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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Godzilla 2014: The Hedorah Connection(Yoshimitsu Banno)


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In 2010 Toho producer Yoshimitsu Banno from Japan along with American producer Brian Rodgers were shopping around Hollywood with a Godzilla reboot project. Banno had initially tried to develop a 3D Godzilla film for IMAX, but that deal fell through. They eventually came to Legendary Pictures and CEO Thomas Tull who picked it up, making both men executive producers. On May 16, 2014(4 years later), the world will witness the new vision of Godzilla from Legendary and director Gareth Edwards.

Godzilla 2014 Executive Producer
Yoshimitsu Banno
But who is Yoshimitsu Banno? Well, he just happens to be writer and director of one of the strangest and most memorable Godzilla movies of all time Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster(1971), a.k.a. Godzilla vs. Hedorah, and was once banned from ever doing another Godzilla film.

Hedorah: a Unique Vision

Hedorah stands out among the 28 Japanese Godzilla movies. Inspired by pollution on local beaches, Banno wanted to create a film with a dark theme of environmental awareness with his new shape-changing monster Hedorah. It has the most direct social message of any other Godzilla sequel. However, that's not the only thing that makes it unique.

In a stark departure of past Godzilla films where violence and the death of thousands in monster attacks is never directly shown, Hedorah graphically shows dead bodies and people being killed by the Smog Monster and creates a very grim tone.

Hedorah takes a very negative view of the young generation of the day. The movie opens with the young, beautiful Miki in body paint and a skintight suit, dancing on a nightcub table in front of her loser boyfriend Yukio. Whereas the deeply concerned, Dr. Yanno and young son Ken are trying to understand and find a solution to the problem, and Dr. Yanno is actually scarred in his attempts,  Yukio is portrayed as a completely irresponsible, thrill-seeking drug user. Constantly blaming the older generation for the pollution problem and Hedorah's arrival, he is always dragging Miki and young Ken into harm's way for kicks. The fatalistic youth in the movie just want to have a big, Woodstock-like orgy party before the end of the world. This is in sharp contrast to later films like Godzilla vs. Gigan, where the hippie youth are the comical, bumbling heroes of the story.

In the strangest scene of this or any other Godzilla film, we see the big music party on Mt. Fuji with teenagers dancing, when the camera cuts to show the silent, pale faces of  long dead Japanese farmers watching from the tall grass. The ghosts of the older generation watch scowling at the decadence and apathy of the Japanese youth.


But environmental message, death, an apathetic youth, or mysterious ghosts is not the thing that fans remember most from Hedorah and is not what got Banno in trouble. The most memorable scene is when Godzilla flies! Hedorah flees in its flying saucer form, then Godzilla turns around, spreads his arms and fires his radioactive breath which propels him backwards like a rocket and overtakes and actually falls on top of Hedorah. This undeniably silly scene enraged Godzilla creator and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to the point that he forbid Banno from ever working on a Godzilla film again. Now, 42 years later, we see Banno as executive producer on a new American Godzilla film that may turn out to be the most successful of all time.

The Future

The new Godzilla reboot will feature monster opponents called Mutos which seem to evolve and change form over the course of the story. Did this take a cue from Hedorah, Is this Banno's legacy re-envisioned? It remains unclear, but the Mutos will have a very different origin and will be a metaphor for a very different threat, more along the lines of biotechnology. But that's not all Banno has in store. In a recent interview on G Fans Universe, Banno revealed he's currently working on a sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah and even named a new, good monster Midora who would help in the fight against Hedorah. Please follow the link to read the full interview. Is he talking about a sequel to Legendary's Godzilla in 2014, or is this the beginning of a new Japanese Godzilla series? Will we have two Godzilla franchises running on both sides of the Pacific? One thing is clear and I've stated long ago. Pacific Rim was just a pre-cursor. Legendary's Godzilla will usher in a new golden age of Kaiju fantasy films for a whole new generation.

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