Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Invasion of Astro-Monster

Nope. Invasion of Astro-Monster (aka Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero) was plain awful, even in its original Japanese.

The 1954 film Gojira was suspenseful, powerful, and even rather moving. In that first movie, Godzilla was actually a scary monster. He was a dinosaur, acting with animal motives. There was nothing human about him. He moved like a beast, not a man. He was a force of nature, an ancient animal awakened, then transformed and twisted by the actions of humanity. When that first Godzilla destroyed Tokyo, it was truly a magnificent moment in cinematic history. It was terrifying and heart-rending. You really felt for the woman clutching her children and telling them, "We'll be with your father soon." Or the radio announcer reporting on the destruction, knowingly facing his own doom with dignity as he signed off, "This is our final broadcast. Goodbye," just as Godzilla moved in for the kill. Yes, that first Godzilla killed people. Death was shown on screen, as were the wounded, maimed survivors. The despair and sorrow were palpable. That first movie was one of the greatest disaster movies ever made, to say nothing of one of the greatest monster movies. Heck, delete "disaster" and "monster"--Gojira, in its unedited form, is a truly great movie. No qualifiers needed.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

By the 1960s, the vintage of Invasion of Astro-Monster, Godzilla had been fully personified. He had become a fancy-dancin', high-kickin', goofy superhero. He no longer acted like an animal, instead making blatantly human arm gestures and other movements. He was no longer frightening, nor even slightly intimidating. Oh, sure, he stomped a city flat, but he looked so ridiculous doing it, with those high steps and swinging arms, that it was merely laughable. They never showed any people actually dying in all that destruction, just running away to safety. The real sense of fear and threat is all gone.

And the aliens and their dorky-looking flying saucers and ridiculously primitive uber-computer were outright dreadful. (Not that the computer was supposed to be primitive, mind you. Pretty much every 1960s-era movie depiction of a futuristic, super-powerful computer seems primitive and clunky compared to even the outdated junky computers that can be found in virtually any apartment complex dumpster today.)

Of course, I do love cheesy B-flicks. I absolutely did enjoy Invasion of Astro-Monster on that level. I just find the sharp contrast between 1950s Godzilla and 1960s Godzilla fascinating.

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