My Review of ‘Godzilla’ (2014) on Strangers and Aliens

by Nathan Marchand

Kaijuvision Radio isn’t my first foray into podcasting. I appeared on several others, including Derailed Trains of Thought, The Weekly Hijack, and Theology Gaming. (For a [mostly?] complete list of the episodes I’ve been on, read this blog on my author site).

The current cover image for Strangers and Aliens.

The one most relevant to your interests, though, is the episode I co-hosted on Strangers and Aliens. I reviewed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) the week it opened with the podcast’s host/creator, Ben Avery.

Strangers and Aliens, as its tagline says, is “a podcast exploring faith and imagination.” In other words, a podcast examining nerdy pop culture through the lens of Christianity. I became acquainted with Ben Avery through a Facebook group, where I was sharing freelance movie reviews I’d written. He lives about an hour north of me. He asked me to join him to review the RoboCop remake since one of his regular co-hosts wasn’t available, but I couldn’t make it. Then a few months later, he told me he would be tabling at a small comic-con in Fort Wayne, Indiana, promoting comic books he’d authored. Since I was planning on attending, and that was the weekend that the new Godzilla opened, Ben, my brother Jarod, and I decided to go see it at the local IMAX theatre after the con wrapped up on Saturday.

Ben and I start the episode by talking about our histories with the Godzilla franchise, showing our “geek cred” with all the trivia we’d absorbed, and then talk about our experience seeing the movie, but the bulk of the episode is a discussion the film. Listening to it now, I can definitely say that I’ve gotten better as a podcaster. There are a few points where I get a trivia detail or two wrong, and I’m more confident and articulate “on air” now. Also, my opinions have changed since this was recorded in 2014. Regardless, it helped pave the way for my own podcast on one of my favorite fandoms.

You can listen to the episode on:

-The podcast website
iTunes (episode 127)
Stitcher

Let this be a taste of what’s to come, G-fans and kaiju lovers!

A Primer on Godzilla’s Directors

By Nathan Marchand

As Brian and I continue to develop Kaijuvision Radio, I thought it would be good to give you, dear listeners, a quick rundown on the many talented men who have sat in the director’s chair for Godzilla’s 60+ years of films. You’d be surprised by the caliber of talent possessed by these directors. (FYI: I’m only listing directors for films that have been released, so the several upcoming Godzilla films in both Japan and America are being excluded).

So, without further ado…

Showa Era (1954-1975)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ishiro Honda
Films: Gojira, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero), Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack (aka Godzilla’s Revenge), and Terror of Mechagodzilla

Mr. Honda directed more films in Big G’s filmography than any other in the franchise. For many fans, he’s unequaled in talent and skill. A longtime collaborator with the great Akira Kurosawa, Honda was drafted by the Japanese military during WWII, during which he was interned as a prisoner of war. He became a pacifist afterward, and he infused all of his many films with that idea along with a “brotherhood of man” theme.

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Jun Fukuda
Films: Ebirah: Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster), Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

The second-most prolific director in the franchise, Fukuda directed many of the “cheesier,” more kid-oriented films during the Showa era. He was known for “young guy” (i.e. teen) films and crime movies, which showed since his G-films tended to feature young people and lots of action. If Honda was the Spielberg of the franchise, Fukuda could be considered the Michael Bay.

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Motoyoshi Oda
Film: Godzilla Raids Again

Oda was the first of two one-off directors during this era. Trained by acclaimed director Kajirō Yamamoto (who also tutored Kurosawa and Honda), Oda became a workhorse for Toho, directing as many as seven movies a year. Sadly, only one of his movies has ever been released outside of Japan, which was the first sequel to Gojira, Godzilla Raids Again.

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Yoshimitsu Banno
Film: Godzilla vs. Hedorah (aka Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster)

Banno might be the most infamous of all of Godzilla’s directors since his only credit is arguably the redheaded stepchild of the franchise: Godzilla vs. Hedorah. With its trippy imagery, countercultural vibe, strange animation, and on-the-nose environmental message, it’s no wonder he’s a divisive figure. Even producer Tomoyuki Tanaka thought he’d ruined Godzilla after the release of Hedorah! Regardless, he was always a friend to the franchise and was responsible for what ultimately became the 2014 American reboot Godzilla directed by Gareth Edwards. He died earlier this year, the last of the Showa era directors to pass away.

