Want to destroy yourself, along with everything you ever believed it, and love yourself for doing it?
That, my friends, is "Chibiterasu," lovable little puppy-goddess of Amaterasu, hero of the wildly-praised-and-horrifically-under-appreciated OKAMI, Game of the Year for 2006.
For those who know me, Okami is my absolute favorite single game of all time, even moreso than any one Zelda game and thousands of times over all of the crappy Street Fighter ripoffs and the literal armies of brown-and-gray Space Marine games where you are told, time and again, that life is horrible and you should feel bad for breathing.
Okami is the antithesis to all of that, taking the core concepts of the borderline-played-out Zelda franchise and dressing it up with a lovely, unique art style, great characters and an epic anime feel to it all. Naturally, because it was daring enough to be different, and GOOD at it, it sold terribly because all gamers want is to beat hookers to death.
Yeah, I'm a little bitter.
But Amaterasu's brilliant light shines on us again! Okamiden, a sequel built for the DS, is coming sometime in 2010.
...Great, now I need to get a DS. Maybe I'll settle for an art book or something because I LOVES ME SOME OKAMI.
The first attempt at an all-American Godzilla as designed by William Stout. It was intended for the stop-motion-centric "Godzilla 3-D" back in 1983. Stout channeled a Tyrannosaurus Rex as a major factor for inspiration.
The second attempt came in 1993/94 for a script written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Longtime dinosaur fan Ricardo Delgado gave the Heisei Godzilla design a sleek look.
The third attempt was finally made into a film by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. The new monster was designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, who tried some thing radical and new.
There is no doubt that Godzilla is an icon of popular culture. With 55 years, 28 films and hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide under his extra-extra-large belt, there's some serious baggage that comes with a name as well-known as Mickey Mouse and Superman. Last week, Bloody-Disgusting.com leaked a news bite that Legendary Pictures, the folks behind a bevvy of recent hits such as The Dark Knight, The Hangover and 300, are "in early discussions" to possibly produce a new GODZILLA film. Further rumors point out that Weta Workshop, the wunderkids behind the effects for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson's King Kong and District 9 are front-runners to handle the special effects wizardry.
A qualifying statement is in order: this is all just here-say. No official statement has been issued, and Toho is remaining tight-lipped on the project...if there even IS a project. It could very well fall through. Still, once word hit the internet that there was even the POTENTIAL for a new US-made film, the internet practically exploded. People not even known to be fans were posting like crazy about the possibility that Godzilla in all his reptilian fury could be stomping across screens once more. Quite honestly, Toho and Legendary would be complete and utter fools to let this opportunity pass them by.
There's no question that there is a huge potential for profit here, and that's what the studios are all for: making money. HOWEVER, that is if, and ONLY if, the proper steps are taken. There's no doubt that a profit is to be made regardless, because the simple fact is, while you can praise and worship Gojira 1954, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris and Cloverfield until the eagles choke, people DON'T go to monster movies for plot, script and acting (although those are all factors). They go to see GIANT MONSTERS BREAK STUFF. That's the reason while Godzilla 1998 was still a financial success; American moviegoers loves them some giant monsters.
Quick aside: why did I say "American"? Because I DON'T mean Japanese. That's right, the birthplace of the kaiju genre is experiencing a terrible downturn in giant monster interest...at least in films. Ultra Galaxy: Mega Monster Battle is currently one of the most popular children's shows in Japan, and it's all live-action monsters in rubber suits beating the snot out of each other in the tradition of Poke'mon, Digimon and YuGiOh (themselves all inspired by UltraSeven, so it's practically come full-circle). But the Ultra series aside, giant monsters are decidedly NOT on the minds of moviegoers in Japan. Gamera The Brave was a box-office flop, Godzilla: Final Wars performed terribly, King Kong did VERY poorly, and even Cloverfield underperformed in the Japanese box office. While monsters are an undeniable part of Japanese culture, they've turn their backs on the "big budget" monster feature in favor of kiddish TV fare...hey, it's the 70's all over again!
But Americans are definitely still in to giant monsters. Monsters vs. Aliens, though decidedly a family-film, was a huge success at the box office, and let's not forget Cloverfield. The excitement generated online over the vague possibility of a new US Godzilla film should be proof enough. Of course, this brings me to a touchy subject that, despite my best attempts, I can't ignore: the 1998 Tristar Godzilla. It's a flick that will inevitably come up when discussing a potential Godzilla reboot, or hell, Godzilla in general. 1998 was a year that will live in infamy as "The Year of Godzilla." Seriously, Big G's name was EVERYWHERE. There was no doubt that it was the hottest film of 1998...well, suffice to say, it wasn't so hot anymore. I could go on for another two or three pages about why this film works and doesn't work, but I'll wrap things up here and move on to the potential new flick. The bottom line is, simply, it wasn't Godzilla, and that felt like a big missed opportunity for the franchise.
