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Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

It seems that 2016 has been a year of huge potential with mixed results, many tent pole films and many more reactions to them. This could simply all be down to the source material: characters with per-existing histories and fan bases that make it difficult for studios, directors, and actors to please. All this aside, it has been an emotional roller coaster of a year for fandom film goes.

Earlier this year when I posted an article about this summer’s Godzilla movie and how it was going to be done by the original studio that created the character, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited. What has also had many  of us fans very excited, and also a little concerned, was that this newest film was going to be a complete reboot – and it wasn’t going going down the retelling route.

For those of you who may not be Godzilla fans, there are some things that have always been canon in the Godzilla mythos: his origin, what he is, when he appeared. Like Superman or Captain America’s origins, there are some things about the big G that have been sacred to fans all around the world. But when the original studio decides to reboot the franchise itself and it acknowledges it is going to be a modern and very different retelling of the origin story…you need to have faith, but you can’t help but feel a little concerned too.

Our faith was rewarded, because they delivered.

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good. The violet color is actually symbolic of death in Japanese culture.

The overwhelming consensus from from western fans who were lucky enough to see the film in Japan and those from the home nation of Japan, is that the film, while different, was masterfully done.  It has also been highlighted on many sites posting reviews of the film. The Japanese members of the fandom are usually the harshest critics out there – and yet so far they are the biggest supporters.

But it gets better…..this Godzilla is coming to the USA. Funimation, the company that distributes other Japanese media in the United States (the Dragonball franchise for example), has announced that Shin Godzilla will be coming to the USA for a theatrical release in late 2016. No date yet on that release, but with roughly four months left in 2016, you will not have long to wait.

Look away if you want to be spoiler free as I will be giving a rough synopsis of the plot. There is also one spoiler image as well, so if you want to save yourself a legitimately fun surprise, best to wait it out.

The film opens with some mysterious problems occurring in Tokyo Bay. Before you can say “I think it’s a monster” an enormous tail appears in the bay. This is right off the bat in the film and it takes no time to build up a threat. Godzilla is here and it really starts to hit the fan quickly. This is quite the refreshing change from other Godzilla films and it addresses one of the key fan complaints against the 2014 Hollywood outing.

The other thing that I should mention is that Godzilla doesn’t seem quite himself….spoiler image coming up folks…..

He evolves during the course of the film…

dramatically…

…more than once….

 

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla – these are Bandai figures. As of yet no official pictures have surfaced online with as much detail.

The Proto-Godzilla does what Godzillas do best and starts running riot. It is here where the film starts to show some of its true colors. We go to rooms full of Japan’s government representatives as they stare in disbelief at what they are seeing and try to manage some kind of response.

I should mention that Godzilla originally served as a commentary for the current state of affairs in Japan and in this first reboot since the original film, the studio stayed true to that idea. The theme of politicians talking and debating until they are forced to act is a reoccurring plot point in the film and while a few fans have complained that the amount of time spent on this element could have been shortened, I think that this issue the film highlights couldn’t be any more current. The Japanese representatives spend a lot of time arguing about what should and can be done, but by the time they are able to come up with a plan…the problem has shifted sideways on them. Godzilla changes for his second time (the second form is pretty unnerving to look at by the way).

So at about this time, the USA comes into the movie. The US military helps the Japanese have a go at the walking disaster that seems to love populated areas, but nobody seems to be getting anywhere against the monster using conventional weapons, much to the concern of the US.

Then, Godzilla evolves into his third and final appearance of the film, the one we have been seeing in all of the trailers and lets just say he packs a mean punch.

Tension starts to reach a critical point when the US representative tells the Japanese that they have a deadline to sort this monster business out or it’s nukes away. Say what you will about the political undertones, it definitely ratchets up the tension.

I will not give away more after that because what comes next is crucial to the climax of the film. However, lets just say that the film ends with something of a cliff hanger and what I think is a pretty interesting way to finish the movie which will no doubt be the first installment in a series of new Godzilla films.

And a new series there will certainly be, with this movie already being almost twice as successful as the 2014 Hollywood Godzilla during its opening weekend in Japan. It would seem unlikely in this day and age that a sequel not be made.

So for those of you who would be considered “Western Audiences”, you may have to wait a little while for him to get to you, but this Godzilla is coming your way and if it’s one thing we all know – good things are worth waiting for.

p12-schilling-godzilla-a-20160729

So how about it folks? Are you excited to see this new Godzilla? Will you see it in the US theaters?

Are you more excited to see where this version of the Godzilla franchise is going or the US one?

Comment below!

Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

Project Nemesis: The Next Big Thing

I love kaiju, and have ever since I can remember. What is a kaiju you ask? Essentially, “kaiju” is a Japanese word meaning “Strange beast”….or “giant monster”.  They can be found in all manner of media but these are not be known by and large for being the most artful of cinematic or storytelling experiences, however a legion of like minded science fiction fans love them. I am not sure what the draw  is for the rest of the fandom, but for me, it is the size and scope of the issue. The resignation of protagonists that know there is no escaping the destruction to come, the futility of trying to negate the threat, as well as the absurdity of the threat, and yet there it stands, looming.

It is hard to create a serious kaiju story considering what the antagonist has to bring to the table. For one, how does such a huge threat go unnoticed, and if it is capable of avoiding notice…well, how the heck does it do that? These can be pretty hard questions that the storyteller has to answer before the story can be taken further, and considering how much surveillance  the world is under today, it is no wonder that fresh new takes on kaiju are hard to come by.

