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Old 02-26-2013, 08:05 PM
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Default Godzilla: You Come At The King You Best Not Miss

Since my roommate would like for me to wait to start a certain animated film starring mice that he's never seen to kick off my next movie watching thread, I guess now is a good time to start up the other nostalgia-based side project I've been hankering to get up on.

Godzilla
aka: Gojira, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (NOTE: This title indicates a heavily edited American version of the movie)

Normally it would be my goal to focus on the version of the film that I remember/enjoyed most from my youth, all things considered, whether it be the original japanese dialogue or a cheesy dub that is near and dear to my heart(though in some cases I have to go with The Version I Was Able To Obtain). But the original Godzilla is a special case. It's a classic for a reason and in my adulthood I'd much rather find myself going back to the original Japanese version than the KotM cut that I watched more often as a kid.

It's a bitterly bleak tale unlike the adrenaline-fueled disaster movies of today, one where the body count is more a point of drama than thrills. This is a gutsy movie to come out of a nation that was barely 10 years out of experiencing a horrific national tragedy caused by nuclear weaponry, though its inspirations lie more with the recent influx of radiation poisoning from the nearby testing than the bombing at the end of WWII. Nevertheless it is a deeply personal piece of work that is marred by the American cut, gutting most of the primary characters of their personality and development to be mere sidenotes in the narrative driven by a shoe-horned in American reporter named Steve Martin, giving it more the feel of a detached docu-drama than a gripping tale of science, destruction, the cycle of violence where weapon begets weapon, human emotions, and the fact that there are no easy solutions when faced with the dire consequences of our heedless rush into the future.

The message of the original film is so much more than a cheap Monster meets City, Monster destroys City, Military Drives Off or Kills Monster, movie than its closest contemporaries at the time or frankly anything in the series that would follow it. It's a commentary on how we as a species, when driven to desperation, have a tragic capacity to fall back on ever more destructive and horrifying measures to insure survival. In this the titular creature is less a character and more a walking, breathing metaphor for the manifestation of our destructive tendencies coming back to bite us in the ass. And the ending gives little comfort even though it's one of the few films where Godzilla is unequivocally shown to be destroyed. For a great deal of emphasis in the film is placed on the fact that this creature is indestructable, something that can absorb enough radiation to kill any other thing that lives on this earth, something that shrugs off gunfire, missiles, and 50,000 volts of electric current. So to use a weapon that can kill it, must be a horrific thing indeed.

THE MONSTERS:

Godzilla
aka: Gojira, Godziller(by some dub actors for some reason)

The one, the only. This is a much darker depiction of the character than anyone who cuts their teeth on the more rambunctious fare in his catalogue might realize. There is little of the endearingly hot-tempered, brawny brute to be found here, just an inexorable walking force of embodied destruction. The dark and atmospheric lighting is used to give a much greater sense of menace and horror to the beast, while also conveniently masking some of the cheaper aspects of the rubber suit and puppetry effects, the ultimate effect is quite striking. Though lacking in any sense of open malice, this original depiction is mindlessly destructive to a degree that remains outmatched, causing death and chaos for months and then reducing a huge swath of Tokyo to irradiated rubble for no understandable reason. This Godzilla I am more comfortable calling an "it" than a "he" because it serves less as a kaiju character and more as an allegorical force of destruction for the human drama that unfolds. For this is one of the few Godzilla movies where you actually give a fuck about the people.

THE PEOPLE:

The characters in this one are top-notch, if you're watcing the original Japanese version at least, and not having their entire personalities briefly spoon-fed to you by Raymond Burr's narration. Emiko and Ogata make the everyman heart of the film, but special consideration goes to the scientist characters, Professor Yamane and Dr. Serizawa. Yamane gets the lion's share of the screentime and character development, being the Scientist Who Figures Out What The Monster Is before it was cool. His desire not to see Godzilla destroyed is one of the best subplots left on the cutting room floor by KotM. Though he couches his language in a desire to see it studied and understood for its incredible survival abilities, I cannot help but project a childish sense of wonder on to the man who hates to see the idea of such a huge and majestic beast killed, no matter how destructive it is. The movie brutally subverts his desires though when the tragedy of Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo is laid bare. Intriguingly enough, unlike most films he is not also The Scientist Who Figures Out How To Kill The Monster, that honor belongs to one Dr. Serizawa, a noble scientist with a Shakespeare's play worth of tragic pathos built into his character, who even before the revelation of Godzilla's existence, had stumbled upon a discovery of a weapon of nightmarish power, something that literally destroys oxygen, the very fuel of life itself. He cannot allow this weapon to be discovered by the world at large and at the same time is plagued by the guilt of sitting by and watching people die by the thousands when he could very well stop it. Though he gives his life to insure the secrets die with him, any realistic-minded viewer knows it will be only a matter of time before his research is discovered anew by some other brilliant mind, and Yamane actively voices the fear that Godzilla may not be the last of his kind. The movie ends on a very somber note unlike even the most pyrrhic of disaster movie victories.

