The G-Lord of Sculpture Cometh!
by Orlando G Acosta
Some time ago news came out that resounded dread to my frail ears. News that, after Tri Stars’ disastrous bastardization of a franchise near and dear to my heart back in ’98, the powers that be in Hollywood were revving up to give it one more go. The Memories crept back into my brain: Rounding up some friends, heading to the Cineramadome in Hollywood, and somehow stomaching the films disgraceful attempt ruin Ishiro Honda’s creation. Of course I am referring to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s “spit in your face” rendition of what they considered ‘Godzilla’
You, dear reader, can imagine the skepticism bestowed upon me when hearing of the task Legendary Pictures was about to undertake. I immediately began scouring cyber space for any information, speculation, leaks…anything I could find. I started reading about who the players were going to be and different story ideas for our beloved Kaiju. With my exhaustive searching I came across images of a beast worthy of the G-name. I mean, this Godzilla was truly Godly. Muscular, lean, hunched over a bit, ready to take on any Kaiju that dared cross paths with him. This design blew me away. It gave me renewed hope that if someone outside of the eastern isle can come up with this then perhaps my memories of the old American Iguana will be forever erased. Yay! No more therapy sessions!
Upon more research I discovered that this design was the creation of one Hector Arce and really not at all tied to the new G-ressurection. This was the work of a guy who, like me, was a huge Godzilla fan. But unlike me, he has a gift to be able to breathe life through sculpture. So I went a little deeper and found Hector’s website: http://hectorarcesculpture.daportfolio.com. To my very pleasant surprise, this guy not only made a kick ass Godzilla but an even kickier ass Biollante to battle him. Of course, Godzilla vs’ Biollante being one of the more obscure G-films on this side of the ocean, I was blown away that someone else out there was as big of a Biollante fan as me. As you can see by the pictures, this is no straight port of the plant creature that had a little girls spirit in it. Hector of course had to design a Biollante worthy and able to hold its own against his ripped up G-beast!
Hector was gracious enough to take time away from his craft to answer a few questions about him, his designs…and a few other surprises. I thank him kindly for his time and efforts in preserving Godzilla for all us G-fans the world over.
Anyways, without further a due :
Orlando: Please tell us a little about yourself Hector.
Hector: I’m a Sculptor/Concept Artist from Long Beach, CA. I’ve been an artist since I can remember, taking up sculpting in college.
H: I’ve been Sculpting for 5 years and sculpting professionally for 3 years
H: Well at the time I had only been sculpting for a year (I sculpted the Godzilla design you speak of 4 years ago). I wanted to push myself and create something that would seem totally out of my realm of expertise and experience. The way I see it you learn the most when you dive into something and are forced to teach yourself how to get around all pit falls of creating something like this, especially since I decided to make it 2 feet tall haha.
Godzilla has always been something I loved since I was a kid. When the project at school came up to sculpt one of our favorite “heroes” Godzilla was an obvious choice for me. I always loved the way the Godzilla from the movie 1985 looked so that was my main inspiration behind the design. From there I just wanted to update him and give him an edger/darker look and make him a little more over the top. The main goal was to make him look like he could throw down in a fight and look a bit more mobile than how he’s usually depicted.
H: I wanted to Convey a since of power and rage with the design, if I remember correctly it was meant to be part of a set with Biollante. It was supposed to be a sort of a battle display for the El Camino College student art show. My main goal with that piece was to get him to look like he was ready for a fight.
H: Thank you! Biollante was part of a project I was assigned at school. I was in advanced sculpting at the time in Mr. Russ McMillians class at El Camino College and he gave me an assignment to make something about 3 feet in height. He told me to work with another student in the class at the time and lucky for me the other student was also a Godzilla fan. So we decided on redesigning Biollante and having it part of a battle with my redesigned Godzilla. The sculpture is huge, so at the time I sculpted it with fellow classmate Ernie Galvez. All I wanted to do was to update the character and add my own twist to it. I’m a firm believer in keeping true to the source material and I wanted to make sure it was still recognizable. I mean the original Biollante design is beautiful and a very intense and complex sculpture/suit. So I just wanted to change a few things here and there and just have fun with it.
O: Well you definately had some fun with it because your Biollante came across quite edgy and menacing looking, as is your Godzilla design. I see quite an evolution and progression from their original designs to yours, without straying to the radical like the giant Iguana Devlin and Emerich came up with. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to keeping things ‘true to source’ and does it matter if one doesn’t?