The next item that has to be addressed in any kaiju you are coming up with is how tough should it be? In a world of nuclear weapons and advanced military technology….most nations these days could theoretically wipe your standard 1950’s style kaiju off the map. So either you have to come up with some creative way of explaining why the military is hanging back or you have to overpower said antagonist to the point where the story is not as interesting to read.

Perhaps the most driving plot point behind a kaiju is its origin. Lets examine the big three…Godzilla, King Kong and Gamera. These are arguably the most well known kaiju that there are, and they each have fantastic origins, even if they border on the slightly mysterious.

Godzilla: A relic from a bygone era, awoken/mutated by modern nuclear weapons he comes surging out of the oceans to vent his rage on anything in his path.

King Kong: An intelligent, social creature isolated on a prehistoric island all alone, fighting to survive.

Gamera: The GMO of your nightmares, he was created by an advanced civilization thousands of years ago to serve as a protector from another race of deadly creatures.

Being a huge fan of the genre, I take a glance at anything new to hit the market.  Now that means I take a look – all too often I have been let down by authors whose hearts are in the right place, but they have written stories without researching what has come before…or practicing their own writing skills. So a few years ago, when I saw Project Nemesis pop up on Amazon, I let it sit there for a while. My mentality is that if it is actually a kaiju story, the momentum behind it will be as unstoppable as the creature(s) held within its media. So here I am a few years later. Project Nemesis is now a series of novels, a game and as of this summer, a comic. Now all of this aside, there are many stories out there that get loads of publicity, but I wouldn’t give them a second of my time. A very popular series of novels about vampires and werewolves being one clear example.  However, after catching a glimpse of who was involved with the comic, I knew that there really must be something to this novel I had seen.

So I went ahead and purchased the first book in what has now become a series; Project Nemesis. I can safely say that I read that one start to finish in a day and ordered the second one while taking  food break from the first.  I have since read the sequel in a day and Have ordered the remaining novels.

project_nemesis_by_sharksden-d8t3pyt

Awesome alternate cover art for the novel version of Project Nemesis

These books and this kaiju are pretty damn awesome folks.

So lets talk about the novel. Firstly, at 288 pages it is not overly long or short, it’s a decent sized read. What makes the book a stand out for me though is the build up, and the growing momentum you can feel the farther you read into the book. I was really impressed by this because normally in this genre, the story falters when said larger monstrosity is not around to wreak havoc.  If you know a kaiju fan, you can ask them if they know the phrase “fast forward to the good bits” – they will probably laugh and tell you how the monster parts of all the old movies were great and the bits in between with the people were boring filler.

I can honestly say that Project Nemesis has the best kaiju filler material of anything I have seen or read. It is a monster and a story powered by strong character development. The reason that these sections of the book succeed is because of the main protagonists and normal way they think and react. Something I have gotten sick of is a single, male protagonist who is an expert at every form of martial arts and fells people left and right like some kind of action hero.  Project Nemesis threatened to start out like that, only our protagonist drives up to a cabin, opens the door, mistakes a sleeping mama bear for a bean back and then spends a rather humorous, if thrilling pages trying to get himself out of a mess. The next morning he is woken up by a knock on the door from the real bad ass who happens to not only be a woman, but a capable woman as well. I can safely say I was very proud of the author for not reducing her to a damsel in distress not once and for portraying her not as a one dimensional romantic object, but as a normal person who could hold her own.

The kaiju’s origin is what gives the novel its momentum, and adds a lot of the darkness and plot movement while  the creature is not on the pages.  Nemesis, as the monster is named, did not start out as a monster, she (and I also think its awesome the monster is a female) started as a murdered little girl.  The basic origin of said creature is that a biotech company is trying to come up with a way to grow human organs for transplants. Quite noble I’d say. However, when they add a little mystery DNA to the of the organs they are trying to clone….things get a bit out of hand. Of course, the company that is doing this really wasn’t all that noble, and they knew what they were injecting into said organ mix, however they did not tell the people who were actually growing the organs.  Our main protagonists, who happen to be a mix of law enforcement/government agency are just inspecting a disturbance and get pulled in at this point – and for a lot more than they bargained for.

Now I am not going to give away any more plot than I already have because when telling people about a thriller/horror with kaiju in it – what is the point of making a recommend when you give away all of the fun bits?

That said, I am going to do you a solid. After reading the book, I got in touch with two people who have helped breath some life into Nemesis. First is the author of the novels, Mr. Jeremy Robinson who was kind enough to answer some questions for The Grid about Project Nemesis the book and some of the side “Projects” that have sprung from it.

How did the concept for Project Nemesis come to your mind? Specifically, the creature’s origin?
The initial trigger for creating Project Nemesis came about when my editor, who knows how much I enjoy kaiju stories, asked me, “What haven’t you written a kaiju novel yet?” My response was basically, “Uhhhhhh,” and then I started working on it. The rest of it is kind of a merger of elements. I wanted the story to take place somewhere new for a kaiju, so I put it in my backyard, literally (the FC-P Crow’s Nest is located in my childhood neighborhood). I wanted the monster to stand out visually, so I included the glowing membranes and hired Matt Frank to flesh out the design I’d written in words. As for the creature’s origin, that’s one of those weird elements that comes out of the creative ether. I close my eyes and let my imagination run. I came up with a bunch of origins that didn’t work (and I don’t remember) and then the idea of having the creature be spawned, in part, from the DNA of a murdered little girl. It’s a horrible thing, but I knew it was right as soon as it entered my head. I then researched gods of vengeance, found Nemesis, and that’s when it all came together.

