Monthly Archives: May 2024

Dragon Keeper

It has been a minute since I read a Robin Hobb book in that one series with all the Elderlings. So I’m not sure if she is softening as she ages, or if I’m hardening as I age, or what. But the first volume of The Rain Wilds Chronicles was not what I expected.

Dragon Keeper returns us to the Bingtown and the Rain Wilds Traders, last seen surviving an invasion due to a timely alliance. Now, brief years later, they are chafing under the terms of that alliance, mainly because its principal member got a boyfriend and stopped hanging around. I’d say more about why that’s an added burden, but it would involve pretty big and unexpected spoilers, so I shan’t.

Our main characters are 1) an unexpectedly married scholar of dragons, 2) a not quite Liveship Trader who has engaged himself in a morally troubling endeavor, and 3) a Rain Wilds teen with no real future, until the option to become eponymous is thrust in front of her. Well, and there’s also a fourth main character who is not strictly human at all as such, although she is the subject of scholarly pursuits.

And here’s the thing I was talking about in the first place: it didn’t feel all that miserable to me? I mean, in the sense that the hallmark of these books to date is how unrelentingly dark they can get, with only occasional flashes of hope and/or success. Do all of the characters have pretty huge problems to overcome? Yes, for sure. But it’s weird that it kind of feels like they can, and maybe even will in some cases.

A couple more weird things, rattling around at the bottom of the barrel. One is, okay, yeah this is a four book series instead of a three book series. Even still, it felt like this was 85% setup, and then 15%… not payoff like you’d expect, but rather 15% the start of the next book, because she was told she could not just have a book that was all setup. Whoever told her that was wrong, because the end we got was weirdly forced and artificial, and the ending we’d have gotten with all setup would have made rather a lot of sense, payoff or no. And two is, at the back of this book, I learned that Robin Hobb also has the pen name Megan Lindholm, which is the same person as a Steven Brust co-author on a book I haven’t yet read but am now much more excited to pick up.

But not, y’know, next. Or indeed anytime soon.

Kaijû daisensô

So I’m still watching Godzilla movies, right? Invasion of Astro Monster is on the one hand not nearly as weird as Ghidorah was. But on the other hand, it’s a much weirder Godzilla movie. See, there are radio signals from a planet beyond Pluto, which they have decided to call Planet X, and also it’s right next to (as in seems like a moon of) Jupiter, and in conclusion you can tell that the same people who were spouting paleontological knowledge in the first movie did the astronomical research for this one.

So these astronauts meet up with the citizens of Planet X, where King Ghidorah is rampaging and forcing them underground, and since from monitoring radio waves or whatever they have learned about how Earth survived Ghidorah’s attack, would we mind ever so much if they could borrow Godzilla and Rodan, in exchange for medical panaceas?

The problem with depth of genre knowledge is if good guy aliens ever show up offering us the keys to the universe, we’ll screw it up immediately by not believing them for a moment, since obviously it’s a trap.

Later, some monsters get in big fights, and the world’s most annoying toymaker makes the world’s most annoying toy, inspiring Tim Burton in the process. Oh, also of note: this is the first Criterion edition of these movies to have an English soundtrack instead of Japanese with subtitles. I don’t know if that was a Max choice or Criterion itself, but it is definitely what I had access to. (Made watching it at work a lot easier, I’ll say that much.)

San Daikaijû Chikyû Saidai no Kessen

Okay. I have reached the point where I know what’s up. There are/were only two Godszilla, I have high confidence in this fact. The downside is, now I’m five movies into the series, and I was supposed to watch the first one and the ninth one. So, like… should I just go ahead and power through since I’m already more than halfway there?

There is one compelling factor here: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen, and that is saying a lot.[1] See, there’s this princess of a nearby island nation who is trying to make a peace treaty with Japan, maybe? Or something. but also internal politics means there are people trying to assassinate her, and also sometimes with no explicit explanation provided, she is from Venus and has been on Earth for thousands of years. Also, the Mothra twins are visiting for a TV show appearance. Also, a meteor shower woke up Rodan, who you would have no reason to know (aside from watching a separate movie without a Godzilla) is a giant pterodactyl thing. Also also, there was a meteor shower that had one weird meteor that changes sizes and has sporadic magnetism, and landed in the Japanese Alps, a mountain range with which I was unfamiliar.

My point is, Godzilla doesn’t even show up until 40 minutes into the movie, and okay, it’s not his name on the title card, but King Ghidorah isn’t much sooner (and might be later still, for all I remember). In the meantime, the Venusian princess is warning people that “Rodan will wake up in a second so don’t go get that guy’s hat that blew down the hill”, or “don’t get on that ship because last time we saw Godzilla he was maybe drowned again, and ships go on water”, or “King Ghidorah destroyed all life on Venus and he’s here on Earth now so get your affairs in order.” Luckily, they didn’t write her as Cassandra, so after the first time she’s right, people start listening.

But the best part of the movie is close enough to the end that I’m going to warn of spoilers, even though I’ve been really cavalier up to now.

[1] I mean, it should be the weirdest movie basically anyone has ever seen, averaging out across the populace. But in the nichier markets there are some true unpolished gems. The Baby, anyone?

