harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Review of the original Gojira (1954) - continued


Scene 34: In Tokyo Bay, Gojira's head breaks the surface. He's immediately fired upon by a machine-gun emplacement. In the city, civil defense works on getting everyone out of the immediate area.

At a roadblock, Professor Yamane is stopped from getting any closer to the Bay. He tries to tell the soldiers to report to their commanders that spotlights must not be used on Gojira, as it will only make him angry [we've had no establishing reason for him to think this - except that Gojira was existing in the deep abyss of the sea for some indeterminate amount of time, so it'd make sense that he doesn't like light... except that isn't true since he's had zero problems coming out into the nice, bright, South Pacific sunlight... sooooo...].

Ogata points out that they're not listening, and directs Yamane to accompany him to a hillside to get a better view. Ms. Yamane and young Mr. Yamada are with them, also.

Scene 35: Gojira comes ashore at the Tokyo Railyard. A passenger train is failed to be warned to immediately stop and reverse, and so barrels along toward Gojira's location. To late, the conductor notices a giant foot across the tracks, and smashes full bore into it, crashing the train and derailing passenger cars.

As passengers try to flee, Gojira attacks the train in retaliation.

Commentary: This is all footage that was used wholesale in Godzilla, King of the Monsters - so all of my critiques there, also apply here. The close up on Gojira's puppety mouth are unfortunate, but the integration of live actors, the trainyard set and Gojira's rampaging are all done really well. The black and white photography is a real plus here, because it hides the imperfections that come with backprojection and especially compositing shots.

The somber score also help enhance the sense of horror and loss taking place for Tokyo, rather than celebrating the spectacle, which I appreciate. And I also like that we get plenty of shots of regular, cowering people weeping or wounded and in shock at what they're seeing become of their city.

Scene 36: Gojira finds huge train trestles in his way, and busts through them. On the hillside, Yamane's group watches in a growing sense of helplessness.

Scene 37: Fortunately for Japan, Gojira turns just as suddenly as he came and heads back out to sea. The destruction for the trainyard, and those who were caught aboard the passenger train is immense, but it could've been so much worse.

Newspaper headlines assure the citizens that international help has finally been called in.

Insert shots of various planes arriving in Japan.

Scene 38: In another meeting at the Diet, a plan is outlined that will wire the entire coast around Tokyo Bay with a barbed wire that will carry 50,000 volts of electricity against the monster. The Army and Coast Guard are to execute the evacuation of affected sectors.

Commentary: In 'Godzilla', being American, the monster was given a greater height to ridiculous levels (400', I believe, where as here he's only 164 feet), and so the electricity expected to course through him was also raised considerably in the other cut of the film. Whereas here 50,000 volts seems doable, if extreme, there it was an astounding 300,000 volts. I can't imagine why such a change would be made - it's not like you can tell the change in height, or the super-charging of the electrical grid with any additional special effects. Y'know, other than the American "bigger is always better" mantra - but it didn't change the film in any way, so it was just a random change for change's sake.

I also believe that this plan in 'Gozilla' involves the electrical towers already being built around Tokyo? Which looks really awkward in the mat paintings inserting them onto the coastline, so I like here that the towers have to be constructed from scratch, and they're just as unintended as they should be - being erected on the quick wherever they'll fit, which makes the mats more realistic.

Scene 39: Evacuation, evacuation. Over this, tabs are kept on Gojira's current location and movements.

Scene 40: Army, army, army. Construction, construction, construction. Electrical workers test the system, and wait.

Commentary: I love the martial music that was created for the Japanese Defense Forces. A theme that will recur regularly for the JDF in future, as well. This scene does last a little long, though. And the 'pylons' superimposed over scenes of bridges and roads don't work well, due to the limitations in mat effects, that cause the pylons to bounce around a bit. Really, the insert special effects could've been left out easily, and this prep-scene shortened.

Scene 41: That evening, at the Yamane residence, Hideto asks for Emiko's permission to approach her father to ask for consent in their wedding one another, tossing aside her committment to Serizawa. Doctor Yamane arrives home before she can consent, but her smile indicates that the time is long past due.

