Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Godzilla X The Kaiju Killer: Worth The Wait?

Part 1 of 6 of the film Godzilla X The Kaiju Killer

Okay, so we have this long awaited Godzilla fan-film with a kinda stupid title. I'd had no exposure to this before I saw the trailer. And honestly I was a little taken aback.

The Trailer

I had a few problems with this movie going in. I thought the idea would be difficult for me to relate to, but I decided to give it a chance. I've been a Godzilla fan practically since birth, as well as an experienced filmmaker myself. I've worked on several independent productions and small scale films. With this in mind, if the filmmaker is reading this, he needs to read this whole article. This is coming from a g-fan who knows filmmaking.

A little background: Apparently this guy has been working on this for for about five years. And for a one-man-show, I have to say it's relatively well done. Especially on a first attempt. However, he made a lot of newbie mistakes.

I'll go through the film by the different areas of filmmaking.

1. Writing: This was by far the worst part of the film. After giving the plot a chance, I got tired and confused very quickly. Each time I finished a 'part' of the film, I buried my head in my hands and bitched about how I had no clue what was happening. The characters are impossible to identify with, and it seemed like the beginning of a shitty anime.

As a writing tip, saving the entire plot for the end of the film doesn't make any sense. When dealing with characters and civilizations that no one is familiar with previous to seeing the film, you have to do more explaining than shooting us into the plot. It's fine for an opening sequence, but after a few minutes we need to know more than nothing about these characters. When watching it, I had no clue who any of these character were, what was driving them, what inspired them... everyone was very flat.

We don't know the origin of the Kaiju Killer, we don't even know what Godzilla's origin is (or why he's even there). I've seen some of the explanations of the film and none of them can be inferred from the film itself. This is, to say the least, a problem.

Names: Many of the names in this were... alien. I understand that it was kind of the point. But coupled with a confusing plotline and not explaining anything, it makes the film that much more confusing when someone says a name and I have no clue who they're talking about.

This problem is relatively common in movies with intricate plot lines and I've heard that this was an issue with Michael Mann in Public Enemies. It's very common in films that are one man shows. But you have to realize that even though you have it all straight, the audience doesn't have anything straight at the beginning of the film. It's your job as a storyteller to help them get to where you are, not expect them to already know.

This script should have been heavily workshopped with other writers before being locked into production. Even if the rest of the film is amazing, a bad script can ruin a production. I've seen it happen time and time again in movies I've seen and productions I've worked on myself. This film is not alone in that regard.

2. Sound Design: Great sound design. Sound effects were cool, and the dialogue was captured well. Props to the sound team. And Godzilla's roar was badass. The problem with the sound was the dialogue was difficult to understand. And it seemed like everyone was growling the whole time. Everyone was angry all the time regardless of their emotions.

Disturbed. Really? Disturbed wouldn't have approved of their music being used in a film like this. Neither would Three Days Grace. Lay off the heavy metal and stick with Akira Ifukube. The modifications on Akira Ifukube's music was pretty awesome. But, I got tired of Disturbed halfway through the movie because the filmmaker(s?) spammed the same song throughout most of the film.

3. Art Direction, Special Effects, and Production Design: Again, well done. The Godzilla suit especially looked pretty awesome, though a little bulky. The suits for the other characters looked pretty neat as well. But the problem with the other characters is that besides the dude that died really early (whoever that was) everyone looked too similar.

Though there were some drawbacks. A few of the characters looked very cardboard-y (the early dead dude) and The Kaiju Killer's monster suit looked very Bandai (and missing a horn? I've heard there's an explanation for that, but it wasn't in the film). It was also very floppy. The reason why I give such a harsh criticism here is because he had five years to make the film. This is not five years of work, this is considerably less.

Most of the time with TKK it seemed like there wasn't even anyone in the suit. It was just being thrown at the Godzilla suit. And there was also a headbutt sequence that lasted forever.


Okay I'm done headbutting you... oh wait! I need to headbutt you again and again and again.

In one shot.

The fight scenes had a lot of the same issues that the Heisei movies had. The suits were relatively poorly constructed and very bulky, so there wasn't much they could do other than ram into each other. And when they weren't ramming into each other, they were flopping around on the ground as if they were bandai figures with no life whatsoever.

He could have used stop-motion, he could have made better models, but he didn't. The only real excuse for this mistake is laziness. He took five years and what resulted was floppy bandai figures rolling in dust that were filmed in a way that made things at least a little interesting.

Beyond the monsters, the aliens (and human?) in the movie looked like heavy metal rejects that had an illegitmate child with the new Planet of the Apes. I've seen this style used before the result is usually unappealing. Mostly it's used in crappy science fiction, and it tends to stay there. If this filmmaker wants to go anywhere with his production design (which is one of his better cards), he needs to break from this style.

4. Cinematography: Not many problems with this. Nothing was overexposed, most of the time we knew what we were looking at. But there were some issues during the fight scenes where I just wanted a wide shot to see what the hell was going on. And what was with the yellow look that the whole thing had? It seemed over saturated. When water is orange, you need to white-balance the camera.

That being said, there's promise in the cinematography here. Composition is good and lighting is very well done for an independent production, even though there's limited creativity in the shots. I would be interested in knowing what kind of camera was used, and how the lighting was rigged.

5. Editing: This film had a lot of newbie mistakes in the editing. Jump cuts everywhere. There's a scene when Godzilla comes out of the water and is walking around. And someone forgot to film inserts. The only reason for an editor to put this sequence together the way it was put together is if he didn't have much film to work with. Plus there were multiple shots that broke the 30 degree rule. So some of the cuts felt jarring. And what was with that smog shit everywhere? I get the purpose, but it was annoying on screen. It needed work.

All in all, this was a good attempt from a somewhat promising filmmaker. There's hope here, but overall this is not good work. The script ruined the production. I'm interested in seeing more from this guy, given that this was a first attempt. But this film is far from a masterpiece.

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