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Friday, April 20, 2012

Godzilla vs. Gigan Review

1972 and 1973 were two declining years for Godzilla. (It technically started with Revenge, but that one's stock footage was used in a dream.) This film started to go back to basics after the strange Godzilla vs. Hedorah. With director Jun Fukuda at the helm, you know we're in for light-toned adventure. Godzilla vs. Gigan is famous for a few different things, really great things. The only thing holding thing it back is its use of stock footage.

Official description from Sony TriStar:
Imagine the fun at the new, high-tech, Tokyo amusement park with its gargantuan make-believe monsters and mechanized rides. But this pastoral playground is nothing more than a staging ground for destruction as a strange group of orange-uniformed "men" unleash a force of devastation the likes of which has never been known. They call their insatiable monster robot Gigan , built specifically to destroy Godzilla. But there's more. To assist Gigan , they enlist the help of King Ghidorah , the infamous three-headed flying hydra. The forces Godzilla to recruit his former foe, the stegosaurus-like Anguirus, in what turns out to be the most radical monster tag-team match-up of all time.

With Jun Fukuda, you know exactly what to expect. All his Godzilla films have a very similar tone and atmosphere. Once again, alien invaders are used. What separates them from the other aliens in the previopus films is that their real forms are cockroaches. (They literally use real life cockroaches, no props there folks.) The characters are truly defined in their traits. The usual main character, a tough-willed female (who is a black belt in karate) an always worried girl, and what fans define as a 'hippie.' (Sunglasses, a goatee, and bananas, don't forget the bananas.) What this film is known best for (besides the debut of the always-awesome Gigan) is the long drawn out fight at the end. It goes on for about half an hour. It's great stuff, but the stock footage really does ruin it sometimes. I think it'd be best if I start talking about the very interesting cast.

Hiroshi Ishikawa portrays our main character, the manga artist Gengo. He's a fun character to watch on screen when there's no monsters around. Though one scene did bother me with him. When he and Tomoko were running up the stairs of the Godzilla tower, he trips amd says "I'm finished." Now that was strange, he was part of this grand plan, then he trips and says he's through? If the purpose was to make the viewer laugh, it succeeded. Then there's his (I presume) girlfriend Tomoko. A lovely fun character for sure. (A black belt in karate no less.) Who can't help but smirk at the scene where she walks in, beats three of the Nebulans up, and forces them to leave the house? Good stuff. Then there's Machicko and her 'hippie' friend. First off, Tomoko Umeda as Machiko gives a very likable and realistic performance. The only real problem is there's really no character development for her. She seems to know a few things, but the film doesn't explain her or her hippie friend much. Then there's the bananas, it was kinda interesting, if not a bit strange. (And then Gengo threw the banana before he had finished it.) Zan Fujita plays the main villain this time around, Chairman Fumio Shudo. He never left an impression on me the first couple times I saw the film, but now I see what a great antagonist he is. What separates him from the other alien leaders is how young he is. I personally think he was the best character in the whole thing, an underrated perforamce. (He's right up there next the Controller of Planet X and the Commander of the Aliens of the Thid Planet from the Black Hole.) And as usual, the monsters stole show, some with mixed results surprisingly.

The Godzilla suit is looking really outdated here. It looked great in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, but in this film it looks extremely outdated. (It's hard to make out the eyes. I know it's night, but still.) King Ghidorah isn't looking much better. The wings barely flap at all, it had lost its menacing look after being used so many times. Gigan is the new monster this time around. It's no surprise that's he my favorite of them all. With an amazingly unique design and great personality, Gigan makes a fine addition to this franchise. (A giant cyborg chicken-looking thing from outer space with the personality of a serial killer? TOHO really knew how to make them.) The only thing missing is his laser beam, which was showed on the posters for the film. (It's beyond me on why it wasn't used.) But yeah, Gigan is a fantastic monster. (Some great shots of him with the fire from the burning buildings.)

The score is fantastic, done by Akira Ifukube, featuring-wait a second, then you remember one thing: this movie just has stock music. But it's Ifukube's best themes, it fits every single scene in the film well. Then at the same time it doesn't have an original soundtrack. But again at the same time, no other themes would fit the scenes like these do. The main thing about this film is the drawn-out fight at the end. There are wisley put human scenes in-between the fight so it doesn't lose its momentum. As for the actual fight, it's really fun. Sadly, the stock footage ruins it sometimes. Sometimes they work, (the stock footage in Monster Zero from Rodan) but not here. Day switches to night instantly, and the Godzilla suits switch from 64 to this one! Great scenes, such as Anguirus's famous attack on Ghidorah from DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, are used. It's almost a crime. What we do get in this fight is the use of blood, something the Godzilla films had barely used before. It's brutal, but man it's awesome. Of course, some scenes in the film actually re-used, it gets kinda annoying seeing Godzilla throw Ghidorah down three times in a roll. Now, the most infamous thing about this film is the 'monster dubbing.' Basically, in two scenes, the monsters are given voices. On Monster Island, it goes out like this...

"Hey Angilas!" 
"What do ya want?"
"Something funny's going on, you'd better check!"
"Oh yeah."
"Hurry up!"

Then in the water...
"Hey Angilas come on, there's a lot of trouble ahead! We gotta hurry!"

Yeah it's kinda silly, but so awesome. How can one not smile at these scenes? Never gets old.

Overall, Godzilla vs. Gigan is fun little film. It has a fun cast and great monsters. (Minus the Godzilla and Ghidorah suits.) The pacing isn't that bad, the story is fun enough to keep the viewer invested with a great final fight. Unfortunately, it can't get the rating it was supposed to achieve cause of the overuse of stock footage. Either way, Godzilla vs. Gigan is a fun entry in the Godzilla franchise.


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