So to sum it all up in a poetic way: This movie is like, a classic, dude. You should watch it, even if you don't like monster movies, because it's not your average example and has has a far more compelling cultural value beyond "rubbery beasts punching eachother and getting pointlessly shot at by the military".

Much as I fucking love that stuff.

Last edited by blinkpen; 02-26-2013 at 08:24 PM.
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:34 PM
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I am 100000000% behind this thread. I love Godzilla more than basically anything else. I own every movie on DVD except for like six of them.

Now, King of the Monsters is pretty weak, yeah? But the trailer? Incredible.
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:48 PM
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Default yes!

I don't know if any of the sequels matched the darkness of the original beast until Godzilla 1985 where, for a moment (it seems its been a long time), Toho was trying to return Godzilla back to that original, dark, force of nature aspect and to recapture the horror of the original

Of course in the sequels to this Godzilla remains a force of nature, but one surrounded by the accumulated cruft and formula of the kaiju film
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:56 PM
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Why oh why did the U.S. remake imagine Godzilla as an iguana mutated by radiation? Puh-leeze. But then, the original Godzilla looked pretty stupid with its M.C. Hammer puffy legs.
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:00 PM
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"i tour around the world / from london to the bay / it's zilla go zilla godzilla yo zilla / and the rest can go and play"
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:08 PM
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I don't know a thing about Godzilla. This will be very interesting!
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Old 02-26-2013, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falselogic View Post
I don't know if any of the sequels matched the darkness of the original beast until Godzilla 1985 where, for a moment (it seems its been a long time), Toho was trying to return Godzilla back to that original, dark, force of nature aspect and to recapture the horror of the original

Of course in the sequels to this Godzilla remains a force of nature, but one surrounded by the accumulated cruft and formula of the kaiju film
GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack comes closest, since there's a lot of on-the-ground reaction, and more direct references to WWII.

Though I've always appreciated Godzilla 1985's attempt to feel like a Cold War thriller.

Unfortunately, neither of them has anything like that shot in the original, where the woman watches Godzilla approach, and tells her kids they're all going to be with their daddy very soon. Even thinking about that shakes me up.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:12 PM
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It's silly, I know, and not the intent, but I've always felt the title of Criterion's release was a little pedantic.

The movie certainly deserves a Criterion release, though.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:14 PM
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But... it's the title of the movie
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:36 PM
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Exactly. But it's been known by a different name 'round these parts for half a century. It just felt a little like they were saying [snoot voice] "please it's pronounced GOJIRA". The fact that I have so many negative associations with translators feeling overly beholden to the original text heightened that reaction. "Gojira-chan is my kohai."

I realize that this wasn't Criterion's intent. I was just farting out a comment about the weird gut reaction I had to their editorial choice.
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Old 02-26-2013, 10:43 PM
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Oh, you're thinking of the Classic Media release. The Criterion one is just called Godzilla.

I don't blame Classic Media for going that route, either. That was still around the time we were getting US releases of the Japanese versions of The Ring and The Grudge by their original titles, so it's not like there wasn't some precedent.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:12 PM
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Yikes! You're right. Now I'm silly and wrong.


Anyway, I feel a need to go look at Heisei-era Godzilla posters. Those things are tits.
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Old 02-27-2013, 12:06 AM
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I don't think releasing it as Gojira was in any way pedantic re: pronunciation.

The only message that was sending was: Hey, movie fans who are no longer scared of foreign films! Raymond Burr is no longer in this classic movie! Woohoo!

