzilla had been simply a person in a suit, with alterations to film speed giving him his characteristic lumbering stride, Ghidora was a person in a suit with the heads, tails, and wings controlled by puppeteers. The breath weapon is animated later.

Since 1964, King Ghidorah has returned in eight of Godzilla’s films. He’s also been announced as part of the cast in Godzilla 2, with a scheduled release in 2018. Whatever the story, Ghidorah is Godzilla’s opposite number. So when Ghidorah is the villain, Godzilla plays a semi-heroic role. In a couple of films, however, Godzilla is the antagonist and then Ghidorah plays the semi-heroic role. Which it will be in 2018, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Read Full Post »

Believe it or not, the tragic voyage of Number Five Lucky Dragon played a part in the origin of one of entertainment’s most remarkable characters: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Godzilla is one of several prominent movie creatures known collectively as daikaiju, from the Japanese kaiju, “strange beast,” with the modifier dai that makes it a huge “kaiju.”

Japan in the 1950s was struggling to recover its identity. Through the 1930s and ’40s, this country had been a military juggernaut with great national pride. Now the mighty had been laid low by the only use of atomic weapons in wartime. One could argue that Japan had brought this upon herself, but no one could deny the horrific devastation. In some ways, it was a similar blow to that which rocked the US after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.

As years passed, the Japanese incorporated the atomic experience into many kinds of entertainment. What caught the world’s attention were the daikaiju movies, and Godzilla was the very first. Director Ishiro Honda and art director Akira Watanabe had created the ultimate monster and a powerful metaphor for the dangers of nuclear weapons. Many details directly refer to atomic explosions. For instance, the pattern of Godzilla’s scales was said to have been inspired by keloid scars on the bodies of Hiroshima survivors.

This movie was released in November of 1954, so it must already have been in production when Number Five Lucky Dragon strayed too close to Bikini Atoll. Indeed, the very first scene shows a fishing trawler caught in the furnace of an atomic explosion. The fate of her crew was fresh in the minds of the Japanese audience and instantly elevated Godzilla above mere entertainment. The titanic beast burned and trampled everything in its path. It couldn’t be intimidated or reasoned with. Truly, Godzilla was nuclear war personified.

In America, Godzilla and nearly 30 similar films have been beloved, yet ridiculed. The effects are silly, the voice acting is terrible, the plots are ridiculous. We grin and munch popcorn as bizarre behemoths slam each other into sky scrapers and roast cities. Scenes where panicked civilians evacuate, clutching just a few possessions, are hardly noticed in the US. These were real, painful memories for the original audiences.

Throughout the years, daikaiju movies have maintained their cautionary tone. Not only Godzilla, who was awakened by a nuclear blast, but Rodan was freed by miners who dug too deep, and Mothra ravaged Tokyo while trying to rescue the Cosmos Twins, who had been abducted by a greedy businessman. Nature sends daikaiju to avenge environmental damage, pride and lust for power, and the pursuit of science without regard for consequence. Any year now, I expect a Godzilla movie that decries global warming.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be back with more of a personal profile on the Big Guy.

Read Full Post »

As a follow up to my recent post about the TV show Dragon Tales, I’ve heard there’s also a TV show based on How to Train Your Dragon, the hit dragon movie from a few summers ago. The news came from Princess of Dragons’ blog. I won’t reblog, because that seems like cheating to me, but you can read her post here.

This leads me to a couple more dragons coming out on screen this summer. Actually, some are already out. Movies I haven’t seen yet, but plan to see:

1) Godzilla. Technically not a dragon, but the eleven-year-old in me can’t get enough of guys in rubber suits stomping through cities. Okay, it’s not a rubber suit any more, it’s CGI. But how can I ignore a breath weapon like that?

2) Maleficent. I’m not sure whether Angelina Jolie’s title character turns into a dragon during this movie. I hope so! When Maleficent did her dragon turn at the end of Sleeping Beauty, it really set the place on fire for me. (Ha ha.) Besides, the rest of the fairies in that movie were so inane. Even as a young child, I knew there was something wrong with them.

Fairies and dragons should never be treated as silly!

3) How To Train Your Dragon 2. The first movie was so good (even though some of the dragons were silly) that I’m almost afraid to try the second one. How can a sequel compare? Maybe it doesn’t have to, because there will be dragons. Lots and lots of dragons.

I also still wish to see the latest X-men movie. But that’s a different blog post. What about all of you — got any good dragon movies to recommend?

Read Full Post »