But 11 years have passed and mayhaps it's time to try again. The Toho series went out with a bang AND a whimper with Godzilla: Final Wars. But, as mentioned before, there's a helluvalotta' baggage that comes with a new, American-made film. What should be done? What shouldn't be done? Should it be done at all?
First and foremost, the topic on everyone's mind is what to do with the special effects? Many are rallying for a grassroots approach, rubber suits and all, while others are accepting that CGI may be the necessity in order to attract a modern, dumber audience that wants everything brighter and shinier. There's no argument that the rubber suit will cause a lot of confusion and ultimately turn a lot of people off from the project...THEN AGAIN, it is entirely possible to make rubber suits convincingly gigantic. Shinji Higuchi comes to mind (Google him, we don't have time to get into that here), but it's a foregone conclusion that CGI will be heavily utilized in SOME way. If the rumors are true and Weta does jump on board (and they'd be happy to do it) there's no doubt that there will be plenty of miniature sets. But the monsters themselves are the real issue... One possible solution is the recent trend of "practical CGI," as I hath dubbed it, in which a physical object, often an elaborate suit ala Where the Wild Things Are and Land of the Lost is mapped over with a number of additional digital effects, be it for facial expressions, overall movement or what have you.
Know what I'D like to see? A suit actor, maybe Kitagawa, in a half-practical suit, the legs marked with digital reference dots to be made into convincing digitigrades later, and that long tail and a fiercely expressionate face ala KONG.
It goes without saying that this film also needs a really fun plot, and what's the easiest and most lucrative solution? MONSTERS, as in PLURAL. I'll put it simply for the business majors out there: more monsters means more toys. But on a more insightful note, putting more than one monster (and no, I DON'T mean a bunch of velociraptors hatched out of xenomorph eggs) will make the film infinitely more interesting than Godzilla having to carry it on his own. That only worked for ONE film, and even in Godzilla 1985 he had an enemy in the form of the Super X! We all know who Godzilla is, we don't need an entire film to re-acquaint us with the monster all on his lonesome. Did I mention toys?
Speaking of toys-er, other monsters, what should be used? You'd be surprised at the thematic elements of storytelling that broil about when discussing this topic. I'm sure that many fans and even mainstream moviegoers will be dieing to see classic Toho beasties like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah fight Godzilla in his comeback flick...but it ain't gonna' happen, at least not likely. Word has it that Tristar, back in the day, payed literally millions of dollars for Godzilla alone...and I don't see Legendary shelling out the scratch for Gigan or Megalon. Chances are we'll have a non-Toho monster.
But what will we get? Storytelling aesthetic demands that the monster compliment Godzilla and be something of an antithesis. In the 1994 script, Godzilla was pit against "The Gryphon," a creature not unlike The Thing, specifically John Carpenter's version, in which it absorbs victims and gains their characteristics until it becomes a giant cougar-monster with bat wings, a mouth full of snakes and human-level intelligence. It's a nice enemy monster since it differs in origin, appearance, powers and personality, but, according to the script, Godzilla's destiny is to fight the thing, neatly tying things together. A similar plot would be utilized for the proposed sequel to the 1998 film where "Zilla" would go up against a horde of mutated insects that have taken over an island, with the big boss being the "Queen Bitch," a sort of giant termite queen that, thanks to a quirk of evolution, Zilla is intended by nature to destroy. It'd be hella cool to see some new giant insect that isn't Mothra, Kamacuras or Megaguirus.
Basically, what I'm saying, is that we need an enemy monster, and preferably one that maybe turns Godzilla from a misunderstood villain into an anti-hero in one flick, that way the audience gets behind the Big G from the get-go...that's my opinion, anyway.
Another issue that I feel doesn't get addressed nearly enough is the human story YES BY GOD THERE ARE HUMANS IN GODZILLA FILMS WHAAAAT??? Anywho, I feel that the '94 script did something that more Godzilla films need: something for the humans to do. Final Wars did manage to make the human scenes entertaining, but they would up horning in on the kaiju screentime and ultimately stealing the plot itself. In the '94 script, as well as in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah; Giant Monsters All Out Attack, not to mention a good chunk of the Showa films, the humans are given plenty to do without distracting from the crisis at hand. In the '94 script, they take an active role in the final battle by (spoilers) actually saving Godzilla so he can defeat the Gryphon. Like it or not, the human characters in Godzilla films are there to carry the story. While films like Godzilla 2000 badly fall short of this, alternatives like Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster keep the humans relevant and interesting.
