Goodbye…

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LUDO

Labyrinth_May 29, 2015, 3.56.56 PM
Race:
Night-Troll
Knight Brother to: Sir Didymus
Friend of:
Rocks
Film Premiere: Labyrinth (1986)
Lead Puppeteer & Voice Actor: Ron Mueck

Though I did compare the story of the film Labyrinth to be more akin to the likes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland there are also many comparisons to be had in the likes of The Wizard of Oz as well. Most notably in the companions that Sarah gains in her quest to rescue her baby brother Toby from Jareth the Goblin King. In the case of Ludo, and in fact many of the creatures and denizens of the Labyrinth, his in-story origins are something unique whence compared to the likes of the original Wizard of Oz film.

In that film, there are no if ands or buts as to which character in Oz is based on someone that Dorothy knows back in Kansas. They even make a blatant example of this in Elphaba—er, I mean, the Wicked Witch of the West as Dorothy is being carried off by the tornado. For Sarah and her adventures in the Labyrinth however, there’s actually a false clue given as to how Sarah “dreams him up” in the form of the book Where the Wild Things Are that the camera goes past on a brief tour through her room.

The real clue however sits on a shelf next to her door that we only briefly see, a little hand-stitched doll that is exactly like Ludo. There is also another, far more subtler clue towards the origins of his name that frankly, I’m surprised that anyone actually managed to notice let alone take note of. On the shelf above the doll there are a few board games, one bearing the name of Ludo, a game that is more popularly recognized in America as Sorry or Trouble.

Not going to go into any psychological examinations about that as it’s been several years since last I played either game and beyond merely a name, I doubt there was further thought beyond that towards the creation of Ludo.

In the world of the Labyrinth, or the Underground as it is often sung in many a song by the Goblin King himself, Ludo is one of the rarest of exceptions in his species known as a Night-Troll. Though not explicitly stated in the film itself, one can rightfully assume that is the name of Ludo’s race as there is another Night-Troll, named Septimus, which is featured in the book The Goblins of Labyrinth by Brian Froud and Terry Jones. Of course, far from the cuddly beast that is Ludo, Septimus is well and truly deserving of the name Night-Troll but that’s neither here nor there…

Ludo is the dictionary definition of not judging a book by its cover for though he does appear as quite the beast, he has a heart of gold and is actually quite tame, resorting to violence only when there is no other choice. In point of fact, that is precisely how Sarah comes across him, finding him hogtied and dangling in the air and being tormented by a group of goblin guards. Though initially afraid by Ludo’s enraged and pained howls, Sarah actually came to his aid rather than run away in fear as the dwarf Hoggle had done even going so far as to say that nothing is as it appears, especially in the Labyrinth.

Quite obviously, Ludo is very strong and has shown this quite easily in his ability to literally tear a rock wall of a goblin house open like a door and shut it behind him. He is also… not terribly smart insomuch that, like many beasts in many a tale of fantasy and wonder, he is intelligent enough to speak in simple terms and can come up with some surprisingly well thought out plans but conversations between him and his friends are somewhat limited.

Then again, considering that his best friends are rocks, that’s not all that surprising. I don’t mean that as an insult either, Ludo is well and truly a friend to rocks and they will come rolling to his aid should he call for him. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like too much of a big threat considering the first time he demonstrated this, it was to call some small stones for Sarah to throw at his tormentors when they first met. The second time was to call up rocks and get them to float—yes freaking float—in the Bog of Eternal Stench to save Sarah from falling in and to create a new, and far more stable, bridge.

The last and most epic time however was when Ludo summoned the rocks once more to aid him and his friends as they traversed through the Goblin City whilst the entire population of goblins was out in arms after them. Boulders of all shapes and size laid siege to the city and more than one small group of goblins could say what it is like to be a bowling pin.

If Ludo represents anything in Sarah I would say that he represents her kindness, her wanting to have friends and to be close to people but unknowingly pushing them away by how she acts and behaves towards them. Sarah’s adventure through the Labyrinth was not just for the reclamation of her brother but her stepping away from the line dividing children and adults. She had to learn to grow up and to put away childish things but as she did so, she first sees Ludo in her mirror wishing her a fond goodbye followed shortly by the rest of her friends. They tell her that, should she need them that they’ll be there for her.

Sarah then said something that I would never have expected given the adventure she had undergone and the revelation that she had. That she did need them. Every now and again, she would need them and with a cheer they and a few others of the Labyrinth arrived in celebration in her room. That… is a lesson that really got to me as a kid, knowing that I would grow up and fearing that I would eventually have to leave behind childish things.

Labyrinth was the first, and thus far, only film I have ever seen about growing up that shows that while a child may grow up and put away that which is precious to them from their days of youth, even an adult may revisit those halcyon days once more and remember just what it is like to be a kid once more.

Labyrinth_May 29, 2015, 3.50.48 PM

Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems…

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LABYRINTH


Directed By:
Jim Henson
Screenplay By:
Terry Jones
Story By:
Jim Henson & Dennis Lee
Production Company:
Henson Associates & Lucasfilm
Distributed By: Tri-Star Pictures

While I do not doubt that there isn’t a single person who has not heard of the Muppets and, by extension, Jim Henson, there are far too few who know of one the two original films that did not feature Jim Henson’s star creations and was, for the most part, not a movie suitable for young children. Of course, by young children I mean those of Sesame Street age as this is a movie that features fantastical creatures of all shapes and sizes that while a six or even five year old could handle, a toddler may be a wee bit freaked out by some of them. That being said, let’s get on with the film’s summary shall we?

Fifteen-year old Sarah is on the edge of childhood and adulthood, torn between the wild imaginings and fun times of being a kid and the responsibilities and hardships of being a mature adult. Her problems aren’t made any easier when she has to babysit her infant half-brother Toby whom in a fit of childish whimsy over a play that she had been trying to recite earlier, wishes him away to the land of Jareth, the Goblin King. Unfortunately for Sarah, the Goblin King is very much real and is well and truly in love with her but will not give the boy up but is willing to give Sarah a chance at rescuing him.

Tasked to navigate the massive maze that is his underground kingdom, Sarah has thirteen hours to find her way to its heart to rescue her brother lest he become one of the many goblins dwelling under Jareth’s command. Along the way, Sarah encounters a colorful cast of characters that will help and/or hinder her way through the riddle that is…

The Labyrinth.

… Man, I love this movie!

Plot wise, it is by far one of the most original stories I’ve seen in film. Oh sure, there are plenty of elements that are borrowed from other stories and even subtle nods towards another underground realm of wonder but overall? It is a movie that is all but impossible to tell where precisely it’s going to go and I don’t just mean with the difficulties and eccentricities presented by the Labyrinth itself. There is so much that happens to Sarah as she ventures her way through the Labyrinth that you have little to no clue where she’ll end up in it and what lesson she’ll learn along the way. This movie is the modern Wonderland to me and it shows all over the place with creative creatures and dazzling designs.

Being a Jim Henson film, it is difficult to tell where reality begins and stunning backdrop begins. There are backgrounds that are so visually impossible and yet absolutely real that it can give one a headache trying to figure to separate the two. One such example of this is when Sarah, in the “first lap” of the Labyrinth thinks that the maze only goes in two directions, forwards and back, and does not realize that the walls are an optical illusion and that there are several passages that she’s missed.

