Tuesday, December 24, 2013

KAIJU KAVALCADE #0: Introduction

Good friends! Welcome to KAIJU KAVALCADE, wherein the effervescent Travis Kirkland and myself will be revisiting every single Kaiju Klassik by Toho Studios starring Godzilla, most famous of all giant monsters, in the run-up to the release of Gareth Edwards’ upcoming new take on the big G-dude! Your humble servant is but a novice in all things giant monsters, whereas Travis has been a fan all of his life. This is reflected in our respective titles for the series: if you follow it on Rocket Number 09, KAIJU KAVALCADE will seem like the knock-off Raymond Burr version of MEMORIES OF MONSTER ISLAND! Take it away, Travis!

TRAVIS:

When I was little, my father handed down the monsters he once knew as a child.

This is how it tends to begin for many Godzilla fans. The warm memories of kaiju stomping and rumbling around become cultural milestones to kids as parents introduce them to the nostalgic movies they grew up with. For me, Dad made me stay up late (on a school night!) to watch Monster Vision on TNT with him. Like a lot of people, I generally knew what a Godzilla was, but not much else. However, after a night-long marathon of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla vs. the Thing, and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, the big guy held a special place in my heart.

After all these years, things haven’t changed much. In fact, the giant plastic Godzilla toy given to me as a present from my Uncle still takes up residence in my bedroom. Another relic from my monster movie past is being stirred again as my excitement for the upcoming Gareth Edwards film brings up old memories of anxiously awaiting Roland Emmerich’s 1998 ‘Zilla. As you can probably tell, ol’ Gojira has been with me all my life, and I can’t wait to review and explore all twenty-nine films. The good, the bad. The serious, the cheesy. The Rodan, the Titanosaurus.

Even better is that I won’t be alone on this journey. Joining me on my geeked-out series is my friend and kaiju novice Luca Saitta from Wholly on the Level. Thanks for coming along, Luca, and how does it feel to begin your Godzilla experience?

 

LUCA:
Travis, I feel like a paratrooper about to deploy onto one of Godzilla's ridges!

Kaiju movies have been a pop cultural blind spot for me all my life. The first one I ever saw was 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah on a BBC kaiju all-nighter meant to promote the release of Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla. I'm pretty sure it had QI's Phill Jupitus and maybe Jonathan Ross. I'm also very sure that by the time this Monster Night actually got around to showing the single kaiju movie on their schedule, it was around 2AM. Coupled with the fact that I haven't seen it since then, you might as well say I haven't seen it at all. I think the other monster was a two-headed dragon? Purposely not googling it so I go into this as fresh as possible!

Like with almost any kid born in the mid-80s, JURASSIC PARK hit that subconscious childhood sweet spot for me that only good dinosaur stuff can. I used to hear references to Godzilla (and Rodan, even!) on sitcoms and cartoons I watched, and it definitely sounded awesome. I just never had the opportunity to actually see any of them! Only later did I find out that all the fight scenes in my precious Mighty Morpin' Power Rangers were simply repurposed set pieces from Japanese kaiju vs. super robots kids shows, so I suppose I actually did catch quite some kaiju in a way. My remaining experience with the genre is limited to viewings of Emmerich's aforementioned catastrophe (which I quite liked as a kid, since it had a big JURASSIC PARK lookin' monster and that was enough for me to like things back then), and this year's PACIFIC RIM, which, I gotta admit, was a bit of a disappointment to me.

So, uh, one entry completely forgotten due to circumstance, two instances of "loved in childhood but probably best left there" and one fresh disappointment? I promise I'm still psyched about the concept in theory, Travis!

 

TRAVIS:
Great to hear! I’m very interested in hearing your opinions since it’s not often that Godzilla fandom starts later in life. As I said, a childhood spent in front of the TV watching monster movies is how it normally begins. Without these experiences, I’ve noticed that people (and even other geeks) find it harder to embrace the joys of King Caesar beating up on Mechagodzilla as an adult. Just too silly and stupid. Of course, you might think that soon too, which is why I’m glad you’re here to clear up my kaiju-tinted glasses.

What I’m also excited about is simply revisiting the Godzilla films I grew up with, many of them I haven’t seen in years. This will the first time I’ll be watching them chronologically too, so I hope that I can gain greater insight into the franchise and its changes over the years. For a character whose origins are as Japanese as sushi, Godzilla’s truly morphed into an icon for the world with almost McDonald’s-like ubiquity. He’s a fluid creature who can be a grim reminder of the past, a superhero for all kids, or a wild animal that’s provoked into being a savior or a threat. All the different angles to view and how he can be represented is going to make these reviews a treat.

Luca, what are your expectations for these films, and why choose Godzilla of all the cultural blind spots to tackle?

 

LUCA:
Godzilla is just so (no pun intended) huge! I just like exploring new things, and getting to understand the fascination behind them. Maybe I'll get to share in that love, maybe it'll remain purely academic, but either way I win! And, let's face it, I've done a RESIDENT EVIL retrospective on my blog, purely based on the fact that they'd somehow made five movies of something nobody actually cares about. You can imagine my excitement for Toho's monsters, which is a thing with actual pop cultural weight and a special place in the hearts of many!

As I understand it, Godzilla is a bit like Batman. Throughout the decades, different people and different social climates have reflected upon the big guy, resulting in a variation of takes, from the goofy to the gritty. Personally, I'm quite psyched to meet the Silver Age Adam West Gojira punching increasingly outlandish fellow monsters while the people on the ground are dressed in Beastie Boys Intergalactic jumpsuits!

 

I hope you, dearest readers, are equally excited about our little upcoming KAIJU KAVALCADE! Join us later this week, as we discuss the original 1954 GOJIRA and its baka gai-jin American version, 1956's GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS!

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