The Professor, however, is in a funk again. He's disappointed and bothered by the fact that all the government can think about is destroying this completely unique lifeform. Ogata, kinda shooting himself in the foot if he's about to ask for Emiko's hand, shares that he agrees with the government that Gojira needs to be treated as a hostile threat. Ogata points out the logical -- that they can't do anything while Gojira ravages the nation. Hideto offers that the Japanese people have suffered too much already due to the Atom Bomb, and Gojira is another product of it.

But all that Yamane can see is the potential for so much knowledge in discovering how the monster was able to survive, despite absorbing so much of that radioactive fallout. Not only can't the men see eye to eye on this, but the fact that Hideto wants to kill so unique a specimen, and throw away that information that could help Japan in future with the effects of radiation poisoning angers Kyohei, and Hideto is ordered from the house.

Emiko weeps a little, as she sees her chance to be with Hideto taken from her by this blowup, but Hideto plans to talk to her father again after he's had time to cool off. The ongoing romantic travails are interrupted by a news report over the radio that Gojira has been spotted, and he's moving in toward the coast.

Commentary: Okay. The romantic subplot with Hideto and Emiko is really dragged out, and doesn't seem all that important in the scheme of things. But like American films, I suppose, there always has to be a romantic subplot to pad things out between monster attacks. The peek into Japanese social mores of this time regarding partnerships is of mild interest, and I don't hate the subplot -- it's baked in at the beginning of the film, so it doesn't feel shoehorned in -- but it does take too much time away from the main threat that EVERYone should have their minds on at the moment.

I also don't like the way that Professor Yamane is written for the specific scene. I understand his viewpoint, but he never explains just how he plans to study Gojira, without being able to restrain the creature in controlled conditions. He already knows that sailing a Research Ship to follow him, for instance, isn't going to work since Gojira started this off by destroying ships in his general vicinity without deliberate provocation. He also seems to deliberately downplay the ongoing threat that the radioactive lizard is creating just by existing and spreading that radioactivity everywhere he treads. He doesn't mention that Tokyo Bay's fish stocks will be devastated by the combination of radioactivity and predation. He has no clue what to do to discourage Gojira's making landfall.

He's just being written illogically here to keep him one-note about science over military, and his character could've used a more balanced viewpoint, and some actual ideas about how to study Gojira, without ignoring the fact that the entire city is at risk. The character has come across until now as thoughtful, if a bit blinded by scientific desire, but now he just feels like a flat character living the cliche.

Scene 42: As in Godzilla, out in the bay it is night, while onshore the Army prepares in day-for-night conditions. The reflection off those artillery guns indicates the day-for-night-full-moon is really, really bright.

Everyone stands by, as Gojira approaches the main line of deterrent to his reaching Tokyo.

This is less than effective, and machine gun troopers and artillery operators open fire, as Gojira tears down the electrical defense towers. Gojira lets loose with his atomic breath weapon, easily melting the towers, while shrugging off the mortars exploding around and against him.

Rather than the explosive fire driving Gojira back out to sea, it only causes him to continue forward into the Tokyo suburbs. And with his atomic breath, entire blocks of the city are quickly consumed in raging fires.

[This is scene 45 of the 'Godzilla, King of the Monsters Part II review, so I'll not fully recap it here. It's a rampage by a giant monster.]

Godzilla reaches the inner limits of Tokyo, with people who hadn't evacuated when it was sensible, now falling to his atomic breath, the fires consuming entire neighborhoods or his giant, lumbering footsteps catching up with them. Fire fighting personnel are crushed by falling debris. It's cataclysmic for the city, in other words.

Scene 43: Tanks relocate to train tracks running through Tokyo, to give them a clear shot at the monster and let loose with more shells.

Scene 44: At command center, they're finding out just how pointless trying to fight Gojira is with reports of half the city on fire, and their weapons being ineffective.

Scene 45: In downtown Tokyo, somebody should've thought of turning off all of those lights. But didn't.

A woman cowers in a building's corner with her children. As she huddles with her three little ones, buildings nearby crumble at Gojira's approach, and he let loose with his breath weapon, again. Sparks and embers fly around the air, and our weeping woman tries to comfort the children that very soon, they'll all be with their deceased father.

Scene 46: From a high tower, newsmen have gathered to report over the airwaves the districts around Tokyo that have been engulfed in flames. From newspaper photographers, to radio personalities, to television cameramen, all report of the complete devastation of half of Tokyo. A television newsman reports that Gojira seems to be moving out of Downtown Tokyo, giving hope that at least half of the city will be spared destruction, if the fires don't rage in its direction.

