Sunday, December 21, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This tie-in to the recently-released tactical board game was a bit of a bugger to find. I knew about the comic back in July, but it never made an appearance in any of the local comic stores. Having tracked down the second issue, I think I might know why: it's a bit of a forgettable read.
The comic is clearly meant to fill in the details of the game's setting and the various factions jockeying for power within it. There's a lot of info to digest here, which does explain why the book often comes off as a little talky. The central characters of the story consist of a team of humans who pilot a giant, anti-monster robot for a military organization called G.U.A.R.D. This would be fine if the characters themselves weren't so uninteresting and similar to each other, both in personality and general appearance (well, except for the female character, obviously).
While the art isn't horrible (although a far cry from the wonderful cover painting), it does lack a nice visual "flow" between panels; an aspect which becomes bothersome during the fight sequence that happens towards the end of the story (I found myself taken out of the narrative a couple of times because the action was a bit unclear in spots).
Unlike Dark Horse's Gigantic, my interest and curiosity has been pretty much laid to rest with this issue. Perhaps if I was an avid player of the Monsterpocalypse game, I might have been less critical but as far as casual readers are concerned, I really can't recommend this series.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Here's the next bit of Toho monster artwork from Japan's Space Magazine Uchusen, which had been released back in October. Unfortunately, I had to spend some time in Photoshop once again to hide the seams and tears that resulted from pulling the pages free of the magazine's binding. To the editors of Uchusen: Please, no more two-page spreads. I'm begging you.
Monday, November 24, 2008
If you happen to live around the Miami Beach area in Florida, you will have an opportunity to partake in a giant monster-themed art show which will be held at the Art Center of South Florida on December 3rd.
The gallery will feature various interpretations of the Japanese daikiaju genre by both Eastern and Western artists. Admission is apparently free. For those of us who can't make the show due to geographical inconvenience (in my case, it's about 1200 miles too far), you can check out its MySpace Page for a collection of the artworks that will be displayed (as well as info about the gallery itself):
Monsters vs Aliens.com, the tie-in website to Dreamworks' upcoming film has finally upgraded from a filler webpage to something a little more substantial. The character dossiers don't feature anything that hasn't already been previously revealed, but they're a fun read nonetheless.
Monday, November 17, 2008
As I had stated in the first part of this article, Son of Kong is one of those movies that had everything it needed to be a decent film but fell victim to a number of weak story elements that undermined the final, finished product. In this installment, I've compiled a list of what I think the culprits were as well as what could be done as a stronger alternative. Understandably, the key factor as to why a lot of the problems were there to begin with was directly the result of the movie's reduced budget and production time- I fully acknowledge that. In fact, most of my suggested changes are considerably more idealistic than pragmatic, but I'll simply trying to show how a few alterations to existing plot points might have made for a stronger film overall.
The Problem: the story occasionally hints at the theme of redemption and second chances, particularly with Carl Denham's character, but drifts between occasionally touching on the idea (Carl helping Little Kong escape from the tar pit) and then outright ignoring or contradicting it (Carl helps himself to the treasure of Skull Island so as to regain his social and financial status and, by doing so, destroys the island and everything on it. Despite this, Carl is not only allowed to survive, but profit from his actions).
A Possible Solution: I'm not advocating that every movie absolutely has to have some sort of overall theme, but it can add a nice extra level to things. Son of Kong already has the framework in place for the whole redemption motif, so committing to it more fully wouldn't take a lot of extra work. This can be easily achieved through two of the main characters:
-Carl needs to be the embodiment of this point. After all, he begins the film wallowing in the aftermath of his greedy and overconfident decision to bring Kong to New York where the creature then went berserk and was eventually killed. Now he gets a chance to make choices based on a different set of values from what he subscribed to the first time around and ones that lead to better outcomes for him in the end. He comes off as a more uniformly "noble" character.
-Nils Helstrom, the villain of the movie, can act as a contrast to Denham's change in heart. Whereas Carl is about making more thoughtful and virtuous choices this time around, Nils represents the opposite side of the coin- a greedy jerk who only thinks about his own goals. This can be further touched on in point 6 below.
2. Little Kong
The Problem: Little Kong is used as goofy comic relief in an otherwise serious film. He's not so much an animal acting out of instinct like his father, but rather an anthropomorphic simpleton capable of mimicking human expressions. Even his signature music cue in the movie is dopey.
