Posts Tagged ‘Godzilla’

Model build: Aurora Godzilla

March 19, 2020

Every boy growing up in the seventies built plastic models at some point or another – now a lost art of sorts – and I was no exception. Aside from the usual selection of cars and planes, for a science fiction and horror geek like myself the coveted models were the Aurora series of monsters. The first one of those that managed to get my grubby little hands on was either the Creature from the Black Lagoon or the ‘Glow in the Dark’ Godzilla. (I can’t be sure exactly which but I know these were my first two.)

With nostalgia and ‘rarity’ of these models today, prices for original, unbuilt kits have been in the stratosphere for years. Thankfully, licensed re-issues by companies like Polar Lights and Playing Mantis have made some of them accessible in recent years. My luck in acquiring one of those was even better about 15 years ago when I stumbled upon a pile of Aurora 2000 re-issue Godzilla kits for an incredible measly $5. I knew even then that it would be ‘a while’ before I got to build it, but finally managed to get to it these last few months, sparing a few minutes here and there.

Unboxing the kit revealed bright green molded parts with two extras (upper right arm and “Godzilla” placard) and none missing.

Unboxing kit

Now as much as I love these kits in their “out of the box’” design, they do have a number of shortcomings that become noticeably visible when looking at the model from anything but a front view. Forgivable for a young builder but I knew I wanted a number of modifications to suit my tastes. For better or worse, here are the details of my long awaited Godzilla build, or re-build to be more precise.

While pretty decent in terms of body and scenery this kit has a few unfortunate design aspects when it comes to the head in particular. The eyes are bad enough but even worse is the V shaped head top. Looking nothing like any of the dozens of Godzilla film variants, I knew that I would tackle that first, and luckily this was an easy fix with a few layers of putty, then ‘raking’ over the last layer to try to get some of the lizard skin texture back.  I forgot to take a good ‘before’ profile photo to provide comparison with my finished head so you’ll just have to trust me that it looks a lot better.

Next up was the mouth which did not have an upper palate. This was remedied with a cutout plastic that roughly followed the counters along the inner ‘teeth’ line held place with some foam backing until it was secured with epoxy to which I was even able to give some texture before it completely dried. Another easy fix really.

Palate buildup

The one thing that immediately becomes noticeable as you change from anything other than a front view is that a number of the background damaged buildings are hollow without even any roof, much less floors in between. While some like the rightmost buckled steeple-top look great as is, others are mere unfilled, open ended ‘boxes’. Worse, those that had openings in the middle also had lower building sections that were empty clear to the base. To remedy these deficiencies I used temporary foam cubes to glue in appropriately sized plastic rectangles, slightly recessed to create exposed floors. Then, to add even a bit more realism, I added a few walls on those. Now I realized that the walls I added did not conform to the relative size (I’m not that good) but it certainly looked better than before.

Buildings

For Godzy himself I decided to putty and texture the areas where the arms and legs join the torso since the sharp angles did not make anatomical sense. The hardest part was trying to match the texture of the rest of the body, which was not uniform to begin with.

Front and back views (completed)

When it came to painting I was faced with one of the more controversial aspects in the Godzillaverse. Is Godzilla grey or green? Portrayals vary in licensed materials and even in some of the films. While the licensed creations tend to be green variants, most of the films stick to the drab grey and so I opted for that, although I confess I’m still mulling that decision. With a grey primer giving me a nice base a few darker washes seemed to suffice. Had I been a bit more experienced I would have added selective shading, but I’m not there yet.

Side views (completed)

The buildings presented some unexpected challenges in paint selection. I wanted to use common building colors but that makes the diorama rather dull especially with Godzilla being a grey behemoth already. Aside from the usual washes and dry brushing I added flames and embers and smoke blackened a few areas. I coated the ‘fire’ hotspots with some Pledge to add some gloss. Thankfully the last addition, the “Godzilla” placard display allowed me to give the final build a bit of much needed vibrancy.

In the end, I think I was partially successful in what I aimed to make but happy enough with the results. Still a bunch of areas I could improve on, but learned a few things along the way and had fun building it.

Hope you liked it and I am looking forward to comments and critique (I can not only take it, but need it) to improve my still limited model building skills.

Movie Reviews 420 – Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

January 3, 2020

Every now and then Godzilla is more than a giant dino-lizard stomping on cardboard buildings and miniature toy tanks at the foot of Mount Fuji. His humble beginnings in 1954 was nothing less than a symbolic warning of the dangers of nuclear power using thinly veiled references to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb drops as well as other actual tragic events such as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru. But over the years his solemnity has wavered, sometimes regressing to the point of being little more than kiddie oriented comic relief. But look a little closer and there are others inklings of social commentary sandwiched in between the bursts of atomic breath and tail wagging destruction.

