Category Archives: Movies

Holding Out For a Hero

Children’s media is often dismissed as sentimentalised and condescending tripe, and in many cases this is entirely true. The heroes are as pure as the finest Colombian marching powder, driven towards benevolent ends by unselfish motives and bearing only the most superficial of flaws, ripe for a teachable moment or two. The villains are theatrically cackling menaces, skipping along the tightrope between irredeemable depravity and appropriately G-rated mischief. Good guys win, bad guys lose, and as always, England prevails! Ahem… These are literally infantile morality plays of the kind that I have previously denounced as insulting to the intelligence of anyone over the age of twelve. I personally abhor being spoken down to and kids’ television and films are often prime examples of this irksome tendency. This preamble has been a clever exercise in misdirection because I am about to defend exactly this stark good/evil dichotomy, and why this can be valuable to us as emotional and only partly rational beings.

As is my custom, a few definitions and distinctions must be noted before going any further. The terms used going forward are largely colloquial, and are not to be taken as strict definitions in any kind of logical argument. My case is not logical or necessarily rational but rather emotional, and thus it may be unconvincing to most people. The fact that emotions are non-rational does not diminish their importance to us, and per my last piece on the objective-subjective distinction, subjective matters may be simultaneously crucial and indefensible. It should also be made clear that I am referring to an abstract kind of good vs. evil story, wherein the only stakes are those of a fictional scenario, and no real world parallel is intended. This is for a very simple reason: the world in which we live is not one of black and white issues, wherein any situation can be reduced to this kind of bifurcation. To do so is offensive precisely because it fails to respect the intelligence of the audience and the complexity of the situation. Though five years have passed, James Cameron’s Avatar remains at the top of my list of least favourite movies, precisely because it commits this cardinal sin. Acting as a clear metaphor for modern American foreign policy, or whichever colonial catastrophe one wishes to mention, it attempts to reduce real history to the level of a pantomime. The following examples do not do this; any resemblance to real events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

The 1990s were the decade of the televised superhero team. This was the era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Biker Mice from Mars and the mighty Samurai Pizza Cats.  More specifically it brought the shows of Saban, a company adept in the Americanisation of Japanese tokusatsu shows, bring us VR TroopersMasked Rider, and Big Bad Beetleborgs. But the king of these programmes was one that continues to this day, and which is so ingrained into the consciousness of my generation that the first three words of the theme song will elicit a spirited singalong: Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. All of the necessary elements are present: comedy, action, romance, giant monsters, giant robots, and a main cast so diverse and stereotypical that everyone could easily pick a favourite. The titular heroes would regularly foil the machinations of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd, two villains with charmingly convenient evil monikers. It was all so simple. A monster would wreak havoc, the Rangers would defeat the creature and, crucially, they saved the world. To a child this is a glowing example of the power of hard work, friendship and a pure heart overcoming any adversity. To an adult this is a bittersweet reminder that we once believed that it was as easy as that. The only threats to humankind can be overcome if we only try our best and saving the world is as easy as vanquishing a personified evil presence. To watch this now is to experience a kind of jealousy at the world that Power Rangers presents. Huge monsters ravaging the abandoned warehouse district may be a legitimate threat, but we have people we can rely upon the stop them, and these special people are capable of making a real difference and bringing peace to the planet. This is uncomplicated and incredibly endearing, and as a form of escapism functions personally. For just over twenty minutes I can almost believe that the darkness is powerless before the light, sink into a disconnected ethical simplicity, and find a little peace.

In comparison to films and TV shows, video games hold a unique advantage. You can both witness and participate in the action, by your own hand determining success or failure. This is what makes games a distinct and valuable medium, and why they deserve a place in the pantheon of the arts. Of course some games are more worthy of this status than others, and I am not here concerned with any game I would call a work of art. The interactive aspect is the important component of my point. Thus, my subject is another nostalgic creation, familiar to anyone familiar with the ’90s: Sonic Adventure, the blue blur’s first true 3D outing on Sega’s doomed Dreamcast. As with Power Rangers, there is a surprisingly jovial criminal mastermind planning to take over the world with a giant monster. But in this case, we get to take control of a group of superheroes in order to take him down. Minor conflicts abound, yet running through the middle of this game is the same moral dichotomy, and undiluted satisfaction that one is on the side of the angels. Moral choice systems have been a feature of video games since before the age of dialogue wheels, but they are noticeably lacking in this game, and it is better for it. The experience contains precisely that which I earlier lamented that Power Rangers could not give us: a chance to save the world. A computerised world, composed of nothing more than a few lines of code, but a world nonetheless. For the vast majority of us this is the closest we will ever come to the real experience, and a fictional facsimile of feeling is better than no feeling at all.