A Possible Solution: Drop the comedic slant and treat him seriously. The Peter Jackson remake of King Kong did a pretty decent job of portraying Kong as a very intelligent animal capable of complex emotions without turning him into a cartoon character- just do the same kind of treatment here. Little Kong could even be aggressive towards Carl and Hilda when they first encounter him in the tar pit, but mellows out when they provide him the means to escape. His trust of humans is gradually strengthened throughout the film as they both continue to help out one another which leads to his sacrifice at the story's climax (which will carry more emotional weight than playing him as a buffoon).
3. Skull Island
The Problem: the infamous island doesn't seem to be as dangerous as it was in the first film.
A Possible Solution: Some expendable victims will clear that right up. One important aspect about Skull Island in the original King Kong was that the act of exploring it was a good way to get killed, as the majority of the search party in that movie ends up eaten or at the bottom of a ravine. In Son of Kong, the only person to become a casualty of the island is Hellstrom at the very end of the story. The addition of some cronies loyal to Hellstrom that accompany the crew only to become dinosaur fodder will reinforce the level of jeopardy.
The Problem: The romantic subplot between Carl and Hilda is a little flat.
A Possible Solution: This is rather simple- Carl just needs to eventually show some genuine affection towards her instead of cold indifference (having him constantly refer to Hilda simply as "kid" right up until the very end of the picture doesn't help things either). Carl can be the one who initiates the idea of being a couple in the final sequence of the film verses Hilda having to awkwardly suggest it.
5. The Fights
The Problem: All of the beasts that battle Little Kong just happen to conveniently fall within his size range.
A Possible Solution: Don't get me wrong- I actually like the cave bear/Little Kong brawl. However, it would be nice to see Little Kong having to deal with wildlife that he isn't quite big enough to fight. Perhaps a larger dinosaur (like a Triceratops) comes into the camp area and Little Kong has to drive it off by antagonizing/leading it away while staying out of its reach. This would also help to paint a fuller picture of how Little Kong's species survives on Skull Island until they mature enough to beat the crap out of anything that threatens them.
6. The Cursed Treasure
The Problem: It's not 100% clear that the treasure Carl takes from the temple is what causes the earthquake that sinks the island although it's somewhat inferred. Also, once again, Carl's selfish actions end up having big negative consequences for everyone around him.
A Possible Solution: This could be solved through the use of a plot device- namely, a specific treasure we'll call the "Heart of the Skull". When the Carl and company first return to Skull Island, they are confronted by the native tribe that worshipped Kong. The crew is warned to leave the vicinity (after all, thanks to Carl in the first movie, their 'god' was taken from them). When Carl inquires about the treasure of the island, the native chief becomes horrified and accuses Carl wanting to take their 'heart', an act that will destroy everything. The natives rise to attack the crew who escapes to the boat, confused about what was said but now confident that a treasure does exist. At the end of the film when the characters finally enter the temple, they spot a wealth of riches at the base of a large statue with a huge ruby set in its chest. Carl plans to take the gem but gives the decision a second thought, thinking back to the earlier exchange with the tribal leader. He decides to leave the gem alone out of respect and a clearer conscience and instead sticks with the minor treasure, which will still solve their financial woes. Helstrom, who thinks only of his own self-interests (see point 1), climbs up onto the statue and pulls out the ruby which instantly sets the island's cataclysm in motion. The 'heart' lives up to its namesake as being the very thing that keeps the island in existence. It also might be cool if Helstrom's insistence on keeping the ruby is what leads to his death- perhaps while trying to escape the collapse, he is slowed down by the unwieldy gem and becomes a prone target for some predatory dinosaur (thus paying the price for his greed and disrespect).
I only offer these suggestions as my own personal take on improving the film- if I were in charge of a remake, this is what I'd be adding to the recipe. And possibly evil, Nazi-controlled, genetically-altered dinosaurs. It couldn't hurt.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
This past week saw the release of Dark horse Comics' first issue of Gigantic, which can be best described as the love child of reality television and giant monsters. Thus far, I'd say that the comic is off to a nice start. We find out right off the bat that Earth and humanity is merely the 5000 year-old creation for an intergalactic television program that will be broadcasted across the universe.
Fast forward to modern day where a photographer named Chris (possibly the central human character of the series) witnesses a towering humanoid alien materialize out of thin air into the middle of downtown San Francisco. The creature is in a state of confused distress and suddenly finds itself pursued by equally large assailants as it destructively attempts to escape the city limits.