Heisei Era (1984-1995) and Millennium Series (1999-2004)

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Koji Hashimoto
Film: The Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla 1985)

Hashimoto had the privilege of directing Godzilla’s first reboot in the mid-1980s. He previously directed the science fiction film Sayonara Jupiter in 1984, which featured the final role played by Akihiko Hirata before he died (he starred in many Showa era Godzilla films, most notably as Dr. Serizawa in Gojira).

 

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Kazuki Omori
Films: Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

Omori was one of the seminal members of the creative team that worked on most of the Heisei films, serving as both screenwriter and director. He loved American movies, and there were frequent references and homages (and rip-offs?) in his G-films. He also added a more potent Japanese nationalism to them, most especially in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.

Image courtesy of Toho Kingdom.

Takao Okawara
Films: Godzilla vs. Mothra (aka Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla 2000)

Okawara is the only director to work on films in two different cycles of the franchise, being the most frequent director of the Heisei era and helming Godzilla’s second reboot in 1999. He started his career working with both Kurosawa and Honda on the 1980 film Kagemusha and was assistant director on The Return of Godzilla.

Image courtesy of Toho Kingdom.

Kensho Yamashita
Film: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

Yamashita could be called the Motoyoshi Oda of the Heisei era. He was an assistant director hired by Toho to shell out a quick Godzilla sequel in 1994. His background was in teen films, which accounts for the picturesque cinematography and romantic subplot of his only G-film. Sadly, he died in 2016.

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Masaaki Tezuka
Films: Godzilla vs. Megaguirous, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

Tezuka became the most frequent director on the Millennium series, and his three films could arguably be called a trilogy. His G-films focused more on human drama, featured strong female protagonists, and had a greater military presence. While his entries often underperformed at the box office, he was known for his great enthusiasm in each of his productions.

Image courtesy of Gojipedia.

Shusuke Kaneko
Film: Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack

Kaneko is by far the most celebrated of the Millennium series directors, helming what might be the most ambitious and different G-film in the franchise since Godzilla vs. Hedorah. He achieved acclaim with kaiju fans and filmgoers alike with his incredible Gamera trilogy in the 1990s, the third entry being considered one of the best kaiju films ever made. He infused his kaiju films with deep themes but featured fewer monster scenes so as to focus the budget on those less frequent sequences to make them look better.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ryuhei Kitamura
Film: Godzilla: Final Wars

Kitamura was an independent Japanese filmmaker who could be called a modern-day Jun Fukuda in many ways (his favorite Godzilla is 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, which is no surprise). He’s known for his hyperkinetic action movies and horror films. While he was hired by Toho to direct Godzilla’s 50th anniversary film, Godzilla: Final Wars (and a potential finale for the franchise), he funded the production with much of his own money. The film actually had a Hollywood premiere in 2004.

Modern Films (2016-present) and American Films (1998-present)

Anno (left) and Higuchi (right). Image courtesy of Crunchyroll.

Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Film: Shin Godzilla

This “dynamic duo” directed Big G’s most recent film, Shin Godzilla, which has become a box office smash and won several Japanese Academy Awards. Both of them got their start in anime, most notably Anno on his classic 1998 TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion. They’re known for their bizarre, often trippy imagery and cerebral storytelling with hints of satire and themes of nationalism, making Shin Godzilla one of the most unique films in the franchise.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Roland Emmerich
Film: Godzilla (1998)

Some fans might say Mr. Emmerich shouldn’t be included in this list because he didn’t make a “real” Godzilla movie. I can understand that. Regardless, the film he and his collaborator, Dean Devlin, made (spoiler warning) will be covered in the podcast. (Please send your hate mail to feedback@kaijuvision.com). Emmerich and Devlin gained popularity thanks to their sci-fi and disaster films, including their hits Stargate and Independence Day. They seemed like good choices for an American Godzilla film, but the results were less than stellar, especially for G-fans.

Image courtesy of IMDB.

Gareth Edwards
Film: Godzilla (2014)

Edwards was an independent British filmmaker who came to prominence in 2010 with Monsters, a kaiju movie set in Mexico. It made such an impression that Legendary Pictures hired him to direct their new Godzilla reboot, which became the first entry in the MonsterVerse. (So yes, the second film he ever directed was a big-budget Godzilla movie followed by a Star Wars film. Talk about moving up in the world!) A huge fan of Steven Spielberg, Edwards is known for his deliberate, suspenseful pacing and explosive finales as well as making low-budget films that look like big-budget blockbusters.

So there you have it! The many directors of Godzilla. Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.