Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: Godzilla Raids Again

Godzilla Raids Again
Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Year 1955
Godzilla Raids Again is the second film in the long running Godzilla series, this time being directed by Motoyoshi Oda. This outstanding Kaiju film isn’t as robust as its predecessor, but what the movie lacks in destruction it more then makes up for by adding another giant monster for Godzilla to tangle with. With epic battles and a cast of sympathetic characters, Godzilla Raids Again ends up being a rather enjoyable sequel to a classic monster flick.
In this entry of the series, the film follows two fishing pilot friends, Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi, as they stumble onto an island after one of them crash lands nearby. To their surprise, they witness a battle between two gargantuan creatures, Godzilla and Anguirus, a spiked turtle-like dinosaur. After surviving the monsters’ ferocious fight, the two pilots report their sightings of the creatures to a group of scientists who then immediately try to come up with a plan to stop these colossal giants from destroying Japan like Godzilla had done a year prior. With news of Godzilla approaching Osaka, can the scientists and their rag tag group of civilian volunteers stop him from waging destruction across the countryside? With the stage set for a monumental showdown, Godzilla Raids Again shows that Godzilla still has some bite left in him.

Hiroshi Koizumi plays the role of Shoichi Tsukioka, one of the pilots that first discover Godzilla. Determined to keep his people safe from the approaching menace that is Godzilla, Shoichi fights tooth and nail in trying to help the scientists come up with a way to halt the beast and possibly bring about its demise. Hiroshi does a spirited job in bringing the character to life, and he provides a good deal of brooding moments when contemplating just what his role could be in bringing down the monster. Having appeared in a great deal of Toho productions and other Godzilla entries, I’ve come to really appreciate the acting style that Hiroshi brings to his various characters. He has a great screen presence and always seems to bring a certain spark of credibility to each role he takes on.
Minoru Chiaki takes on the role of the other fishing pilot, Koji Kobayashi. He too has the same outlook on wanting to stop Godzilla at any cost, but his character’s personality is quite different from his fellow friends. Chiaki gives the character of Koji a bit of a goofy disposition, always telling jokes and answering to the nickname of Mr. Groom, since he never seems to be able to land a girl of his own. In the film’s story, he never appears to be taken seriously and is kind of looked upon as the class clown of the bunch. Luckily as the story progresses along, we come to find that there is much more to Koji then first presented, as he makes a dramatic character turn in the final closing moments of the film, allowing for the scientists and fighter pilots to come up with a way to finally bring Godzilla to his knees. It’s an inspirational moment for his character, but like all good dramatic turns, it comes at a horrible and mournful cost.

As for the story of Godzilla Raids Again, it has a lot to live up to being the sequel of a classic monster film. With the loss of Godzilla’s original director, Ishiro Honda, you would think that this entry might be a pale comparison to that haughtily hailed masterpiece, but you’d be surprised to find out that this sequel is actually quite good. That being said, it isn’t the grand spectacle that the first one was, but there are a few magical moments that seem inspirationally plucked from the originator of the series, giving the film some much needed weight and substance. One standout moment would be when Godzilla is first approaching the city of Osaka. The sequence starts with two of our main characters, Shoichi Tsukioka and Hidemi Yamaji, as they enjoy a well deserved night out at a local dance club, when suddenly a loud speaker announces the coming of Godzilla. The whole place falls into a panic, and throngs of people rush out into the street, fleeing the coming storm. We hear again over the loudspeaker that the entire area has been put on lockdown and placed under a blackout, forcing all of the citizens to turn their lights off in order to not draw Godzilla’s attention. It is at this point where we are shown a wide shot of the entire area as the lights all begin to go out. The atmosphere during this instance is amazing, and it mirrors moments during World War 2 when air raids would render cities into a state of shock and sheer panic. This real life parallel really places this film in respectable waters, and gives the story an extra believable boost for such a fantasy driven narrative.
Supporting these memorable moments, are a boat load of fantastic effects work that bring that solid execution that Toho so effortlessly churns out. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the destruction that is shown in this film doesn’t match up to the original’s pension for mayhem, but when it does happen in Godzilla Raids Again, it doesn’t disappoint. The battles are epic in scale, and to witness the two larger-than-life combatants go at it, is a sight to see. This entry in the Godzilla series is the first time that we are shown more than one giant monster, which in hind sight has become a staple of the genre, so for the first-time viewing audience to see something of this grand of a showdown must have been quite a shock to the senses. It admirably holds up in that Toho way, after all of these long years, and the movie makes for an entertaining watch that proudly represents that Godzilla name.

Godzilla Raids Again is a fantastic sequel to one of the most famous monster movies of all time. Having lost a bit of luster with the absence of the film’s legendary director Ishiro Honda, the movie still holds up as an unprecedented sequel that tones down the destruction a bit, but adds a whole other new dimension with its multiple battling monsters premise. With a cast of delightful characters and an added bonus of taking real life moments, such as the World War 2 injected atmosphere, and blending them into this wild story of radioactive creatures on the rampage.

Seeing that this is an early entry in the long standing series, the tone is still kept as serious as a heart attack, and you could almost seamlessly watch the first film and branch off into this one and not notice a drastic drop in quality. The story is top notch and the effects work follows in suit. With the Japanese powerhouse Toho Company behind it, you really can’t go wrong. Time after time they prove themselves with all of the enjoyable productions that they produce in abundance. Godzilla Raids Again is another infectious entry in the success story that is Toho, and its presence in the cannon of Godzilla films is better for its inclusion. Check this one out because……

I spy with my little eye.... a big fucking lizard!

Momma put the coins on my eyes cause I sure don't believe what I am seeing!

Let's get ready to RUMBLE!

The Japanese Mark Twain really hates it when you fall asleep on him.

This is a dinosaur.

I like twinkly lights.

Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. Don't let Godzilla kill me.

Don't look back but I think the cops are following us.

I think my pants have been pooped!

Ah Christmas. I hope Godzilla brings me something nice this year.

Microphone check.... Wu-Tang Clan aint nuthin ta fuck wit!

Say hi to Godzilla for me. I think he's swell.

Man do I hate back seat drivers.

We'll draw some happy little trees on top of this happy little mountain.

Godzilla fell into the ice-maker again.


Godzilla you beautiful bastard!

We did it! Everybody Wang Chung tonight!

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