The comic sports some really nice artwork and designs. Some of the story elements are a little cryptic in spots but seeing that it is only the first issue, things will undoubtedly become clearer as the story moves forward. Normally when it comes to a limited series like this, I tend to wait until the entire run is put together into a graphic novel collection, but I did enjoy Gigantic enough that I think I'll continue to pick up the individual issues over the next few months.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
The second part of my Son of Kong article is turning out to be a lot longer that I had originally intended, so I thought I'd post some filler in the meantime. I was checking out the Giant Battle Monsters webpage- a random generator that uses your name to make a creature with three attributes that are numbered between one and ten (to determine its strength)- and decided to see what kind of amazing, formidable creation that would be spawned from my pen name.
I got this:
Sheesh. Keep in mind that my monster's lame stats are used to compete with the opponent monster of whatever name you put into the second field. Let us further investigate:
The absolute lowest value you can get. So, I guess my monster isn't so much about knocking down buildings; he's a tipping over cars-kinda beast. Small cars. Or bicycles.
My blob can outmaneuver rocks, trees or anything else that's immobile.
Ooo! My highest score yet! It's even more pathetic when you consider that my monster has two heads- meaning that if you spread out the intelligence value between them (and it has to be an uneven split, given that it's an odd number), you end up with one head that's stupid and a second head that's exceptionally stupid.
The only thing missing from that description is, "Regularly beaten up by other monsters for his lunch money."
Go here for the generator (hopefully you'll make out better than I did):
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Jason, a visitor to my blog, was wondering if I could identify a giant spider movie that he saw on television when he was younger. He writes:
I just came across your blog and I have been trying to find info on this movie that I saw on tv as a kid. This had to have been made in the 60's or early 70's.
The only parts I can remember are when a man and a woman entered a large room and on the ceiling were huge tarantula type spiders. they attacked, and as the man and woman tried to leave the room (through an exit with two heavy wood doors) a big spider leg wrapped around the door and pinned the man to it. The woman screamed and I turned the channel.
Later, there was an odd scene where there were a bunch of men having a conversation around a table in some kind of office. A giant spider walks down the hallway, looks into the room and then wanders away. The men either dont see it ( ?? ) or simply dont care and are ignoring it altogether. ( !! )
I wish I could remember more about this film but it freaked me out as a young kid so I kept on turning the channel.
The first movie that popped into my head as a potential candidate was the 1975's The Giant Spider Invasion, but it didn't feature the scenes mentioned or realistic special effects by any stretch. My second guess was an obscure made-for-TV film from 1977 called Curse of the Black Window, which was about a murderous woman who could transform into a giant tarantula during a full moon. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to jive with the clues either, as there is only one giant spider in the story. The only other possibility that I can think of is that the movie was not about giant spiders per se, but perhaps a film or television production about something else entirely that happened to have scenes with giant spiders in it. Needless to say, I'm officially stumped.
Once again, the clues are as follows:
1. The film is apparently from the 60's or 70's.
2. It's in color
3. Decent special effects
4. The giant spiders are numerous and of the tarantula variety.
5. One scene involves a man and woman who enter a large room with a ceiling covered in huge tarantulas. A gigantic spider leg wraps around the door to the room and pins the man to it.
6. In another scene, a giant spider peers into a room with a bunch of men sitting around a table and then walks away. Its presence seems to go unnoticed.
If anyone out there has a guess as to what this mystery movie might be, leave a message in the comments section, or write me at email@example.com and hopefully we might be able to figure out an answer.
Friday, October 17, 2008
If there's one thing I find more vexing than outright bad or disappointing movies, it's ones that are ALMOST good but fall just short enough to miss their mark. You know the kind I'm talking about- after watching them, you think to yourself, "that would have been great had the filmmakers had just changed a couple of little things."
For me, Son of Kong is one of those movies.
If you break the film down to a basic level, the plot is decently solid and features some interesting ideas. Taking place a month after the events in King Kong, Carl Denham is now the target of numerous lawsuits thanks to Kong's rampage in New York. He reunites with the captain of the "Venture" and the two escape the public eye by making a living, albeit unsuccessfully, shipping cargo in the Orient. They eventually run into Nils Helstrom, the man who had originally sold Denham the map to Skull Island and claims that a treasure still hidden there. Due to their financial woes, Denham and the captain agree to return to the island. While on route, they discover a female stowaway on the ship named Hilda, who had been part of traveling show until her father's sudden death (by Helstrom, unbeknownst to her).