The charge of hypocrisy looms large over my comments. Surely this is a privileging of feeling over thought, of sentimentalism over rationalism. Is ignorance really bliss, and knowledge an unbearable burden? Ought we to value happiness over reality? Better a beautiful lie than an ugly truth, right? Well, no. What I am extolling is the feelings that such works can ignite in us, but also the recognition that this is escapism. The world is an enormous, complex and frightening place, and it is beyond the capability of most humans to face brute reality with no buffer at all. Even the most rational, nay cynical, of us need to take some time out with a novel, a film or a game, to take a break from the “real world”. To be absolutely clear, this can only ever be a temporary respite. To take this too far is to flirt with irresponsible delusion and an unwillingness to treat life with the weight and importance it deserves. I do not really believe that I can leave the world in the hands of superheroes, or that I can personally solve every problem with a clever gambit or righteous battle. All I can do is try to leave the world as a better placed than I entered it. But in the meantime, there is nothing wrong with stepping back and finding something simple that you can enjoy. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, love is the only thing that allows finite creatures such as us to cope with the enormity of the universe. This love can take many forms, among which I hope I have illuminated the love of these simple stories of heroism and the impossible dream that good can, once and for all, defeat evil.

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True Perfection Has to Be Imperfect – Gamera 3: Revenge of Irys (1999)

Spoiler warnings for Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Advent of Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Irys. 

Kaiju make for lousy heroes. Generally superheroes and supervillains are distinguishable by their differing regard for collateral damage. A powerful good guy with no interest in preventing innocent casualties, contra Zack Snyder, isn’t a far cry from his dastardly antagonist. Giant monsters have limited options in this area. When you weigh hundreds of tonnes and stand several storeys high, the best avoidance strategy for damage is to stand really still. Hardly practical or – frankly – entertaining. So these are the horns of our dilemma; if our huge beast does nothing, they will be safe but ineffectual and tedious; if they try to act, they will certainly cause considerable death and destruction among friend and foe alike. The best heroes are neither impotent nor catastrophically dangerous. Whence cometh the heroic kaiju?

As far as I am aware the best exploration of this concept can be found in the 1999 classic Gamera 3: Revenge of Irys, the stunning conclusion to the Heisei Gamera trilogy. Ordinarily the point at which summoning a colossal and catastrophic monster to resolve a crisis seems reasonable is referred to as the “Godzilla Threshold”, but I wish to start a movement to have this rechristened in honour of Gamera. Godzilla, at least since 1975, has rarely risen above the level of merciless force of nature, while Gamera remains a steadfast agent of good, and far more deserving of status as a hero, albeit a hero who regularly demolishes buildings. Revenge of Irys goes where few kaiju movies have gone before or since, into a world of consequences, sacrifice, and thoroughly human reactions of living in a world where huge reptiles are a recognisable threat.

As a young teenager, you are unfortunate enough to be living in Japan at the onset of the age of the kaiju. As such, it comes as something of a shock the apartment block your parents are standing is suddenly collapses under the onslaught of a tremendous fire-breathing turtle, killing them both. Given this formative experience it is entirely understandable to bear some hatred against this creature, regardless of any later heroics. This is the genius of the Heisei Gamera films: events have consequences. In this third installment, the surge in the Gyaos population is the result of the extreme lengths to which Gamera was forced to defeat the alien Legion, Sendai is still a smoking crater after its destruction by the Legion’s explosive seed pod, and the driving force of the plot began years earlier during Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. This is not just a film set, it is a living world in which life must go on in the wake of events both tragic and triumphant. In addition, a realistic world often involves making the choice between a terrible situation and a worse one. Allowing Gamera to co-exist with humanity is a constant risk, but to look at what his absence would entail, his presence is certainly the lesser of two evils. Though Sendai was destroyed, Sapporo and Tokyo would also lie in ruins. Humanity, if they had survived the predatory Gyaos of Earth, would have been further annihilated by the alien Legion. Thousands have died, but at the expense of millions.