Of course, if ever there is one thing that Jim Henson and his company are famous across the world for it’s their creature creation and implementation. The whole of the Labyrinth isn’t mere stonewalls and walkways. It has forests, bogs, and hidden tunnels all filled with creatures of all assortments. Creatures that likely never encounter each other due to the fact that few have dared to traverse the Labyrinth beyond visiting its heart, the Castle of the Goblin King.

Some of these things, and yes I’m afraid I’ve no better word for them than that, include “Helping Hands,” stone hands that line a vertical tunnel that can create faces in order to speak and “False Alarms,” giant stone heads that utter words of warning the closer one is to their goal.

I’ll be honest, there are some moments where one can blatantly tell there’s puppetry involved such as the case with a pair of talking doorknockers and the Helping Hands but they are vastly outnumbered by those that are frighteningly realistic such as the many goblins that literally dance alongside the singing of their king.

Ah yes, I should mention that shouldn’t I? This film is not just an adventure/fantasy film but a musical fantasy adventure film but contrary to most other musical films there is some rhyme and reason to the song numbers that occur. Then again, when one has David Bowie playing the likes of a Goblin King, then musical numbers are not only expected but are all done with a surprising amount of dancing involved. One would assume this is plainly evident in the song “Magic Dance” that Jareth sings to try and entrance Toby into accepting being a goblin but I’m actually talking about my favorite number that, unfortunately, is not sung by Jareth called “Chilly Down.”

Finding her way into a forested section of the Labyrinth, Sarah encounters a group of Firey that call themselves the Fire Gang. Contrary to their name, though they can produce flames with their hands, these creatures are more commonly recognized by their rather hedonistic mannerisms when it concerns their games. Of course, games to a Firey includes but is not limited to, removing entire limbs and making fun with the parts.

Contrary to how that sounds, it’s not even half as disturbing as you think as Firey all have the ability to remove parts of themselves and easily put themselves back together. Unfortunately for Sarah though, they don’t comprehend the idea that other creatures are incapable of such acts so their song and dance routine quickly turns to a rather alarming end.

One element that I like most about the film is Jareth’s relationship with Sarah. It is said many a times by the Goblin King himself that he is in love with her but his actions towards her might tell otherwise. Yet, in the final confrontation between the two, there’s an interesting line said by Jareth which goes: “Everything that you wanted, I have done. You asked that child be taken, I took him. You cowered before me, and I was frightening. I have reordered time, I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me. Isn’t that generous?

Jareth, for all that he has done to Sarah, he did out of love for her. Following that way of thinking, we never truly grasp just where the magic ends and the real Jareth begins. Just as he has tried to bewitch Sarah with his offers of dreams everlasting, so too has she bewitched him to playing the villainous role, to fulfill each and every expectation she has of him so that he might be all that she wants him to be and more. I… I honestly have no idea where to even begin describing just how refreshing it is to see such an open take on love in what is essentially a children’s movie.

Yet if there is anything in particular that I dislike about this movie it’s the lack of information in concerns to Jareth the Goblin King. His being in love with Sarah is nowhere near as maddening as the riddle that is his natural form whence compared to the goblins. For being their king he looks nothing at all like them though one can assume that given his extreme magical prowess, as he can and has bent the rules of time and space for Sarah, Jareth’s human form is merely a disguise.

Still, aside from that one small complaint, I’ve got nothing negative to say about this movie. It is a delightful watch and one that needs to be watched frequently as one grows older I’ve come to find. There are elements in a story that are missed by innocent eyes but just the same there are magical moments that just can’t be seen with the tired eyes of an adult.

You can be sure we’ll avenge it…!

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IRON MAN


Full Name:
Anthony “Tony” Edward Stark
Occupation: Chairman & CEO of Stark Industries
Dimension:
Earth-199999
Film Premiere: Iron Man (2008)
Played By: Robert Downey Jr.

I’ll admit, when it comes to my favorite Marvel Super Heroes, Iron Man is one that I would consider amongst my top ten, perhaps even my top five, but not in the final home stretch. At least, not the comic book version of him due mostly to events that, frankly speaking, I could spend whole reams of paper trying to explain and defend. However, when it comes to the Marvel films, particular those of Earth-199999 or the Marvel Cinematic Universe… Well, we’re dealing with an entirely different character altogether.

Anthony “Tony” Stark is the dictionary definition of playboy billionaire philanthropist, even more than one Bruce Wayne because, for the likes of the Dark Knight, his alter ego isn’t the cape and cowl but the suit and tie. Tony is himself both in and out of the armor even in the most serious and extreme moments.

He gets under people’s skins and does so willingly and gladly if only to see how they truly are. Suit of armor or not, you couldn’t even get me near anything that could potentially risk angering Bruce Banner and unleashing the Hulk and Tony went and gave him a mild electrical shock just to see how much of a lid the guy had on it.

This leads me to another aspect of Tony. He’s… not insane in the sense of being mad but there’s no denying that his eccentricity is on the uppermost level of extreme. I cannot recall precisely where I read this but a fan of Iron Man once wrote that the mind of the average Joe is akin to that of an old, slightly beaten car whereas the brain of Tony Stark is akin to a Ferrari with the accelerator stuck down.

Essentially, Tony’s brain is constantly active in some fashion or another to such a degree that he can become nothing short of obsessed when it comes to creating something as evident by his many, many suits of Iron Man armor.

In point of fact, including those of The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, Tony has created forty-five suits of armor in a short amount of time. I would say a specific timeframe but time between movies is the same as it is in comics with no crystal clear definition of the exact timeline of events that transpired in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, if we go based on when the films came out that would mean that Tony created roughly six suits of armor a year never mind the “Iron Legion” robots or the like.

Heck, following the events of The Avengers and Loki’s invasion attempt on Earth, I’m fairly sure that a good chunk of that number was made in less than a year. Considering that Tony was suffering from an extreme case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I’m rather glad that he focused on that rather than trying to find solace at the bottom of a bottle like he had when he was slowly dying by way of the very thing that was keeping him alive in the first place.

On the note of the various Iron Man suits, one thing that I particularly like about them is how Tony, and by extension the film makers of the MCU, is always trying to find ways to improve the armor following events or situations that show a particular weakness in it.

Case in point, when he fought Ivan Vanko (otherwise known as Whiplash) and was nearly brought to his knees by the guy’s energy conducting whips, Iron Man created a suit that could be empowered by similar blasts of energy such as what occurred when Thor tried to electrocute him and his power reserves rose to around 400 percent.

I especially like the fact that the suits of armor are fairly realistic as far as weaponry and offensive capabilities are concerned whilst still keeping true to what the armor can do in the comics. The repulsor blasters located in the palms, a “uni-beam” located in the chest plate that serves as a larger and far more focused repulsion blast, a score of miniaturized missiles upon the shoulders, and specialized lasers that can only be used one time with each “clip.”

The little details like that are what makes the Iron Man armor something that while not quite possible with our current level of technology is at least somewhere in the realms of possibility if one were able to create an adequate power source and adapt a level of artificial intelligence to coincide with the wearer.

