Thoughts on Furious 7

Yesterday I went and saw Furious 7 at the movie theater.  I’m a fan of the franchise so it was a given that I was going to see this movie and wanted to share some thoughts about the film and franchise up to this point.

The film itself was good.  You know going into this film what it’s going to be like and true to form that’s what it was.  It continues the story of Fast & Furious 6 with Dom, Brian and the gang having to deal with the brother of the villain from the previous film.  The fact that it’s actor Jason Statham means it’s a villain to reckon with.

Like some of the recent previous films, there’s a lot of jet setting around the world with crazy stunts & fight scenes.  A lot of these center around revenge (Shaw getting revenge for his brother, Dom getting revenge for Han) and protection (protecting a hacker named Ramsey & protecting the family from Shaw and his “friends”).

I enjoyed the film for what it was and the story it told.  Granted, there were some nitpicking things.  One being that Dwayne Johnson was more of a cameo role of sorts and I like the character of Hobbs.  Though I will say he did have some good scenes in his limited role.  I guess the major nitpick thing was not what you would think.  Given that actor Paul Walker died while the film was in production (which led to the delay in it’s release), there was use of digital work and stunt doubles to help fill in scenes.  But honestly, I didn’t notice which ones they were.  What did stick out to me was a scene in Japan.

Those that know the franchise know that the last several films have been “prequels” in a sense.  In the timeline technically this film follows The Fast and the Furious:  Tokyo Drift (which came out in 2006).  The end of the film featured Dom in a drag race against Sean Boswell (played by Lucas Black) who was a friend of Han.  So in this film to tie it together, they bring back the scene from 2006 where Sean is told someone wants to race him.  Then a few seconds later (after the race) Dom and Sean are talking (filmed present day).  You can tell that Lucas Black has aged (and also cut his hair) but I guess if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t notice it but it just stood out to me.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and I enjoy the franchise.  It’s wild that the franchise started in 2001…when I was in college.  I remember going to the movie theater to see that one (well I’ve went to the movie theater to see all of them).  I will say the first film is good in it’s own right then it dropped off some before really gaining steam from the 4th movie onward.  I don’t know if they will continue to make films in this series (given Walker’s death but they did write off the character in a nice way, and I do think that would’ve been the plan anyway given the trajectory of the character of Brian and Mia) but if they do I’m on board for it.  They’re movies that you can take two hours and just go along for the ride (sort of speak).

If you’re curious, here is how I rank the film series including the newest film:

1) Fast Five

2) Fast & Furious 6

3) Furious 7

4) Fast & Furious

5) The Fast and The Furious

6) 2 Fast 2 Furious

7) The Fast and The Furious:  Tokyo Drift

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Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah”

The final film in the Godzilla Heisei series is 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

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It’s now 1996 and after the death of SpaceGodzilla.  Psychic Miki Saegusa travels to Birth Island to visit Godzilla and Godzilla Junior (formerly Baby Godzilla and Little Godzilla).  However the island is destroyed and the two monsters have disappeared.  Godzilla then pops up outside of Hong Kong and lays waste to the city.  He appears to be covered with these redden sores.

The JDSF, in researching what is happening to Godzilla, hire Kenichi Yamane, a college student who happens to be the grandson of Dr. Kyohei Yamane (the Dr. Yamane in the 1954 film).  Kenichi surmises that Godzilla’s heart is like a nuclear reactor and it was going through a nuclear meltdown.  He tells the JDSF that if Godzilla’s heart reaches 1,200 degrees Celsius that the explosion that would take place would be worse than all the nuclear weapons put together.

To try and combat this new threat, the JDSF dispatch the Super-X III, which is equipped with anti-nuclear cold weapons.  At the same time, some scientists are trying to recreate the Oxygen Destroyer (the same one that was used in 1954 to kill the original Godzilla).  This leads to some organisms that mutate from the tests that would become Destroyah.

Godzilla Junior then appears with Godzilla following after him as the two head to what used to be Birth Island.  The Super X-III then encounters the two and shoots their cold weapons.  It keeps Godzilla from exploding but now if Godzilla suffers a meltdown, it will bore a hole down to the Earth’s core.  This will still destroy the Earth.  The JDSF then plan to try and deal with both Godzilla and Destroyah by having Miki and another psychic (Meru Ozawa) to convince Godzilla Junior to travel to Tokyo.  Godzilla will follow and then Godzilla and Destroyah would fight and hopefully cancel each other out and save the Earth from destruction.