Upon reaching Skull Island, Denham and Hilda encounter a juvenile, albino member of Kong's species trapped in a tar pit. After rescuing the creature, it returns the favor by acting as a protector against some of the area's resident wildlife. A temple complete with the aforementioned treasure is found, much to the surprise of Helstrom who had fabricated the story in the first place. Suddenly, an earthquake hits the island, causing it to violently collapse into the sea. The crew makes it back to their boat with the exception of Denham who, with the help of Little Kong, scrambles up the last remaining chunk of sinking landmass. As they reach the summit, the ape gets his foot wedged in a crevice and, in an effective little moment of pathos, sacrifices his life to hold Denham above the water long enough to be rescued by his friends before being pulled under the waves.
Granted, it's not as good as the original King Kong, but hardly the worst thing that a sequel could be (that distinction easily goes to King Kong Lives). So what exactly went wrong? A big part of the problem was the condensed production schedule. Keep in mind that Son of Kong was put together and released a mere eight months after the first movie to capitalize off of its success, which meant that the amount of stop motion animation that could be created had to be severely reduced. As such, the story needed to be padded out during the pedestrian bits and it's rather noticeable in the finished film. Skull Island doesn't make an appearance until forty minutes into the story (nearly double the time it took for the same thing to happen in the original) and the amount of dinosaur/giant ape content is a fraction of what audiences had seen in the previous outing.
However, a more damaging maneuver (in my opinion) was that the sequel was much lighter in dramatic tone, particularly when it came to the portrayal of Little Kong. Instead of being a creature acting out of instinct like his father, the character was turned into an anthropomorphic goofball capable of human-like expressions and reactions. It's a decision that's all the more baffling when one considers the tragic fate that awaits him at the end of the picture.
But here's the thing: despite these problems, a handful of fixes could have elevated the final product to something more memorable and worthy of a follow-up to Kong. I don't consider this movie to be a train wreck that is beyond repair by any stretch. In part two of this article, I plan to outline the specific aspects that I believe did the most damage, as well as to offer up some possible solutions.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I recently received an email from a visitor to my blog who wondered if I could help identify a giant monster movie that he had seen in the past, but couldn't recall the name. An excerpt from said mail reads:
I have a question for you and your readers. I have not seen the movie in about 45 years, but I do remember a giant monster film about a giant robot with legs that pivot up and down sucking people up in it like a giant vacuum cleaner as it moves along. Can you or anybody tell me the name of this movie? I thought of this today as I was cleaning up an ant invasion.
I'm pretty sure that the film in question is Kronos: Ravager of Planets, which features one of the more odd-looking robot designs to ever appear in a movie: best described as a cubist interpretation of a coffee table/lamp combo with television antennae on top.
In the film, Kronos is a device sent by aliens to drain Earth of its various energy resources in order to reconstitute their own dying world; humanity further compounds the situation by attempting to fire a nuke at the machine, which causes it to become enormous. You can find a comprehensive and amusing write-up of the film here.
Need a giant creature identified? Do you have some fuzzy recollection of a city-destroying monster flick that you saw as a kid but have yet to track down any further info regarding it? Just drop an email to this blog (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll commit a post to figuring out the identity of the creature in question and movie it appeared in. If I can't come up with an answer, I'm sure that some of the regular visitors here should be able to help via the "comments" section.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Blog reader Benjamin has once again brought a daikaiju-related item to my attention that slipped past my radar: "Bana Panic", a light-hearted animated web cartoon about giant monsters from Highlander Productions. The website describes the series thusly:
Come visit the peaceful Bana Republic!
It's sunny, it's cheerful and the beaches are great!
But not is all that it seems... the citizens try to go about their daily business while avoiding destruction and mayhem on an epic scale as huge, adorably cute and ultimately stupid monsters go about THEIR daily business, wreaking havoc and leaving a trial of debris in their wake.
The first episode is up and it's very fun and well-produced- the story may seem a bit unfocused and a little surreal at first, but stick through to the end for the punch line and the whole thing will make sense. I look forward to more! Check out the site and the first episode here:
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It’s a pretty simple and clunky game by today’s standards, but for its time it was fairly decent. The player was given the choice of a creature to control, a famous city to wreck and specific objective to accomplish. The real kicker though, was that the publisher not only actually managed to secure the licensing rights for Godzilla to be used as a playable character, but also kept his appearance relatively faithful to his proper Japanese design (okay- within the admitted limits of the C64’s graphical capacity. Nevertheless, the box art and game title screens are decently Japanese-accurate).