Gamera 3 is an almost perfect reversal of the plot of Guardian of the Universe. A huge creature appears, causing death and devastation. Luckily, there is another creature who emerges, forming a close, mystical bond with a young woman, and growing in power to take down the former monster. This is carried to the point where Gamera himself looks more bestial and terrifying than he has previously, now sporting a spiked crest and darker colour scheme – looking positively demonic in Ayana’s memory – while the new monster Irys looks much more traditionally “good”. Baby Irys is frankly adorable, and its grown form looks almost like a phoenix in vivid colours with only its tentacles, a classically sinister attribute, hinting at its true nature. Any film worth its salt will feature more motivations than a simple good vs. evil dichotomy, and here we are treated to a very able example. Ayana is justifiably furious at Gamera over the death of her parents and behaves entirely understandably when given the power to carry out her vengeance. Irys seems to be exploiting Ayana’s negative feelings and gaining power from their connection.  Mayumi and Asagi, and to some extent Gamera himself, recognise the threat that Irys poses, and realise that Gamera is a necessary evil in the face of the Gyaos population explosion. Asukura and Kurata are happy to use Ayana to destroy Gamera, believing him to be a harbinger of doom. Some of these motivations are relatable, others are not, and the split does not lie along the simple split between good and bad.

Monster movies, like so many things, tend to fall on a bell curve. Most are good. A few are terrible. And some transcend the genre to become genuinely great films. The whole trilogy of ’90s Gamera films is well worth seeking out, but the final instalment brings all the threads together to become one of the best kaiju flicks ever made. If you want your audience to accept the absurdity of a huge, pyromaniacal turtle, you need to keep the rest of your fictional world very grounded, and Revenge of Irys pulls this off beautifully. To return to the beginning, in the real world, sometimes we need to accept that our heroes are less than perfect, and that thankfully perfection is not a prerequisite for acting for a better world.

[Reposted from Podzilla! King of the Podcasts]

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Godzilla vs. Solipsism: Mind Over Monster?

Is there a solution to the problem of hard solipsism, the philosophical position that only the mind is certain and that all things observed are a product of my own psyche? It’s a cliché that any piece of writing which begins with a question will inevitably result in a resounding “no”, and who am I to resist this precedent? Despite this, the issue is still worth investigating, and while a solution to the problem of hard solipsism is not forthcoming, considerable doubt can still be cast upon the solipsist position. To do this I could use a wide variety of topics, but for entirely selfish reasons, I’m (unsurprisingly) going to use a favourite film of mine, the 1954 classic, Godzilla. Patience, all will become apparent.

One of the central tenets of solipsism is most famously articulated in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy in the well-known cogito ergo sum or “I think, therefore I am.” All things may be doubted to a greater or lesser degree, but the existence of one’s own mind, or at least some thinking thing, is undeniable. Every piece of information we know about the world is filtered through the senses before reaching the mind, and could conceivably be produced by a false stimulus entirely unlike the effect on the mind. In the end, it is a fact that when we think we see a tree, we are in fact experiencing a model constructed by our own brains based upon sense data from the eyes. So if our whole experience is based in the mind, is it not possible that the whole of reality is merely self-generated, using the same simulation “software” that the brain apparently uses to translate the world into a comprehensible form? Perhaps the whole of reality fits neatly into a mindscape, no external world necessary. This is not an easy position to argue against, as any counter-argument would rely upon evidence from the same dubious reality. Indeed, the committed solipsist could merely dismiss their opponent as a particularly troublesome figment of their imagination. As far as I can tell, this is a philosophical standpoint with no definitive defeater; nothing can be said to make hard solipsism untenable.

