What I'm Watching: Godzilla

I grew up with KSTW-11 every weekend playing monster and kung fu movies (those being cheap air-filler for a non-network station), and Godzilla to me is rubber suits smashing balsa-wood cities and toy trains. After a long dry spell of the '80s and '90s Godzillas being pretty terrible, I loved the Lovecraftian GMK: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and the very goofy Godzilla Final Wars. But I haven't kept up with the last few.

So, anime Godzilla on Netflix? Sure. Long weird backstory about aliens coming to Earth, Godzilla winning anyway, Humanity & two alien species (who look just like pale or red Humans; no Xilians or mutants in this one) fleeing to space, was this in the last couple movies? Anyway, long recap/setup I didn't care for at all.

Then 20 years in deep space later, after spacing the old people, they argue a long time and eventually space-warp back to Earth, but it's 20,000 years later there.

Earth is overrun with Godzilla and smaller monsters, the atmosphere full of chaff from the monsters so long-range comms don't work, but criminal/Space Captain Awesome is gonna save the day.

"What? Send the landing ships to the front line? It's too dangerous. If they get shot down, how will we return to the mother ship?"
"But we're already home. There's nowhere else to return to but here. Isn't that right?"

The alien high priest says Godzilla is divine punishment for thinking you rule the world. Or as the song says, "History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man. GODZILLA!"

Of course, the Godzilla you can defeat is not the true Godzilla.

Visually this is OK, a lot of it is just filtered 3D CGI to look cel-shaded, which I've mostly only seen in shitty sports anime or later-generation Transformers; it doesn't look bad, exactly, but it doesn't look like animation. Give me Neon Genesis Evangelion any day.

Plot, there's a lot of arguing and not much gets done from that arguing. A serious editor could cut 50% of this and make a better movie with the same plot. Most of the dialogue is "Space Captain Awesome! Sempai!" "Yes, we must throw our lives away for heroism!" and screaming, it's not good.

Godzilla's new wrinkly metallic look isn't my thing, but it's functional; she doesn't move much, just stands there and fires atomic breath, occasionally swinging at something. I so much prefer the classic rubber suits jumping around and being physically in the scene.

Meh. I'll watch the rest, but at present I'm not impressed. Maybe I'll just rewatch GMK.

What I'm Watching: Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III (2001): Oh sweet Raptor Jesus this starts out with the worst green-screened "para-sailing" fake I've ever seen. Lovely helicopter shots of the island, tho. A couple scenes of Laura Dern with appallingly bad hair/wig and lame new husband, but she does no science. No trace of Goldblum, alas. Sam Neill back as Dr Grant is great, and William Macy as the idiot plot hook patron. Every time I see Téa Leoni I think I've seen her in something good before, and I haven't; she's lovely but she's an awful actress, a walking meatstick who rarely hits her mark and mumbles out lines; in one scene the director apparently tied her to a tree so she'd stay in shot, and even then she flails around looking everywhere but who she's talking to. Sidekick Billy and the other disposable characters are unremittingly incompetent, and it's a mercy when they die.

Massive improvement in up-close dinosaurs and bloody action. Spinosaurus as the primary antagonist is interesting, tho I always thought it more likely to be an aquatic predator than on land, the fin is useful in swimming and it has an elongated jaw like crocodilians for snatching fish; and lo, it does some swimming in this film, so the writer knew this, too. Tyrannosaurus ought to kick its ass on land with much stronger legs and jaws.

One thing that annoys me about the writing in these films, everyone either has a gun or runs away from dinos. Nobody ever picks up a melee weapon. Theropods had lighter bones than reptiles, not quite at bird fragility, but a good hard hit from a club should shatter them. A spear would work fine. Fire, like on a torch, should terrify them like it does all other animals. Humans are the dominant species because we're tool-users, and our simplest tools would kill anything except the apex predators. But no, only guns allow you to fight in these films.