The pacing of the story in my humble opinion is well done, it does not go from zero to apocalypse in 2-3 chapters, there is a steady build that comprises most of the story. Was this a deliberate choice, or did it just flow out that way?
Most of my novels move at the same kind of pace. It’s something I’m well known for and have honed over the 30ish novels I wrote before Project Nemesis. Fast pacing was something I worked on for years. It’s a tricky balance to keep things fast, but also let readers get to know the characters. But I’ve been doing it long enough now that the pacing just flows. I don’t really have to think about it anymore. It’s more like instinct.

Let's just say the sequel has a "go big or go home" mentality.

Let’s just say the sequel has a “go big or go home” mentality.

Stemming off of my last question, was the origin the majority of the story because you already knew you would be writing more than one book?
I knew I wanted to write more than one story, but I had no idea how people would respond to a kaiju thriller, which didn’t

exist before Nemesis. Yes, there were a handful of Godzilla novels in the 90s, but they weren’t exactly thrillers (with that pacing you mentioned). So when I wrote Nemesis, I didn’t know it would become a five novel epic. I ended the first book in a way that could have stood on its own or lead into a sequel. To my great delight, Nemesis was a fantastic success worthy of multiple sequels, a video game and a comic book. I’ve currently writing the fifth and final Nemesis book, and am still having a blast.

So you make it perfectly obvious that you are an avid kaiju fan. What is your favorite kaiju film and why?
It’s always hard for me to pick a favorite. I have different favorites for different reasons. My top pick from childhood is Godzilla V. Megalon, with Gigan and Jet Jaguar. You can see the influence that movie had on me in Project Hyperion. As an adult, I’ve always had a soft spot for Godzilla 2000, not just because it’s a really good Godzilla flick, but also because it’s the only Toho Godzilla movie I saw in a movie theater. I’m also a really big fan of all three Gamera movies, and prefer them over most Godzilla movies, aside from the two I mentioned.

What got you started in the kaiju genre?
Like most nerdy kids growing up during the 80s in New England, I spent Saturday mornings watching a TV show called Creature Double Feature. Project Nemesis is dedicated to the show. Every Saturday (after watching Force Five, The Herculoids and Thundaar the Barbarian) I would watch whatever monster movies were playing, which more often than not, included Godzilla. I sat on the living room floor, eating Cocoa Pebbles at the coffee table and drawing Godzilla, Harryhousen monsters and my own creations. It’s probably a weird thing to say, but these memories of being creative while watching monster movies, are some of my fondest childhood memories, and kaiju were a big part of that.

Now the first novel has been translated into comic form, can you tell us a bit about that process? What was the biggest change between that and the novel?
The good news is that I wrote the comic book so the tone and voices of the characters are the same, as is the crux of the story. All of the important stuff is there. But you can’t make a six issue comic book out of a 300 page novel without cropping stuff. Most people notice that the bear scene near the beginning of the novel is missing*, but it’s still alluded to. Other than that, the comic is mostly missing details from certain scenes that had to be compressed. The history of the Crow’s Nest. The history of Truck Betty. Mostly background type stuff, and action that is good fun, but not integral to the plot. The biggest challenge was deciding what to cut. I wrote longer versions of each script and then went through them all, hacking them down to 22 pages each. It’s never easy to cut stuff (I rarely have to do it in a novel) but the end result was fantastic, so I got over it.

* Joe from The Grid here….the bear scene is hilarious and awesome, but only readers of the novel get to know why

Ok, a potential spoiler, in the first novel, what was the most fun part to write?
The most fun, well that would be just about any time Jon Hudson opens his mouth. He’s sarcastic and says what he thinks most of the time. He’s also verbally creative, so I had a great time coming up with creative insults and phrasing. And I think his voice is what keeps the book fun. Nemesis is a tragic story. It’s dark and twisted. And without Hudson, it could have been a really depressing read. But Hudson brings the fun to any situation, so I really enjoyed writing him. Answered without a spoiler!

Jeremy and I carried on a conversation as I read the sequel, and as a recommendation for anyone who reads the first book and wants to jump to the second, you may be better reading his other novel, Island 731 before continuing to Project Maigo, the direct sequel to Project Nemesis. It will not hurt you if you jump straight to the sequel, but you may have even more fun with it if you already know some of the other characters that are brought in ahead of time.

The other person that I spoke to was the ever awesome and all around artist spectacular, Mr. Matt Frank. Matt had the job of fleshing Nemesis out as a monster based on Jeremy’s descriptions. He is also the artist for all of the interiors of American Gothic Press’ Project Nemesis comic. The comic itself is a slightly shortened version of the novel, but having been able to see a few panels, I can tell you that no punches are being pulled when it comes to the horror or darkness found within the pages of the novel.