The Just A Rather Very Intelligent System or J.A.R.V.I.S. for short (and yes that is what the acronym stands for) helps Tony not only run his house and business but works alongside him when using the armor, and is even able to operate several suits on its own.

Admittedly while I was disappointed to find Tony’s butler reduced to an artificial intelligence system, I do admire the fact that one would be necessary to utilize the armor to the full extent of its abilities. There is only so much that can be done via gesturing and vocalized commands without risking a “user error” of some sorts. Case in point, holding the hands in a form of surrender only for the repulsors to activate.

Of the various suits of armor that Tony has created thus far… I’m going to be fair about this and admit that I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between some of the “main” suits that he has worn if they weren’t standing side by side with each other on the vastly informative Marvel Comic Database. That being said, of the main series of armor I like the design of the Mark XLV. I don’t why but I just like the even spread of gold and red on the armor compared to the earliest versions though I do like the triangular chest piece of the Mark VI.

If we’re talking about one of the “special occasion” armor suits though. Okay, I know that there’s no contest with my top choice but to be fair about it I will that my second favorite one was the Mark XXXIX otherwise known as the “Starboost” or “Gemini” armor. I just love the design on this thing! I could seriously see it as a special DLC for games like Mass Effect and the like that’s just how awesome it looks! Still, the number one slot goes to the Mark XLIV or the “Hulkbuster” armor.

To those who have seen Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, you all know exactly why but for those of who haven’t… Well here’s a picture as to why.

Because if we can’t protect the Earth…

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MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

 
Based On:
Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s The Avengers
Directed & Screenplay By:
Joss Whedon
Production Company:
Marvel Studios
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

I’ll tell you all the truth, the first and foremost reason that it is this film and not its sequel that holds a place in my personal top ten list is simply for the fact that it is still currently playing in theaters and, as such, I can’t properly analyze certain scenes or elements of the film proper. That and a few other things that run the risk of spoiling the film for those who’ve yet to see it so with that out of the way, let’s get this party started shall we?

For this review, I’ll refrain from summarizing the film simply for the fact that if anyone on this Earth has yet to actually see the film for themselves, then I sincerely doubt that my words could push them into watching the greatest film based on a comic book bar none. In point of fact, I dare to say that Marvel’s The Avengers has set a permanent standard for all comic book based films to come and while I sincerely hope for the best in whatever adaptation may come for the Justice League, given DC Comic’s poor luck in movie adaptations… I’m not going to hold my breath.

Besides, what other film can you say has five other films leading up to it with, currently, sixteen more following in its wake and, of those sixteen, only three being actual “direct” sequels as far as naming convention is concerned?

While it currently holds third place in the highest grossing films of all time, something that I doubt will remain permanent but is still quite the achievement nonetheless, The Avengers have gone and broken many more records than that. How many you ask?

Nineteen. Nineteen film records ranging from highest gross for an opening week (end) to theater average to even how quickly it reached $550 million dollars, which was thirty-one days I’ll have you know. That currently beats Avatar (the current highest grossing film) by a whole week! It has also gone on to be nominated for seventy-four awards but, unfortunately, only won twenty-one of them with a majority focused on particular characters/actors of the film.

Yet, for all its monetary numbers and records, the thing about The Avengers that well and truly makes it a comic book movie is the fact that it is a comic book turned into a movie. I don’t mean in the literal sense of it being a direct adaptation of a comic book but rather that one could quite easily imagine the reality of the film converted to pen and paper with perfect ease. The plot is simple, the villain malicious, the threat world shattering at the least, and it checks off many a list of an atypical “crossover” of heroes including such things as the common, but oh so awesome, fight scene prior to a glorious team-up.

Going in that order, and again skipping the plot because come on people, go and watch this movie for yourselves, Loki as the main villain who draws the heroes together to form the Avengers was admittedly, quite surprising for me. In fact, I admit to being somewhat disappointed at the prospect as I had been quite firm in the knowledge that Thor alone could handle his brother with ease. However, as was proven in Thor and Thor: The Dark World, for all of the Thunderer’s strength it means nothing against the Lord of Discord, especially when he’s backed by the likes of Thanos.

Now, while I shan’t go too deeply on any character save for my favorite later this week, I shall say something briefly on Thanos. He is a threat unlike anything the Avengers could ever hope to face as they are in the first or second film. To those who have seen the film, you recall that moment when Thanos’ little stooge informed him that further affairs of Earth would be akin to courting with death? Do you also remember how Thanos smiled at that idea?

He smiled not because he is a monster who deals out death and destruction with casual ease, because he does that but because he can. No, it’s because Thanos is literally in love with Death and will do anything short of ending his own existence to earn Her Affections. His stooge’s words meant to discourage Thanos did the exact opposite and only encouraged his enthusiasm in dealing with Earth and the Avengers.

The atypical fight between heroes occurs not once but twice firstly with the “big three” between Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. What I especially like of the fight is the little nods towards previous films, particularly in the case of Iron Man whom, having fought a villain who specialized in electrical attacks, upgraded his armor to absorb electricity and thus was able to, however briefly, overpower the God of Thunder himself. Yet the best moment to be had was when the fight was ended by way of showing just what can result when an unstoppable force meets an unbreakable object in the form of Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield.

The second fight was one that was between the Hulk and Thor. I would include Black Window but seeing as she was actively running from the Hulk rather than doing the stupid thing by fighting him… Yeah, so Thor versus Hulk… It was an okay fight considering that the two of them didn’t, and couldn’t, go all out as they normally would in such a confrontation.

I did enjoy the fact though that they made a point in demonstrating that for all of the Hulk’s strength, it is not enough to lift up Mjolnir when he isn’t worthy of its power. I mean seriously, the freaking floor was breaking underneath the Hulk’s feet as he tried to lift the thing up! That’s dedication to detail if I’ve ever seen it!

As to the team-up, oh man, there’s so much I can say, so much that I can try and describe with words. There are plenty of amazing moments when the Avengers come together as a team but the best scene by far is one where our view is carried across the battlefield of New York City by each Avenger doing their best to confront Loki’s army. The camera doesn’t cut or jump to each character but follows them along as they face each threat and only moves on to the next in line when they’re in sight. It truly gives a sense of scale not only to how huge this invasion is but at how much damage the Avengers are dealing to it.

That it ends with an awkward silence between the Hulk and Thor following their defeat of a carrier serpent was already funny enough but when the Green Machine went and gave a surprise punch to Thor… I laughed so hard I fell out of my seat!

Yet… out of the entirety of the movie there is one scene in particular that I enjoy the most. One that I fervently hope that my departed grandfather, a veteran of the second World War, can see from his place in the afterlife. My grandfather was a member of the German Air Force and he was proud of that fact because, to paraphrase his own words, the first country that the Nazi Party had invaded was Germany itself and he stood where other men would bow to a monster guised as a man.

The scene I speak of in the film is the one where Loki has a crowd of people before him that he has commanded to kneel and is set into a monologue on how this is our place, that we crave subjugation, and that we are meant to kneel.

