HIDDEN HORROR TO END YOUR SUMMER

and this time I review and spew ALOT of love for Richard Stanley’s Post-apocalyptic Killer Robot movie… HARDWARE !

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UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla vs Biollante

Godzilla vs BiollanteThe second feature in what was known as the “versus series” of the Godzilla franchise, Godzilla vs Biollante opens up where “Godzilla 1985” left off, with Godzilla being the villain as opposed to the savior. With TOHO producers feeling that the old formula was becoming stale, they decided to remove all traces of 1960’s/70’s camp from the new line of films. The first task in this process was coming up with brand new monsters for Godzilla to fight against. However, being producers and all, they had no creativity whatsoever and thus they had to call upon the fans to help them out. As a nifty marketing plan, Tomoyuki Tanaka asked the public to send in their monster and script ideas in the form of a sweepstakes. The winner would have his/her script adapted into the official sequel. Not so oddly enough, the winner happened to be a former Sci-Fi writer, and rightly so, as he ended up penning one of the creepiest monsters to ever be projected upon the silver screen.

The film begins right after the events of the last one, with clean up crews searching for survivors and scientists claiming the remains for Godzilla’s tissue that was left behind during his recent one-man recreation of Mardi Gras. The tissue, containing his genetic makeup, would be used to not only study the giant, but fight back against him as well. It is here that this entry in the series reveals its over-arching theme: World wide terrorism. Between mysterious mercenaries steal Godzilla samples, suicide bombers killing innocent women, and the U.S. trying to obtain tissue clusters for their own uses, the theme is pretty obvious. Read the previous sentence once more. See that part about the suicide bomber? Ok, now read ahead. The daughter of our main character, Dr. Shiragami, was killed in the Middle East during the aforementioned suicide explosion. Now five years later and still shaken up, he has turned his attention toward a more strait forward type of science, the metaphysical and psychic energy of… roses. ….

…Anyway, it is discovered by the terrorists that Shiragami is actually one of the leading experts in Godzilla cell manipulation. Soon after, in an almost Raimi-esque sequence, these same terrorist thugs are murdered by the self-aware vines of a giant mutant rose growing in the middle of a lake. Shiragami admits that he has secretly been creating it by combining Godzilla’s cells with Rose DNA, creating a Kaiju sized-plant. He names it Biollante and treats it how Andy Warhol treated processed soup. Continuing the theme of fear tactics, the U.S. team who almost made it out of Tokyo with some “G-Cells” have now threatened to blow up Mt. Mihara, where Godzilla currently lays dormant. Naturally Godzilla wakes and Japan’s army kills him. Just kidding, other way around. He eventually stumbles upon Biollante and a very short but sweet fight ensues. Though Godzilla easily wins, the result is almost depressing. With the plant being the good guy, it’s hard to root (no pun intended) for Big Green. Japan’s scientists develop a plan to take Godzilla down, using radioactive bacteria (continuing the film’s theme now with a play on bio-terrorism, ie. anthrax) that will essentially melt him down to nothing. That doesn’t work either. It seems all is lost and Godzilla is to win until the ground begins to shake. Green spores fall to the Earth and up comes Biollante once again, now in its true form. A GIANT part-crocodile, part-venus fly trap, part-Swamp Thing, part-fucking satan beast containing the exact genetic make-up of Godzilla himself. Biollante’s final form is literally the scariest Kaiju I’ve ever seen. It’s then revealed that the monster is also the reincarnation of Shiragami’s daughter, out to get revenge on Godzilla for killing her earlier in giant rose form.