I asked Matt to sit down and pull some of his favorite pages that he did for the Project Nemesis comic and explain why he enjoyed these scenes so much. So without further adieu, Matt’s choice picks from the series:

project_nemesis__1_pg_1_by_kaijusamurai-d9av8qv

This page is a great example of collaboration. Jeremy and I went back-and-forth on this scene a few times, Originally I believe he wanted it to be the entire scene of Maigo’s murder from the book, but I suggested that we keep it short, simple, and shocking. A slow reveal of the catalyzing moment for the entire story. Jeremy then put the Nemesis mythological quote over it, and the page just sings as a result. Diego’s colors are on-point here as well.

project_nemesis__1_pg3_by_kaijusamurai-d9av8rt

Diego’s colors really bring this one together. it’s a fantastic compliment to the cool colors of the previous page, and I’m particularly proud of how my lines on panel 4 beautifully dance with Diego’s soft reds. It’s a great “DAMN” moment.

project_nemesis__5_page_4_by_kaijusamurai-da218mt

Out of all of the books this is probably my favorite splash page of Nemmy (notice how all of my favs are near-full-splashes?) I was really just having a ton of fun with her anatomy here, trying some new poses and positions throughout the book, and this one caught my eye. It’s funny how an artist can look at his old work and say “Oh, did I draw that?!”

Now, as if Matt’s inside panels weren’t enough of a treat, the real comic collectors out there can hunt down and collect alternative covers done by the legendary science fiction illustrator, Bob Eggleton. I have attached my personal favorite cover that he has done below.

ProjectNemesis bob

So for those of you who would like a summer read that breaks the mold, and also gives you something to move onto once you have finished the first novel, I recommend Project Nemesis as a stand out option. It takes the genre to places it hasn’t really strayed conformable into before, and gives fan service to everyone already familiar with what kaiju have to offer.

Project Nemesis and the three novels continuing the story, Project Maigo, Project 731, and Project Hyperion are available now, you can find them quite easily on Amazon.com. The fifth and final novel in the story, Project Legion, will be available in October. For even more kaiju thrillers from Jeremy Robinson, be sure to check out his newest kaiju thriller, Apocalypse Machine, and the upcoming new kaiju series, Unity (available in July). To stay up to date, with all of his projects, visit his website at: bewareofmonsters.com and subscribe to the newsletter. Jeremy was also kind enough to let me know that while the comics run for Project Nemesis is wrapping up, a collected trade paperback by American Gothic Press will be released sometime now and the end of September – so look out for that if you want to get the story and Matt’s amazing art as well.

For those of you who are fans of Matt Frank, you can visit his site at www.mattfrankart.com  and see some of the amazing art that he has done for other projects.

Now obviously you are going to read the books and the comic, who wouldn’t after a shout out like that!? But what we would really like to know, once you have read the books, seen the comic….is do you want to see a film version come to life?

Otherwise give us a shout and say what you enjoyed most from reading either the novel or the comic!

Project Nemesis: The Next Big Thing

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

It has been years since I have purchased a PC game,  eight years I think, probably six since I bought a console game. They just aren’t the sort of thing that I spend my money on. Don’t get me wrong, I have been gifted games, and I love them. But it really takes something to get me to break open my wallet.

Today’s topic though is something really special. It goes beyond the simple concept of a game. It has risen above that to an area seldom seen in this area of entertainment; it is educational. It is probably for this simple fact that I, without question, cracked open my normally sealed (and empty!) wallet to fund its Kickstarter campaign. A campaign that thus far has been wildly successful.

I am speaking about the new open world concept game, Saurian. To quote the description from its site:

Saurian is a video game focused on providing the most captivating prehistoric experience ever developed for commercial gaming: living like a true dinosaur in a dynamic open world through intense, survival based gameplay. Players will have the opportunity to take control of several different species of dinosaur in their natural environment. You will attempt to survive from hatchling to adult, managing physical needs, while avoiding predators and environmental hazards in a dynamic landscape reflecting cutting-edge knowledge of the Hell Creek ecosystem 66 million years ago.

So, I have no problem saying that this game is right up my alley. I love games that require a long play, some customization, an open world concept….and dinosaurs….I flippn’ love me some dinosaurs. But dinosaurs games themselves have been a fantastic disappoint for me up until now. It  seems that every dinosaur game is either based off the Jurassic Park franchise or decides to go down the frequently traveled dinosaur hunting route. Saurian is different though – the team behind it have done their homework and it shows in every aspect of the game.

Mr. Tom Parker who is the lead for Saurian’s research accepted my invitation to be interviewed in a Grid Daily exclusive so we can learn a little more about the game before its projected January 2017 release. Tom was quick to point out that with the stretch goals being met left and right the game is ever expanding, but he graciously answered the following questions.

How did the idea of Saurian first come about? We know why it is being made, but what were the circumstances that changed it from being an idea to an action?
Nick (project lead) came up with the concept originally and when he found no trace of such a game existed on the internet he started contemplating doing it himself. Then while acting as a forum mod and QA tester for a game called Primal Carnage, he first came in contact with me (Tom, researcher), Jake (3D artist) and Erin (tech artist). We collectively began to explore more substantial development, and as we did, we shared our idea in any place that we found like-minded people. Once Bryan (animator) joined the team, we knew we could attract programmers, and serious development started.

How did the team meet? You all seem to be well spaced from each other.
As I mentioned earlier, Nick, Jake, Erin and I all met on the online forums for another video game, Primal Carnage, which is also where the concept for this game was originally conceived. The rest of the team pretty much all found us, seeing our work online and then contacting us about potentially joining the team. The rest is history.