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Mosura tai Gojira

When I realized that there was a Mothra movie that predated her interactions with Godzilla, I came very close to falling into the Marvel trap. But since OG Mothra wasn’t available to stream anywhere, I narrowly sidestepped a grim fate. It is important I think to remind myself that I’m only trying to figure out what’s going on with Godzillas, and just how many of them there are. This is not a Toho deep dive.

It’s not, I said!

This brings us to Mothra vs. Godzilla. Last time, Godzilla was left to an uncertain underwater fate. Naturally, therefore, there are zero Godszilla for the entire first third of this movie. Instead, we are treated to a tsunami, and a giant floating egg in the nearby ocean, and tiny twin girls who want the egg back from greedy amusement park developers who bought the egg from local fishermen, and my point is, there’s a lot of things going on which would be familiar to people who watched Mothra and unfamiliar to people who watched Godzilla movies.

Later, it is implied but not outright stated that Godzilla washed ashore and was buried in mud by the same tsunami that brought the egg into the area, and therefore it is implied that this is still Godzilla #2. Which I’m good with. Later, the powers of journalism triumph over the powers of capitalism, and the powers of kaiju silkworms triumph over the powers of kaiju lizards, resulting in approximately the same ending as the last movie, except with more of a Spider-Man webshooters vibe. Also, they made sure to re-use the native villagers set, although then again how do I know the Mothra movie didn’t have it before the Kong movie?

I hope nobody cares how extremely filled with spoilers these reviews are.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

Date night! Which means going to a used bookstore and then a combo dinner / late run movie since we had watched all the other ones again recently. Can’t always pick when babysitting will happen, and so.

Anyway, how does one even say this movie? Godzilla ex Kong? Godzilla times Kong? Godzilla and Kong? Do even the producers of the film know the answer to this question? (Do they care? I posit that they do not, since they have brand recognition regardless.) Anyhow: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is about how things are going since Godzilla and Kong had some fights to determine who was the alpha giant monster and ultimately decided, hey, you stay up here and you stay down here, and everything’s cool, right?


A brief digression, if you will indulge me, to discuss spoilers for the Monarch series up to this point. See, they’ve been trying to make a Hollow Earth theory happen forever. And once they got there, it’s… weird and not fully thought through. Somewhere between ten and X miles beneath the earth’s surface, there’s another land. That land is full of Titan sized animals, which makes sense in context, and is maybe a quarter of a mile deep before gravity flips and there’s more land, which makes no sense. Like, you’re on a mountain, and above you some few hundred yards off, is a different mountain, whose top could poke you in the head if it fell. Also, there’s no obvious source of light, and yet everything is extremely well lit. Is there a night time? no clue, neither if nor how.

Anyway, below that area are caves leading down another mile or three (or X; how would I know?) to another land, which I think is also double sided in the same way? I forget. So I guess we’re dealing with the Honeycomb Earth theory at this point.

What’s important is the movie is following three divergent plotlines. In the first, Godzilla is wandering around on the surface looking for energy sources because he’s planning to be in a really big fight soon, which obvs terrifies everyone. In the second, some of the characters we’d recognize from the last movie but none of the earlier ones (as usual) are chasing a signal underground that has agitated Kong (and maybe Godzilla?). In the third, Kong is following what could just possibly be his family, deeper into the honeycomb. And eventually he follows Gollum into the land of Mordor[1].

Later (and also earlier), some titans fight each other. No, it’s true! And in the end, there is what I think can fairly be called a new empire. The things I still don’t know are if I’ve spoiled myself for the Apple+ TV show and what they might possibly do with yet another sequel.

[1] This is more factual than you believe it to be.

Kingu Kongu tai Gojira

You may recall that the only reason I’m watching these Godzilla movies is to determine just how many Godszilla there are, having been betrayed by the first one. So anyway, the third movie in the series maintains us on Godzilla number two, while introducing a surprise guest star!

King Kong vs. Godzilla is the story of how rival Japanese television networks try to drum up ratings by pitting Godzilla (who has recently been freed from an iceberg that is approximately where he ended up in the previous movie[1], which is how I know it’s the same Godzilla) against King Kong (who has recently been kidnapped from his home in the Solomon Islands by the lower in the ratings of the two TV networks, in a bid to gain marketshare by showing him off to Japan).

No really, that’s the whole movie. Wake up Godzilla who will attack Japan because it’s a habit at this point. Kidnap King Kong for ratings. Notice that maybe since he’s tall, he could defeat Godzilla and save Tokyo. Notice that atomic fire breath sets giant ape skin on fire same as everyone else’s. Notice that, implausibly, where a million volts of electricity makes Godzilla say “ow” and wander off in a different direction, it makes Kong say “yummy!” and then flex like Popeye on a week-long spinach bender. Put them both on the slopes of Mt. Fuji for an electro-charged rematch. Profit?[2]

I’d say you cannot make this stuff up, but, singing Mothra twins? This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what you can make up. In conclusion, Godzilla’s fate at the end of the movie was uncertain, which means I still have to watch another one. Sheesh. At least it’s on Max, because having to settle for 1080p because my Plex server couldn’t deal with the 4K version of this movie was an annoyance and a half.

[1] by meddling Americans, of course
[2] In fact, yes, massive, massive profit in the Japanese market.