My attempted response relies on the distinction between deductive and inductive argument. This is a key difference. A sound deductive argument leads to a conclusion that cannot be doubted. If you accept that the premises of such an argument are true, you cannot deny the conclusion without lapsing into logical contradiction. For instance:

     Premise 1: All carnivores eat meat.

     Premise 2: All tigers are carnivores.

     Conclusion: All tigers eat meat.

Accepting premises 1 and 2 while denying the conclusion is exactly akin to stating that “Tigers do and do not eat meat.” Deductive arguments are clearly powerful, but they are rarely applicable except in cases like mathematical proofs, where certainty is a possibility.

Inductive arguments, by contrast, only argue to the best explanation or most likely conclusion, not a certain one. Importantly, it is not logically impossible that the conclusion of an inductive argument be false; it is merely improbable. Another example:

     Premise 1: Most swans are white.

     Premise 2: There is a particular swan somewhere in the world.

     Conclusion: That particular swan is white.

Because most swans are white, it is a fairly safe bet that any swan you happen to hear about it white too. But this is only a likelihood. The existence of black swans renders the conclusion uncertain. Inductive arguments are the most common kind of reasoning we employ, as we are rarely certain of an outcome, but we can usually make an educated guess and get by by predicting what will probably happen. My argument against solipsism is of the latter kind, and merely aims to cast it into doubt, not to show that it cannot possibly be true.

Godzilla is, to put it mildly, a very good film. Before the child-friendly goofiness of the later Showa era and the spectacular pyrotechnics of the more recent outings, there was a simple and terrifying black-and-white parable about the horror of nuclear fire. It’s still amazing how much they got right. Less than a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the filmmakers were mature and level-headed enough to eschew blame and focus their allegory entirely upon the evils of the weapons themselves, not those who used them. At no point is there monstrous metaphor glorified; the closest anyone comes to adoration is desiring to keep Godzilla alive for scientific study. And instead of casting these people as strawman amoral scientists or animal rights activists, this option is immediately dropped in the face of the obvious fact that humanity cannot survive while sharing the planet with a colossal, radiation-spewing reptile. The allegory is perfect. Nuclear weapons are scientifically fascinating and superficially impressive, but this does not make them remotely safe or necessarily desirable. In the same vein, Dr. Serizawa is reluctant to use his Oxygen Destroyer on the principle that it too will be turned to terrible ends, but does not pig-headedly – and unrealistically – put his personal feelings before human life. The score is mesmerising, the cinematography is deeply atmospheric, and even sixty years on, it’s a fiercely intelligent and entertaining flick (utterly incorrect assertions about the Jurassic era notwithstanding).

This may seem to be a violent veer into tangent, but this is the backbone of my argument. I do not believe that I am capable of writing, scoring, and bringing to celluloid such a brilliant piece of art. This was the work of many hands, from humble workmen to the creative geniuses at the top, a work too great for a single, average person like myself. On the solipsist view, however, this is exactly what has happened. GodzillaNineteen Eighty-Four, Macbeth and Beethoven’s Ninth all ought to bear my name as their creator. If the entire world is a product of my mine, there is simply no-one else to do the work. I have to be personally responsible for every brilliant piece of art. A corollary is that I am also responsible for dreaming up every terrible creation as well. There are certain things for which I am unwilling to take the blame. Is there a more arrogant position it is possible to hold than the solipsist view that our entire reality and all the wonder and horror it contains are the product of one mind, my mind? Even making up a mediocre universe should overwhelm any finite mind, let alone one containing such incredible things. Clearly the solipsist has far greater confidence in his faculties than I do in my own – or his, for that matter. So, stated succinctly, this is my response to the problem of hard solipsism: I find it vanishingly improbable that I am solely responsible for the best movies ever made, Godzilla in particular. Not a knock-out blow, but at least we have leave to stop taking this point-of-view with anything but a pinch of salt.

[Also published at Podzilla! – The King of the Podcasts.]

