Blog 767: King of the Monsters

It once felt like my love of Godzilla disappeared along with my childhood, but in truth it merely retreated underground and lay dormant, waiting for the moment it would emerge from the darkness to wreak havoc once more.

With Hollywood taking on the mantle of the Big G over the last few hears, that time has come. Since Toho have still refused to release everything in the UK, I had to turn to crime to work through every single kaiju film Toho ever made.

Why is this relevant? Because Godzilla: King of the Monsters bears a superficial resemblance to Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster, the very first time our favourite world-destroying space dragon appeared on screen, and a film that I never saw as a child. Crucially, in this outing King Ghidorah was only stoppable by the combined forces of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra — the same four mon-stars appearing in King of the Monsters. As a firm fan of 2014’s Godzilla and its pseudo-prequel Kong: Skull Island, I was mightily intrigued to see how Legendary would approach that classic four-way rumble with the more grounded fiction of their modern franchise.

It was… quite something. I had to see it twice at the cinema before I could make up my mind. Needless to say, there is only one answer to such conflicted thoughts: Chris McPhail and I had to sit down and do a Close, But No Biscuit podcast about it.

Blog 758: Close, But No Biscuit — Godzilla 98

I hadn’t seen the 1998 Godzilla film pretty much since it came out. I went to the cinema at the time of course, by that point already being a committed fan of the big G’s Japanese adventures from their spurious showings on Channel 4 at one in the morning, but beyond that I have little memory of whether or not I actually enjoyed it. I certainly didn’t get it on video, and kept instead returning to the few Toho films I’d managed to tape off the TV.

In hindsight, though, I realise how much this film coloured my desire to see Godzilla 2014 before the event. When I fell in love with the original Godzilla, I fell in love with his moves, his friends and his enemies — the tail-slaps, the atomic heat breath, Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Mechagodzilla, the Japanese Self-Defence Force…

98 had none of these. They gave him no opposing monster, no atomic breath, and even the American army lacked any fun bonus tech like maser tanks and space rockets. Alas it is not merely a poor excuse for a Godzilla film — it’s a bad film, full stop. It’s a bad monster movie, a bad action movie, and a bad disaster movie. It has aged horrendously. So as with all such things… Chris McPhail and I had a podcast chat about that!

Blog 754: Close, But No Biscuit: Predator

Oh, it’s been a while since we talked movies, hasn’t it?

I had no particular affinity for the Predator films until I actually paid attention to them; whereupon I realised that Alien vs. Predator is actually really good (another hill I’ll die on, alongside Battleship) and that Predator 2 is a way better film than the original. Erk!

Before you start bagging me, listen to the full discussion Chris McPhail and I had on the subject — plus our meandering writers’ room thoughts on where the franchise could have gone afterwards to have fun and make maximum use of that crossover potential…

I’ve got a couple further thoughts for after you’re finished listening, which can be found below.

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Blog 743: Close, But No Biscuit — Universe Building

I think Kong: Skull Island is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s a big, meaty monster movie with plenty of focus on the monster(s); Kong is not the footnote to a human story, but an integral part of a story that occurs in a natural world. It also strikes the perfect balance of fun with the straight faced delivery required to carry off a giant ape bashing giant dinosaurs in the face.

It also has a post-credits sequel hook, but you don’t need to watch that or the lightly-linked precursor Godzilla (2014) to enjoy it. This is the holy grail of shared-universe films: each one standing on its own, but quietly accentuating the others when taken in wider context. This is world-building done right.

Blog 741: Close, But No Biscuit — Independence Day: Resurgence

Video

Was Independence Day: Resurgence really that bad?

The short answer is: yes.

The longer answer is: yes, but it was flooded with so many fantastic ideas. Alas, fantastic ideas though they may have been, most of their final forms are confused, contradictory, or simply malnourished. Independence Day: Resurgence starts off so well, genuinely extrapolating a possible future from What Happened in the First Film (instead of, ahem, desperately rebooting so they can retread the same stuff but worse) — then it almost immediately trips over its own shoelaces and stumbles off into mediocrity and crass over-spectacle.

Top marks for effort, if nothing else.

Blog 733: Close, But No Biscuit — Jurassic Park

I fuckin’ love dinosaurs. There’s something ineffably cool about big walking lizards, with their scaly skin, razor-sharp claws and teeth as long as your forearm (regardless of how anatomically realistic they actually are). When aliens and monsters are designed for games and films, it always irritates me how they end up being mostly-mammalian and very few creature designers seem to turn to our favourite prehistoric pals. (Risen 3 did and it’s amazeballs.)

The Jurassic Park films are not my favourite films in the world but I do love dinosaurs and the escalation of the Jurassic Park franchise is a bit wobbly — so here we are, back again to take a meandering examination of what went right, what went wrong, and what could have been salvaged with a few choice tweaks.

Unfortunately I was a bit off the boil when we recorded this, so it’s mostly Chris rampaging and me failing to articulate a few choice observations. Ah well.

Blog 724: Close, But No Biscuit — Alien vs. Predator

From the name, you’re all thinking that Alien vs. Predator is a dodgy franchise cash-in. Cheap cross-over, exploit two fanbases, job done?

In one sense, yes, it’s a bit hammy and less refined than some of its predecessors. In another sense, though, no — as an Alien prequel it holds up really really well. All the fun of Ancient Astronauts but done properly and plausibly, with coherent links to the other films but nothing too forced, continued themes of an uncaring universe rather than putting humanity at the centre of it… If you genuinely like Alien and Aliens, then Alien vs. Predator is actually a very good extrapolation. And it’s fun!

Blog 723: Close, But No Biscuit — Star Wars — Part 12

The Force Hits Snooze. This should have been a rollicking finale to Close, But No Star Wars, but we’ve said pretty much all that we need to about The Force Awakens throughout our rambling examination of the Star Wars films, usually as a counterpoint to what the other ones got right. So here we put a few final nails in the coffin and… move on with our lives?

Bah. I only get angry because I care. My answer, of course, is to bear in mind all of this as I work on my own fiction. I will have giant death lasers, yes — but mine will have the narrative framework to support them, and give them due weight when they arrive. I will not be afraid to extrapolate my universe, I will not endlessly recycle the same set-pieces, and I will not let old characters completely smush new ones… I hope. (But rebellions are built on hope, right?)

Since I don’t really want us to end on a downer, remembering only the pain of bad Star Wars rather than the heights of good Star Wars, I’m going to part with this fantastic 15-minute disco medley of the Star Wars theme(s) by Meco. May the force be with us!