After one extremely painful looking battle, which includes the acts of chewing on each other’s heads, rupturing the opponents stomach and shooting venus flytraps through the other’s hands (that last one is fucking brutal), Godzilla has no choice but to.. cool off in the end. Aww yeah. While there may not be an exact winner to the fight, (though I won’t spoil the fine details of why) the film takes its remaining few minutes to end its human side plot in one of the finest ways you’ll ever see TOHO do. Godzilla vs Biollante may have less monster screen time than most other films in the series, but the nonstop espionage side plots make up for that ten fold. What is it that makes this film underrated though? Well, for one, it’s had limited accessibility until only a short time ago. Though it was released on VHS under the HBO brand name, it was a limited print that once it was gone, it was gone. It was finally released on Region 1 DVD in 2012, but had limited to no marketing other than being released alongside Megashark vs Giant Octopus. I know, great plan, right?  All in all, people didn’t appreciate this film at all during its theatrical run. This was mainly due to the film having no returning classic monster to help reboot the franchise. Needless to say, after it flopped for that very reason, the next 3 sequels instead resurrected old foes for Godzilla to fight until Godzilla vs Space Godzilla in 1994. Nowadays the Godzilla vs Biollante has undergone a small cult rebirth. Noticing how much love was put into the human side of the story and just how mind-blowing Biollante’s presence is would be enough to allow anyone to realize what a stand-out this otherwise outcast actually is. I’m just glad Biollante isn’t a vigilante out to get those who aren’t vegans. I’d be fucked.

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla VS Gigan

Godzilla_vs_Gigan_1972By the late 1960’s the Godzilla film series had been firmly established as a venture into children’s entertainment. After entries such as “Godzilla vs The Smog Monster” and the all too hard to forget, “All Monsters Attack”, these films had become means of teaching kids life lessons in the best way possible: By mixing it up with monsters punching each other in the face. However 1972 happened to be when that all changed. Frequently considered one of the most hated films in the classic Godzilla franchise, Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla vs Gigan is a feature that deserves a second chance, as a secondary interpretation for its plot has been easily missed by many.

The film’s story centers around a new Kaiju themed amusement park, aptly named Children’s Land (I know… Wow…). After Gengo, a manga artist, is contracted to help create concept art for the gigantic recreation center, he discovers a strange tape deck inside the park’s HQ, which is brilliantly disguised as a giant Godzilla tower. Once played, he unknowingly contacts the monsters Godzilla and Anguirus. After discovering that the whole theme park, as well as its creepy curators, are up to no good, the film’s script goes about its usual “reveal the villains as some kind of alien hybrid” trope. The extraterrestrial Disney knock-offs then summon two evil space Kaiju: New comer Gigan, and returning favorite King Ghidorah. Of course, Godzilla and Anguirus arrive to level out the playing field.

The climactic fight scene in a Godzilla movie is always the one aspect that will make or break it. Surprisingly enough, the fight scene in this movie usually considered a draw-back. Why is this surprising? Because it is one of the longest and, otherwise, most satisfying Kaiju fights in the original Godzilla series. Though it uses its fare share of lazy stock footage to add to its length (This time from Ghidorah, The Three-headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters), the film does so to provide us with the same sensation we felt while watching the Avengers partially help destroy New York City. I didn’t complain about evening out the fight/dialogue ratio there and I definitely won’t do so here either. Although the film can be criticized for many things, one of the main points of the film’s existence is constantly overlooked. Near the end of the film, our human protagonists, along with help from Big Green, destroy the theme park’s giant center piece: the Godzilla tower. Not only does this add to the wholesome level of destruction, but it symbolizes something from behind the scenes at the TOHO offices.

Since 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, the series had began taking a turn towards the child market. The films were teaching us about pollution, friendship, bullying and the family system. They were no longer allegories for the atomic age nor were they metaphors on nature’s fury. They were basically Sesame Street episodes as if produced by Roger Corman. Godzilla vs Gigan was the turning point for this. By watching with open eyes, you’ll realize the slightly darker tone this entry takes. Godzilla actual gushes blood a few times throughout the film which is something he’s never done before and that would only get more graphic in further sequels. The film also had no blatant moral to speak of. And how do we figure this? By examining Godzilla destroying the infamous Godzilla tower near the end of the film in a children’s park making fun of the very idea of Godzilla culture. In doing this, Jun Fukuda was symbolically killing off the “Godzilla is only for kids” mindset that Ishiru Honda had established before him. Although the following Godzilla vs Megalon would prove to be heavy on kid friendly viewing, the later Mechagodzilla films would take note from Gigan, eventually progressing into the very dark “versus series,” beginning with Godzilla Returns in 1984. With all that said, I’ll be leaving this review on a question. Was this review supposed to convince you that Godzilla vs Gigan is a good movie? No. It was supposed to convince you that it’s an important movie. That being said, feel free to hate it, but you better damn well respect it. After all, the death of the villains in this film directly inspired the ending of Team America: World Police. Now that’s how you make an obscure reference!

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno