Monday, May 19, 2014

The Evolution of Kaijus

I was reading i09 the previous week, and one of the articles in that sci-fi blog is about the weirdest giant monsters ever made on film. The write-up has a hilarious premise. It features a giant samurai statue becoming animated to protect peasants and their villages. There is also a Kaiju that looks so bizarre, people of the present age would be hard-pressed to explain how their creators envisioned such monsters. 

Kaijus are, when translated in Japanese, means strange creatures. But when taken literally, the word refers to giant monsters who trash cities and create mayhem that awes viewers. The first of these Kaijus is Godzilla (1954), which is screened in theaters as a Hollywood reboot today. To the Japanese, not only is the massive radioactive dinosaur regarded as a pillar of their pop culture, they can very well say Gojira is their contribution to the world.

Now going back to these vintage Kaijus, one that caught my fancy was a massive winged creature. Dubbed as "The Giant Claw," the avian is described as "larger than battleships" and "soars faster than jet planes." The voice over even claims that "bombs that destroy cities, barely scratch the bird's skin." The voice over added that "scientists are increasingly becoming helpless in finding ways to stop this menace."

A kid (or geek) from the late 50's will find the movie trailer a work of genius. It was a technological marvel with clunky cameras filming the monstrosity chasing B-52s in mid-air. But to those living in the modern age, the bird looks like a disfigured turkey - partially cooked and with strings attached to its bones - so it can fly across the set. The buildings and set pieces have closer similarities with toys. And the actors spoke their lines like they read it from the script. No wonder, The Giant Claw made it to the list.

But then, the creature and the people behind the film lived in a different time. They have no access to special effects wizardry such as green screen and computer animation. Perhaps, even serious film makers of their generation regard their work as mere child's play, and thus, received no support.

Armed only with visions and boldness to render reality they perceived the way science fiction does, they went on filming. The final product may have turned into a B-list film, but at least it made history.

We have come a long way. We have learned a lot from the pioneering efforts of the first Kaiju creators. And if there's a reason why Godzilla - and Pacific Rim enjoy box office earnings today, it is because of films like these we draw our inspiration to pursue perfection.

For that they have our gratitude.

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