H: I believe that when you’re redesigning something that people have grown up with and love and have formed an emotional attachment to you have a responsibility to not step all over that. If your goal is to completely change what made the original special then what’s the point of still calling it by that characters name? At that point the artist should just come up with his or her’s own story and just call it a new character. When I go about redesigning something I make sure that I stay true to the main things that remind us of that character, so that when you see it you know that’s Godzilla or that’s Ghidora, while still showing people something new. As an artist we always want to leave our mark on things, and I did that with my redesigns, but I feel I do not have the right to go and fully change something that is loved by so many. Of course every artist has a different opinion about this, and I respect those willing to take risks, but as I mentioned above there’s always a limitation to what you can do with pre-existing characters. You can’t just put Spider-Man in a robot suit that shoots missiles and completely change his look and still call him Spider-Man, that’s how I see it at least. And that’s why to me as a fan, Iguana Zilla never felt like Godzilla to me, it was an awesome design, it just wasn’t Godzilla.
H: My favorite Godzilla incarnation comes from the movie Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidora All Out Monster Attack (boy that’s a mouth full) Directed by the Gamera director Shûsuke Kaneko. I absolutely loved his take on Godzilla. Pretty much he made Godzilla a bad ass again. He was ruthless and showed no remorse for his enemies. I loved the way Kaneko designed Godzilla as well, those empty white eyes just added a great deal of evil and gave Godzilla a very sinister look. I also loved his use of wide angle shots; I had never seen that used so creatively in a Godzilla Movie before, those shots were truly breath taking. I also enjoyed how much of a jerk Godzilla was, for example that scene where he’s just kicking Baragon when he’s on the floor then just blows him up with the atomic blast was brutal and kinda hilarious at the same time. Love that movie so much.
O: I think my earliest memories of Godzilla is actually watching King Kong vs’ Godzilla when I was a wee lad and wondering how the hell this ape bested a far more superior creature, only then to spend the rest of my life obsessed with Godzilla and kind of resenting King Kong. What are your earliest childhood memories of Godzilla?
H: I remember when I was about 5 years old my parents took me to Kmart for some shopping. We were strolling down the aisles and I noticed a VHS cover that caught my attention. It was the cover for Godzilla vs The Sea Monster. I had no idea what Godzilla was at the time, I just thought, in my kid brain that it was awesome looking. I pointed it out to my dad and he went on a whole rant about what Godzilla was and he bought the movie for me. I remember watching it late at night with my mom and getting scared but loving the fights and all that. I remember being so impressed and at awe that he shot blue “fire” out of his mouth, I had never seen a dinosaur do that before. After that I was hooked and proceeded to bug my parents almost on a daily basis to buy me more movies. To this day I own every single one on VHS.
H: Legendary Pictures is an awesome studio. The guys over there definitely know what they are doing and from what I’ve seen with the type of movies that they make, they really respect the source material and take it seriously. I have full confidence that it’s going to be the Godzilla reboot we’ve all been waiting for. So really I’d say I’m more excited than fearful about their reboot, they’re a great studio and I’m sure they’ll make a great film. Just look at their track record, this is the studio that gave us all the new Dark Knight movies, 300, the only studio that had the guts to take on Watchmen and actually do it right, so yeah I’m not worried, it’s in great hands.
O: What can you tell us about your involvement with Legendary Pictures? How did that come to be?
H: I can’t really share anything about my involvement with Legendary, other than that I’ve done some work for them and they’re a great studio to be involved with. The producers over there really get what the fans want and really respect the source material of all their movies. Great people over there, and I can only express how happy I am to do work for them.
O:Fair enough. What are your hopes and fears for the Legendary Pictures G-film?
H: No fears, just excitement. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. Ask anyone who was in Hall H at last summer’s comic con and they’ll tell you the same. The teaser brought chills to everyone in the room; it’s going to be insane.
O: Of course the man in a rubber suit technique is not something Legendary Pictures is toying with. Do you feel total CGI can do Godzilla justice or is a Kaiju film not a Kaiju film if there aren’t guys in big rubber suits?
H: Yeah, of course it can, I love the big ole Kaiju suits as much as anyone, but they are extremely limited. A fully CGI Godzilla will actually be able to move like a real animal, he won’t be hindered by a suit being too heavy. Done right, any kaiju film would look amazing in CGI; I honestly think that’s the next step. I don’t think kaiju movies are necessarily defined by the rubber suits; they are defined by the cool designs and monsters in it. CGI can only help; you could do a mixture of both, still have the guy in the suit, but animate some things that just aren’t possible to do in a rubber suit. Either way, I think we’re seeing a rebirth of the kaiju genre, especially with Pacific Rim coming out and I think it’s great that they’re being exposed to a whole new generation of kids.