When one old man stands up in the crowd and proclaims, “Not to men like you.”

At Loki’s response that there are no men like him, the old man’s response was a simple, “There are always men like you.”

I swear on all that I hold dear in my heart, that moment, that scene alone, made the entirety of the film for me. In a world where gods descend to walk amongst mortal man, where soldiers can rise up to stand against such powerful beings, and where a man’s monster of unconquerable rage and machines of war are all that stand against the horrors of what lies beyond the boundaries of our world…

It is strangely humbling to see that the greatest of heroes, the greatness of humanity itself, can be witnessed in such a simple gesture as an elderly man rising to his feet against one who would have him kneel in subjugation.

Easter is new beginnings. New life. Easter’s about hope…

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THE EASTER BUNNY


Full Name:
E. Aster Bunnymund
Otherwise Known As: Bunny
Race: Pooka
Guardian of: Hope
Featured In: Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Voiced By: Hugh Jackman

This was a tough choice to make, I’ll admit. So tough in fact that I had to resort to the age-old method of flipping a coin and letting fate decree the choice. In the end, after many, many coin flips the choice had been made and thus I present to you, my readers, E. Aster Bunnymund more formally recognized as the Guardian of Hope but more commercially known as the Easter Bunny.

Seeing as Bunnymund, or Bunny as he’s more commonly referred as by his fellow Guardians, is based on a character from a book, allow me a brief moment of comparison between the two. Initially, when the film was in its developing stages, there had been little to no plans on changing Bunny’s appearance from his book counterpart who was often seen wearing a green robe and spectacles accompanied by a severe no-nonsense-please attitude and a… slight… obsession with eggs and chocolate.

I say slight but really, that is a severe understatement as he initially came to Earth (and yes that makes him an alien) because of the fact that our world was initially egg shaped. Unfortunately, this distinct ovular shape would have proved our underdoing if not for Bunny, rather reluctantly, using his incredible digging prowess to round out the planet and use the excess dirt to create a few new continents with one in particular being a personal favorite.

If you hadn’t guessed, it’s Australia.

Now, the true difference between Bunny of the film and Bunnymund of the book came to be primarily because while it’s not hard for a child to imagine a robed rabbit kicking some serious butt with incredible speed and karate skills, such cannot be said for adults. Thus, the robe and spectacles were ditched and once Hugh Jackman (yes, freaking Hugh Jackman!) signed on to voice the character, he was altered further into being more of a ranger of the Outback kind of character.

Now, this is just my inner artist speaking here but one particular aspect that I like about Bunny is the fact that he is not in anyway human in the way that he moves and walks. Despite many a good effort when it comes to creating distinctly alien life in film, insomuch that the creature is not human and thus incapable of walking or moving as we do, it is rare to see it achieved to the degree that was done for Bunny. This is especially evident not in how he walks by way of his legs but rather how his arms and shoulders move.

Bunny is a Pooka, a creature that is essentially what a rabbit would be like if it evolved to a more humanoid stance and as such he retains many of the same bodily structures one would expect from such a creature. Basically, though he can walk upright, Bunny runs on all fours and his shoulders and arms need to be in such a place that he can not only do this effectively but in such a way that doesn’t actually harm him.

From there we’ll get into the film proper with the explanation that though he is defined as a Pooka in official media, both for the film and the book, he too has been transformed by the belief of children and is likewise effected by the loss, even worse then North and Tooth. For in their case, both were born as they are (and yes there’s quite a story behind the Tooth Fairy but that’s for another place and another time) but Bunny was not in any way a human creature. So it is with the loss of belief he reverts not to a natural Pooka but a cute little bunny rabbit.

With the power of belief backing him up though, oh boy! Bunny is indeed a warrior to the core and is arguably one of the fastest amongst the Guardians in terms of speed. Arguably because of the methods that the others use for travel such as Tooth’s wings, Jack Frost’s north wind, etc. Then again, Bunny has his own method of “cheating” when it comes to quick travel across the globe by way of his “rabbit tunnels.” By tapping his foot, Bunny can create holes in the ground that exit anywhere that he wishes them to. What’s rather interesting to note though is that when the holes close up, a flower springs up from where the opening once resided, no matter how utterly impossible it is for it to be there.

What I found particularly interesting about Bunny though, and what ultimately put him and Tooth in the final running over the other Guardians, was not only his home, the Warren, but how he manages to create and decorate so many eggs. I could speak of it, try my best to put it to words and paint the picture for you but honestly? The animators and all who were involved in this film did such a fantastic job of it that frankly, you are all better off seeing it for yourselves so take a gander before continuing on.

Like North, Bunny has his own form of “muscle” in the “warrior eggs,” which (in the film) are giant stone eggs with legs and faces that turn from happy to fierce with a slow turn of mossy granite. He can also command the little Easter eggs who, unlike their larger stone cousins, share a limited copy of Bunny’s tunnel creating ability, only able to make tunnels to areas within a limited range though how limited is currently unknown.

Bunny is also a surprisingly good fighter in the group because of his preferred weapons of choice being a pair of boomerangs. Now, I am certainly no expert when it comes to boomerangs, particularly those used as actual weapons than for sport and fun, but even so the fact remains that Bunny is surprisingly versatile with them and is able to utilize them to their full potential. He is also armed with some exploding eggs but from their rather colorful detonation, I assume that they’re more for placing a “tag” on the opponent rather than blowing them up.

Bunny’s character is gruff and serious for most of the time but you can tell that there’s a heart of gold underneath the fur even when he tries his best to hide it. The best example of this was when, despite his clear animosity with Jack Frost at the time, Bunny ran to his defense when Pitch Black started to talk down to him about how he was going to ignore Jack as being a threat but then, the boy was already used to that.

Hands down, E. Aster Bunnymund is my favorite rendition of the Easter Bunny bar none. Not for the fact that he can rough and tumble with the best of them, not because he is voiced by one of my favorite actors, nor even for the fact that he is given one of the most interesting designs for a anthropomorphic rabbit ever. No, it is because he has one of the best reasons to do what he does for Easter.

To inspire Hope, to impress upon the children of the world that Spring is here and that beginnings, no matter how small or fragile they may be, can grow into something great and powerful.

For as long as they believe in us, we will guard them with our lives…

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RISE OF THE GUARDIANS


Based On:
William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood Series
Directed By:
Peter Ramsey
Screenplay By:
David Lindsay-Abaire
Production Company:
DreamWorks Animation
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures

I admit, when I first saw the initial summary that described Rise of the Guardians, I was less than enthused. I mean, come on, a movie featuring Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman all combating against the oh so wicked Boogeyman? Then, as the movie drew near, more details came to light and one such detail stood out to me in particular; that the film was to be loosely based on The Guardians of Childhood series written by William Joyce. Now, I’m no good with names but there are some that stick out like a sore thumb to me and this one was one of them so I did some digging.

To my initial surprise, William Joyce was the one who has had not one but several different stories, all of them short and heavily illustrated books, become animated marvels. The first, and likely most recognized amongst my generation and those a few years younger, was the Disney Channel series Rolie Polie Olie followed by the PBS cartoon series, George Shrinks.

