I live in a world where I have gone to see 1998’s Godzilla in theaters twice ON PURPOSE! And in between the two showings, I saw a different American Godzilla movie also called Godzilla that was actually good and actually had Godzilla in it! Strange how life works. The original Godzilla viewing back in 98 was on opening weekend, where I convinced all my friends to go and was pretty excited, hoping that this would be another Independence Day-style awesome action film that I would end up seeing three times in the theater (like ID4). But it turned out to be terrible and I still get friends bemoaning that I dragged them to see Godzilla to this day. Godzilla took a lot of flack, from Godzilla looking like an Iguana mutating into Jay Leno to everything else about the film because it’s completely garbage at all levels. Bad acting from some of the leads, Matthew Broderick not being an action star, zero strong female characters, strange director vendettas, confusing action sequences, indiscriminate destruction by the US military, clown college Jurassic Park breaking out in the last third of the film, and CGI that hasn’t aged well. Some CGI was dodgy then, including any scene where we are very very close to Godzilla’s skin (it’s like they didn’t make a high textured skin surface to use for those shots!) or any scene with Godzilla in the water (just embarrassing!)
Godzilla led to a legacy of shame, but in shame there is often great potential. Potential being Godzilla would make a great potential RiffTrax! Thus, a Kickstarter was born. (Disclosure: I meant to donate to this Kickstarter, but I forgot! D’oh!) The Kickstarter was successful enough, they not only got the funds for Godzilla, but they reached the stretch goal of Anaconda as well (out October 30th, more details in a later post!)
As addressed by one of the preshow slides, the most memorable Godzilla quote isn’t even from the film, but from the Taco Bell Dog saying “Here Lizard Lizard Lizard” in commercials. That’s just good commentary.
Some of the preshow slides were awesome, (though a few fell flat). The kaiju nerdy ones were hilarious, but no one in the theater I was at seemed to get them. Also, the theater was more empty than it’s been recently at the RiffTrax events, I don’t know if it was Godzilla scaring them off or what, but that’s how it was.
The length of the film meant we had no time for shorts and little time for banter before the movie, though they did debut their new opening animation, which was cool if a bit long. The riffs were largely on point and hilarious, though there were some sound mixing problems, especially in the first 10-15 minutes, that left a few jokes unheard over the noise of the film. I guess I’ll have to wait for the mp3, though that will mean watching Godzilla yet again (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!) My favorite riffs included how no one likes Echo 3, the Muppets Take Manhattan riff, and the frustration at Emmerich’s coffee and Ebert vendettas. Any time the riffers went all French was also hilarious. Most of the lack of enjoyment stems from the film itself, not the commentary. I would rate it in one of the top five RiffTrax Live events, though that may just be because I’m biased towards giant monster films. That’s forgiving the technical problems.
Speaking of technical problems, the show I was at had the fire alarm go off in the middle of it! This stopped the film, but it was a false alarm so we sat and waited for ten minutes until they could restart the show. I was worried we’d miss a bit, but they rewound so we ended up seeing a few minutes over again, and I got a free pass at the end. I even found a nickel on BART, which means I turned a profit for the night. Finally, Godzilla pays off!
Story by Dave Callaham
Screenplay by Max Borenstein
Directed by Gareth Edwards
We were all a little apprehensive when we learned that there would be a second American Godzilla movie. After all, once bitten, twice shy. And while the memories of Matthew Broderick battling a preggers dinosaur that loves fish while things go all Jurassic Park are scarred in memories forever, Gareth Edwards brought American Godzilla movies full circle into actually good. Godzilla is big, fights monsters, has atomic breath, isn’t taken out like a punk, and becomes a realized character despite being a CGI construct. He’s the real deal. Just saying that makes me so happy I had to recalibrate my breakdown of the film because it does have its flaws. Nothing that we haven’t seen before in major tentpole films, but I’m not above pointing them out again and again.
I had my problems with Gareth Edwards, I found Monsters interesting when it had anything to do with monsters, and not when it had anything to do with people. Edwards brings his monster affinity to full load with Godzilla, the monsters are just so huge, so out of scale, that people are just running around trying to survive beneath their feet. The sheer enormity is a stark contrast to how helpless everyone is when the creatures are around.