O: And of course I must ask, what is your favorite Godzilla film?
H: This is a tough one, I like so many. I’ll do my top 3.
2. Godzilla 1985
3. Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidora All Out Monster Attack.
O: Top three sounds good. I’d swap out Godzilla vs’ Biollante for GMK personally. And since I had mentioned King Kong earlier. Should there be a rematch between Godzilla and King Kong?
H: Haha, depends on which King Kong you’re talking about…American King Kong is about what 25-30 feet tall, while Godzilla is what about 300ft? I’m pretty sure King Kong wouldn’t stand a chance; Godzilla would probably just step on him. Now if it’s the giant Japanese version of Kong then, sure that’d be kinda cool, but I still don’t see how Kong could win…Atomic blast would probably take him out pretty quickly, with all that fur and all.
O: What do you think of a Godzilla vs’ Gamera flick? Who would your money be on?
H: Godzilla vs Gamera would be awesome! It’s a long time coming in my opinion, and needs to happen, in the old school rubber suit way. You already had the Gamera director do his take on Godzilla, it just seems to make perfect sense. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before. They’re both pretty tough; it’d be like the Yankee’s vs the Yankees in my opinion. But Godzilla is the king of monsters right? I’d have to put my money on him.
O: True true. Maybe Gamera AND King Kong vs’ Godzilla. I am going to break out my stop motion app on my phone. Any last words of wisdom? What does Godzilla represent to you?
H: Keep doing what you believe in, even if others don’t believe in you at first. As long as you’re sure it’s what you want to do then just keep moving forward. There’ll always be hurdles along the way, and that’s a part of life, the goal is to get past those and be happy. Godzilla to me has such a powerful story; a lot of people seem to overlook how serious he was treated when he was first introduced to the world in Gojira. It was all out of a result of the fear of nuclear war and the repercussions and affects that radiation had on living things. Godzilla was the embodiment of an atomic blast. He was a physical representation of the terror people felt at the time. And if you think about it, it’s such a powerful message. It wasn’t just about a giant monster stomping around and being misunderstood, it was all the rage and pain that was caused by the war, that’s what Godzilla represents to me. He’s a force of nature that can’t be stopped.
Shake it up! The Suite Life? Jessie? Something and Ally? This is the kind of prepubescent crap available for kids to watch these days. Gone are the days of Old Yeller and Mickey Mouse. Seriously, with Disney’s huge back catalog why do they insist on spending their ‘not so hard earned’ money on crap like a couple of kids living on a fancy cruise ship?
As I sit here, listening to Joseph Trapanese’s wonderfully Daft Punk-ish TRON UPRISING score, I begin to think that, aside from a home video release, this is it. Why? Because a day after the TRON UPRISING soundtrack was released, Disney leaked out that they do not have any plans to bring back
Elijah Wood and company for another pass down the Grid.
For the uninitiated. TRON UPRISING is the animated series that made its debut last year on Disney XD. It take place between the original 1982 classic and its proper sequel, TRON LEGACY. It follows the exploits of Beck. A young dreamer who is tired of the oppressiveness that is ever swelling on the Grid and is mentored by the man himself, TRON, to be a fighter for the people. TRON is already enlisted by CLU but is not fully succumbed to him like he is in LEGACY. He begins training Beck as the Renegade. Could the Renegade be the next TRON? We may never know because Disney is saying “End of Line man!”
On one end I am not at all surprised. I’m old enough to remember how the original TRON was so dismissed my the mainstream. I was 9 when a family friend took me to see it in the theaters. I immediately fell in love with it. It was so many light years ahead of the world back then and still holds its own as being unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before. Steve Lisberger was a visionary but the masses weren’t ready for TRON. I and, thousands others were. TRON was a modest success but was shunned by many and it took 28 years to release a sequel…28 years for Disney to realize that they were missing out on one of the freshest ideas ever! TRON LEGACY was released in late 2010. Budgeted at around 170 million it raked in more than 400 million globally, and counting. LEGACY, like it’s predecessor, experienced mixed reviews but was successful enough for the powers that be at Disney to green light UPRISING. I, for one, love LEGACY. I feel it captured the essence of TRON wonderfully. All the doubt I had about Kosinski, being a movie filmmaker, quickly went away shortly after the first few frames. I’m sure Lisberger was proud. I’d be.
But now, after almost a year, a crappy time slot and miss handled marketing, UPRISING may not return ever again. That’s a shame because there is so much story left to be told. Paul Reuben’s character was really starting to take shape as was Mandy Moore’s. And what about a Obi Wan-Anakin-style showdown between Beck and Tron? The last episode has not aired yet as of me writing this but…It’s not looking like it.