The Command HQ comes under threat, and staff are ordered to seek shelter immediately [this is the room that, in 'Gozilla', is playing host to reporters instead - including Steve]. The building half-caves in on itself at Gojira's passing by, so it's unclear if there are any survivors from their slightly-too-late attempts to flee.

At the reporting tower, the newsmen realize that they have nowhere to go and no time to flee as Gojira nears. They continue snapping photographs and reporting live on the approach of their inevitable deaths.

One sweaty newsman signs off with, "Goodbye! Goodbye!" and then the tower collapses, plummeting everyone to the ground.

Scene 47: In Serizawa's lab, he's watching on the tv.

Scene 48: Shinkichi has joined a group of spectators on the riverbank (which includes our principals), watching nothing stopping Gojira. He repeats, "Damn!" in despair. The air force, now that Gojira is moving away from the densely populated areas, starts their attacks, hoping to do what their armory counterparts couldn't.

They're cheered on.

[But they're firing sparklers, so that doesn't seem hopeful. Plus, they can't seem to hit the broadside of a 50 meter dinosaur.]

Despite being annoyed by the jets flying around his head, Gojira continues his retreat back into Tokyo Bay.

Commentary: We have the same problem as in 'Godzilla', since it's shared footage, of the wires being way too prominent for our model airplanes. The close ups on the bottom of the jets firing their missiles really should've been left on the cutting room floor.

But, whatever issues the special effects may have, you must give it up to the crew for pulling off this extended, long attack sequence on these city sets. All of it had to be done practically, and it all had to be filmed in a way to give Gojira a sense of movement across a large, urban environment. I can't imagine the work that had to be poured into this endeavor, and it all had to be timed just right, because the sets were burning down around them, while the suit actor rampaged across the set. It's quite an accomplishment for this period of film making, and the length of time that is taken between Gojira's breaking the electrical lines, and his retreating back into the bay is astonishing.

Scene 49: The survivors are left to deal with the aftermath. Large swathes of Tokyo lie in smoldering rubble. The wounded and dying are transported to the South Seas Shipping company's building, which has been converted to a makeshift hospital.

Emiko is volunteering, and she's left devastated as a doctor waves a geiger counter over a child, and indicates that there isn't anything to do. Ogata is also somewhere in the facility, and an announcement over the PA summons him to the CEO's office.

Elsewhere, one of the children we saw huddled in the fire actually survived, and her mother also survived, but with a headwound rushing her to surgery. Ogata spots Emiko, trying to comfort the wailing child. It's unclear to me if her siblings are in the crowd of children nearby, or if she and the mother are the only survivors.

After a nurse comes to claim responsibility for the daughter, and Emiko emptily promises that her mother will be okay, Ogata joins her. The death around her causes Emiko to betray Dr. Serizawa's trust and to reveal what she discovered at his lab that day.

Scene 50: She leads Hideto to a quiet stairwell, where she exclaims that she must betray Daisuke. [She takes her own sweet time, over-dramatizing, before she finally gets around to her flashback.]

She tells her boyfriend about the silvery ball and the air bubbles and reveals that the flesh of all the fish in the tank distintegrated right in front of her eyes, rendering the tank lifeless in an instant.

Serizawa explained that he was studying oxygen molecules, when he discovered an as-yet-unknown form of energy that disintegrated the oxygen and everything it touched. Daisuke was left unable to eat days afterward, realizing that he'd discovered an appalling weapon, and that just a tiny bit of the material he'd discovered would be enough to render all life in Tokyo Bay extinct. Emiko was left appalled that he'd still be working on the project, realizing what it could do. She demands to know how he could keep working with it. He tries to play the "I'm just a dispassionate researcher" card, but Emiko doesn't accept that and wonders at the ethical implications if his research were ever to fall into the wrong hands. He does acknowledge that it would be a genocidal weapon, possibly even an extinction-level threat but he's also self-assured that he can find a beneficial purpose for this discovery if he just has more time to work with it.

That is when he swears her to silence on the subject, as he offers his own fears that the government may force him to hand over his research, should they discover what he's found. It's implicated that he's also shared this with her to ensure the destruction of his notes, in the event of his death to keep the information hidden forever.

