Tag Archives: sci-fi

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.

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.

Gojira no gyakushû

I couldn’t help it. I just had to know how Godzilla recovered from being reduced to his component molecules by the oxygen destroyer. So I went digging around and found the second Toho movie, Godzilla Raids Again.

This movie focuses on Japan’s fishing industry, albeit with nearly no fishing. Apparently they have spotters who fly around looking for fish to send the fishing boats to, and lady radio operators to convey messages back and forth between the pilots and the fleet. Which is all fine and good, until one of the spotters, er, notices Godzilla. This gives the writers a chance to correct the paleontologist from last movie. Now, Godzilla is from somewhere between 130 to 70 million years ago, “as everyone knows”. But no fear! there’s also a similarly proportioned ankylosaurus from the same time period also awakened by more atomic testing, who they started calling Anguirus for reasons that were not at all clear to me. And this is where the paleontologist got a bunk script again, because, okay, that guy is also nearly 200 feet tall (I suppose I know why they weren’t going to walk that part back), and he has spikes all over his back instead of only along the sides, and he’s a vicious carnivore.

People knew better in the 1950s, right? I mean, they must have. And yet.

Anyway, from there the movie proceeds about as you’d expect. Here come monsters to attack Osaka, but the Japanese have learned how to lure Godzilla away now. Which worked out great, up until a subplot with a prison transfer escape attempt ends up blowing up the waterfront fishing cannery, and suddenly Anguirus and Godzilla are locked in mortal combat, and also lots of familiar pilots are flying around in danger, with familiar radio operators swooning over them.

I want to watch the next movie and find out how Godzilla comes back next time, but it’s not available anywhere. …which reminds me, I never did tell you how he came back this time! …he didn’t. This is just a different Godzilla. How many of them are there?? But just remember anytime you are watching one of those old sequel movies, it’s not even the actual Godzilla.

I feel so betrayed.

Gojira

So this is super weird.

I know I’ve seen the Raymond Burr Godzilla (which is perversely difficult to find on streaming (not that I particularly wanted to), as compared to how easy it was to find on any given Saturday afternoon in my youth), and I would swear I’ve seen Gojira as well, or even if not, it’s the same movie minus inserted Raymond Burr footage, right?

But, because it has been a while, I figured to myself that I would watch the film in advance of the horror movie podcast episode about it, and it turns out that either they diverge wildly, or I just have not seen this movie after all. I remember the people running along trails to hilltops to see Godzilla approaching, and Burr giving close-up commentary on the moment, and I remember him (Godzilla, not Burr) smashing through buildings and elevated trains and such in Tokyo, but I had minimal to no memory of the family drama / romantic subplot between the paleontologist, his daughter, her scientist fiance, and her fisherman lover, and I had completely no memory of how the movie ended.

For example, and this is a spoiler for a seventy year-old movie, so with that said, did you know Godzilla dies at the end?? There are like ten or a dozen or more other Toho movies in this series, the vast majority of which he is alive in, and I have no idea how! It never crossed my mind that he could die, that was the one thing I was certain of!

Like, I used to be sure that (before he became a guardian instead), Gojira was a metaphor not only for the dangers of nuclear testing, but also for the learned hopelessness of the Japanese people a mere nine years past Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nation of people in all the world’s history who were the most thoroughly crushed by opposing forces. But if they can just turn around and kill the supposedly undefeatable nuclear behemoth, that particular metaphor flies right out the window.

It’s like learning that Rosebud was his wife’s middle name, or that Rick and Elsa had never been to Paris. Everything I know is wrong, and what can I even do with this information now?

Prey (2022)

You know those Predator movies? A couple of years ago, Hulu made another one, except they flipped the script and named it Prey. Which made sense superficially, as it’s set 300 years ago among the Comanche, and yeah, there’s just every reason to expect a slaughter.

But then the movie takes an early right turn, when the main character is a young woman who wants to be a hunter for the tribe, only nobody really believes she has any potential as a hunter except her brother. And honestly, the early scenes prove the tribe right, or at least they would if it were not clear that most of her failures come from everyone else’s criminal negligence. She is mocked and spurned at every turn, and even her pretty good ideas are seen as failings, but ultimately it is fair to say that she’s just not a very good hunter, even if the fault lies elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it appears Predators have never been to Earth before, because this one is only interested in hunting that which has first hunted it, as though it’s on a fact-finding mission; it ignores all prey, and only hunts predators. Which in a piece of dramatic irony is also the method by which the Comanche graduate a hunter; he (well, she in this case, of course) must hunt something that is hunting him.