Heck, one of his books was even made into a film prior to Rise of the Guardians! That film is none other than the Disney animated film, Meet the Robinsons, a film that, admittedly, may not shine as brightly as others but is nonetheless a Disney classic as far as I’m concerned.

With this in my I decided to see just what was so great about this Guardians of Childhood and read the first book in the series Nicholas St. North & the Battle of the Nightmare King. Now, keeping in mind that this review is geared towards the film and not the books, all that I will say is that this, and many of the books that followed, may have been written for children in mind but anyone at any age can read and enjoy them.

As I’ve already stated the basic summary of the film already, let’s move on to what makes this movie distinct amongst its fellows. Like many of the more recent DreamWorks animated films, Rise of the Guardians does not have any songs to go to its name but for one used in the end credits. It’s not a bad song per say but not one that could be easily recognized or constantly song in the years to come like some others I could name. Personally, I appreciate the lack of lyrical music in a film, especially one that I can best describe as the childhood version of the Avengers.

That, above all else, is what makes this film a masterpiece for me. In a film that’s geared towards kids and featuring characters that kids know and love above all others, their film versions have to be introduced to them in such a way that can not only hold the attention of children, but also give any mature minded audiences enough details to know the ins and outs of the characters. Within only a few minutes of casual conversation between the four, we get a very good idea as to how each of the Guardians operate as individuals and with each other.

I could go into details on each member of the Guardians but as I will be reviewing one of them as my personal favorite, and perhaps each of them later on in another series of reviews, I shall suggest merely a quick glance at the Wikipedia page for a feel on them. I will go on to say though that not a one of them is at all what one would expect and dare I say even spit on the face of popular convention to what most would expect them to look like never mind how they act.

What makes this film especially good however is that it isn’t an origin story for the Guardians. It is one that knows and recognizes that they are an established group and introduces us, the audience, to them and their methods by way of introducing a whole new member to the group: Jack Frost. As I’ve already said my piece on him, let’s get on to the villain shall we?

Pitch Black, otherwise known as the Nightmare King or, more derogatively as the Boogeyman, is the Spirit of Fear Itself. Though vastly different from his book adaptation, the works of one DreamWorks artist Johane Matte, known on DeviantArt as Rufftoon, paints a rather interesting, if somewhat unofficial, background story for him and the other Guardians.

See, whereas the Guardians themselves are insinuated as being mortal men, women, and even creatures, whose acts of courage and kindness were so great that they fell into legend and thus ascended to an even greater power, Pitch Black is not. He is one of the few surviving spirits of the World and is only marginally younger than the mysterious Man in the Moon.

Pitch Black’s reign was long and great but it fell at the end of the Dark Ages to such a point that only children who are well and truly terrified out of their little minds can see him. His powers, contrary to the rising of the Guardians’ own have also waned through the years, and he has survived through the ages only by being near places where fear is prevalent amongst mankind. It was by mere chance that he discovered the ability to create Nightmares from the golden dream sand of the Sandman and use it to try and destroy the Guardians by making all the children of the world lose their belief in them.

He is a truly terrifying character in retrospect but in appearance… Yeah… Pitch Black is sorely lacking. Oh sure, his appearance can be attributed to the loss/lack of belief in him by the children of the world and thus reflects that, as again demonstrated in unofficial works that depict him with far more regal attire, but even then I simply cannot imagine him as a creature of Fear let alone the personification of it.

I suppose that, with children being the main audience for the film, Pitch Black had to be tamed somewhat but couldn’t he at the least be given some fangs or claws? Something more than being a man seemingly composed of shadows and darkness?

Despite being a film to predominately feature the likes of Jack Frost and Santa Claus, this movie is not one that takes place at Christmas time nor does it feature it in any way beyond Santa’s boosts of its importance over Easter and seeing the workshop. In point of fact, this film takes place over Easter weekend with a major play made by the Guardians to try and stop Pitch by way of making this an Easter to remember.

Again, while I shan’t go too much into details as to the Easter Bunny or his eggs, I will say that this was yet again another surprising turn of conception for an otherwise commonly conceived character.

Overall, I can say that Rise of the Guardians is a film that can not only be watched numerous times, it is one that can be watched for any holiday occasion, especially when one hopes to inspire a child’s belief and love in something unseen. Because, after all, what greater power is there in a child but that of unquestionable love and undeniable belief?

You can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.

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GIPSY DANGER


Launch Date:
July 10, 2017
Classification: Mark-3
Country of Origin: United States of America
Kaiju Kill Count:
9
Featured In: Pacific Rim (2013)

Though not strictly a character insomuch that Gipsy Danger is a machine, a weapon, in every sense of the word there is still something of a personality to how it moves and functions in the film. That and lets be honest here folks, in a movie featuring giant monsters and robots First however, as I had promised in the film review, allow me to go into further detail on how a Jaeger functions.

As stated previously, a Jaeger requires two pilots to function though it has been noted that a singular pilot can, at the very least, get it to move despite the resulting mental and physical strain. In the initial tests for the neural bridge, or as its more aptly named the Drift, a singular pilot proved to be incapable of handling the strain whereas two minds, each directing a specific “hemisphere” of the Jaeger’s “brain” could work together to get it to function.

This… was one of the weirder aspects of being a Jaeger pilot, or Ranger as they’re called, that I could not comprehend with how little it is explained. Known simply as Drift Compatibility, this “bond” between Rangers seems to apply to those of close relations be it by blood or, in one surprising case, by marriage. I say this is surprising because, in the Drift, nothing is kept secret. The minds of the two Rangers become so closely linked that they share everything, including memories. It is for this reason why most Rangers are of blood relation as they have nearly the same set of memories and so can still distinguish themselves during the Drift and not be caught “chasing the rabbit,” an issue that occurs when a particularly vivid/dangerous memory comes to the fore of the pilot’s mind.

In the film, Drift Compatibility is shown to be something akin to a… similar mindset I suppose, where two people react and fight in almost perfect mimicry of the other. In the case of Gipsy Danger, her original Rangers were twin brothers, Yancy and Raleigh Becket. However, upon Yancy’s death via the kaiju Knifehead, Raleigh found a new partner in one Mako Mori, the adopted daughter of Marshal Stacker Pentecost and one of the people behind the Mark-3 Restoration Program responsible for fixing, and upgrading, Gipsy Danger following its near destruction at the claws of Knifehead.

Piloting a Jaeger also comes with another serious drawback in that the Rangers wear a “Drivesuit” that further links them to their Jaeger. While this serves as a mean of lowering the lag between a Ranger’s brain and that of the Jaeger down to zero, it also has another aspect to it that is supposed to aid in the Rangers’ reaction and fighting capability but I think of it as more a severe design flaw. The Drivesuits can purposefully send signals of pain to the Rangers in mimicry of whatever damage the Jaeger has undertaken.

This was shown especially in the case of Gipsy Danger as being a rather fatal flaw as Raleigh, then being the pilot for the left side of Gipsy, was almost driven to his knees when Knifehead punctured and then tore off Gipsy’s arm.