Scene 51: Coming back from flashback, Emiko again focuses on the fact she broken a confidence. Hideto offers that considering their plight, surely Daisuke will forgive her.

Scene 52: The scientist is in his lab, of course, when Emiko arrives to speak to him. He joins her in the lobby. He discovers that Ogata is there as well, and when Hideto tells him he has come to ask a favor, Daisuke invites him to sit down. The way he glances at Emiko suggests that he thinks Hideto is there to speak about releasing Emiko from the engagement arrangement, so isn't immediately bothered by Hideto's appearance.

[I have to once again object to the way the fish are treated. There are far too many animals crammed into that otherwise featureless display tank on the table.]

Hideto blurts out without preamble that he wants access to The Oxygen Destroyer. Daisuke tries to play dumb. Emiko looks away from his questioning glare in guilt. Hideto's all-like, "Please, bitch."

Emiko admits sharing all the gruesome details, and begs Daisuke to give Hideto his discovery. Serizawa refuses on ethical grounds to make the device available. He rushes to the lab, and locks them out.

Scene 53: Hideto breaks in through the cheap lock on the door, to find Daisuke attempting to destroy his creation. There is a tussel off screen between the two men, and Emiko that results in Hideto being bashed in the head. He's helped to a seat by both Emiko and Daisuke.

Daisuke begs forgiveness for the violence, but is passionate about the current state of his discovery being too dangerous to release to the world. Ogata brings up the current threat of Gojira, but Serizawa counters that if the weapon is used even once, politicians from around the world will be all over it, wanting it as a doomsday weapon to hoard (like, oh, nuclear weapons for instance). He asks that they understand that as a scientist - as a human being - he can't risk anyone using it against other people in future.

Hideto tells him that he could use the weapon against Gojira, and no one would have to know where it came from or how it was created. Daisuke points out that even if he'd destroyed all of his notes afterward, he'll still have the knowledge in his head. They'll find out who was working on the weapon, and they'll find ways to extract what he knows from him. Serizawa has a breakdown, trapped between doing nothing about Gojira - who obviously can't be stopped by conventional means, and exposing a devastating new weapon to the governments of the world, who will covet it.

On the television, a special program is introduced to publically mourn for Tokyo. It includes children singing for peace and the end of destruction. There are scenes of Tokyo's ruins and the makeshift hospital being so overwhelmed that family members are providing medical aid to their family members, as there aren't enough nurses to go around.

This is enough to convince Daisuke that he must provide the weapon, but he also insists that all of his notes be destroyed that could lead someone else to recreate it.

He is obviously suffering at destroying his own research, and Emiko breaks down into weeping with understanding what this is costing him.

Scene 54: Sometime later, we're in Tokyo Bay with Naval personnel and reporters crowded on a ship, which will deploy and monitor the results of the weapon. Onboard, Serizawa asks Ogata for a diving suit. Hideto objects that he has no experience with diving, and Professor Yamane - who also apparently has come around to the fact that Gojira cannot be preserved after showing what he can do - asks the Doctor to let Ogata take the bomb to the bottom.

Daisuke points out there is only one weapon, and it has to be triggered correctly, or they'll lose their shot. Daisuke also tries to insist that he go down alone, but Hideto draws the line there - insisting he won't allow someone with no experience to travel to the bottom of the bay.

In the meantime, reports speculate on if this will save them and get photos of the pensive Dr. Serizawa who remains incommunicative toward the press.

Scene 55: Ogata escorts Serizawa down toward the bottom, as Emiko feeds them rope and the air hose to their diving suits. Somewhere between 66 and 130 feet, they touch down. Gojira is spotted, apparently having been resting, though the activity at the surface is obviously starting to draw the monster's interest.

Our divers have to walk along the bottom, to get closer to the beast. [Another scene that could've been trimmed a bit.] Our divers use flashlights to keep Gojira from surfacing and lead him toward a rocky grotto, where the Destroyer can do its work effectively and assuredly. Hideto radios to begin raising them with the lines, as they prepare to start the Oxygen Destroyer deployment sequence.

Hideto is raised, while Serizawa starts the deployment process. Ogata realizes that Serizawa is deliberately not calling for his evacuation from the bottom, and no one can start raising him until they're sure the weapon has been ignited.