This works and there are several battles that take place between Godzilla and Destroyah.  In the midst of these battles, Godzilla Junior is fatally wounded.  Godzilla then becomes enraged and takes it out on Destroyah.  He, along with an assist from the JDSF, destroy Destroyah.  However, Godzilla is too far gone to be saved himself and ultimately melts down.  The Earth is saved and at the end, the radiation from Godzilla revives Godzilla Junior and he takes over for his father as King of the Monsters.

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This film was billed as “Godzilla dies” in its promotional material in Japan.  This was due in large part to Toho taking a break from the franchise while there was a movie in America being made and would eventually be released in 1998.  So, in a lot of ways, this film is the end of an era.  It ended the Heisei series but also was an end to the stories being told all the way back in 1954.  Remember, the 1954 film is considered part of the Heisei storyline.  So, we see the connections such as Dr. Yamane is mentioned and also Emiko Yamane (the lead female character from the 1954) appears in the film in a cameo role.  We also again see Miki Saegusa, who has played an important role throughout the Heisei series, and in a way finish her story.

After watching this film and looking back at the Heisei series as a whole, I have a deep appreciation for these films.  Sure there are the occasional goofy dubbed English lines.  But for the most part, these are some serious Godzilla films and carry the tradition of the 1954 film forward.  While I will always have a special place in my heart for the Showa era films, I do believe there will be repeated viewings of the Heisei era film and the occasional movie marathon of them as well.  Just as much as I would recommend those interested in getting into Godzilla should watch the 1954 Japanese version, I would recommend watching the Heisei era films.

Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla”

The penultimate film in the Godzilla Heisei series is 1994’s Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla

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Remember when the remnants of Biollante went to space after Godzilla vs. Biollante?  Or when Mothra went out into space in Godzilla vs. Mothra?  Well it seemed that cells of Godzilla went with them.  Those cells are exposed to radiation from a black hole and become a monster known as SpaceGodzilla.  SpaceGodzilla then makes its way to Earth.

Meanwhile, the UNGCC is again trying to neutralize Godzilla.  This time, their goal is to plant a device on the monster to allow them and the JDSF to control him telepathically.  The project, known as Project T, leads them to Birth Island where Godzilla is staying at the time.  The UNGCC enlist the aid once again of psychic Miki Saegusa on Project T.  While trying to implement this, the Cosmos, the twin priestesses of Mothra warn Miki that SpaceGodzilla is coming.  Since Mothra is away (remember she is out trying to stop a meteor from hitting the planet), the Cosmos say that Godzilla is the one to defend the planet.

The JDSF send out their response to SpaceGodzilla with M.O.G.E.R.A., a robotic replacement for Mechagodzilla but M.O.G.E.R.A. is no match for SpaceGodzilla and is defeated.  SpaceGodzilla is attracted to Birth Island and Godzilla.  SpaceGodzilla ends up finding Little Godzilla (Baby Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) and attacking it.  Godzilla comes to the rescue of Little Godzilla but ends up getting beaten up in the process.  SpaceGodzilla kidnaps Little Godzilla and the two head for Japan.

Meanwhile, Miki gets kidnapped by the Yakuza.  They want to use her and her psychic powers to try to control Godzilla.  However, she is rescued before SpaceGodzilla destroys the building she is being held in the city of Fukuoka.  SpaceGodzilla sets up base in the city near Fukuoka Tower and builds a fortress out of crystals.  This position allows the monster to gain power while draining the Earth of energy.

The JDSF once again sends M.O.G.E.R.A. to fight SpaceGodzilla and Godzilla as well joins in on the fight.  Once again, both are defeated by SpaceGodzilla.  The JDSF then realize SpaceGodzilla’s weakness, cutting it off from it’s energy source.  So M.O.G.E.R.A. separates into two parts, a airship and a tank to take care of the crystals.  Meanwhile, Godzilla goes after Fukuoka Tower and SpaceGodzilla.  Once the crystals and tower and knocked down, Godzilla and M.O.G.E.R.A. fight SpaceGodzilla.  M.O.G.E.R.A. is demolished but is able to weaken SpaceGodzilla enough for Godzilla to destroy the monster and frees Little Godzilla.  As the film closes, Miki uses her psychic powers to remove the Project T chip and Godzilla and Little Godzilla head back to Birth Island.

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As we’ve seen in previous films in the Heisei series, there are certain themes and stories that run through and interconnect.  This film has implications that center around the theme of the film (creation of SpaceGodzilla, need for Godzilla to defend the Earth, use of psychic powers).  We also continue to see the evolution and growth of the character of Miki Saegusa.  She has a prominent role in this film and we see her defend Godzilla in a way that hadn’t really been seen up to that point.  Godzilla is a sympathetic character who in many ways fights only when provoked.  Unlike some films, he is not a villain.  In many ways, he just wants to be left alone but will defend himself or go on the offensive if necessary.

There is only one more film in the Heisei series.  Next time will be a wrap up of that film and also the series as a whole.

Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”

This installment in the Godzilla:  The Heisei Years series looks at the 1993 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (known in the U.S. as Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II)

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In 1992, the U.N. establishes United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center or UNGCC.  This task force is to deal with Godzilla whenever he appears.  The UNGCC salvage from the ocean the remains of Mecha King Ghidorah (connects back to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah) and create two weapons to fight Godzilla.  One was a flying gunship named Garuda and the other was a machine modeled after Godzilla called Mechagodzilla.

Several years later, during an expedition to a remote island, a strange egg is discovered that attracts not only Godzilla but also another monster in the form of Rodan.  The research team was able to rescue the egg while Godzilla and Rodan fought.  The egg is taken to Kyoto and later hatches and reveals to be a Baby Godzilla.  The Baby Godzilla imprints itself on one of the female scientists.

Godzilla is still attracted to finding Baby Godzilla and comes to Kyoto.  The Japan Self Defense Force gets the UNGCC to mobilize Mechagodzilla to try and defend the city.  Godzilla defeats Mechagodzilla and comes into the city.  The UNGCC are able to shield the link between Godzilla and Baby Godzilla.  Godzilla ends up leaving Kyoto but not before destroying a good part of the city.

After studying Baby Godzilla, they discover there is a weakness that they could exploit in defeating Godzilla (a second brain).  So they equip Mechagodzilla to be able to expose and exploit the weakness and send Baby Godzilla (along with the scientist that Baby Godzilla was connected to) out as a decoy.  However, Rodan ambushes the transport with Baby Godzilla and the scientist.

The UNGCC is forced to send Mechagodzilla and Garuda after Rodan.  An epic battle happens between Mechagodzilla, Rodan and Godzilla.  In the end, Godzilla ends up being the lone victor.  Godzilla, with help from psychic Miki Saegusa who is a part of the UNGCC, accepts Baby Godzilla and the two head out to sea.

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In this film, Godzilla is not really protrayed as a villain.  He’s more just going about things and gets attacked because he’s trying to get to Baby Godzilla.  If there is a villain it would be Rodan.  This film continues the trend of growing sympathy for Godzilla.  We see this not only in the returning character of Miki but also several of the scientists and children who interact with Baby Godzilla.  This version of a younger Godzilla is different from the Showa era Minilla as a more serious version (or at least will grow into that).

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla continues the storyline of the Heisei series and tells a good story not only in it’s own right but also within the series as a whole.

Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. Mothra”

This installment of the Godzilla Heisei series is the 1992 film Godzilla vs. Mothra (also known in the U.S. as Godzilla and Mothra:  The Battle for Earth)

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Godzilla is awakened after a meteor hits in the ocean nearby him.  Meanwhile, the main humans in the film are Takuya Fujita, a thief with a good heart deep down and Masako Tezuka, Takuya’s ex-wife.  They also have a daughter, Midori (though she does not know about Takuya and his thieving ways).  The stories intersect when Takuya is offered an opportunity at freedom in exchange for helping Masako & the Marutomo company in exploring a certain island.  While exploring, they come across a strange egg along with two tiny twins known as Cosmos.  The group finds out that Cosmos along with the egg are associated with Mothra.

Mothra has always been charged with defending the Earth.  However, a long time ago, there was also another defender of Earth named Battra.  However, one battle long ago against an ancient civilization that tried to control the Earth’s climate, drove Battra to war with anything and everything, including the Earth.  Mothra defeated Battra and the ancient civilization, and the two went into hibernation.  However, with the recent disasters that had taken place, Mothra’s egg had been uncovered and the Cosmos were worried that Battra might return.

Sure enough, Battra does returns and gets into a fight with Godzilla.  Mothra, in it’s larvae state, is caught in the middle of the battle out at sea but is able to escape.  In some ways similar to the 1964 film Godzilla vs. Mothra, Takuya tries kidnap the Cosmos and hold them ransom.  Mothra in turn, would come to the aid of the Cosmos by coming to Tokyo, willing to destroy the city if it needed.  Masako and Midori, with the help of psychic Miki Saegusa, try to convince Takuya to let the Cosmos go for the sake of the city.  Takuya does come to his senses and releases them and the Cosmos convince Mothra not to attack the city.

Miki senses that Godzilla has surfaced from Mount Fuji and this will set the showdown between Godzilla and Mothra with Battra eventually siding with Mothra.  The battle ends with Godzilla defeated and sent back to the ocean.  Battra sacrifices its life in the process.  At the end of the film, Mothra flies out into space to defend the Earth from a huge meteor that Battra would’ve protected the Earth from if it was still alive.

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As far as the Heisei series, this one is the least connected to the previous films.  Miki Saegusa does make an appearance but it is a brief one.  It does set up that she is working with the Japan Self Defense Force and this will play a bigger role later on in the series.  It also continues to show the growing concern and care that Miki has for Godzilla.

Godzilla vs. Mothra ranks near the bottom if I was listing my favorite films in this series.  It’s a good film, I just like my Godzilla films where Godzilla is at least an antihero, and that usually isn’t the case when Mothra is around.  It is interesting to see the path that Takuya takes throughout the course of the film.  He does go from someone who you generally don’t like to being likeable at the end.

Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah”

The next film in the Godzilla Heisei series is the 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

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Set in1992 (a few years after the events in Godzilla vs. Biollante), an author on books on psychic phenomena named Kenichiro Terasawa learns of a group of Japanese solders during World War II that were stranded on Lagos Island in the Pacific that were saved by a mysterious Godzillasaurus in 1944.  One of those survivors, Yasuaki Shindo, would later become a wealthy businessman in Tokyo.  Ten years later, this Godzillasaurus would be exposed to the hydrogen bomb that destroyed the planet and would become the Godzilla that surfaced in 1984 (in The Return of Godzilla).

Meanwhile, a UFO lands on top of Mt. Fuji.  In it are three humans from the future:  Wilson, Grenchko and Emmy Kano.  They are joined by the android M-11.  They bring word that they come 2204 in a time when Japan was wiped out due to Godzilla.  They offer to go back in time to 1944 to remove the Godzillasaurus from Lagos Island to prevent it from becoming Godzilla.  They offer proof of their time travel by showing them a book written by Terasawa that has not been written yet.

Terasawa, Professor Mazaki and psychic Miki Saegusa (previously seen in Godzilla vs. Biollante) travel back in time with the Futurians (as they are known) and help to move the Godzillasaurus to the Bering Sea.  However, before they leave, the Futurians leave behind 3 artificial creatures known as Dorats.  These creatures would fuse together during the hydrogen bomb tests to become King Ghidorah.

The truth would later be revealed that the Futurians wanted to hold Japan for hostage as in their future, Japan would be the dominant world power and they wanted to be the ones in control and would use King Ghidorah to help subjugate the Japanese.  Emmy would side with the Japanese and along with a reprogrammed M-11 try to help the Japanese against Wilson, Grenchko and King Ghidorah.

Hope was thought lost that there would be no Godzilla.  However, come to find out that there was a Soviet nuclear sub that sank in the Bering Sea where the Godzillasaurus was transported to which gave off enough radiation to turn him into Godzilla.  So in essence, this was still the Godzilla that surfaced in Japan in 1984 and following.  This would set up showdowns first between Godzilla and King Ghidorah and later between Godzilla and a Mecha King Ghidorah (with one of the heads being a robot head).  The second battle would end with both Mecha King Ghidorah and Godzilla ending up in the bottom of the ocean.  Emmy would return to the future but not before informing Terasawa that she was a descendent of his.

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This film helped to tell an origin story for Godzilla, or at the very least an origin story for the Heisei Godzilla.  Like many of the films in this series, Godzilla is not really an antagonist.  Granted he does try to destroy Tokyo, but he also defeats a monster who is controlled by the villains in the film.  It is interesting to see how time travel is brought into the picture and how it was thought that events were changed to have no Godzilla, there still ended up being Godzilla.  Like I mentioned earlier, Miki Saegusa, appears in this film and helps to establish her role as the go to character for “psychic phenomena”.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is in some ways a throwback to the old Godzilla films while setting it into a sense of modern day context (well at least the late 80s/early 90s).

Godzilla: The Heisei Years “Godzilla vs. Biollante”

Last time, I began a series of articles on a series of Godzilla films from the 80s & 90s.  They are the “Heisei Series” of Godzilla films.  For this post, I will look at the first film to be released during the Heisei era (by the way, Heisei is a word that is intended to mean “peace everywhere”) in Japan:  1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante.

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Like I mentioned before in the last article, these films of this era are all connected together in continuity.  It is the only series of Godzilla films that maintain continuity into multiple films (the original Gojira had a sequel Godzilla Raids Again that was connected but the rest of the Showa era were not).  In the case of Godzilla vs. Biollante, in the aftermath of the battle from The Return of Godzilla, skin cells from Godzilla were collected from the rubble.  Some of these cells are later captured by a mercenary who delivers them to the Republic of Saradia and their Institute of Technology and Science.  The hope of the research there was to bio-engineer plants to grow and flourish in the desert (which is where Saradia is located).  However, a terrorist attack on the building disrupts the research but also kills the daughter of the head scientist, Dr. Genshiro Shiragami, Erika.

Five years later, Dr. Shiragami is back in Japan and in self exile after the events in Saradia.  He spends his time now trying to cultivate roses that he injected with cells from Erika.  His hope is that she lives on in the plants.  He enlists the help of Miki Saegusa.  Miki is a psychic who helps run a school for gifted students (kind of like a Professor X, only no mutants).  While this research is going on, the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) are doing research on the Godzilla cells that they had to make an “Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria”.  When an eruption from Mt. Mihara (the mountain where Godzilla was trapped) occurred that shook Dr. Shiragami’s home, he agrees to help the JSDF with their research to help preserve the life of the roses, which means injecting Godzilla cells into those roses that already have Erika’s cells in them.

There are others that want the Godzilla cells, including the mercenary on behalf of Saradia & also mercenaries from an American bio company called Bio-Major.  These groups converge on Dr. Shiragami’s home and find out that the plant has become a creature (which kills one of the Bio-Major agents).  This plant creature escapes into a nearby lake and is later named by Dr. Shiragami Biollante.

The other Bio-Major agent threatens to set off explosives at Mt. Mihara and let Godzilla escape unless the Godzilla cells are given to him.  The Japanese leaders try to deal with the merc but instead the merc from Saradia intercept them and the explosives go off and Godzilla is freed.  Godzilla then goes to fight Biollante in their first battle and wins.  He then tries to attack a power plant but Miki uses her psychic powers to direct him to an abandoned Osaka where the JDSF would ambush him with the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria.  Lt. Goro Gondo, a leader of the force assigned to take out Godzilla, dies in the battle.  Godzilla is injected with the bacteria but it has no effect on him and he leaves the city.

The scientists then devise a plan where they will try to raise Godzilla’s body temperature with microwave emitting plates in an artificial thunderstorm.  They believe that the bacteria would then work.  However, while they’re trying to do this, Biollante emerges in an evolved state and engages in battle with Godzilla.  The battle ends with Godzilla defeating Biollante and the remains of the plant creature go off into space.  Godzilla, exhausted and after a brief time of laying on the beach, gets up and returns to the ocean.

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I just recently saw this film (as it was just released on Blu-Ray).  Like the rest of the Heisei series, this recent mini-marathon of watching the films was my first encounter with these films.  I grew up watching mainly the films from the Showa era, where Godzilla was most of the time portrayed more as a superhero (especially the later films).  Here, he’s more an anti-hero or in some ways a victim.  Yes, he causes destruction but he also just wants to be left alone.  As this series continues, there will be that introduction of him being a hero to Earth but even then, some  humans will still want him eliminated.

There is also an emphasis of science and morality at play in these films.  We see it here with Dr. Shiragami using bioengineering to try to keep part of his daughter alive along with the bioengineering of plants which led to the creation of Biollante.  There is also the story of Miki and her psychic powers that will be told in future films.

Godzilla vs. Biollante was the first “Godzilla vs.” film in the Heisei series.  It fit with the times in 1989 but also some of the themes still relate to audiences today.