It was pretty hard to track down a non-Burr version Godzilla for a long time, and they wanted to make a clear distinction re: the content of the movie via a bold branding choice.
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Old 02-27-2013, 01:04 AM
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Yeah, I had heard there were differences between the two versions for many a year but I had no idea what a big difference they would make until I picked that version up a couple years ago.

Oh Japan. You rascals. Is there nothing beautiful and meaningful you can create that you cannot utterly destroy with lousy sequels?

Godzilla Raids Again
aka: Gigantis the Fire Monster (though I've never seen such a version)

I need you to understand when I say this that I've seen the likes of Godzilla's Revenge and Final Wars so you need to know that I'm serious when I say this is a really bad sequel. It's almost like they made a checklist of things that were great about the first film and systematically went through them trying to fuck them up. It has every hallmark of a cheap rushed-through cash-grab.

Godzilla Raids Again is padded as all fuck and has an atrociously designed script. For a movie that's about two monsters fighting in Osaka you don't destroy the biggest landmark on you set and have one of them kill the other when there's still 30 friggen' minutes on the clock! The original Godzilla started off with a series of mysterious ship sinkings, bizarre occurances on a fishing island, and a number of tone-establishing character moments and red herrings, then a series of scenes with harried and confused officials trying to get to the bottom of things and wavering about whether they should reveal the truth to the public. Meanwhile Godzilla Raids again starts with two pilots discovering the titular monster on an isolated island fighting another giant dinosaur and then we get what feels like an hour of bored officials dryly discussing the monster around a table, with a shamefully shoehorned in Professor Yamane utterly failing to give the movie any credibility. Luckily he's just there for the cameo and mustn't suffer with the rest of us. Every scene feels twice to three times as long as it should be to desperately add minutes to the runtime. Frankly if the movie were only 40 minutes long it would only be improved.

After a lot of talking about the monsters with no showing of the monsters, they eventually wind up in Osaka (with a quickly dropped plot point about Godzilla being able to be lured around by bright lights) and have a brisk, poorly choregraphed tumble. The city is distinctly empty and devoid of any civilian risk, in fact the only characters to die during this scene are a group of escaped prisoners who also happen to be partially responsible for drawing the fight into the city to begin with. Now I can understand them lowering the emotional stakes as the series shifts from somber destruction to kaiju action, but even this feels pretty hackneyed. The closest thing we have to an emotional fallout after this rampage is a dry-eyed businessman talking to his friend about re-locating his factory to replace the destroyed one.

After this there is an abominable stretch of film in which the characters and plot altogether seem to forget Godzilla even exists and we follow some boring-ass characters around some agonizingly long scenes before someone just shows the fuck up and mentions that Godzilla has been spotted again.

Is he lurking near the coast of Japan? Sinking more vessels? Threatening another major metropolitan area with fiery doom? No! He's out in the middle of buttfuck nowhere and has harmlessly wandered into a ravine on a snowy island setting himself up for a perfect ambush via avalanche. After not one, but two excrutiatingly protracted bombing sequences of course! And thus our title monster meets his chilly end... for now.

THE MONSTERS:

Godzilla: Somehow this iteration of Godzilla has even less personality than the previous film. Take the ominous menacing atmosphere and lighting away from the particularly dead-eyed suit they whipped up here and you've got a pretty bland creature. That his cultural persona managed to survive this mess to revitalize the series when he faced King Kong years later is a testament to the power of the original concept.

Angilas
aka: Anguiras, Angorus, frankly I don't think any two movies have pronounced it the same.

Funny that the creature who would later be counted as Godzilla's closest friend and ally would start off as his first mortal enemy. Angilas is a punk-rock ankylosaur, and I always liked him. He's got a distinctive look about him and is one of the few quadrapedal kaiju, and a sort of pluckiness that becomes far more apparent down the line. In this film however he's about as bland as the star.

The fight scenes in this movie have nothing to recommend them. All Godzilla and Angilas do is sloppily wrestle and slam into each other over and over again. There's none of the whimsical artistry that their later tag-team pairings up would have. And this was before the filmmakers learned the handy trick of slowing the film down to make things look bigger, so there's this unusual sensation of the creatures moving in cartoonish high speed the whole time.

