Gypped of the G-Force?

bros & Big G, author image

Above is a rare photo of me and my brother (we are fraternal twins), he of HWG fame but also a painter of Godzilla imagery – that is his work blurrily rendered above our heads. We were having beers and watching some old G flicks on DVD prior to heading off to a matinee of the new film. Like any ritual, it is a form of participating in the myth, I’ll leave it at that.

Meanwhile, the employment is adversely affecting the true work. Six out of seven days on the job at near fulltime hours hardly feels like a part-time goddamn job. I’ve worked to back things off but the schedule nevertheless keeps creeping into twenty-plus hours which perhaps doesn’t sound like much unless you’re like me, a person who finds it difficult to keep the energies in their proper silos. That is, Time Crime is an engine that is continually running and to commit to doing something else at all well is, for me, exhausting and TC2 suffers. I must find a way to manage the energies properly or I don’t know what. Quitting the employment would be a failure; I don’t want to have to do that. However, what’s most important is the book and not enough progress is being made on the editing, it’s that simple.

Just back off, you say? Let it ride, quit making a big deal out of things? It’s just a job, it’s just a novel, it’s just life. Let it go and see what comes back. This is where the truth lies, of course. Nobody needs another novel. And whether I need to publish another one isn’t certain, either. I’m not reading enough, I’m not writing enough, I’m on the job too much and it’s up to me to make the adjustments or not and so be it. Actions have consequences, come what may.

Nevertheless, scheduled work on the TC2 book cover ostensibly begins today – R.V. will be reviewing the information I supplied – the blurb, my comments, the images and all that – and I have a sense that ready or not, I’m going to force this thing forward by any means possible. Even if it means having a cover before I’m even confident I can edit TC2 into a proper book. Well, it’s already a proper novel, I’m perfectly capable of indeed completing the editing and I’m willing to risk it, this juggling of the process, this experiment with perhaps putting the cart before the horse (shouldn’t I have all the editing done before the cover gets addressed?) to keep the fires burning. I’ll mix metaphors and everything else to shove this thing into completion.

Worst case scenario? I fail and the cover is rendered irrelevant. But there is no mythology without an image, hence, I have a sense that my intuition is correct and I need to allow the experience to be as different from that of getting the first novel published as it needs to be to move forward. And I’m confident that it is exactly this struggle against the inertias of expectation, self-awareness and arrival – I will never have another first novel experience – that separates the winners, such as they are in the publishing world, from the losers. It’s a different series of trials, the adventure of the next novel in the series – the next novel, period – isn’t it? So be it. I have the advantage of having written the first draft of TC2 and TC3 and the first fifty pages of TC4. It’s merely the editing I need to focus upon. The story of TC2 is holding. Akin to TC1, it’s not the plot that needs editing; rather, it’s the infusion of detail followed by the removal of excess and finally the polishing of things – a minimum of three drafts beyond the original – that must be done. It seems dreadful and to some extent it is, but any writer will admit they do not enjoy rereading let alone rewriting their work. It comes to the point, eventually, that we can’t bear to look at the manuscript again.

Which is its own form of release, I suppose, because it allows me to send the thing out into the world with its inevitable faults. While my experience proves that resisting the inclination to rush a book into publication pays off with a better book because any writing can always be improved, somehow one also must beware the so-called point of diminishing returns – you can hash anything over too much – hence, it is this delicate holding on and letting go that manufactures both the anxiety over the failure to achieve perfection and the sought-after release from the burden of care.

All this has application or analogy within the context of the new Godzilla film, or at least ought to, except that Godzilla vs Kong seemed mostly a King Kong movie, with Godzilla appearing as a kind of character actor. Kong is an entirely different myth than that of Big G, hence, I’ve always struggled with the film industry’s compulsion to blend these two stories.

I wouldn’t categorize the film as having failed but it certainly failed to properly develop its new human characters, including rendering Mechagodzilla mastermind Walter Simmons almost irrelevant. That is to say, the writers ditched the idea soon after Mechagodzilla’s appearance by way of making the mechanical beast suddenly sentient thereby killing off any sensible plot. It was a weirdly overstretched irony anyway that the antagonist, a mostly too agreeable versus compellingly charismatic villain (his lethally attractive daughter Maya – “Dump the monkey!” – was more interestingly sinister but they unfortunately killed her off) merely sought to establish Man as the ultimate titan by way of building, ironically, a better machine. That is to say, it’s a different story (see, for instance, 2001: A Space Odyssey or read The Moon is a Harsh Witness) where the machine becomes or threatens to become the antagonist itself.

Meanwhile, G, having rightfully conquered Kong is subsequently so manhandled by Mechagodzilla that it left no time or psychological room for even feeling compassion for G – our compassions and identifications were continually shoved Kong’s way throughout the film as it was anyway but the action within this final smackdown left me feeling vaguely gypped. Recall that in the original Mechagodzilla film we see the great G conjuring a natural force (magnetism) that overpowers the manufactured and mechanized failures of, as always, Man and his inherent slavery to his own hubris. But here, G, a pummeled wreck of a monster, “breathes” G-force, of a kind, into Kong’s axe and otherwise only half participates in Mechagodzilla’s destruction, the kill shots delivered by the back-from-the-dead Kong. Writing this it all seems even more problematic than it appeared in the movie.