Edwards trades two hours of monster destruction porn for an array of different effects of the destruction, from news clips to destructive aftermaths to monsters fighting it out in the background while humans run for their lives. But there is plenty of fighting going on during the climactic scenes set in San Francisco. They play tribute to the monster fights of old, but allow at CGI Godzilla to do a few moves that wouldn’t quite work with people in suits. Overall, the fight sequences are fun, but the meat of the monster appearances are just showing them so huge and destructive, and the people struggling to survive. The sequences with the monsters on rampage become a mix of giant monster, horror, and nature run amok all rolled up into one, and pulled off perfectly.
Gareth Edwards still has problems making interesting people, but he’s compensated by using incredibly awesome actors who turn those people interesting despite what they are given. Bryan Cranston is amazing as the obsessive dad who jumbles from one tragedy to another. Aaron Taylor-Johnson had good chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen (which will be important as they’re siblings in Avengers 2!), but when by himself just became a less charming Channing Tatum. Moments like when he was suddenly guarding a shoehorned in random Japanese kid gave him more depth than all his running around while covered in dirt scenes combined.
Godzilla here is part of a large conspiracy to cover up that there are large monsters in the world, and he’s the apex predator. The problem is when the other ones start popping up, because they begin destroying cities and causing all sorts of destruction. Things can no longer be hidden away, and soon Godzilla leaves his Pacific Atoll to destroy these new idiots. No one challenges the king.
Zone Fighter Episode 26 – Funsai! Garoga Ganmaa X Sakusen
I spiked your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with LSD, Zone Fighter!
This is it! The moment we’ve all been waiting for, the final confrontation of the Zone Family and their antagonists, the evil Garoga! The final battle will begin…. Hold on, I’m getting a message. This isn’t the final battle, this is just a normal battle. And then the series got canned! D’oh! What an anticlimax! Yes, a mix of ratings and the energy crisis caused Zone Fighter to be unceremoniously dropped from production without a resolution. So whatever happened to Zone? It is a mystery. A big mystery, because if there has been any followups via comic books, official lore, or even mention in other Toho programming, it has not been brought to the attention of anyone in the West, nor does it show up when I search for “流星人間ゾーン” or similar. There was a Zone Fighter comic strip that was out the same time as the show, and some children’s books, but nothing to indicate they resolve the plot (most look like adaptations of episodes). So whatever does happens will never be solved, until Toho gets around to solving it. Well, 2023 will be the 50th anniversary, maybe they’ll do something then… Heck, even freaking Godman got an updated tale!
So we got to end on a low note, and just assume that right after this episode aired, every Garoga had a massive heart attack and the day was saved. At least that’s how it worked out in my head canon, which is the most accurate canon of all.
Zone Fighter battles some special Garoga, who have X on their uniform, but they aren’t mutants or anything, or even like Malcolm X. They’re just extra-jerky Garoga. The Garoga X combine into a special Garoga-themed monster named Grotogauros, who sort of suck. But he means well. If you need some refresher on the Zone Fighter mythos, the Zone Fighter Splash Page is there to help!
Baron Garoga fires a missile at the Zone Family house, and we see a rainbow barrier stop the missile. The missile was created by a bunch of Earth scientists, and was supposed to get past the barrior. Baron Garoga berates them, and then presses a button and they fall through trap doors and out into space. Huzzah! The Garoga need to do more horrible horrible things.
Next a ship docks, and it’s full of elite Garoga Agents who have a big X on their uniform It’s the X-Men! Magneto! Cerebro! They are reporting for duty to kick some Zone Family butt. I’m not sure if they were assigned the job or if Baron Garoga ordered them or if they just showed up one day for no reason at all, but whatevers, the story is moving ahead of my ruminations…
Zone Fighter Episode 25 – Seizetsu! Zoon Gojira tai Kyoujuu Rengougun
aka 凄絶! ゾーン・ゴジラ対恐獣連合軍 aka Bloodbath! Zone & Godzilla vs the United Terror-Beast Army! aka Carnage! Zone & Godzilla vs the Allied Terror-Beast Forces
Written by Yoshihisa Araki
Directed by Kengo Furusawa
Zone Fighter goes all Judge Dredd all of a sudden!