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The cast of playable dinosaurs from the game. Iconic species such as tyrannosaurus and triceratops, as well as lesser known species pachycephalosaurus and dakotaraptor

You have chosen some pretty famous dinosaurs as player characters, were there ever suggestions among team members to go for lesser known species?
I wouldn’t say Dakotaraptor is particularly high profile outside of the palaeo community, though we are doing our best to remedy that. Before it was announced, we were considering Acheroraptor, which is probably even less well known. Outside of that, no. Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops were always instant shoe-ins and Hell Creek was partially chosen for these two taxa.

I am curious as to how he players in your game will find prey/avoid predators etc. Is there a HUD that we have not seen yet, or are senses such as smell and better sight being shown in ways that you haven’t shown yet?
While we have not settled on exactly what the HUD will look like yet, the team is unanimous in agreement that whatever it may be, it will be very minimalist. We’ve thrown around a few neat ideas. As for smell and sight, these will be shown in ways that have not yet been revealed. We have already begun work on the scent system.

What has been the hardest part of creating Saurian, or to rephrase – the biggest chore?
I wouldn’t call any part of development a chore. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time researching seemingly dull topics such as fossil plants and fish, but it is still fun to learn about these things to me. The biggest hurdle so far has been a lack of resources and the inability to acquire the necessary amount of time from our developers to work on the game, but it looks like our Kickstarter is set to change that.

Could you let us know what in game aspect, as a group, you are most proud of accomplishing? ex: hard thing to program, the way a dinosaur moves etc.
I’m not sure about one single aspect. We’re all really happy with how the whole game is shaping up. The whole thing has really started coming together over the last few months, as you can see in our Kickstarter video. I personally am just really happy to see all the hard work we’ve put in start paying off.

Have you ever been tempted to sneak anything non-scientific into the game? What would this have been? For example, the KT event (That is the asteroid impact that triggered the extinction of non avian dinosaurs) goal which the Kickstarter is likely to unlock. Aliens vs dinosaurs etc.?
No, absolutely not. We have been tempted to sneak developer names into the scale patters of the animal models though.

With the success of your Kickstarter campaign, do you foresee sequels to Saurian? Obviously there are a number ofancient ecosystems that are fascinating – what would you dream as being the next stop off?
We are wholeheartedly focused on doing Hell Creek right now. However, if we reach our 300k stretch goal we will be adding the Two Medicine formation, an earlier Cretaceous locality. The reason we picked this one is because it is not different enough to require a complete overhaul of the game, all the major archetypes (tyrannosaurid, ceratopsid, hadrosaurid, etc.) from Hell Creek are there but it offers a different environmental setting. The Two Medicine is an upland environment, closely associated with high volcanic activity and frequent droughts, which should give a very different experience should we hit that stretch goal.

And for those of our readers who have not before heard of Saurian, there is another team member who I very much wished to speak to as he is the team member with the most unique viewpoint, as the only dinosaur in the group. The emu Gerry.

To the dinosaur in the group. Are there any plans long term for dinosaurs to retake the planet?
Gerry:  *stares* Chirp.

Now, if I have you interested, Saurian’s Kickstarter campaign is still currently going on, with about two weeks left! It would be a very worthwhile investment to donate to Saurian. The pledge rewards are all fantastic, and I would personally really love to see the game make it to consoles which is one of the stretch goals listed.

The Kickstarter has been very successful, but lets keep it going!

So there you are, a fantastic independent game on the horizon, and it looks for all the world like it will be a huge success. Will you be in line to play Saurian when it comes out? Have you already donated to the Kickstarter? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you are most excited about regarding this game!

Saurian: A New Breed of Dinosaur Game

Japan’s Newest Godzilla Movie Now has a Trailer

And it’s EPIC.

The trailer itself may not fit the normal format that most Western audiences are used to, but most Godzilla trailers follow a format of sorts and this one fits nicely in with the others. Usually, in these trailers it is announced rather unceremoniously by Godzilla’s trademark roar what you are about to watch, or by his theme music. In this case, we got the roar.

The trailer opens with a few scenes of the monster and what I think we are really being given here is the scale and the mood that the film is trying to set. The music that is paired with the trailer is haunting, and reminiscent of a chorus that was sung in the original Godzilla movie when the damage he caused is revealed the day following his landfall.

The trailer only has one speaking line, and that belongs to the star of the show. It is likely that Toho is keeping a tight lid on the plot of this film as to date only two of the 31 Godzilla films have had only one kaiju appear in them.  From what can be gathered though, Godzilla is the only kaiju in the film and it will be centered around the reaction of his existence.

The trailer also does a good job of showing off the new design which is very reminiscent of the original. I have stated before that this design is meant to reflect what the original creators were going for when the first film went out: a mutated creature, that has, and is likely still suffering the effects of radiation.

The other great thing here that I am seeing is a reasonable amount of practical effects. Godzilla and other kaiju movies can catch a little flack from time to time regarding the use of practical effects (namely miniatures and a man in a suit) but this trailer shows that Toho has gone through great lengths to marry the effects being used in the movie as CGI is present as well. This is probably best demonstrated in the opening scene which shows Godzilla’s tail passing over homes. This is refreshing in an age where CGI is used for most creature effects and brings a sense of “realness” to a film with an otherwise fantastic premise.

Big, bad, and back.

Big, bad, and back.