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However, one unique aspect of Gipsy Danger in particular above all other Jaegers is that it possesses a form of artificial intelligence in its systems. Though not a true A.I. in the sense that it can think and act for itself, this A.I. is more of a vocal acknowledger of commands inputted by the Rangers. I bring this up mostly because the A.I. is voiced by Ellen McLain who also voiced one other artificial intelligence; GLADoS and had even gotten permission to use that same voice for Gipsy Danger’s artificial intelligence.

As to weaponry, Gipsy Danger is, primarily, outfitted for melee styled combat. Both arms contain retractable chain-like swords that can either be used as bladed whips or be conjoined together into a true blade sharp enough to slice a Kaiju in two like a hot knife through butter. The elbow of the right arm, and quite possibly the left as well, is outfitted with rocket propulsion to increase punching power while both hands are outfitted with Plasmacasters. Otherwise more informally known as Plasma Cannons, these weapons fire plasma that can puncture through and cauterize a Kaiju though accuracy is a key factor in guaranteeing that the Kaiju is indeed dead.

One distinctly unique feature on Gipsy Danger is the Nuclear Vortex Turbine located at the chest. This turbine can be used to launch concentrated nuclear radiation straight through a Kaiju but only when it is, quite literally, caught well in hand. It has also been used to help slow Gipsy Danger down during a free fall from just beneath the atmosphere.

The thing that I liked most about Gipsy Danger amongst the many Jaegers shown in the film is how it has many human like reactions. True, it is piloted by a pair of humans who actions are mirrored by that of Gipsy Danger itself but when seen on such a scale… You truly get the semblance that Gipsy Danger, than any one of the Jaegers, could almost be alive. They’re not of course but that’s not the point. The point is that may have created monsters of our own to combat against those banging on our door, but at their heart and soul they are no less human.

You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way…

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PACIFIC RIM


Directed By:
Guillermo del Toro
Story By:
Travis Beacham
Production Companies:
Legendary Pictures & DDY
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures

For me, Pacific Rim will forever and always be the film that placates to both my inner child and my outer adult. It is a film that has everything and more besides that one could ask for in a film that is essentially about giant monsters fighting against equally giant robots.

For a better summary however, allow me to paraphrase the one posted on Wikipedia: Set in the 2020s, the Earth is at war with a race of biologically created monsters aptly named Kaiju (the Japanese word for monster) who are emerging into our world via an interplanetary nexus located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

To try and combat against this threat, with more and more Kaiju appearing with greater frequency and strength, mankind has deemed it necessary to create monsters of our own in the form of Jaegers (the German word for hunter). These Jaegers are gigantic humanoid robots that are controlled by no less than two pilots whose minds are linked and intertwined via a neural bridge. The film itself focuses on the final days of the war and one Raleigh Becket, a washed-up Jaeger pilot called out of retirement as a part of one last-ditch attempt to defeat the Kaiju once and for all.

Man there is so much that I want to say about this movie from beginning to end but I fear that my words will end up making a novel of their own if allowed. Thus, I shall restrict myself strictly to discussing the Kaiju, a brief mention of the Jaegers as I will be focusing on one in particular in my favorite character review, and general plotline of the film with its ups and its downs.

Going in reverse order, the plot of the film is… it is quite literally an American kaiju film insomuch that it is a film that all but mimics those that have come out from Japan, particularly in the aspect of how the fights between the Jaegers and the Kaiju transpire. There is also a surprisingly refreshing take on military intelligence in this film in that, rather than being the stereotypical fruitlessness of the armed forces’ efforts against a Kaiju, the various militaries of the world know that their conventional weaponry is of no use against a Kaiju and openly pool their resources into assisting the Jaegers.

Aside from the opening narration of the film that states how long it took the American military to stop the first Kaiju, which was somewhere around six days and three major cities later, we never see direct military involvement in the form of ships, tanks, or anything to that nature. Instead, it is all laid upon the shoulders of the Jaegers and their pilots.

That’s not to say though that there isn’t a form of major stupidity to be had in this film. This is, after all, a film featuring giant monsters and robots. It’s practically an unwritten rule that there has to be at least one source of stupid to be had and it is in the governments of the world, specifically those whose borders line the Pacific Ocean.

See, with the increasing threat of the Kaiju and the steadily falling numbers of Jaegers emerging victorious and in operational piece, the governments have deemed it necessary to shelf any further Jaegers being made and/or repaired, and are instead focusing on the “Wall of Life.” These Walls, as they are so aptly named, are literally giant barriers erected along the coasts of the major countries to try and keep the Kaiju out.

I won’t lie when I first saw all of this I all but smacked my face right off and nearly did so again when the governments still supported this idea after a Kaiju demonstrated how easy it was for it to break through. Admittedly, no Kaiju prior to the events shown in the film demonstrated an ability to fly but come on here people. It’s a bloody wall! The Kaiju have claws and most of them have multiple arms! If they can’t break their way in they’ll just climb over it!

Aside from that, there are admittedly a few silly moments to be had throughout the film but considering the main premise of the film, those instances can be forgiven/forgotten with the overwhelming awesome that is watching giant robots and monsters beating the crap out of each other.

Speaking of the Kaiju, I commend the imagination and thought that was put into them. Being genetically identical but bearing distinctive appearances and abilities, one can easily see how the Kaiju are purposefully created bio weapons of destruction. Their creators, known as the Precursors, tried to colonize our world once before at the end of the Cretaceous period but found our world to still be too inhospitable to them and thus bided their time all this millennia later.

The Kaiju are purposefully designed and created to find and destroy largely populated areas like major cities and are all interconnected with a type of hive mind that allows them to communicate with one another and sustain information across the generations after in a loose form of genetic memory. Though not sentient, there is no argument that the Kaiju are intelligent enough to think and plan out complex ambush and combat strategies.

The Kaiju are measured to the “Serizawa Scale” upon emergence from the Breach into distinctive Categories I through V with the former being the most dangerous of the lot. This scale of measurement is achieved by measuring the water displacement, toxicity levels, and ambient radiation given off by the Kaiju upon emergence into our world. On the note of toxicity, if the Kaiju weren’t bad enough when they are alive, they are much worse in death as their flesh and blood turn into a highly acidic and extremely toxic substance known as Kaiju Blue, which can kill all forms of Earthen life. Strangely enough, the bones of a Kaiju are safe for usage with many cities being rebuilt around them.

What I like most about the Kaiju as a whole though is that while many of them share similarities with each other, such as arm structure and even number of limbs, each and every one of them is distinctive and is even given a name to be referred to as by the general public. These names are short and somewhat childish but given that these are creatures created for destruction and death, there is something to be had in trying to make a joke out of them.

The Jaegers in the meantime… Boy, where do I begin with them? Though many were advertised in the months before the film’s release, only a small handful made the final cut. Of course, of those Jaegers, each and every one of them looks like true representatives of their countries of origin. More to the point, you can almost immediately guess which of the Jaegers are fresh off the assembly line whilst others have been in the fight since the war first began. Their launch date is classified under the term “Mark” with every increasing generation being made of bigger and better technology than the last.

Jaegers of Mark-1 through Mark-3 are nuclear powered and ran the risk of having their pilots develop cancer, whereas those of Mark-4 and over are entirely digital. As to weaponry, that differs by the Jaeger but each are, for the most part, limited to melee styled combat with a few being equipped with short range weaponry such as Kaiju skin piercing missiles or plasma cannons.