A final thought: perhaps the most important aspects, especially for myself and the Godzilla fans out there, is that Godzilla's spirit and character must remain in-tact. Sure, his origin changes, his role changes, and his look changes, but Godzilla's FIGHTING SPIRIT must remain in-tact. In other words, the Big G is a bona-fide BAD ASS. He does not run from fights. He is a role model for young boys in that he don't take no guff from no one. He's GODZILLA, dammit.
Sincerely, - a fan who likes to think he knows what he's talking about.
For the last several months, whenever I'd bring up Ultraman or Godzilla in mixed company, and particularly amongst the trendy hipster weirdos of my fellow Austinites, they'd ask me "Have you seen Big Man Japan?"
"No," I replied.
"You have to. It's crazy and hilarious and (insert more shallow praise here)!"
So I finally rented it last night.
I'll keep it short.
BIG MAN JAPAN is probably the most boring "crazy film" I've ever seen. There's no question that the film is smart, and it's making plenty of observations on modern Japanese society (particularly the slow decay of its culture), and there are a handful of moments where we found ourselves laughing, but generally it was remarkable that a film could be so filled with...well, NOTHINGNESS to the point that it's over an hour and a half.
And it's not that I didn't "get" the film. As a fan of the kaiju genre, not to mention Japanese film in general, I actually understood the film completely. Nothing seemed truly confusing to me, even the "blowdart ending" as one friend dubbed it, so I was never lost or weirded out (not TOO much, anyway). But I think that the humor of watching this aging monster-fighter who's not appreciated for his work sit for minutes upon minutes talking about the minutia of whether or not he should go on vacation is lost on me because, simply, I'm not Japanese.
Japanese humor is admittedly hard to get for a lot of Americans. Their slapstick comedy and situational humor is funny for the most part, but their puns and social commentary is pretty much lost to us. So maybe the humor of BIG MAN JAPAN is truly cultural, as much as I understood it all.
Another thing is that there's no "redemption" in the film. It's just wave after wave of depression and emotional punches to the gut, and then an ending that supposedly solves the conflict of the film...but offers nothing for the hero and gives him nothing to develop from or grow. It's all just more awkward situations.
Oh yes, and you won't get the ending unless you know who and what ULTRAMAN is. Y'know, ULTRAMAN? More culturally relevant to Japan than almost every anime ever produced?
Anywho, I honestly can't recommend the film, simply because it's just so damn boring. As a social commentary, it's interesting and it's quirky, so I can only recommend it for that.
but in the meantime, here's a better kaiju parody: GEHARA
In the year 2052, a legendary sorcerer gives a mystical bracelet to a member of SAM (Science Analyze Mission) to allow him to transform into a giant super-warrior, armed with a laser sword and mad kung-fu skillz. Okay, so it honestly sounds really, really unoriginal, but the visual style is very nifty, and apparently it was going to be divided into 4 seasons, each with a new giant hero.
Looks cool, right? Sure, it's really similar to Ultraman...but hey, Tsuburaya made it! So it's like GRIDMAN, a.k.a. SUPERHUMAN SAMURAI SYBER SQUAD...only...Chinese! It was an honest-to-goodness attempt to bring the coolness of Ultraman to China while bringing the massive nation's cultural pride to fore.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
http://justiceace.wordpress.com/2007/12/01/hail-to-the-metal-kaiser/ According to some internet snooping, the Guan Zhou Broadcasting Company banned the show before it could even air, wasting thousands of dollars and all of Tsuburaya's hard work, and denying Chinese children a chance at seeing a culturally relevant take on Japan's most popular superhero. Of course, this is another chapter in the saga of Chinese censorship. It's a bad, BAD deal. The Guan Zhou, or whatever they're called, have not released a statement as to WHY the show was banned, but it likely had something to do with the strict regulations of violence on Chinese televisions (which fluctuates frequently) as well as probably negative connotations against a Japanese studio producing a Chinese program, something that entails a lot of hot-button issues for the Chinese.
Still, there's a glimmer of hope; Ryuji Honda, son of the legendary Ishiro Honda, has been strongly pushing the series, and hopefully it'll receive a release in Japan once the legal crap with China is all wrapped up.
I don't usually post stories like this but I felt it necessary to at least spread the word about a man who was imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit (i.e. "Here we go again!)
Eric in the link above was convicted of rape, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that he committed the act, the only evidence being a massive dumptruck's worth on some white guy who admits to being a "jealous boyfriend," so what's the logical thing to do? Throw the innocent guy in jail. THAT makes sense.
Spread the word, get this guy some help.
- From the Army of Common Sense (informed by Phillip DeFranco)
I'm a Texas-based illustrator/comic artist with a somewhat...ODD sense of living, laughing and loving. I've worked on IDW's Beast Wars Sourcebook, Gleaming Scythe's graphic novels, Marvel's Hardcover Handbooks, not to mention my first full one-shot comic, Wrath of the Titans: Cyclops.
The sky's the limit!