It has been 12 years since Toho made a film with arguably their biggest star (pun intended there), but if anything, this trailer shows that they still know how to get people buzzing about Godzilla, a character more than 60 years old. It has been 32 years since he last had a solo film. I for one am excited to see the original studio behind the helm again.

Shin Godzilla opens in Japanese theaters July 29th.

So what did you think of the trailer? What do you think of Godzilla’s new look? Sound off in the comments below!

 

Japan’s Newest Godzilla Movie Now has a Trailer

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

I don’t feel like I read enough science fiction anymore, and it bothers me. Not all of us have the spark to want to read, and many of us had our enjoyment for the written word driven out by the mandatory reading our primary or secondary schools forced on us. That said, science fiction, in my opinion, is strongest and most fulfilling when coming from the written word.

If you go to a science fiction convention, how many characters or cosplayers are literary characters? Okay, I love comics, don’t get me wrong, but I am excluding graphic novels. I imagine you could be having trouble trying to think of someone.  This is what I am talking about when I say I know I am not reading enough, because I am just watching, or looking. Science fiction at the moment, at least to me (and disintegrate me if you think I am wrong here), seems to be focused on watching and passive participation, at least when it comes to the media we all enjoy.

Reading a book is my idea of the purest way to experience the genre. The wonderful thing about sci-fi is that it requires imagination. Sure, some of it could happen – some of it has come to pass, but at the end of the day the genre that we all know and love is based upon letting go of a little bit and embracing imaginative storytelling.  Where is the imagination in watching a science fiction movie? Sure, we can appreciate another person’s imagination, but the image, the sounds, the emotion…..we aren’t creating that with our own minds. It is just there, projected. Graphic novels are a little better, but still, the art, the expression, they are there. This is why having the right artist for the graphic novel is so important, because you are presenting in essence a book, but you are substituting art and another person’s imagination in place of the readers’.

Good sci-fi also has to have one thing to anchor it. Strong character development and believable characters. I would read a book about  pixies that ride cyborg rainbow farting unicorns, but without those pixies having motivation, personality, a good story arc, it just becomes crap – not something that stirs the imagination. I mean, maybe the cyborg unicorns rebel and then pixie land becomes a blood and glitter soaked apocalyptic wasteland. There is something of a struggle for a protagonist to work on.

So where is this all going in relation to my title. A while back I decided I was tired of watching movies and reading tie in books. Or reading books that are an extension of a toy or video game. I wanted to get back to the root of things. That is when I discovered Burroughs. Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Burroughs wrote several books and if you have not in some way come across one of them, you have been living under a rock. Any of you that saw Batman V Superman have.  And I bet I am about to blow your mind – his works inspired Superman, and that trailer for the Legend of Tarzan….guess who wrote Tarzan? He also wrote The Land That Time Forgot as well. If this hasn’t piqued your interest or sent you to Wikipedia already then keep reading.

I love adventure stories, especially ones in a science fiction setting and even more so if they throw in a dash of romance. Ok, maybe not a dash of romance, a lot of romance. E.R.B. essentially wrote romantic novels for boys and men and wrapped them in stirring adventure.

While it could be argued that Tarzan of the Apes could be his most well known character, I will argue that The Princess of Mars has had the biggest impact on the genre of science fiction. So what is this book about, and why is it so important in science fiction?

Well for starters, there is a princess of Mars, but she is not the protagonist, although she is an interesting character in the book. The main character is actually a man from Earth named John Carter. Now if you know your sci-fi, you will know a few years ago that Disney had a financially disappointing outing trying to make this book into a live action film, basing its name on that of the main character. Love the film or hate it, it shouldn’t influence a decision to read the book.Princess_of_Mars_original cover

 

In the book, John Carter is a man looking to put his past behind him. He was on the losing side of the Civil War in the US and had gone out West to seek his fortune and a fresh start. Along the way he is transmitted to Mars by alien technology and has to make the most of the situation. Luckily for John, having just survived a war he can hold his own among the war-band tribes of Mars. The fun thing is though, since he is from Earth, which has a higher gravity, John is tougher than his new found companions in many respects. This is where the inspiration for Superman comes from, and one of the most direct connections between the two characters is their ability to jump great distances. Fun fact for those of you who are not Superman fans, Superman originally couldn’t fly. He could only jump long distances. He was also an alien stranger that came to a new planet.  But I digress. john carterr

To be frank, Princess of Mars really held my attention, and one of the reasons it did so was because of the princess herself. This woman is not helpless, and is a warrior scholar in her own right. The romance between her and John is great, as it is a nice slow burn, and it is done tastefully, she doesn’t just fall into his arms. If you have seen the film John Carter that Disney made, you may notice that the Princess Dejah Thoris doesn’t really follow the typical Disney Princess formula.

Then there is the action. Pulp fiction has some of the best action, and Burroughs arguably did the best job of describing and choreographing action sequences. He did just enough to describe the fights while leaving a bit open to the imagination. The perfect mix of knowing what was happening but not knowing who would come out on top.

If you get the chance, A Princess of Mars is actually in the public domain, so you can either pay to read it, or in some cases find a free copy online. Gotta love that!

