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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Filmland - 8 Kaiju That Should Join the MonsterVerse

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We’re now a couple weeks out from Kong: Skull Island, the 2nd installment of Legendary’s proposed “Monster-Universe” of films.  For those not in the know, this is a planned shared universe of giant monsters movies that’s been in the works for a while now.  The concept originated with Legendary’s desire to reboot Godzilla for the modern blockbuster age when they came across the script for Pacific Rim.  They like some of the concepts but ultimately ended up deciding to make a Marvel-style shared universe instead.  The first installment in this was 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Garreth Edwards, which wasn’t great. 

However, Kong: Skull Island looks fresh and Godzilla: King of Monsters is showing a lot of promise, bringing in Michael Dougherty, director of Krampus and Trick r Treat, as a new director along with three classic monsters in Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah.  All of this is leading up to an eventual King Kong vs. Godzilla remake, though there’s plenty of room for franchise expansion beyond that.  That subject of franchise development is what I’m here to talk about today with 8 classic Toho Kaiju who should appear next in the giant monster-verse. 

I’m honestly kind of surprised Anguirus has yet to make his way into any planning elements of the monster-verse.  He’s easily one of Toho’s oldest creatures, appearing as the kaiju antagonist in Godzilla Raids Again and remaining a series constant after that.  

He’s a kind of monstrous armadillo with the power to roll into a spiky ball and just annihilates everything in his path.  He may not be up there with Rodan and Mothra, both of whom got their own solo films, but he’s an important part of the mythos none the less and would be really useful for a supporting role. 

For instance, King Kong has always lacked a villain roster of his own, like Godzilla’s, so maybe throwing Anguirus into a Kong movie would be a good way to make this whole shared universe angle worth its while.  Alternatively, he’s a rock solid addition to any gang of monsters as he usually serves as Godzilla’s sidekick in a lot of these movies, as opposed to the more ambiguous Rodan or Mothra’s dedication to the Earth. 

I can only assume the reason Mecha-Godzilla hasn’t entered the monster-verse in some capacity is that Legendary doesn’t want to compete with themselves over Pacific Rim.  Though kind of an inconsistent part of the original mythos, Mecha-Godzilla is absolutely the most compelling and visually iconic additional monster in Toho’s stable outside the big three.  

He’s basically a big robot version of Godzilla created for various different machinations.  In his first appearance, he was designed to frame Godzilla by some aliens, which is admittedly a weak origin. 

Later on, they took the more sensible route of having Mecha-Godzilla developed as a human countermeasure against the Big G.  Even accepting that this new Godzilla universe features Godzilla as a definitive hero character, working alongside the military, I still think there’s room for Mecha-Godzilla in this mix.  

Actually, if Legendary really wanted to be clever about this, they’d use the alternate dimension stuff from Pacific Rim for a crossover reality in which the Jaeger program builds the Mecha-Godzilla. 

Gigan is such a weird part of the Godzilla mythos I’m kind of surprised he’s become as popular as he has.  Along with Ghidorah, he’s one of the few monsters that’s counted as a real nemesis for Godzilla, but he’s barely appeared in the films.  

He had two appearances in a pair of the not terribly beloved ‘70s Godzilla movies and showed up in the massive Final Wars movie.  Most of his actual appearances come from a Toho television series Zone Fighter, where Godzilla and a few other monsters would make sporadic guest spots. 

Still, it must be said that there is something oddly compelling about Gigan’s strange appearance.  He’s one of the only Kaiju in the roster that seems to be a Cyborg as his chest features a mechanical buzz saw of some kind.  It’s never been adequately explained why this is or what species installed a giant saw and hook hands on this random monster, but people seem to love him.  

He event got a sleek, stripped-down redesign that gave him twin chainsaw hands, though his wings have never functioned.  If this whole thing makes it to a Godzilla 3, Gigan is probably a good choice for a villain to trot out. 

Speaking of good villains, Destoroyah would be an amazing bad guy to wheel out somewhere down the line.  Destoroyah was the villain in the final film of the slick ‘80s hi-fi series, entitled Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.  Destoroyah is a weird concept of a monster in that it’s actually a kind of conglomerate species.  

Basically, the film starts with a horde of smaller Destoroyahs emerging from the ocean, explaining that they’re mutated versions of marine microbes transformed by WMD tests under the sea.  The creatures battle Godzilla and the army, all the time growing and evolving till eventually, they bind together into the massive and imposing form of Destoroyah.