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Shapeless Ramblings from an April Fool

Spoiler warnings are implied if you haven’t listened to the most recent episode of Podzilla, my kaiju-based side project. In our April Fools episode, we dealt with what I, to put in the gentlest terms possible, regard as the absolute nadir of the Star Trek franchise. Insurrection is the point for me where both the quality of the media and and the competence of the writing and the c0ncepts are at their lowest. So, if you will indulge me in a little ranting, I want to deal with these aspects of this abysmal film.

Given the wider circumstances of the Star Trek universe at the time, Insurrection feels very small. During a period of galactic war, the writers choose to tell the story of a petty squabble between a few hundred aliens whom we have never seen before and will never hear from again. As an early TNG episode this might have sufficed to waste 45 minutes, but as a feature length film the plot is lamentably thin. The new characters of the piece have zero depth. I could entirely summarise every one of them in a single sentence and have nothing more to say, so why should I feel any connection to these strangers? Even our familiar main cast have been Flanderised, barely showing any of the character development of the past decade. This is admittedly partially explained away by the “fountain of youth” McGuffin, regressing particularly Riker and Troi to horny teenagers who seem to end up together entirely due to age appropriateness and proximity. But the absolute worst character assassination, entirely without excuse, is inflicted upon Data, who goes from emotionless android struggling and somewhat succeeding to understand the human condition to a clueless comic relief ‘bot who can’t even grasp the concept of “fun”. Throw in a sprinkling of unfinished special effects and a soupçon of convenient sciencey magic. garnish with plot convenient time dilation, and you have a cinematic experience guaranteed to nauseate.

Conceptually, Insurrection falls at the first hurdle. At its core, we have a moral conundrum: We are faced with the choice between saving 300 lives and saving (even if we allow the only ~1% of the Dominion War casualties will be averted) billions. Simple consequentialist ethics demand that we take the latter option. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and all that. But simple consequentialism can lead to terrible consequences and cannot be consistently applied to moral questions. By this method we might murder a healthy person and harvest his organs to save five sick people. But a more complex ethical approach would take into consideration both the consequences of an action and the motive that led to the act. In this situation, 300 people will die, or 9 billion people will die. Given those choices, the only reasonable choice to to take the option with the better consequences and the purer motive – the drive to save countless lives from death and injury – and choose the billions. Either outcome is terrible, and so we are choosing an evil, but the much lesser of two evils. Really, after a little consideration, this is the only thing we could do. Is the moral high ground really worth the lives of numberless people? But I’m being a mite unfair. This is not actually an accurate description of Insurrection’s ethical dilemma. The option exists to relocate the Ba’ku, or even to use the vast tracts of empty space on their planet to heal the casualties of war. Yet even this is seen by our protagonists as more morally abhorrent than billions of preventable deaths.

This leads us to a deeply immoral and stupid part of the situation that is nowhere mentioned in the film; the treatment of the Ba’ku deprives them of all agency. Immanuel Kant implored us to treat people as ends in themselves, rather than merely means to an end, but the Ba’ku are nowhere asked their opinion or given a choice in the matter. They are simply pawns in a greater game between Picard and Dougherty. In fact, it is essential to the integrity of the film that they never be made aware of the whole situation and directly asked to voluntarily assist. Allowed agency, the Ba’ku either destroy the entire plot by resolving the central dilemma in a second, or become the film’s villains if they selfishly refuse to aid their fellow galactic citizens. It would be like a person refusing to donate their organs after death, writ large. So we can’t allow the simple alien folk to be morally autonomous or the film just collapses in on itself.

This is all so that this film can bill itself as a morality play on the evils of forced relocation and the merits of a simple, rustic approach to life. I don’t appreciate being preached to by a hypocrite. If your parable is riddled with inconsistencies and immoralities, I take that as permission to stop taking you seriously. In fact, I stop listening altogether. The Ba’ku are not moral exemplars. At best they are hapless, victimised straw-people. In reality, they are Luddites and hypocritical pacifists. I say “pacifists” as a pejorative because they claim to reject violence in all its forms and abstain from all armed defence, while being perfectly happy to allow the Enterprise crew to defend them with energy weapons and the high technology they claim to despise. “Luddite” is an easier claim to level. The Ba’ku despise advanced technology as tinkering with the natural order, but this is a prime example of the naturalistic fallacy. Essentially this states that is wrong to claim that something is good simply because it is natural, because being natural says precisely nothing about the morality of something. In a “natural” state, most of a person’s time will be taken up by finding food, avoiding predators and suffering under the assault of whatever microbes have taken up residence in their body. Technology frees us from this animal cycle, giving us free time to improve ourselves and our societies, curing disease and protecting us from the elements. But then most of us lack a magical healing planet to live on. To deny the utility and morality of technological progress entirely is not noble, it is the myopic view of those privileged by the protection from reality offered by being fictional constructs in an unreal dream world created by an idiot scriptwriter.