While the world continued to fret as the superpowers continued the arms race buildup towards the end of the sixties, another new, man made threat was rearing its ugly head. The smokestacks of factory furnaces and the mass consumer desire to have a car in front of every house was taking a toll on the planet. Pollution. The air was filled with smog and the oceans were filled with oil slicked flotillas of garbage. Once again Godzilla was called on to deliver a message.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (AKA Godzilla vs.The Smog Monster) has our heroic behemoth fighting off a creature born in the Japanese waters from particulates that not only live and grow but combine to form a single entity. A scientist and his young son come across an oversized tadpole-like creature and within days news coverage in the area start reporting that a much larger creature is menacing the coast and destroying ships. The kid’s wishes that his hero Godzilla comes to their rescue come to fruition, but ol’ Zilla has his hands full as the creature undergoes multiple, ever-bigger transformations from the ‘tadpole’ to a flying raylike monster and finally an oversized bug eyed pile of slimy detritus.

Facing a barrage of fiery balls of ooze, a corrosive trail and a sulfuric mist, Gozilla seems overmatched, and while they do have a plan of action, the authorities and bumbling army don’t seem to be much help. But together, man and Godzilla must put Hedorah down with nothing less than the fate of the world at stake.

Social commentary aside, this movie boasts a number of oddities including a few cartoon animated sequences (sadly not good ones) and a few songs, one melodically sung in a delightfully psychedelic night club. I have no idea what the lyrics meant but with the superimposed images I was pretty sure it delivered a sombre message matching the movie’s theme.

The rubber suited battles are as fun as always and the variant designs of the Hedorah evolutionary stages are truly unique in terms of monster originality. There are some exceptionally rare human carnage and gory wounds, even bodies melting into skeletons, but the more horrific images are those of litter strewn seabeds and black spewing smokestacks.

So where are at now with pollution nearly fifty years since this movie was released? The good news is that the air, while still hazardous in places and on occasion just as unhealthy, is nonetheless noticeably a lot better than it was. While we have cleaned up our parks and cities some of that garbage has not only ended up in the oceans but has created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – it’s never a good thing when it actually has a name – twice the size of Texas. And of course today we have yet another man made global issue in Climate Change which is worse and even harder to remedy (if even possible at this point).

I’d like to think that perhaps Godzilla needs to be summed for yet another mission saving our collective asses but we didn’t seem to take much notice last time he tried.

Movie Reviews 298 – Destroy All Monsters (1968)

May 6, 2017

I can’t believe I’ve almost reached 300 movie reviews and have yet to pen a review of even one Godzilla movie. I’ve seen all but two or three of the more than thirty movies starring the Big G, starting with his 1954 debut in Gojira (both the Hollywood ‘politically enhanced’ version where they inserted scenes with Raymond Burr and the much more somber Japanese original) continuing all the way to last year’s Shin Godzilla.

I’ve seen him battle King Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, a smog monster, his American cousin King Kong, giant crustaceans, the pterodactyl like Rodan, lepidoptera Mothra (as adult and in his larval stage), space monsters and even metallic robot replicas of himself. Many of those foes he’s fought, twice, thrice and even more!

I’ve seen him grow from a 50 meter tall gargantuan to a monstrosity over twice that height over the span of a few movies. He’s had a son to join him in his city stomping endeavors (quite a feat considering Godzilla being a male), and then bastardized by an American version that not only had him look like a T-Rex on steroids but even had the gall to have ‘him’ be a ‘her’ to spawn yet another brood. (Still trying to forget that one).

I’ve even seen him die a few times only to magically come back to life when the creators at Toho studios decided he was ripe for a new series of movies, and a presumably to also magically create an inflow of yen for the studio coffers  His on again, off again periodic spurts – academically cited as the Shōwa (1954–1975), Heisei (1984–1995), and Millennium series (1999–2004) before this latest incarnation- have distinct qualities that not only reflect the special effects technologies available at the time, but also reflect the contemporary audiences they were aimed at.

But as a kid growing up with a black and white TV with 4 channels to chose from (two of which were in French), the opportunities to catch a Godzilla movie were rare. As much as the lure of Godzilla tugged on my conscience, I was equally intrigued by the progression of supporting cast of Kaiju creatures he battled as his legacy grew, some of whom ended up starring in their own films. So when I learn about Destroy All Monsters while reading about it in The Monster Times –  a mid seventies newspaper format monthly that sated my horror fix for 60 cents a pop – it was a dream come true. The first real monster melee and with a bunch of those I had not had the chance to see yet. His son Minilla (sometimes called Minya), Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, Kumonga, Gorosaurus, Varan, Baragon, Manda, King Ghidorah, they were all here in one movie!