Daisuke waits until Gojira is practically stepping on him, before he drops the canister and starts the chain reaction. He watches its effects on Gojira. From the surface, Ogata tries to raise Serizawa over the hydrophone to find out what is happening down there. This is interrupted by the huge spout of bubbled water that indicates the Destroyer is working its way through the Bay.

Below, Daisuke reports to Ogata that the Destroyer is working on Gojira. He tells him that he and Emiko should be happy together. Before Ogata can demand that Serizawa be brought up, the scientist cuts the rope attaching him to the ship. Next is the airhose. In keeping with his extreme fear that he'll be forced to reveal his discovery and having it become another arms race, Daisuke chooses suicide to destroy the last remaining trace of his research.

Gojira briefly surfaces, roaring in pain, before sinking to the depths, with his flesh disintegrating.

The reports aboard react with jubilation as they inform their listening public of the triumph of Dr. Serizawa, but for those who knew him, it is a bittersweet victory.

Ogata tells Emiko about Serizawa wanting them to be happy, but right now there are only tears. Professor Yamane seems to regret that Gojira may've been the only one of this species, but also worries over another Gojira appearing if the nuclear testing continues in the ocean depths.

There is an ordered salute to Daisuke Serizawa for his sacrifice, as the choir is reprised for him, for the destruction of Tokyo Bay, and yet a note of hopefulness for mankind.

The Good: The soundscape of Gojira is phenomenal, from the unique roar of the monster, to the way music and silence are used, to the amazing work of Akira Ifukube. I loved it.

I loved how serious this 'monster movie' is approached. The spectacle of the monster scenes aren't treated with the usual sense of fun, but are treated as a somber disaster. This includes the closeups of people's emotional suffering, the implied multiple deaths of people crushed under debris and the makeshift hospital scene - where the children aren't spared. Even the ending, with Japan triumphant is treated with respect for Serizawa and the ecological cost of taking down the monster.

The extended destruction scene of Gojira in Tokyo are excellently done (for the most part), with truly impressive set design, fire stuntwork, and matting of live performances with stop motion effects.

I loved the emotional, but not maudlin, self-chosen end for Daisuke Serizawa.

I found all of the acting to be effective, even by side characters. Definitely an improvement over their dubbed versions in Godzilla.

The Bad: Some effects just don't work: Ships being threatened by waves, the helicoptor destroyed on Odo Island, the close ups of Gojira's puppet head and everything involving the JDF jet fighters look bad and obvious for their true nature.

The mixed affects of the radiation by Gojira isn't treated seriously enough, except for pathos occassionally. It's too inconsistent of when we should fear exposure (like with the child in the hospital), and when it's not really a threat anyone is reacting seriously to (like Professor Yamane's handling contaminated water with his bare hands).

The day-for-night is just as awful as you'd expect... and there isn't any reason those military stock footage insert shots were needed.

Other Thoughts: There is some weird pacing issues, especially when it comes to character development/appearance in the story. Various characters appear, have multiple scenes building character, and the utterly vanish just to show up again later. And not just the side characters, like the reporter accompanying Yamane to Odo Island, but the major characters of the Yamanes and Hideto Ogata. It can be a little off-putting when we're not following one of our main characters.

It's also a little strange how, even in the thick of the Gojira threat, we're left dealing with the domestic concerns of Emiko and her not-really-a-love-triangle with Daisuke and Hideto. There is also the weird way that the Odo Island boy, Shinkichi Yamada is handled. Not only does he appear, disappear and reappear along with the other characters - but there is never a satisfactory indication as to why he's not left on Odo Island after the action centers on Tokyo. His ongoing relationship with Hideto is amorphous.

And again, strange how Ogata - being a strategic member of the South Seas Shipping Company - basically stops all work when the story shifts attention to his relationship woes. The man is always hanging out at the Yamane residence, instead of being at work. And since he's not a member of the navy, his being the one to direct and accompany Serizawa's foray into the depths is pretty non-sensical, except for his status as main character.

The Score: I really like the accomplishments in this film of Gojira's suitmation, and the extensive sets of Toyko's cityscape. I'm engaged in the story, despite the weird character handling, and loved the entire tone of the film. Despite being a monster movie, it's never handled like a cheapy B-Movie.

4.75 out of 5 stars  :  Will watch again and again.

Tags: review kaiju films

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