Finally, the Garoga grow a brain and unleash an attack on Zone Fighter that could possibly work, drowning him in monster foes. Unfortunately, they don’t go full force with the idea, and Godzilla shows up to beat up some of the spare monsters.
Though five monsters appear – Mogranda, Spideros, Garaborg, Jikiro, and the new monster Kabutogirah – there are dozens of capsules shown that the Garoga have, and they even toss them all around Tokyo in preparation for a massive attack. Instead, the attack is sort of minor, some monsters appearing solo and others attacking just outside of town. The only way the massive monster strategy could be successful is if they throw out dozens of foes, so this holding back is weird.
The Garoga launch a whole slew of Terror-Beast missiles featuring some old favorite terror-beasts, and also some awful terror-beasts. No explanation for why they aren’t dead, but whatever! These are all the twin brothers of the dead monsters. Yeah, that’s it! The amount of returning monsters who were destroyed earlier is complicated because I don’t know if to classify them as new versions of the monsters, or as just the monsters themselves reappearing because they “got better”. Even more confusing, Jikiro appears again, but the last time we saw him, he was Super Jikiro. I find it hard to believe the Garoga would go to the trouble of downgrading one of their Terror-Beasts, so the reversion is doubly weird.
Another explanation is the terror-beasts are recreated after each use, reincarnated like they are Cylons or something. This means that each of Zone Fighter’s murders of them are meaningless as far as killing them to destroy them goes, because they’ll always come back. It also means that the monsters will remember their defeats by Zone Fighter, which should in theory make them better combatants each time Zone and them fight. That doesn’t bear itself out, so maybe this theory is bunk as well. Or maybe the terror-beasts are just that stupid.
Several of the terror-beasts appear because Garoga combine together to becomes the terror-beast, while others are created from living things, mutated into terror-beasts. Most appear to be of unknown origin, whether they are captive animals mutated into monsters each time they need something to fight Godzilla, or even from breeding stock of creatures about the Garoga Space Station, stored in the terror-beast capsule form, or in pre-mutated animal form. If the reincarnation theory is true, would terror-beasts created from living things (such as Garoga Gorilla and Jellar/Kastom-Jellar) become part of the rotating terror-beast stable, or are they outside the instances of terror-beast reincarnation? This whole concept is more and more deeply troubling the more you think about terror-beasts and their origins. Their possible innocent status makes Zone Fighter look more like an evil bloodthirsty madman than his violent actions do on their own. And that’s pretty violent.
Unfortunately, just like all the other mysteries, we’ll never know the definitive answer due to the series being abruptly cancelled with no known followup.
This episode is also notable for being the last appearance of Godzilla on the show. Godzilla just shows up out of the blue to help with the situation, one thinks he’s attracted to the large amount of kaiju bioenergy in the area due to the influx of terror-beasts. Godzilla fares the poorest of all his Zone Fighter adventures, almost losing against two weak opponents until Zone Fighter saves him (to be fair, he saved Zone Fighter first) Godzilla does finish off one of the monsters.
The original monster for episode 25 is Kabutogirah, who is a creature with dreadlocks and fashionable sunglasses. He’s in the prologue sequences with the other monsters, and emerges to fight Zone Fighter about halfway through the episode. He does a terrible job and is murdered, not even scoring a spot in the final battle. This makes him one of the lamest terror-beasts in show history, even when highly subsidized by other monsters, Kabutogirah isn’t even close to a threat.
If you need a refresher of all these monster monsters, check out the Zone Fighter Splash Page
Zone Fighter Episode 24 – Harifuki Kyoujuu Niidoraa-wo Taose
Let’s see who you really are…OH MY GOD THE BLOOD ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!
Zone Fighter is back again with a very spooky episode that finally has the Garoga doing very creepy things that aren’t weird. It’s also got Needlar in the title, despite Needlar barely being in the film. But kids aren’t going to care about the creepy atmospheric story, they just want to seem Zone Fighter punch some monsters in the face and then murder them. And, yes, Zone does murder poor Needlar, who had it coming, because he’s named Needlar and barely shoots needles. Way to abandon your gimmick, bro!