Unfortunately, though the world has pooled together to create these awesome machines, money is still what drives the world to turn and a Jaeger does not come cheap. Striker Eureka for example, the first, last, and only Mark-5 Jaeger, cost over a hundred billion dollars to make, which is easily ten times more than the construction of a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Is this the best giant monster movie I’ve ever seen? Not in particular, but do I think it is the best giant monster and giant robot film? The best that there ever is bar none, no matter what films may come be it an actual sequel or not. This film well and truly lived up to its tagline of “go big or go extinct.”

Guardian of the Universe

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GAMERA


Titles:
Guardian of the Universe, The Last Hope
Featured In: Eleven Films (Currently)

Gamera… Boy, where do I even begin with him? Contrary to Godzilla who was created as a message warning of the possible dangers of nuclear weaponry and the kind of devastation it could wrought both to us as a species and the Earth itself, Gamera was an attempt at banking on the popularity of giant monster movies at the time and he was, and likely still is, one of the oddest of kaiju to come out of Japan.

… Okay, maybe not the oddest but certainly the only one to have his own series of films.

Much like the Gyaos and Irys before him, Gamera is not a natural creature of Earth but one designed and created for a specific purpose by an ancient civilization. This Ancestral People, as they’ll be called henceforth in this review, are of the atypical super genius civilization that fails to realize the one tiny flaw in their creations. This is a trend that can be seen time and time again in many works of fiction and is not limited to alien races or ancient peoples. Still, to be fair, I commend the Ancestral People in trying to clean up their initial mistake but dang if they don’t keep dropping the bloody ball over and over again.

The Gyaos for instance, were created as weapons of war specifically geared to hunt and consume the enemies of the Ancestral People, likely a different faction or even our own budding race. Unfortunately, the fools failed to realize the age-old saying pertaining to “them” and us” in that, in the end of any war, there is only the survivors. Realizing their error, the Ancestral People created a creature that was purposefully designed to cow the Gyaos and was purposefully guided by one of their own. Unfortunately, this creation, later to be named Irys, had a similar appetite to the Gyaos and sought to consume its bonded partner into its core to reach a level of power that was beyond the Ancestral Peoples’ control.

Thus came Gamera, their “last hope” and even he too was a flawed creation in a sense. For you see, Gamera was crafted not to hunt the Gyaos but any and all threats to the Earth. Unfortunately for the Ancestral People, the Earth did not necessarily include them and so they perished by their own folly though they managed one last attempt at “leashing” Gamera in the creation of the orichalcum pendants.

As I stated previously, this pendants not only bind Gamera’s soul with that of a human of great spiritual potential but he draws from his partner the necessary energies to combat whatever threats he might be facing. Unfortunately, this comes at the drawback that the partner, one Asagi Kusanagi, to feel Gamera’s pains and receive the same wounds as he.

Yet, there is an unstated purpose to the jewels. Just as the pendant tie humanity to Gamera so too does it tie him to us for without this connection, Gamera no longer makes it a point to try and protect us, to try and minimalize the collateral damage he can cause.

The best example of this is seen in the first two films as it is shown quite often that Gamera will not only purposefully put himself in harm’s way to protect human lives but will try and focus on defeating his enemies directly and is surprisingly mindful of the environment around him. However, during his confrontation with the Legion and their Queen, the pendants were destroyed as Asagi and a crowd of onlookers fervently prayed for Gamera’s revival following his near death at the hands of a Legion Flower exploding right in his face.

In the third film, which takes place three years after this event Gamera to put it bluntly all but levels the Shibuya district of Tokyo and kills over a twenty thousand people. All so that he could kill two Gyaos. TWO. GYAOS. A pair that were still fledglings and barely any bigger than his forearm! He literal shot a plasma fireball through a skyscraper restaurant filled with people to get at one of them!

That’s what Gamera is capable of when the tether has been taken off.

It’s both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

Because you see dear readers, Gamera’s title of “the Last Hope” is a bit of an understatement. Gamera was specifically designed to face anything that threatens the Earth and this design comes to the fore with every new and greater threat he faces. With the defeat of each and every threat, Gamera “dies” and is reborn stronger and more powerful than before in many surprising ways. This was hinted at throughout the three films with Gamera exhibited new powers and physical changes with the passing years but was fully confirmed in the last film upon the discovery of his graveyard deep in the Pacific Ocean where dozens of his skeletons lay at rest.

Speaking of powers, Gamera’s are one of the most versatile and unique amongst kaiju. He can breathe either a concentrated stream or concussive balls of plasma. Random science fact here kids the hottest state of plasma that we the human race has created thus far can reach 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the freaking sun. Gamera has no limit to how much of this stuff he can breathe out and has been shown to actually regain health and power from the consumption of mundane flames.

In point of fact, Gamera is something of a pyrokinetic in that he can manipulate fire, both mundane and plasma, to devastating degrees. One such example of this was in the last film. In a final stand-off against Irys, who had pierced Gamera’s hand with one of its spikes and was slowly draining him dry whilst charging up a perfect mimicry of his own plasma fireballs, Gamera blew off his own arm and caught Irys’ attack in the stump to recreate the lost limb as a literal fire arm.

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Gamera is also able to consume and utilize “mana” which, in the films, is an ethereal energy that connects all things, places, and people, at least according to the folks at Screwattack. Though he had only done this once, Gamera was able to consume the mana of the Earth itself in order to unleash it all in one focused blast directly from his internal furnace via opening his plastron (the portion of his shell covering his stomach). Unfortunately, utilizing this technique resulted in several hundreds of Gyaos awakening across the entire world.

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Yet, one of Gamera’s strangest abilities, and one that he is freakingly, and sometimes (in)famously known for, is his ability to fly. Yes, you read that right dear readers, Gamera, a massive monster of a turtle, can fly in one of two methods. By retracting all of his limbs, head included, into his shell, Gamera can fly by shooting out a repulsing force —which resembles flames but produces a unique and distinctive sound— from his arm and leg ports and is followed by Gamera purposefully spinning like a top and flying in a saucer-like fashion. The other method is where Gamera’s forearms morph into a large pair of airplane wing shaped flippers and he unleashes the ignition repulsion via his leg ports. In either method, Gamera can achieve Mach 3, which is about 2,284 mph.

Contrary to Godzilla who has something of a confrontational approach to his foes, in that he doesn’t stop moving forward until he’s either wiped them out or they’ve gone running, Gamera has something of a strategic retreat method to how he faces his enemies. The first time he faces them, Gamera is either overwhelming them or being overwhelmed himself, such as with the Legion swarm and their Queen. He’s as intelligent as a human, if not even more so, and will utilize any weakness that he finds in his foes and will willingly, and sometimes even purposefully, allow for injury to comprehend their strength and weaknesses.

While Godzilla will always remain as my favorite of all kaiju, Gamera is such a close second he may as well be tied for first. Say what you will of the improbability and near inconceivability of such a creature as Gamera, there is just something utterly amazing at the idea of such a farfetched thing as a flying, fire-breathing turtle capable of so much good and just as much devastation that… that really, I can’t find the appropriate words to describe it.