Pulling off this legal accomplishment was probably fairly expensive, which might explain why the rest of the monsters in the game consisted of knockoffs: a giant tarantula named “Tarantus”, a green blob called “The Glog”, an enormous wasp known as “Spectra”, the giant robot “Mechatron” and “Mr. Meringue”- an obvious counterfeit Stay-Puft Marshmallow
The actual play experience was kind of weird in that the monsters were not terribly durable and would expire pretty quickly, especially once the military showed up. This was due to each monster’s “Endurance” bar having the dual purpose of representing health AND for performing actions. Destroying a building meant repeatedly walking into it... which would cost Endurance each time (the larger the building, the more hits it required to collapse it). Using a monster’s signature special attack (like Godzilla’s breath weapon)... would cost a good chunk of Endurance. Being hit by military attacks... would drain Endurance. The math was definitely not on the player’s side by any stretch. If memory serves, stepping on civilians would restore your health but the actual amount was pretty minor and as none of the monsters could move terribly fast, it wasn’t a reliable method to stay alive. In a roundabout way, the strongest character out of bunch actually ended up being The Glog; its special attack was acidic skin that could slowly destroy a building with a single tap, thus excusing the need to slam into said target repeatedly (and exhaust Endurance in the process).
A nice touch was that each game would bookend with a quick sequence inside a movie theatre, complete with opening and closing credits, playing into the idea that the game itself was actually a film being watched by an audience. It’s a theme that would resurface again years later in the War of the Monsters game, which featured a menu based around a drive-in movie theatre lot.
Overall, The Movie Monster Game wasn’t anything terribly spectacular, but certainly well-intentioned and does have the distinction of being one of a small handful of giant monster-themed games to exist for PC’s. Ah, nostalgia!
Friday, September 5, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Personally speaking, I am hesitant to categorize dinosaurs- even within the framework of causing mayhem in current day- as giant monsters. The very definition of the word ‘monster’ refers to something that is unnatural or abhorrent; dinosaurs, while definitely strange in appearance, are still members of a once naturally-occurring animal species. An elephant is a large and odd-looking creature too, but I would similarly never classify a movie about a rampaging elephant as a giant monster film (that is, unless it was an undead, alien-possessed elephant).
This seems like an odd position for me to take considering that a little while back I committed a post to the Dinosaurs Attack! Trading cards; but as said dinosaurs were mostly portrayed with zero scientific correctness and fantastical exaggeration, it gets around my “animals verses monsters” stipulation. Understandably, most portrayals of dinosaurs in film outside of documentaries are often inaccurate to some minor degree, but I’m referring here to wild, science-defying embellishment that treads into the realm of the fantastic.
This also extends to fabricated dinosaurs like the Rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Even though the creature is supposed to be a member of a “real” species in the film’s story, the Rhedosaurus is clearly an imaginative creation despite its context.
I suppose that the bottom line here is that (for me, anyway) giant monster concepts need some sort of fantasy/sci-fi component in order to properly qualify as such. Dinosaurs are ultimately too grounded in reality to count, but that’s just my own little opinion.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
I'm probably seeing a connection that mostly likely isn't there. I tend to do that a lot. Perhaps if there were some little yarn buildings around it, I could be sure...
Monday, August 4, 2008
Disney has picked up the film rights to graphic novel "Monster Attack Network" from publisher AIT and Planet Lar for Jason Netter ("Wanted") to produce.
Book, penned by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman with art from Nima Sorat, takes place on a South Pacific island where a team of first-responders rescue residents who are regularly attacked by giant monsters who emerge from the sea.
Netter's Kickstart Entertainment will produce the project. Shingle is also producing Sci Fi Channel's upcoming series "Painkiller Jane" and has adaptations of several other comicbook properties in the works, including "The Boys" at
I thought at first that this might be an animated film- a sort of response to Dreamworks’ Monsters vs Aliens project, but it sounds more like a live-action undertaking, what with the production reigns being handled externally and all.
Congrat’s to the Monster Attack Network creators- when I read the book, I thought it would make for a neat film and it seems that I wasn’t the only one.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
They also have an official website up, but it’s pretty skeletal at the moment. I think that we’ll probably start seeing some more substantial stuff in the fall/winter as the release date gets closer, but I’ll take whatever little scraps I can get for the time being. (source: FilmSchoolRejects.com)