So in this one, the "Raptors" which are fantasyland variations on Utahraptor, but we never see them use their switchblade claws, can caw like crows, and are as smart as primates or wolves, able to set traps, work around novel obstacles, and negotiate hostages. I don't buy this. I don't think their environment was complex enough to evolve intelligence, and they didn't have the brain case for it.

Pterosaurs! Vicious and beautiful Quetzalcoatlus northropi swooping down and carrying away annoying characters! And they sorta fly like a condor and not an airship! This makes me so very happy. I forgive a lot just to have some competent Pterosaurs; it'd be nice to also have little Pterodactyls pecking your face off, but I know when to say "thank you".

Gratuitous shot of peaceful riverside/plain full of Ankylosaurs, Apatosaurs, and Duckbills with the first movie's theme.

Alas, the down side as always: Annoying children. Lost boy scout is not the worst, but I could do with him being eaten. It would be good. The other one subjects me to a minute of Barney the "dinosaur", which is infuriating. The literal Deus Ex Machina: One phone call (and how they get that phone is so stupid… whatever) brings a carrier group to rescue everyone from the sky. But my beloved pterosaurs get to fly free and terrorize the Holocene, so I'm fine with it.

There's a lot to bitch about here, but this film works as a dinosaur island adventure, which the second one sure didn't. ★★★★½

What I'm Watching: How It Ends, Lost World: Jurassic Park

  • How It Ends: Mellow lawyer and Forest Whitaker's most annoying asshole character ever, take a road trip to rescue fiance/daughter in an indestructible Cadillac (sponsor!) from Chicago to Seattle after an unclear apocalypse. I can't stress enough how much I dislike Forest's character, even after he turns out to be useful. But the lawyer is OK, and Rikki picked up along the way is OK. Pretty exciting, realistic fight and car chase scenes. It's not a combat film, but there's some.
    The early parts of the apocalypse behave like atmospheric nukes: EMP, weather disruption, low-latitude aurorae borealis. Except no city is actually nuked? Later there's other effects that don't fit that, and I don't know what or if the writers had any clear idea.
    The response is that every community arms up a militia and there's bandits everywhere, the military are seen at distance but never live and doing anything useful. It's a fine post-apocalypse setting, but 1-5 days after the end is silly. It'd take months or years to fall apart like this. When Seattle lost power in terrible storms and flooding for days some years back, there was no mass hysteria, no banditry, no refugees, just generator rentals, calmly fixing things, and everyone got on with their lives.
    Still, I enjoyed this despite being almost the definition of cheap shovelware video. ★★½☆☆
  • Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997): So as to prepare myself to watch the new stupid JP movie, I went back to almost the beginning. I've seen the original Jurassic Park (1993) a dozen times, it's great; sure the dinos are leathery-skinned and it left out much of the novel's best parts like the Pterodactyl dome, but a classic good film, a ★★★★★.
    This second one is Hollywood sequel disease at its most fetid. I watched this one in theatre, and had forgotten almost everything about it, and I see I have made a terrible mistake watching it again. The first third is a tenuous premise and then a ripoff of the original with little charm; the cast is a lot to blame. Goldblum is fun but he spends half the film clutching at his face "OH NO my child!", Burke (Thomas Duffy?) is a shitty Sam Neill and I was happy to see him eaten, and Julianne Moore is not any kind of Laura Dern, Vince Vaughn and the late Pete Postlethwaite ("Best actor on the set of JW!", says Spielberg) aren't the worst, but they have very limited, stiff writing. The child is so annoying there should be a special Oscar award for most annoying child in a movie.
    Then a long running/being hunted sequence with disposable mooks, then San Diego. SD has potential to be fun, but Hammond Jr is pathetic, the dinosaur rampaging thru the city for comic effect is lame, the bloodless PG-rated kills are beyond lame. The very end shows a Pterodactyl hovering like a balloon, not like a hundred-kilo Condor-like glider. Goddamned horrible. I dread what is to come. ★☆☆☆☆