THE PEOPLE:

Man, fuck these boring-ass jackweeds. There's a plucky pair of pilots I guess and one of them has a girlfriend that we actually get to see and the other one seems lovestruck and has an off-screen sweetheart and near the end he dies in the last battle with Godzilla in a too-little-too-late attempt to inject some actual drama into the film, but that's the closest to interesting anyone gets in this god-forsaken film. Even when focusing on minor one-scene characters, the original film made sure to inject them with enough memorable personality to keep interest up and the film moving at a healthy pace. Everything and everyone here is just a dry, dull, slooooog.

For reasons not-unlike those that applied to the Console Wars, I always despised the following movie as a kid, but I have a feeling viewing it as a follow-up to this piece of crap will redeem it greatly in my eyes.
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Old 02-27-2013, 04:36 AM
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YES, Godzilla thread. I have all of these movies and I will be WATCHING ALONG.

Godzilla vs Megalon is actually the best Godzilla movie
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Old 02-27-2013, 05:12 AM
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YES, Godzilla thread. I have all of these movies and I will be WATCHING ALONG.

Godzilla vs Megalon is actually the best Godzilla movie
If you mean the MST3K version, then yes.
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Old 02-27-2013, 05:38 AM
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I said it on Twitter already, but I always kinda liked the puppet they used for Godzilla's close-up shots in Raids Again. He's just so charmingly hideous, like that World's Ugliest Dog from a few years ago.

A pity you didn't bring up the American version's narrator, one of the few instances where you can genuinely say George Takei talked too much.
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Old 02-27-2013, 06:08 AM
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If you mean the MST3K version, then yes.
Never seen that. It's funny enough without!
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:05 AM
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I said it on Twitter already, but I always kinda liked the puppet they used for Godzilla's close-up shots in Raids Again. He's just so charmingly hideous, like that World's Ugliest Dog from a few years ago.

A pity you didn't bring up the American version's narrator, one of the few instances where you can genuinely say George Takei talked too much.
Oh my GOD. I forgot to mention the years ago version of the film I saw of Raids Again where the dub saw fit to have the main character narrate over literally every single thing that happened on camera whatsoever with an outrageously offensive accent and now you're telling me that was George Takei?

EDIT: Man, my memory is really struggling now because other than last night I had only seen this movie once and from wikipedia it appears the George Takei version is the version where they changed his name to Gigantis. Do I remember it that poorly? (Considering all I remembered is that the bombing scene at the end was too long, probably yes)
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:09 AM
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Never seen that. It's funny enough without!
It is! That was the first Godzilla movie I ever owned, bought for about $2 at a toy store. But it makes me appreciate the MST3K version because I was already pretty familiar with the movie before I saw it. Worth checking out (they did a bunch of Gamera movies also)
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:35 AM
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I believe you all know where I stand.

Proceed.
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:44 AM
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Oh my GOD. I forgot to mention the years ago version of the film I saw of Raids Again where the dub saw fit to have the main character narrate over literally every single thing that happened on camera whatsoever with an outrageously offensive accent and now you're telling me that was George Takei?

EDIT: Man, my memory is really struggling now because other than last night I had only seen this movie once and from wikipedia it appears the George Takei version is the version where they changed his name to Gigantis. Do I remember it that poorly? (Considering all I remembered is that the bombing scene at the end was too long, probably yes)
A very young George Takei, yes. A few weeks ago Guy showed me this documentary about Godzilla where Takei talks about working on Gigantis. There's a scene where his character says "Bakayaro!" in the Japanese version, but they couldn't find a good translation that fit the mouth movements. They finally went with "banana oil."
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:59 AM
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Did Takei also do Rodan? I know its Americanization follows the same "irrelevant stock footage of nuclear testing tacked on to the beginning and constant narrating EVERY detail as it happens" formula that Raids did.

Blinkpen, please do Rodan and Mothra (preferably the entire Toho kaiju collection, but those two are the most important). And do you plan to address Gamera?
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:04 AM
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Why would he address Gamera? He is doing a Let's Watch of Godzilla.