There’s a lot of ground to cover between here where I’m leaving off and there where the movie ends, but if you think that the real confrontation is between predator and prey, well, it seems to me that you understand the kind of spoilers that a title can bring to the table.

[1] Also there were a few more that predate me reviewing things. (No pun.)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Last year, they made another Indiana Jones movie. I know that a lot of people complained about the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie, which, wow, was longer ago than I thought. But I think a certain suspension of disbelief is required to watch really any of these movies, and the things I saw at that time were more or less from the perspective of people who had lost their childlike sense of wonder about watching a pulp-inspired movie, and thought the sequel should have grown up with them. All of which to say, if you didn’t like that, you probably won’t like this. (If you simply thought it was weaker than some of the other movies in the series, this one is stronger again, for sure.)

Which brings us to 1969 and the latest (last?) sequel, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. The veracity of the plot is somewhat less than that of the other Indy movies involving Nazis, while still having more basis in fact than you’d expect from a pulp movie in general. See, there’s this fancy gear/dial thingy that predicts events based on prior knowledge, called an antikythera. The movie inaccurately(?) attributes its invention to Archimedes, who to be fair is a pretty cool dude, on par with your Da Vincis and your Teslas as far as coming up with fancy ideas (and perhaps executing them).

Everything else can be derived from first principles. Will there be an exciting chase sequence in which the upper hand changes direction multiple times? Will the Nazis deserve to have their faces melted off? Will there be glorified tomb-raiding, complete with traps and bugs and snakes and whatnot? Are there unexpected twists? Will it belong in a museum? (Yes, yes because it’s an odd-numbered movie, more or less yes, obviously yes, and, well, yes.)

Godzilla (2014)

Back when they made that Godziilla remake, I still remembered the one with Matthew Broderick. You know, the one that basically killed his career?[1] So naturally I avoided with prejudice. Then later I saw Kong: Skull Island[2], and learned that these two movies were related? And they’ve made two sequels since then, of which I’ve seen one. I think? …nope, additional minor research indicates I’ve seen both, and, I don’t know, am just conflating them?

But for whatever reason, I never saw the movie that [re]started it all.

Godzilla has three distinct acts, connected linearly by the flow of time and not at all by theme. In act one, Bryan Cranston is [spoilers for the prologue] trying to figure out who murdered his wife. In act two, his son is taking a tour of the Pacific in the style of Raymond Burr. In act three, there is a final confrontation in San Francisco.

I do think that these movies find their footing, but this first one is interesting only insofar as you are entertained by fights with kaiju (80% of the movie) or shadowy government conspiracies regarding kaiju (20% of the movie). Otherwise, it’s kind of a shambling mess full of extraneous characters in service of a plot in which one rando is solely responsible for the salvation of humanity, even though the movie is named Godzilla.

But I mean… it was still mostly pretty cool to look at.

[1] I mean, is he still doing anything and I just don’t see it, or was that the coffin nail and now he’s retired on Ferris money? …or in that retirement home for Hollywood people who lost it all? Well. He’s probably not old enough for that.
[2] If you think I wanted to see that one on the strength of Peter Jackson’s remake, well, you’re at least partially right. but also I’ve always had a soft spot for King Kong.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

My mother-in-law was in town for my son’s birthday, and due to a coincidence of chronology, my birthday is one day later, with the upshot being we had childcare available for my birthday! As a further result of which, we went to see the semi-recently released newest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

If you’re worried about plot spoilers, do not be, because I legitimately could not remember who or why the bad guy was, until I spent several moments of concentration trying to. Which sounds like a strike against the movie? But no: I come not to bury Gunn, but to praise him. Because, plot or no plot, what the movie had was a ton of heart, and even more tons of concern for its characters. The only real problem I had with it, in an overarching sense, is that it made most of the recent previous movies[1] worse just by virtue of its existence. Because this is what has been missing since Endgame. Not a specific direction, or a replacement for Thanos. Just… heart.