So now that I have touched on A Princess of Mars, it is time to head back to Earth to a meet a rather famous literary character. Tarzan of the Apes.

tarzan original cover

Tarzan is the character that made Burroughs famous, and he milked the character to death. Even today, most people know who Tarzan is before they reach the age of 8 years old. The character is iconic, as is his partner Jane. Admit it, the famous line “Me Tarzan, You Jane” came into your mind as you were reading that. Surprise….that’s not how it actually goes in the book, and Tarzan, he’s pretty smart.

Tarzan of the Apes is such a famous story, most people think that they know it and never give the book a chance. Huge mistake. Massive.

To tell a personal secret, I am a huge romantic. If there isn’t a good love story to attach to the main character, I can lose patience. Tarzan pays off. Probably 3/4 of the story is jungle man growing up in the jungle and becoming lord of the apes. The last quarter of the novel is probably one of the more passionate love stories I have read, but it has one of those endings that just leaves you screaming for the next book. I won’t spoil it for you, but you really need to read the book because to my knowledge no movie, comic etc has actually followed the original plot because it just has THAT ENDING.

If you decide to read Tarzan, do yourself a favor and buy the sequel when you buy the first. You’ll understand once you have read it.

tarzan vs kerchak by mandy kart

So those are two of Burroughs’ better known and influential works, but I am going to throw in a third and personal favorite: The Land That Time Forgot. This book has flippn’ everything. World War 1, German submarines, dinosaurs, fantastic islands…it’s epic – and naturally, there is a romance as well.

I really do not want to describe what is in this book, because it takes so many unexpected turns. Obviously, the characters end up in a land that time forgot, but how they get there is half the fun. When they get there…that is great, and the island has a secret that isn’t just dinosaurs, it goes deeper than that. The good Mr. Burroughs essentially took what Mr. Doyle (The Lost World) had done and gave it action, romance and mystery rather than just make up a story about an expedition that had some hard times.

Edgar Rice Burroughs - Sea Monster

If you have read this far, hopefully I have stirred some interest in some books from a bygone era of science fiction. From a time before super heroes or special gadgets. Back when the stories were utterly fantastic and the characters were deeply developed, so much so that you feel like you know them, that you are them. I believe that by reading true classics that a deeper appreciation of what good science fiction and adventure is, and by doing this we can begin to hold the genre to the standard that it set all of those years ago. It also opens up the door to other incredible works like Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Asimov’s Foundation trilogy – there are so many great stories out there.

So how about you, have you read any of Burroughs’ books? Is there a work of science fiction that you have read that inspired you and developed your love for the genre? Let us know in the comments below!

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

Godzilla Resurgence And Why It Will Melt Your Face

Guess what folks….there is going to be another Godzilla movie, and it is not the one you are thinking about. Toho Co. Ltd,  the company that created the character originally in 1954 is releasing a new Godzilla movie this summer and they are pulling no punches.

Following the worldwide success of the Hollywood 2014 remake, Toho saw an avenue to capitalize on the character’s newfound popularity. Make another movie.

Between the latest 2014 movie and the Hollywood sequel Gareth Edwards is directing for a June 2018 release, Toho will be releasing Shin Gojira in Japan this summer. But why would anyone want to watch yet another Godzilla movie, let alone another Japanese one? After time travel you think the bottom of the idea bin would have been scraped clean.

The answer is well yeah, the idea bin is pretty empty but a new take on some old material goes a long way. Shin Gojira (which is Godzilla Resurgence to us English speakers) is not going to be like any Godzilla movie that has come before it bar one: the original, Gojira.

Every single Godzilla movie that Toho has produced up until now has had one thing in common, it is either a sequel or in a line of sequels related to the original film.  What gets me excited is this latest film is a remake of the original, being done by the original studio. For those of you who don’t know or have not seen the original Gojira, it’s dark. Like a mother telling her two small children in a burning alley that they are all going to die dark. Poisoned water dark. Flesh melting off bones dark. Darker than Batman’s cape dark – especially considering the time which was 1954.

So what we essentially going to be expecting, the rest of the Godzilla fans and I, is a very grim movie relative to the Hollywood remake, and quite frankly, any other Godzilla movie to date.

In addition to the general aura of darkness that comes from restarting the series, Toho has sprinkled a few hints to the media at large as to what to expect. Firstly, they are not being shy with their Godzilla. So far he is the biggest yet, just a hair larger than the Hollywood version as if to say to Legendary, “We will not be outdone.” The other thing is the way he looks – and if I could describe him in two words: NOT FRIENDLY.

Matt Frank - Godzilla

Matt Frank’s Godzilla

A special thanks to artist and avid kaiju fan Matt Frank for allowing us to show his rendition of the newest incarnation of Godzilla! Check out his website for more of his amazing work.

Godzilla’s origins haven’t really changed much throughout his career, and with the exception of the Hollywood remake, he is generally considered a mutation. This time around someone at Toho got tired of him looking so nice. Godzilla is supposed to be a generally cranky sea monster who had an atomic weapon dropped his head, and then decided he wasn’t going to stand for that kind of mischief any more. Our new Godzilla looks like a bomb was dropped on him. It looks like it hurt, and it looks like he is not enjoying the recovery. This actually hearkens back to the original design of the character, right down to the beady white eyes and the undersized, almost skeletal hands. The original design of Godzilla’s skin is supposed to look like keloid scarring, and in this film’s incarnation you can tell that has been emphasized. So, from a perspective of making Godzilla look honest to his origin, this film is pretty on point.