So, Destoroyah’s a cool-ish monster with ties to Godzilla’s first film as it’s another beast created through the ravages of the atomic age, but that’s not all.  See, because Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was the end of an entire series of films and celebrating Godzilla’s 40th anniversary they decided to kill off Godzilla in this movie.  

That’s right; Destoroyah is basically the Doomsday of the Godzilla universe- the one being who has actually killed Godzilla.  That’s a pretty big deal, and even though the Godzilla series doesn’t have the same level of inter-continuity and mythos to make Destoroyah more of a threat, it’s a weighty bit of baggage that could elevate the beast as a villain for future films. 

Hedorah is actually my favorite Kaiju from the Toho franchise, but aside from my bias, I think there really is a place for him in the monster-verse, possibly as a standalone creature.  Sometimes known as the smog monster, Hedorah is a giant oozing slop of living pollution.  He was the product of ‘70s Godzilla; hence the pollution angle as environmental awareness like that was big in the ‘70s.  

However, nowadays it would fit perfectly as a monster origin story tying Hedorah to the current climate change crisis.  I mean, every day we’re set upon by new floods and droughts and tornadoes brought about by man-made climate change so having an actual giant monster stand in for that would be radical. 

It’d also help set Hedorah apart from the other creatures if it were a monster of the modern age rather than a prehistoric beast awakened.  I said Hedorah could manage a stand-alone film and I stand by that, mainly because it’s such a unique monster: it can fly, spew poisonous acidic gas, and there’s a really creepy nature to it.  

It’s one of the few Kaiju who can work as a real horror monster rather than just a dangerous beast to be fled and destroy cities.  If Legendary wants to keep making these movies beyond Kong and Godzilla, it’s going to depend on embracing unique Kaiju genres and going for a more horror-inflected take on the giant monster would be a good first step. 

Aside from Mothra, Jet Jaguar is pretty much the only heroic Kaiju in the entire franchise.  Sure, Godzilla himself will act in humanity’s interest sometimes and has been a full on hero briefly in the ‘70s, but for the most part, he’s a deadly force of nature that occasionally manages to do some good.  

Jet Jaguar is a weird kind of robot superhero who first appeared in Godzilla vs. Megalon.  He was actually thought up by an elementary school student as part of a contest, which, yeah, admittedly shows through a bit in his design.  This was meant originally to cash-in on the craze for robot heroes in Japan like Ultra Man and Spectre Man. 

Jet Jaguar was intended to hold down the film alone, but Godzilla was added at the last minute to try and pump up the marquis value.  The entire thing is thoroughly bizarre, as most of the ‘70s Godzilla films are, including a moment where Godzilla slides around on his tale and also plays charades with Jet Jaguar.  

Look, I’m not going to pretend Jet Jaguar was some pinnacle of character creation but he’s neat and he’s fun and he’s a solid good guy to have on hand, so Godzilla doesn’t always need to be around, especially if you need a heroic Kaiju to play off a solo villain movie like Gigan or Ghidorah. 

Time for a little history lesson- after the success of the original King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong got his own TV show in Japan.  It was an animated series by Toei entitled The King Kong Show.  

The show was a more or less standard giant monster animated series with Kong fighting alongside the heroic humans against the evil humans and so forth.  The series' main antagonist was actually named Dr. Who, though he has no connection to the British Sci-fi series of the same name. 

However, because Dr. Who is a puny human and Kong is a giant ape the series needed something for Kong to fight week to week that was tied directly to the doctor.  Enter Mechani-Kong, a giant robotic King Kong created by Dr. Who and featured in live action in the series’ spin-off movie King Kong Escapes.  

If Kong: Skull Island ends up the big hit Legendary are hoping it will be, I could easily see Mechani-Kong being introduced for the sequel in some capacity, especially if they wanted to build up a robots vs. monsters storyline for their next big event. 

You better believe Frankenstein was part of the Toho monster cycle.  Originally Frankenstein was intended to fight Godzilla, but that plan got scrapped when it was decided King Kong made more sense as an antagonist.  However, Toho kept the monster concept around for his own movie- Frankenstein Conquerors the World.  

Here it was established the heart of the Frankenstein monster was taken to Japan and then hit by one of the nukes dropped at the end of WW2.  This mutates the heart to form a giant super monster- Frankenstein.  There’s even a persistent rumor that German dubbed versions of the Toho films linked ALL of their Kaiju back to Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment. 

I’m not sure where Frankenstein falls in terms of rights but it would be pretty great to see Legendary and the monster-verse bring him to the biggest screen.  This goes double given that Universal is still pushing ahead with their own ill-advised monster-verse and it’d be pretty amazing to see them get scooped on Frankenstein by a giant monster movie shared universe. 

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