With much of the bile released, I feel I should stop now. I promise that my next posting will be less vitriolic. In conclusion, my co-called friend Ben did this to me, and I will have my vengeance in this life or the next. And please, if you’re interested, check out the sister blog, also titled Podzilla, and the accompanying podcast at Soundcloud.

[Reposted, with minor edits, from Podzilla! – The King of the Podcasts.]

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

What could lead a young man to become infatuated with an obscure, often poorly produced film genre from a faraway land? The short answer would be “childhood indoctrination, admiration for practical SFX and a lust for wanton destruction”. The longer answer may well be more interesting. Disaster movies have become increasingly common, going in and out of fashion for the past few decades. But there is something alluring about centring such a calamity on an identifiable aggressor. Humans don’t always excel at thinking in the abstract, but we’re rather good with empathy, so there is a clear advantage to making the damage personal. We are not just the victims of happenstance, but the targets of some malevolent force. But beyond the artistic merit of daikaiju movies, there is another pertinent fact: Monsters are cool, more monsters are cooler, and getting those monsters to throw down in major cities is the coolest. Grow all this to gigantic size and the cool is cubed.

Our story begins in the dying days of the 20th Century, when mobile phones were a seldom-seen luxury and YouTube and Facebook were the digital dream of a prophetic madman. My first exposure to Godzilla, beyond the ingrained cultural custom of labelling anything massive with the suffix “-zilla”, was Hanna Barbera’s The Godzilla Power Hour on Cartoon Network. CN held a special event called “Green Day” (Hey, I just got that!) featuring their most verdant characters, which for some reason I had recorded on VHS. For the younglings in the audience, a VHS was a boxy DVD that would occasionally unravel and destroy itself. This was to become one of my entertainment staples, and Godzilla featured prominently. Being that Godzilla is grey and not green, his involvement is questionable, but the episodic adventures of a gigantic and ill-tempered reptile thoroughly intrigued me. None of Toho’s other kaiju could be featured in the cartoon (bloody copyright laws) so Hanna Barbera were forced to create a myriad of odd creatures for the Big G to battle. My memory isn’t what it once was, but one beastie that sticks in my mind was an enormous, translucent caterpillar that attacked the US Mint to attempt to sate its hunger for coinage. Insert your own banker joke here. Despite some weirdness – Godzilla’s atomic breath was replaced with flame, and he gained the ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes – the show was a lot of fun, and introduced me to Godzilla as a heroic, if grumpy, figure.

Thus, in my naive little mind, Godzilla was a big, scaly superhero. If I had stuck to his 70s adventures, I’d have had my delusions bolstered, but instead I went back to the beginning, to the 1954 original. We’ve discussed that masterpiece on a previous podcast, but I never did state what a wake-up call that film was. My animated hero became an engine of destruction, indiscriminately leveling an entire city. And nobody was cheering. There is no happy ending with pointless devastation on this scale. In hindsight, it’s almost perverse that such a dark character would become so iconic and beloved by children. But having seen the two extremes of Godzilla, it becomes clear that the character is more complex than simple good or bad.