The only thing that could possibly detract from the film, or at least one meant to be this serious (or this important to the studio) is the person in the director’s chair. Luckily enough, this film is getting not one, but two directors, and they are both very intriguing choices. The first of the directors, and the one who wrote the script is Hideaki Anno who is known from the anime hit Neon Genesis Evangelion (think anime Pacific Rim). His style is regarded as being postmodern and what he excels at is fleshing out characters, something that monster movies generally don’t do well, but something that the original Gojira is known for. The co-director Shinji Higuchi is a veteran of the kaiju (Japanese giant monster) genre having worked on the Gamera (if Godzilla was a turtle) films of the 1990’s which were all very well received.

So, in essence, we have the makings of a character driven, gritty, dark Godzilla that should be a good reboot of the original classic film. All of this accounted for, when Godzilla Resurgence rises out of the Pacific for an American audience this fan will be among those at the front of the running crowd to see it.

Shin Gojira will be released July 29th, 2016 in Japan. Godzilla Resurgence which is the English version of the film has yet to have its release date announced.

Shin Gojira poster

Are you excited for the latest incarnation of Godzilla? Are you looking forward to a new Japanese version? Comment below!

Godzilla Resurgence And Why It Will Melt Your Face

Age of Reptiles – Review

With all of the fanfare that DC and Marvel are getting these days, sometimes it worthwhile to take a step back and appreciate all the variety that there is to be enjoyed. I admit it, I love a good yarn about Supes, Bats, Deadpool and all of the rest of the “A-listers” but when we get right down to it, I am a creature feature guy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla, Devil Dinosaur…those are my favorites. So enter Age of Reptiles by Ricardo Degalo and published by Dark Horse.Age of Reptiles Vol. 1

This series, which Degalo has painstakingly fleshed out, is an anthology of stories about life in the Mesozoic Era (that’s the time period affectionately known as the “Age of Reptiles/Age of the Dinosaurs” for those who could have spent a little more time paying attention in middle school). At the time of writing this, there are currently four stories out, and each one has been something of an indie comics event.

So what makes these stories worth reading? Well, for one, the art. It is the main reason that you crack one of these open after seeing the cover. Each panel is loaded with detail and you could probably spend an hour looking over each issue. Each page is drawn and colored in fantastic detail, and at the times they have been released, they have reflected the most accurate scientific data on dinosaurs and the world that they lived in.  The other reason that make peak your interest is there is no text.

That’s right, there is no text in these comics. This is not like Homeward Bound, where you can hear the animals’ thoughts. Degalo doesn’t set the stage like that. Dinosaurs obviously did not speak, or think using words, so all of the story, all of the action and personality comes from the reader’s own imagination. Granted, you are lead through a story (more on that in a bit) and this is a testament to what is once again incredible art, but also what could be considered an incredible narration.  This has not gone unnoticed, with the series winning Eisner awards for its creativity. To give an idea of how special this is, the second story in the series was nominated and stood toe to toe with DC’s Kingdom Come in the “Best Limited Series” category. It didn’t win that one, but Degalo did, however, win the award for “ Talent Deserving Wider Recognition”.

Age of Reptiles

 

So what kind of stories can one expect from this collection? Well, going down the line chronologically, the series started with “Tribal Warfare”. In this story, which is a bit more stylized than what came after it, two feuding groups are fighting over a hunting territory. The stars of this story? None other than tyrannosaurs and deinonychus (think Jurassic Park raptors). The first romp is a really fun foray into a project that clearly is a work of passion. The two families are constantly at odds, and this makes for some great action sequences as well as a few moments of dark humor as well.

The second story, called “The Hunt”, revolves around a classic revenge story. For those familiar with their dinosaur names, an allosaur is orphaned after a group of ceratosaurs kill its mother. Luckily for us, the protagonist is no Little Foot, and grows into a monster. What makes this story fun is that our hero dinosaur is chased through his life by a pack of color-changing, horned devil dinosaurs. When he finally comes of age, his tormentors realize that they may have bitten off more than they could chew.

In the third narrative, dubbed “The Journey”, we take a step back from a predatory existence and follow a heard of herbivorous dinosaurs as they travel through the ancient world. I will admit, of the series, this one lags the most – but that is probably because there is less action. This entry could, however, be a bit of a relief from the other entries which are much faster paced. What I will say, however, is that it has arguably the best finale in the series staged between creatures of the land and sea.

The latest story in the series, which has actually just wrapped up is Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians”. In this story Degalo has created a narrative that rivals that of his second in terms of narrative and stakes. Where as in “The Hunt” we followed a predator growing up into a monster, in Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians” we see a fully grown spinosaur acting out on his own. The story, which in my mind reads like Samurai protagonist in a Western plot is fantastic and the art, which in this issue features a lot more interaction around water, is superb.

Age of Reptiles - Ancient Egyptian

At this time, all four collected works are available in a great softcover anthology from Dark Horse that also features a load of extra art. And you can probably request the single issues as well since the run just finished up. Both the first and second stories in the series have had stand-alone softcover treatments, and these are getting scarce.

So there you have it, Age of Reptiles is a great series with a long track record of success. For someone who wants something a little different, or if you are like me, looking for that hidden gem of a creature narrative that does not involve ridiculous plots with monsters chasing people it could very well just what the doctor ordered.

Have you read any  of Ricardo Degalo’s Age of Reptiles series? Comment below with your thoughts!

Age of Reptiles – Review