Though I am sad to say that, as of this post, there is no official plan for something to commemorate fifty years of the Guardian of the Universe, I am glade to proclaim that another fan, and an unbelievably fantastic artist, named Matt Frank is hard at work in creating a fan-made comic to celebrate the big guy’s 50th anniversary appropriately titled as “The Last Hope.”

Completely off topic but I feel it appropriate to mention Gamera has also had a cameo appearance in a popular anime series, one known simply as Dragonball. Don’t believe me? Check this out and tell me otherwise!

The Last Hope…

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GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE


Directed By:
Shusuke Kaneko
Written By:
Kazunori Itō
Production Companies:
Hakuhodo, Daiei Film, & Nippon Television
Distributed By: ADV Films

Admittedly, I had thought to include one of the many Godzilla films out there in my personal top ten list of favorite films until I realized that, frankly speaking, it was too difficult a choice to make and all deserve a ranking of their own at a later date. However, there is one other giant monster film (or two) that I do greatly enjoy and this film in particular just happens to be one of them for a very distinctive reason.

Though Godzilla has a long series of films, aside from the Heisei Era, which consists of films from 1985 to 1995, there is no true timeline of events. True, the Showa Era does have some films that are direct sequels of each other but are, overall, unconnected insomuch that one need not see the prior film to understand any sort of subtext going on in the sequel. The Gamera Trilogy has plenty of this and it is to my own shame that I failed to realize it myself until it was pointed out to me by another fan and recognized artist for both Transformers and Godzilla franchises, one Matt Frank.

I chose the first film of the trilogy because it follows many of the formulas of other trilogy films. This formula goes that the first film is the “stand-alone” film in that should no other sequels be made due to a monetary flop, it can still stand tall on its own story. The second film is what I call the Villainous Victory in that something majorly bad happens to the good guy(s) that won’t be resolved or rectified in the third film, which wraps everything up in a major storm of epic.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the two sets of Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight trilogies and tell me that I’m wrong.

To borrow the summary from Wikipedia, the film follows Doctor Kusanagi and his fellow scientific colleagues Yoshinari Yonemori and Mayumi Nagamine, as environmental pollution reawakens ancient creatures known simply as the Gyaos and who, in turn, awaken the “Last Hope” known as Gamera to combat them. Unbeknownst to Doctor Kusanagi, one of the jewels that he found has created a spiritual bond between Gamera and his teenaged daughter Asagi who not only strengthens Gamera’s tie to humanity and his resolve to preserve it no matter the cost, but also shares in his pain and wounds.

I would speak of Gamera and his unique origins here but as he is my favorite character of the trilogy, I’ll save that for when I review him true and proper so I’ll speak briefly of the Gyaos. Though mistaken at first as a rare and endangered species of bird, the Gyaos are more like bats than actual birds but are not actually natural creatures. They, like Gamera himself, were artificially created but turned upon their makers who sought salvation in the form of Gamera but his creation came too late and the ancient civilization perished and vanished into myth.

That civilization is, surprisingly, not Atlantis. At least, it’s never outright stated as such. For you see dear readers, just as we in the West have the lost continent of Atlantis, so too does the East in the kingdom of Mu. Taking a surprisingly mature turn for a film based heavily in Japan, the scientists involved speculate that Gamera, the Gyaos, and the pendants found upon Gamera’s back whilst he slept and drifted through the ocean waves, which were hastily collected before he awoke, were made by some advanced civilization that predates our own.

The pendants are the most obvious hint of this as they are confirmed to be made of orichalcum; a metal which is “bronze that is like gold in beauty.” In popular myth/culture, orichalcum is oftentimes considered second only to gold and is genuinely used to craft powerful items, particularly weapons. In the case of this film, the pendants themselves allow for a single human with a powerful heart and an unwavering spirit to be spiritually bound to Gamera and—

Whoa! Sorry, got away from the Gyaos again didn’t I?

As I was saying, like Gamera and his pendants, the Gyaos were creations of the ancient civilation and were, more than likely, a form of bio-engineered weaponry considering their dietary habits. See, the Gyaos eat meat, which in itself wouldn’t be that bad if it weren’t for the fact that Gyaos will always go for humans prior to most other creatures. True, they were lured by hunks of bovine meat and one of them was even seen catching and eating a dog but given that the Gyaos will purposefully flock near human civilizations, that’s a rather small note.

Heck, it was even shown that should elders of a clutch not bother to bring back food for the still hatching youngsters, they will start to cannibalize each other and wipe out the whole nest in the process. To make matters worse, the more meat a Gyaos consumes the larger and stronger it grows until it reaches a point where sunlight no longer bothers it and it can start to reproduce asexually. Thankfully, unlike a certain other monster that shall remain nameless, a Gyaos can only lay a small clutch of eggs at a time.

Being made in the mid 90’s, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is akin to many other kaiju films in that while special effects were used to enhance the monsters’ performance, they are still done via excellent costumes and miniaturized cityscapes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoy watching films with CGI involved, particularly nowadays where its getting more and more difficult to tell where the line between realism and animation is drawn… It’s just that there’s just something to be had in watching something that you know is real if even as an amazingly well done costume.

Being a live action film, I’m sorry to say that the English dub is… meh… Some of the voice actors are great but a lot of the lines don’t match the expressions on the Japanese actors’ faces. There is also the age-old lips moving “out of sync” with the dialogue that can be kind of distracting for first time viewers of foreign films. Acting wise, I give major credit to Mayumi Nagamine’s actress one Shinobu Nakayama who I was surprised to learn was actually a J-Pop artist prior to becoming an actress for this and the third Gamera film.

Mayumi’s character, whilst not strictly the main character, is the one we follow the most after Doctor Kusanagi and his daughter, as she is the one who discovers the Gyaos and their habits. She is, essentially, the straight woman in the crowd of political idiocy and stupidity. I say this because, unsurprisingly, everyone in the government side of things sees Gamera as the bigger threat though it is for a justifiable, if not moronic, reason.

Prior to the Gyaos increasing in size and devouring more than a few hundred people, everyone thought that the Gyaos were natural creatures and that they were more endangered than certain species of crane and need to be protected. True, in their hunger they ate a few people but compared to Gamera causing millions in property damage with little to no loss of human life, it’s obvious who the bigger threat here is right?

The sound of one hand clapping is the sound of one’s palm meeting one’s face here people…

Endangered or not, the Gyaos eat people by choice not by instinct. Mayumi even says as much herself and the politician who made the comparison actually sneered at her for it! If ever there was a time I wanted to reach into the screen and smack somebody upside the head that was it and then some! This is why there’s that whole joke about military intelligence in monster movies, it’s because of idiots in the government who think they know better than the scientists they hire to figure out what the bloody creatures are in the first place!

With all that being said, is Gamera: Guardian of the Universe the best there is when it comes to kaiju films? Not necessarily so on its own but whence combined with its two sequels, you better believe it’s something worth watching! Not only is each film a self-contained story in its own right, but when they’re combined together, the subtext and evolution of Gamera, both physical and otherwise, are a work of brilliance!

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