I had to wait until 1996 when the very first Fantasia film fest in Montreal included the film on it’s roster for me to finally see Destroy All Monsters in all it’s rubber suit glory for the first time.  Watching it again this week I have to confess that while living up to the hype of having the whole gang, plot wise it wasn’t quite the best.

As all these monsters had rampaged and been dealt with in previous movies, this one begins with all of them secured and living on an isolated island called “monsterland” which has controls and restraining mechanism geared for each of the behemoths. Suddenly they are all unleashed by aliens – the Kilaaks – and each monster appears over and begins tearing appart some major city in the world – France, Moscow, New York and finally Godzilla himself in Tokyo. It’s all part of a world domination plan by the Kilaaks. But in order to stop the monsters, Earth authorities first have to find where the Kilaaks are in order to destroy their controlling machine which by now also has some humans under control.

Riddled with forgettable dialogue, military officials and other world leaders seek guidance from a group of Japanese science specialists wearing Bruce Lee yellow jumpsuits. The white sequin wearing Kilaaks are finally found but in a last attempt to salvage their mission they unleash one final secret weapon. Predictably in the end the world is heroically saved at the last minute by the greatest monster of them all, Godzilla.

You can certainly do better if you’re going to watch only one or two Godzilla movies, but any real fan has to watch this one at least once in their lives.  “Skreeonk!”

Godzilla or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

May 4, 2011

Ah, Godzilla! These days, any mention of the King of the Monsters usually brings a smile and images of a rubber suited man stomping on miniature cardboard and plastic cities adorned with toy cars while being fired upon by a proportionately scaled toy army. The suited man wears the latest incarnation of the Godzilla look while there is sure to be another suited figure guised as one of Godzilla’s many foes lurking somewhere in the background. Thus is the legacy of the numerous Godzilla movies, twenty-eight and counting, since he first made his appearance on the big screen in 1954.

But one would be fooled if they believed that the cliche city stomping and giant monster fights are all that Godzilla represents. Indeed, it was the somber specter of nuclear war that first gave rise to Japan’s Toho studios famous creature. The original Japanese version, Gojira, was no laughing light fare. The opening sequence of that first movie in which Godzilla strikes a unsuspecting fishing vessel was a reference to the real life story of a fishing vessel, the Fukuryu Maru, caught in the fallout of a Hydrogen bomb test in the pacific by US forces. While it was well known in Japan, the event was largely unpublicized here. Even before the event, the Japanese, being the only population subjected to nuclear bombs mere years earlier, were highly sensitive to the consequences of nuclear powers. The original Godzilla represented a thinly veiled representation of those nuclear forces and the movie made quite an impact to Japanese audiences. The success of the movie was such that a US distributor acquired the rights for North America, and re-shot sequences of the movie with Raymond Burr and dubbing the Japanese segments. Not surprisingly, the controversial opening sequence with the fishing vessel were discarded and some of the more gory scenes of death and destruction were toned down.

But over the years the Godzilla mythos took a decidedly intellectually lighthearted path. The once terror inducing creature became a matinee idol around the world, catering to younger and younger audiences, degrading along the way into a mere caricature of his former glory. Instead of being the menace, he became a hero battling whatever next giant monster came along, usually to stomp on Tokyo. To be sure, there were some higher points along they way, such as defeating the Smog Monster (Hedorah) in the 70’s, a fitting socio-environmental menace at the time. But there were some dismal lows as well, like the battle against a glassy eyed King Kong, which was pretty silly even as I watched it as a kid. (Seriously, in order to net Kong, they get him drunk!).

In order to temper our relationship with Godzilla and not overexpose him, Toho has staggered his appearances in the movies, having him slumber into semi-retirement every few years until enough time has passed before resurrecting him for yet another series of movies. These definitive eras are the Showa series (1954–1975), the Heisei series (1984–1995), and finally the Millennium (or Shinsei) series (1999–2004) when he last graced the screen in “Godzilla: Final Wars”.

But these days, Japan finds itself in it’s darkest moment since those first nuclear strikes in World War II. The large earthquake and ensuing catastrophic tsunami in March of this year not only caused immense death and destruction of the north east coast, but plundered the country in a nuclear crisis.

As it so happens, all this coincided the same month that IDW premiered their new Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters comic. Written before the real life dramatic events, it was with great irony that I read the story in which officials had to decide whether or not to unleash those nuclear forces in an attempt to halt Godzilla. Deciding to take the risks the failed attempt results in Godzilla becoming even stronger.

I’m not going to condom or condemn nuclear power here. It is controversial to say the least, but some of the alternatives are debateably just as bleak. Suffice it to say, that once a again, Godzilla teaches us that a nuclear solution poses risks. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. While he may appear as a villain at the moment, he has come to the rescue of Japan before.

And god knows, Japan could use a bolstered Godzilla to save them now.