Anyway, I do remember what happened, more or less. Like everything that has ever happened in any Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the past shows up to bite everyone in the ass. The only things I will say are that a) this is maybe the weirdest take I’ve ever seen or can imagine seeing on Adam Warlock, to the extent that I feel like maybe they shouldn’t have actually thanked Jim Starlin in the credits; and b) the take on the bad guy, whose presence I will not spoil, is so accurate it reminds me of Ultimate Reed Richards.

[1] Essentially all of them in the age of COVID except No Way Home.

Everything Everywhere All at Once

I’m not sure there’s a point in talking about the plot or storyline or character beats of Everything Everywhere All at Once. It would be some combination of entirely spoilerful and also incomprehensible. Which is not to say that the movie is incomprehensible, so much as that I’m just pretty sure it works much better on screen than it would in print. As an example: there is no way I could explain mid-life lesbian relationship with hot dog fingers world and make you believe it was kind of glorious. So now you know why I’m not going to try to talk about things that legitimately matter about the movie, if I can’t even explain that.

(You should watch it, though, if that was not yet clear.)

Here’s what I find interesting: it won best picture. Did it deserve to win best picture? I mean, it’s the best 2022 movie I’ve yet seen[1]. But it’s a sci-fi comedy about Chinese immigrant inter-family politics. Last time I checked, that kind of movie doesn’t win best picture at the Academy. …or maybe it does? I haven’t been paying attention for a little while. But it certainly did not used to do such a thing. And it’s like, the family drama part actually felt like Oscar-bait[2], but what blows me away is that the voters made it far enough into the film to see that part and bite on it.

Anyway: I’m glad to see this kind of movie be acclaimed, and I loved it, and you should still go watch it. It’s just surprising, is all.

[1] I might like No Way Home as much or more, but that doesn’t make it a better movie, if you see what I’m saying. Also, oops, I’m being informed that was a 2021 movie anyhow, so, uh, yeah. Man, I didn’t see much of anything last year, did I?
[2] not in the bad way

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The internet hated the third Ant-Man movie. This is no secret. And… as a movie, okay, I get it. It had maybe seven actors running around in front of green screens and emoting at explosions and creatures and whatever in the hopes that the CG people could keep their eyes pointing in the right direction. So when Martin Scorsese says whatever he said about superhero movies being soulless, I understand where people like him are coming from.

But this wasn’t Martin Scorsese, this was a broad cross-section of the kind of people who go to see all of the Marvel movies. And I just don’t really see the problem? The entire premise, as laid bare in the first ten minutes, was predicated on people who are nominally on the same team not talking to each other, nor apparently to their therapist.[1] So okay, that’s a little dumb. But really, when you get down to it, Quantumania only had one task, which was to introduce the viewing audience to Kang the Conqueror, and if they had to stretch credulity (but not violate any established character beats) to get there? Who cares.

They could have done a lot worse! I liked the crazy hunter-killer bot that I will steadfastly refuse to spoil. It was dumb, but it was fun dumb. I like this take on Scott Lang where his power isn’t that he can shrink or grow or talk to ants, it’s that he has an entire family to back him up. (I like that by implication Hank Pym was not a successful superhero because his powers were the inverse of Scott’s. It tracks.) I was a little disappointed, maybe, that the leader of the rebels wasn’t Jarella, but look, these movies are not for me, on some level. I’ve gone too deep![2]

Here’s what I will say in favor of the “not a good movie” camp. It was two hours, but it felt like two and a half, minimum. Still and all, and granted that I was primed by months of internet hate, but I really don’t think this was nearly so bad as what people say. It was bottom 50% of MCU movies, but was it bottom 25%? i’m not convinced it was. As a counterpoint, for example, I literally do not remember what Ant-Man and the Wasp was about. I know there were a lot of Pym particles and… I was about to say, and a geography defying bus chase, but that was Shang Chi. So, nope, nothing.

Well, unless you are Martin Scorsese, reading this review. From your perspective, sir, I get it, and this was a legitimately terrible movie. (But some of them have been pretty fantastic, and you’re just not the audience, is all. Don’t forget that it’s important to judge a movie from the viewpoint of its intended audience, not just from your own.)

[1] side-note: I wonder who acts as therapist to the superheroing community. I think I’ve seen Doc Samson do it, but he frankly wasn’t very good, plus he’s a superhero himself, so it seems sort of like a conflict of interest. I bet Marvel does something with this someday, but I’m surely at least 10-15 years away from it. But the MCU is in modern times, not in 1987, so you’d think this would have come up before now.
[2] get it?