Sunday, July 29, 2012
Rodan, the Giant Pteranodon
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and then Rodan make up the 'big four' of the Godzilla world. Seemingly in recent years Mechagodzilla has replaced Rodan for the spot, but I never bought that. While MechaG might be a little more known in the States, Rodan will never be replaced. What some people are not aware of is that Rodan had his own film back in 56 before he went on to crossover into Godzilla world in Ghidorah. Now you see why he's part of the 'big four.' Rodan was directed by veteran TOHO director Ishiro Honda. While not as messaged driven as Gojira, the film was still pretty deep. Part nuclear war allegory, part horror, and part science fiction. It also has one of the most emotional endings I've seen in a Godzilla film. No, scratch that, it has one of the most emotional endings I've ever seen in any film period. Rodan in his debut movie was pretty much like the original Godzilla, he didn't have too much of a personality. He did have an appetite for Meganulon. As a baby, he acted like a true boss, slapping his eggshell to the side. I don't think you know, but there was actually two Rodans in the film, companions. That's why it's tragic when one refuses to leave the other when it's getting engulfed by the lava.
After that, I'm willing to bet no one had thought we'd see the flying monster again. But no, eight years later he was brought back in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. (Giant Monster movies of yesterday at its finest.) After being buried for eight years, he must have lost it in his head a bit. Unlike his rather calm and collective self from his debut film, here he was a little crazy. He constantly mocked Godzilla, laughing in his face. He had evey right to, he was Godzilla's equal if not superior. He even beat G at rock volleyball. Now he and Godzilla were both pretty similar at the time. They both disliked humanity, and both were kinda immature. Mothra practically begged them for help in battle against Ghidorah, but they both wanted the other to 'apologize.' Once Mothra went to go fight alone, they decided it was tragic for such a little thing to battle such a heavy hitter. After the battle was won, Godzilla and Rodan became allies, even friends. Rodan treated Godzilla purely as an equal from then on, but he doesn't mind G being the leader. After DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, Rodan didn't get any appearances other than some stock footage in Gigan and a brief appearance in Megalon until his revival in 1993.
Now I like Heisei Rodan as much as the next guy, but there are a few things I didn't like what TOHO did with him. First off, he got shrunk down. Unlike in the Showa era where he's the same size as Godzilla, here he's not even close. He's no longer Godzilla's equal either, he was rather easily defeated in their encounter. Unlike his energetic Showa counterpart, Heisei Rodan was more calm, more mature, and took things very seriously. But he's also weaker, he seemingly died two times and then the third time gave his energy to a fallen Godzilla. What's cool and most well known about this Rodan is his super-form, Fire Rodan. In it, he got a beam. Rodan in general doesn't really need a beam, it's like giving Titanosaurus a beam. Even in this super-form, he was disposed of by Mechagodzilla rather quickly. I do love his bravery though, even if he knows he's outmatched, he'll still go in there and peck. (One of the best scenes in the film was when he rose and pecked out MechaG's right eye.) Thanks to his inclusion in all three Atari games, Fire Rodan may just be the most well-known here in the States. To fans like myself he's lacking the original's fun personality. But I'll always like this version also, probably nostalgia is part of the reason, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II is one of the Godzilla films I grew up with.
Eleven years later, I repeat, ELEVEN years later, Rodan was brought back for Godzilla's 50th anniversary bash, Final Wars. It was pretty much a no-brainer that he would be included, he was one of the classics. And it appeared that they brought back his Showa self. Right when he landed in New York he was taunting the population. Sadly he was paired against an overpowered Godzilla, so he didn't get to look impressive strength wise. But hey, he was the only one in the three-way fight to knock Godzilla down. While Fire Rodan has seemingly been his 'definitive' look, I really think his Final Wars look should become the definitive one. It's a nice update of the original with some aspects of Fire.
In recent years, Rodan has appeared in the Atari games via his Heisei form. In Destroy all Monsters Melee and Save the Earth, he's given his beam from when he was in fire form. That isn't a bad thing, since every monster in the game has a beam attack. The only thing is that Unleashed made it a point to call him Fire Rodan, yet he's still in his brown form instead of his fiery red form. He has since made sort of a comeback in IDW's comics. I say sort of because he hasn't been treated with enough respect. He had an awesome first appearance way back in Kingdom of Monsters #2, (let's just say now we know he doesn't mind chomping on people, namely kids) then went on to fight Battra. But after that he was turned into a mindless slave for the twins. The final straw was in the final battle with Godzilla, he lost in one hit! While Battra went to fight Godzilla to a standstill, Rodan was pushed aside like a joke. He had his own story in the lackluster Godzilla Legends #2. In it, he completely resembled his Heisei look and character. Though I have to question the kid's intelligence if he really thought the tanks and jets were at any point killing Rodan.
He's only now starting to redeem himself in the comics. While Anguirus, Kumonga, and Battra were defeated by the Monster Hunters, he escaped. In the next issue, he'll be tackling Titanosaurus in what will be the greatest fight in comics this decade. Rodan is the type of monster that is timeless. You could always use him as either a partner or opponent. In fact, I would love to see him as the opponent (and maybe in the end turn into an ally) for Godzilla in Legendary Studios' upcoming film. Rodan may look simple on the outside, but once you see the films with him, you see an energetic, sometimes serious, but fun and awesome monster. Rodan is a staple of Godzilla lore, he's one cool guy.