Myth? Well, the best, most mythologically potent line in the movie, “It’s Godzilla,” isn’t even in it! Crazily, the trailer version apparently didn’t make it into the film itself, the Jane Goodall character, Ilene Andrews, merely utters, “Godzilla.” Huh? Yes, it’s true. And while she mentions “myth” several times early in the film, the whole idea of a hollow Earth ancient future mythology which could have, I suppose, functioned as a mythologically potent tangential plot, drifts into an unwieldly Kong-returns-home appropriation of the film that by the time the final smackdown arrives the energy of G’s unhinged, single-minded attack upon the origins of Mechagodzilla seems beside the point. It is Kong’s movie, emotionally at least, all the way to the end. Furthermore, why is G so mindlessly driven to attack Kong that he diverts his Mechagodzilla-seeking mission to wreck everything in sight on those ships? That G stops at nothing to restore cosmic balance makes sense given the character’s history and the image of G as horrific manifestation resonates throughout the decades. But that he takes time out, as it were, to function as a mortal enemy of Kong? The idea just never rang true to me.

Otherwise, there are too many characters merely walking through this movie (mostly via darkened Death Star style corridors). Mark Russel, for example, had nothing to do or say, his daughter Madison merely coopted the initially engagingly neurotic insight of Bernie Hayes (eventually reducing him to babbling incoherency) in service of an overbold, unappealing forcefulness, Josh Valentine served as not-quite-funny enough comic relief while Jia’s innocent, child-mystic appeal and Nathan Lind’s unintentional hero quality were run over roughshod by the overall death-by-committee trying-to-please everybody dilution of vision and, as expected, the overdose of too much and too glitzy CGI. Except in regard to the hollow Earth transports which seemed ever so nineteen eighties, somehow, with their minivan proportions and Back to the Future neon-blue tendrils of, what, energy? Anyway, the rules of CGI, apparently, forbid the intimation of directional lighting.

Meanwhile, for any of us not up on the intricacies of the backstory this film will be baffling and it didn’t have to be – the best Marvel comics, for example, always took time to reacquaint us (and new readers) with the plot. And did I already mention that Walter Simmons was too likeable? Not charismatically villainous but rather just plain likeable. He had a nice accent, could wear clothes, happily drank whiskey in a tumbler and read books. He was a dreamer more than a tyrant; keen to establish humanity as the alpha titan which, frankly, I could sympathize with. I mean, what’s with all these monsters running around? “Release number ten.” Wait, is this Return of the Jedi? Anyway, even Bernie Hayes expressed disappointment at not getting a chance to hear the man finish his megalomania speech. Oh, and poor Ren Serizawa, the story’s only overt nod to the Japanese origins of G (and if the franchise is being handed back over to Toho, why not use Tokyo instead of Hong Kong as the final battle city?), was relegated to either looking sideways through his hairstyle or sitting motionless with his eyes rolled back in his head. He gets his one good line, something about how Simmons ought to rather heed the risks of going too far too fast with the technology, or something or other, before his function as the brains of Mechagodzilla and his very existence is unceremoniously and fatally short circuited.

I wasn’t going to mention the unintentionally funny (it was unintentional, wasn’t it?) scene where Kong is galloping, ape-style, across the hollow Earth wastelands towards home, trailed by Lind and company, with a shot of Kong’s hairy ass filling the screen and Ilene Andrews says, “He can really move, can’t he?” Yikes.

In short, Godzilla works when “he” (it could be argued that Godzilla is asexual or even possesses, for instance, Tiamat style female goddess power) is a manifestation rather than a flesh-and-blood beast. Yes, perhaps he bleeds and perhaps he can be killed but then again, not. Mostly, and necessarily, he arrives as the balancer within the context of Nature – G is a manifestation perhaps of our human nature as it resides commensurately within the indifferent realm of Nature with a capital “N” and only returns to deep sea slumber, as it were, when cataclysm is averted, when the unwieldly yet eternal play-of-opposites balance is restored. G in fact can be said to not only defend eternity – timelessness – but to symbolize it. And it is we, the humans, in our perpetual folly who inevitably invoke and evoke the god (and the G-Forces) just as the sinners within Occidental religion can be said to do with, say, Yahweh. In other words, without us, the gods don’t exist. And without the gods, we are gypped of the G-force.

That said, it’s not ever quite fair to pick on a G-flick for not demonstrating exemplary filmmaking. Despite all the money involved, if the G-mythology were to take itself too seriously, well, it wouldn’t be any fun and this movie, for all its faults, pulls off its share of thrills, too, especially in the beginning and most especially via the battle at sea. If it so happens that once again the trailers were better than the movie it’s only perhaps the modern problem of this information age. We get too much, too soon, and too much editing in advance of our own.

And in the end, even Gojira isn’t a great film; rather, it’s the idea and the handful of fantastically potent images and our ability to fill in the gaps, such as they are, that make it so. That, and the original, spine-tingling “Skreeonk!” that I swear was lacking in this movie (and other modern versions). Gypped again? Hey, if that sound alone evokes its own unique G-force horror, its own cosmic fright in us, why would anybody be compelled to screw with it? Oh well. Maybe I’ll watch the new movie again tonight, at home, with the wife and reevaluate. Meanwhile, I’ve said enough, I think, and damned if I don’t have my own story to attend to….