Kaiju is a Japanese film genre where giant monsters attack major cities, engaging the military and other monsters in battle. In the far East it's one of the most recognised forms of entertainment - that's why Godzilla: King of the Monsters is aiming for King Kong sized bucks at the box-office. Whilst Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim: Uprising, Hollywood's flawed attempt at Kaiju, were the most recent return to the genre by an American studio, the US industry has concentrated more on heavy effects action/disaster movie style pieces in recent years.
2014's Godzilla failed to do anything original, moreover last year's Kong: Skull Island instantly became yet another disposable, character - lite, video game action spinner. Importantly though, with Godzilla: King of the Monsters we find the clue in a sneaky post credit scene that Warner Brothers want a slice of Marvel's shared universe pie - announcing their Kaiju monster universe, ambitiously building towards King Kong vs Godzilla - a reimagining of Ishiro Honda's mighty 1962 Kaiju classic.
Though it seriously needs to establish some solid, well developed characters - Godzilla: King of the Monsters brought the house down at Comic Con, boasting one of the most brilliant trailers this year.
The trailer opens with Millie Bobbi Brown gazing attentively into the smokey abyss of the skyline that surrounds her - as a result of her dark wardrobe, overgrown bob and concerned facial expression, she flaunts a classic Eleven-like look. The Stranger Things actress has developed quite the fan base over the past two years, her conscientious persona promises great things to come from what is shaping out to be an attempted Kaiju comeback for tinsel town. Vera Farmiga stars as Brown's mother, who claims earth's original and rightful rulers the Titans must be found or else the planet will perish. Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe also feature in support.
King of the Monsters brings with it destruction on an epic scale at the hands of Japanese pop culture's most infamous creatures. Every monster but specifically Godzilla stands out visually - you have Mothra the elegant ally, three headed King Ghidorah who promises one hell of a fight and Godzilla who's spine lights up with a lightning blue finish.
In spite of all that artistic flourish, the genius use of sound is what truly shines. As the Warner Bros. symbol mystically fades behind smoke and Farmiga explains her ridiculous monster theory - Debussy's Clair de Lune settles over the dismal atmosphere on screen. In one of the finest music choices i've ever encountered - King of the Monsters' juxtaposition of sound with vision crafts a terrifying yet almost uplifting feeling. This is definitely an intriguing film to look out for.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters stomps into cinemas 31st May 2019.
The internet has gone crazy over Shazam!'s debut at San Diego Comic Con claiming it to be the standout of the entire weekend. From the materials available personally I think Aquaman has the edge over it due to its gorgeous underwater visuals - nevertheless, as an avid comic book fan I'm not a Shazam! enthusiast - yet - and know very little about the character. Plonked in the mist of an exceptionally over saturated genre it faces the exact same problem as Aquaman - it's got to have that spark or in this case that Shazam!
Disney Channel's Asher Angel stars as Billy Batson, a young orphan boy who is apprehensive about his new foster family. He meets Freddy Freeman, played by the excitable Jack Dylan Grazer (who made his name as the hypochondriac standout of Steven King's IT last September.) The dynamic between Freddy and Billy doesn't seem as well developed as it could be, Billy's ego contrasts too greatly to his "normal" personality - making the transition between extremes feel a tad jarring.
Freddy's admiration for superheroes oozes off the screen as we're taken through his bedroom with a Batarang on display and newspaper accounts for Superman lining his draws. A scuffle outside the school highlights with a gang of upper grade bullies highlights Freddy's school status as the lowest of the lows, but provides the opportunity for Billy to demonstrate his heroic qualities. Billy finds himself chased aboard a subway train - lights flash, the carriage rattles, the glass freezes over and mystical symbols appear on the display board - director John. F Sandberg crafts a strikingly ominous atmosphere.
After being met by a magical wizard, Billy miraculously is transformed into superhero Shazam! As Kendrick Lamar's HUMBLE tunefully plays out - Billy discovers his abilities with a fair amount of punching, flying and flossing throughout the journey. As an original slant on the super heroic, Shazam! seems heavily inspired by 1988's Big which is both its best and worse quality - Shazam! seems fairly unique and certainly fun but it runs the risk of being more than a little goofy - and not that super. DC may go from one extreme to the next, dark and brooding to Marvel's current silly, funny, gag-tastic style.
Hopefully the excellent music choice is reflective of how the film will be executed as a whole: refreshing, stylish and edgy. Zachary Levi offers a lightening bolt zap full of charisma and hints at a family friendly, DC Deadpool equivalent (imagine!). I think the Christmas setting will add a lot of character to Shazam! as very few superhero flicks take place in the holiday season - it's just a shame the movie releases in April. DC might hit a home run with a smaller scale story but it's got to limit the goofiness to a certain degree.
San Diego Comic Con was full of surprises, perhaps the biggest and most refreshing was DC stealing the spotlight from Marvel, who have been top dogs for so many years. Fans of the DCEU - or the newly retitled "Worlds of DC" - basked in the glory of Aquaman and Shazam! whilst emerging news from the smaller screen confirmed the return of favourites The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning and the trailer debut of Teen Titans. In a dramatic turn of events however Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired from Guardians Vol 3 following the necroposting of thousands of offensive tweets from years ago. Yes, Comic Con was not so marvelous this year but appointed DC with some much needed attention after years of dark, brooding and particularly messy film making. Aside the odd exception, things may actually be looking up for the not so doomed DC universe.
As the December release date rapidly approaches with no news, stills or public footage to its name many fans assumed Aquaman was a sinking ship before it had even left shore. That was until Jason Momoa crashed into Comic Con like a tsunami of nerdy, comic book delight.
The trailer begins with Jason Curry (Aquaman) monologuing about his origins over some particularly dark DC house style images of a lighthouse during a storm. Lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry rescues the Queen of Atlantis (Nichole Kidman). Years pass. Arthur is born and grows. Then during what looks like a school field trip to the Aquarium he learns of his fish friendly powers - his eyes burst into shades of yellow after communicating with the shark life in the tank. This sequence is simple but effective, demonstrating the uniqueness of the character early on and highlighting his authority as a hero.
Flash-forward about thirty years and the wise cracking, bundle of energy Aquaman crashes through a submarine hatch in all his seven seas glory. The camera pans upwards towards his steely glare as he turns to his left and smoothly requests "Permission to come aboard". From this scene alone Aquaman - or Momoa to call him by his above water name - establishes himself as a cheeky and appealing hero who demonstrates some distinct Thor like qualities.
Plot wise he is introduced to Mera (Amber Heard) who reveals he has claim to the throne of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, although his half brother Orm is preparing to declare war on the surface world. He follows Mera as they dive into the hidden city - visually astounding as coral reef towers overhead, turtles, sharks and various aqua-mobiles swim by - drawing comparisons to the revelation of Wakanda. The story seems to follow the same "claiming my rightful place as king" formula as Black Panther though. Even though Aquaman stands out visually, director James Wan is going to have quite the job in steering the story through a format we've experienced time and time again - which is beginning to struggle for any real originality.
Initially Aquaman looks nice, it has touches of Pirates of the Caribbean and Percy Jackson but faces the tough task of standing out in a massively overcrowded genre. Ironically the tricky underwater visuals seem fantastic but the above sea level cinematography uses clumsy green screen and a poor one at that. If Aquaman can tidy up the visuals, utilise the directing talent to its best ability as well as its lead man - then DC may be swimming into calmer water after all.
Aquaman washes ashore into cinemas 21st December 2018.