I have since seen most – shamefully not all – of Godzilla’s films, and the evolution of the character is clear. From terrifying symbol of nuclear fire to blockbuster movie star, by way of marketable merchandising machine and vehicle for image experimentation, Godzilla has many masks. But for me, he’s at his best when he’s a simple force of nature, neither actively malevolent nor mawkishly benevolent. Sometimes we humans commit the Ancient Greeks’ favourite sin, hubris, and then over the hill comes a bloody great reptile. Oftentimes this is interpreted by the human characters as a judgement on polluting or bellicose action, but this is to overanalyse. Godzilla simply shows us the simple fact that, powerful as we are, nature is factually more powerful than we are. Even the tenderest action by a 50,000 tonne creature would cause tremendous damage. And while humans are often the cause of great problems, we are also excellent at solutions, and nothing unites humanity like a formidable opponent. Searching for meaning in the mere existence of Godzilla is futile. Rather, we need to accept that if we’re going to share the world with such powerful and destructive elements, we need to band together and figure out some living arrangements. What such arrangements might entail, I cannot say, but there are many schools of thought, and all of them are interesting and worth looking into.

This is why I love Godzilla, both as a character and a concept. Not only are his movies very entertaining and delightfully cheesy in places, but they allow us to see the best and worst of humankind in the face of overwhelming adversity. For this reason, I hope that the upcoming Legendary Godzilla does not take the form of a simple morality play, but rather accepts human culpability while focussing more on what we need to do to survive and save lives. Every disaster, natural or man-made, shows us images of unimaginable sadness and suffering, and we should never attempt to mitigate or dismiss these because of some positive consequences. But we also see the most incredible human decency and strength, and that deserves to be acknowledged and honoured too. Ultimately, Godzilla brings us together in many ways, whether we’re fighting for our lives or enjoying a damn fine piece of film-making.

[Reposted from Podzilla! – The King of the Podcasts.]

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Improving Revenge of the Sith

This notion is just so genius that I felt compelled to share it. Any Star Wars fan has their own personal opinion on the point at which the saga was utterly destroyed. Some will point to the very first line uttered by Jar Jar Binks, while others are happy to write off the prequels, provided that they do not sully anything present and beloved in the original movies. I fall into the latter camp, and so my personal moment would be the point at which Darth Vader, one of the most compelling and downright cool villains in science fiction, was told of the death of his beloved wife and his unborn child, and let fly with one of the narmiest big “NO”s in cinematic history. During his temper tantrum, this supremely powerful Force-user lets loose all of his emotion in a psychic storm that manages to… er… smash a few jars and generally mess up one small room. You’re more likely to burst an eardrum from his verbal outburst than be injured by his telekinetic fit.

Which brings me onto the idea which would, in a single stroke, bring a far greater emotional significance to this pivotal scene, and immeasurably improve Revenge of the Sith – the point that such improvement is not difficult is acknowledged and beside the point. Picture the scene. Anakin has just been defeated, maimed, and left for dead by his mentor and best friend. He is under the misapprehension that his wife, the woman he was willing to sacrifice everything for, was in love with said mentor and best friend. He has gambled everything and lost it all. The last thing he has left to cling onto is the hope that his love still lives. This is the thought that sustains him through his rescue and subsequent anaesthesia-free surgery to save his life, grafting him into a half-human, half-machine life support system that leaves him in terrible agony. He reaches out to Palpatine, the only friend and father figure he has left, for confirmation that this sustaining thought is true, that Padmé is alive. And he is told not only that she is dead, but by his own hand. His last hope is destroyed, leaving him with nothing left in the universe. Anakin was the Chosen One, one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live, if not the most powerful. His very birth was the result of Force manipulation. And in this moment, he has lost all control, all of his humanity. His scream of pure anguish is accompanied by a tremendous outpouring of Force energy. The city-world of Coruscant, the entire planet that never sleeps, falls into darkness under this barrage of terrible emotion and power. Slowly, the lights begin to flicker back on, and the world begins to turn again. Anakin Skywalker has been subsumed by Darth Vader, the dark lord of the Sith, with nothing left to live for but faithful service to his Master.

I may be wrong, but this idea really appeals to me. This is supposed to be a turning point in galactic history, the birth of one of the driving forces for the rest of the story. The gravity of this event is essential for the importance of the events of Return of the Jedi – it’s supposed to be a big deal that Vader manages to struggle out of the abyss and regain his humanity. But alas, I can only feature this event in my own personal canon – such is the tragedy of the betrayed fanboy.

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