What the meat of this episode is, is the village where everyone has been hypnotized by the Garoga into being their slaves, causing them to march in formation during rainy nights and ignore their surroundings. The Garoga treat the workers as disposable, because there are plenty more slave humans around. The end game seems to involve Garoga turning the humans into cyborgs, the exact reasons for which is lost in the unsubtitled Japanese, but probably for ease of them being slaves. So in some sense, the Garoga are the original Borg. The Gaborga.
Another interesting thing happens, which is the Mighty Liner drives off a cliff and explodes. Never fear, the Zone Family somehow were thrown clear of the vehicle despite the doors being closed and the windows unbroken, and are thus lightly injured. But the Mighty Liner is a total loss. Which means it’s back by the next episode, with no explanation given. Zone Family mechanics are just that good. Or maybe they have a whole crate of Mighty Liners. Whatever the true answer, it’s probably dumb.
I’ll take back my comments on Ishiro Honda slumming in the last episode, because here he isn’t slumming. I would say he made a conscious decision which episode would be better and then focused all his energies there. In particular, this episode features large scale scenes shot at night with rain effects, and spooky lighting such as green-tinted bulbs illuminating people. It’s impressively done, and keeps the mood spooky enough that you don’t miss the monster action, instead wondering just what the heck is going on. The only problem is it eats up much of the monster time, and Needlar sort of sucks.
But…Needlar’s death scene is BLOODY AWESOME! Because it’s bloody, and awesome. Let’s just say Needlar loses his head over his death sequences. And sprays hoses full of blood all over while doing so. Maybe he should be called Hosar. This graphic death is weird for what is essentially a childrens’ show, and sort of counter to the spooky atmosphere. The whole giant monster sequence escapes the boundaries of the episode’s tone, so that’s not too surprising. Overall, this becomes a solid episode for Zone Fighter. If you need a refresher on Zone Fighter, drop by the Zone Fighter Splash Page.
Zone Fighter Episode 23 – Dai Kyoujuu Bakugon-no Himitsu
Come and get it, you Bouillabaseball playing mofo!
The Secret Garoga Plot in Secret of Bakugon: The Giant Terror-Beast! is so stupid that it makes the craziest Cobra plots from GI Joe look sane and rational. The Garoga plot to make several children believe that a junk yard is really a secret garden, thus they’ll get some ruined clothes and light scrapes. This means they’ll all have to get tetanus shots, thus depleting the worldwide supply, destroying humanity! The long-term plan might be some ridiculous plot to mind control the entire population of the planet, but no one really seems focused on that. They even have smaller tests before the elaborate children delusion, which rules out that this was just a test phase. This is the REAL DEAL plan!
The plot is so ridiculously lame that it sinks the entire episode, and even a cool monster design like Bakugon cannot save it. Bakugon is like an ALF/anteater hybrid that shoots flames out of his nose and has a metal backpack full of fuel for said flames. It is cool to see a monster that’s obviously a mammal, far too many are variations of dinosaurs or other lizards, or even more human monsters. Bakugon has fur, we need more fuzzy kaiju. Plus he’d make a great rug in front of the fireplace!
There is a great philosophical crisis because the main evil Garoga splits himself from disguised as one human female to disguised as a human female and a small boy. Essentially being in two places at once and being two people. The question is if the Garoga became two Garoga, or if it was able to control both bodies simultaneously without adverse effects and keeping them doing separate projects but still under the same mind. Becuase if the Garoga became two Garoga, this is some serious business. It could be real, because we’ve seen Garoga merge and form terror-beasts before. So why couldn’t a Garoga split into two by mitosis? Or are the Garoga all under one mind? Though that doesn’t seem to jive with how the Garoga act in every other episode, so it’s highly unlikely. What we get is another great Garoga mystery that will never be solved.
A mysterious lady in all black (so obviously Garoga it hurts) is causing delusions in people – a family is on a road trip when it’s suddenly revealed they’re driving on the train tracks! And that somehow causes all of them to fall out of their car when dad slams on the breaks! Uh….. HUH?? Also some guy hallucinates that he’s water skiing while he’s really in a field, and is laughed at, but still, the whole family fell out of their car. How does that work? I’m so confused…