Also Gamera is awful... So awful
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:12 AM
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Also Gamera is awful... So awful
All of the older Gamera movies are unwatchable without the MST3K crew, but the whole 90's reboot trilogy and Gamera the Brave from 2006 are some of the best Kaiju movies ever made. Which is great, because with Gamera's design and abilities there's no reason for him to be anything less than The Best Monster.
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:14 AM
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What? People were demanding Dreamworks and Ghibli in the Disney thread.

And if liking Heisei Gamera is wrong, I don't want to be right.

(EDIT: Not addressed at Guy, although that does remind me I should include Gamera the Brave with the good'ns.)
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:29 AM
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I probably won't talk much about Gamera because I never watched many of his movies but he will be relevant to the discussion when GMK: Giant Monsters Special All Out Championship Hyper Tiger Dragon Edition Pre-Order At Gamestop Now comes along. I saw the original and was completely unimpressed by it long ago and years later saw Guardian of the Universe which was surprisingly excellent, but managed to never catch either of its sequels.

As for Rodan and Mothra... I'll give them quick summaries as both are important to the upcoming movies but am not going to go out of my way for full rewatches as Rodan is kind of boring as a standalone monster and Mothra's plot is basically the same as Godzilla vs. Mothra, but it lacks Godzilla. Why would I watch a movie without Godzilla when I can have the same one with him?

Rodan

So after sealing Godzilla in a block of ice, Toho opted to experiment around with some other giant monster ideas, primarily airborne ones, likely so that they could make some puppets on wires rather than have to do full bodysuits for stuntmen.

Rodan comes along when some miners discover an irradiated pterodactyl egg that hatches into a particularly large specimen that eats giant bugs and upon growing up can fly around at super-fast speeds that cause buildings to explode with supersonic blasts. And what's worse, there's two of them!

The pair are eventually dispatched when the volcano they reside in is bombed and forced to erupt causing one to suffocate and drop into the lava to start burning to death. Unwilling to go on without its mate, the other Rodan joins it in the fiery doom. Boy, these older kaiju films had a real laborious murder-porn way of dispatching the titular creatures.

Completely unstated is probably the fact that they had an egg tucked away somewhere that would eventually become the recurring Rodan we know from subsequent Godzilla movies, who works much better as a sidekick than a starring creature.

Mothra

The first but not ultimately the last time Toho begins touching upon the idea of "What if the monster deserves to win because humans are dicks?"

Mothra, who alternately referred to as a he or she based on the dub but I'll go ahead and call a she because we don't have enough straight-up female kaiju on the roster and she's one of the few who can consistently defeat Godzilla, is basically a giant moth phoenix, existing in a constant cycle of death and self-rebirth, first hatching from an enormous egg as an ugly brown caterpillar to eventually cocoon up and transform into a multi-colored giant moth with powerful wingblasts and toxic powder. And later adaptations would give her antennae lasers.

The plot is basically that she has these two mystical fairy guardians who sing to her and when greedy corporate types decide to kidnap them for use as sideshow attractions the moth goes apeshit on Japan and in a twist does not end up being killed in the end. Indeed Mothra rescues her tiny companions and leaves the country in peace. As something of a more noble, heroic monster, Mothra also works better when having a foil to work against, perhaps some kind of short-tempered angry dinosaur that breathes nuclear fire. Sadly to my knowledge no such creature exists so I guess her potential will not be realized.

When Mothra came out it was 1961 and there had been no sign of Godzilla for several years. Then somebody came up with a pretty ingenius idea.
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:40 AM
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Yeah, let's leave Gamera out of this for now, though I don't mind bringing him up for comparison, especially when we get to the Heisei movies.
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:40 AM
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I know what you meant when you said the thing about puppets on wires, but I'd just like to state for the record that Rodan totally was a man in a suit for the non-flying bits, and more importantly the original Rodan has some of my favorite miniatures of Toho's entire filmography. You can see bits and pieces of the big destruction scenes in the trailer. That whole bit around 0:54 is amazing. The movie is a little slow but it's totally worth watching for that scene alone. If anybody ever decides to give it a shot, the Classic Media DVD is great, it's a double feature with the FANTASTIC War of the Gargantuas and it also includes a fun documentary on the evolution of Toho's special effects.
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Old 02-27-2013, 12:03 PM
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I did a Mothra comic and imma just post it here cos fuck the po po

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