I have included a link for a petition I created, to see if enough pressure can be placed on the suits at Disney to reconsider. They need to know that there are like minded individuals out there who prefer creativity over fodder, substance over pre-teen garbage. The money is theirs. It’s their choice to give us another 10 seasons of Shake it up! or, try something with more value, respect and quality… Keep UPRISING alive!
Sign the petition! Be heard! We are Users, not programs!
- Orlando G Acosta
I will begin this adventure by making a few statements.
1. I will refer to ‘An Expected Journey’ throughout this review simply as ‘AUJ’ and Lord of the Rings as ‘LOTR’
2. I will refrain from using the word ‘film’ because ‘AUJ’ was shot on RED digital cameras at 48fps
3. I will not hold Peter Jackson solely accountable for any production decisions for there were a total of 1o producers on this project and a few writers as well, including Mr.Guillermo Del Toro. So I will state ‘producers’ in reference to creative decisions made.
‘AUJ’ opens up with a great set up of the Dwarves living it up in their mountain stronghold of Erebor. These Dwarven digs are really a site to behold. Majesty on par with anything we were treated to during our previous visits to Middle Earth. I really felt this scene worked
very well. It portrays the Dwarves as good, fun loving guys who had a strong passion for living, eating and drinking but had a very vain King who fell victim to his passions. His lust for gold and jewels would eventually become the downfall of the Dwarves and they’d find
themselves driven out from their lands by a very nasty dragon named Smaug. This is the basis for the story.
What follows this scene is a little different. We are treated to a scene, not from Tolkien’s novel, but from the producer’s own creation. This scene, with and old Bilbo and Frodo, who are busy planning Bilbo’s birthday party, is clearly meant as a bridge for viewers to see and feel
a distinct connection between ‘AU’ and ‘Fellowship of the Ring’. Many critics have panned this scene as feeling out of place and being completely unnecessary. I agree with the critics on this one. First of all, Frodo isn’t even mentioned in ‘The Hobbit’. He simply was not around.
‘AUJ’ has such a powerful preface to then hit the brakes hard on this disposable scene. No one has to see Elijah Wood again..The movie goes from past to right before ‘Fellowships’ beginnings, then regresses back another 60 years to the beginning of our Journey. Any
near 3 hour movie will need impeccable pacing to keep its audience engaged to the finale. ‘AUJ’ starts off on the wrong foot as it struggles, for the first hour, to find its pacing.
The other material that was added in order to make more money (sorry, got a call a spade a spade) with a trilogy of movies, is questionable at times. I liked, for example, the inclusion of Radagast the Brown and the Orc attack on the group en route to Rivendell. There are other
alterations to the story that I am fine with. Motion Pictures generally are always different than their literary counterparts. Otherwise why make a movie if it’s going to carbon copy the book? But there are a couple of scenes like the council at Rivendell with Saruman, Galandriel and Elrond
that do nothing more than to hamper ‘AUJ”s pacing and rhythm. The movie, at times, is like a car where the driver is and 70 year old guy accustomed to stick shifts who thinks the brake is actually the clutch thus forcing a very jerky ride.
The bigger question, though, really is ‘Does all this kill the experience?’. My answer to that…’No’. The Dwarves are stellar…And by stellar I mean STELLAR! They’re well written and expertly executed. While there may be many hands in the cookie jar for writing and producing, there is only one
director. Peter Jackson again shows the world that he can get his audience to invest their souls into these characters. Some critics have said that he as lost his sensibility with Tolkien. I could not disagree more. No one understands the subject material as good as he does. He again manages to immerse
us so completely in the wonderfully lush world of high fantasy that Tolkien created that we suspend our disbelief. Yes there is much more CG in ‘AUJ’. The living breathing human Orcs were replaced by digitally created ones. I knew this going in but honestly, it matters little in the end because the
atmosphere is so thick and credible that all the pieces fit amazingly well. But back to those Dwarves. It’s hard to have a favorite. Thorin was quite believable and engaging, as were all the others really. There are some light hearted moments. But it’s a light hearted story to begin with. The source material is
not dark and drab like the LOTR trilogy is. I did also love the scene in Gollums cave. Yes Bilbo does acquire the ring in a different manner than the book. But who cares? The rest of the scene, along with the riddling showdown between the two, is intact. Lifted straight from Tolkien’s words. Even the songs from
the novel made it over. I don’t get how people are saying that Jackson has lost his Tolkien sensibilities. I don’t recall people accusing him of anything like this when he made so many changes to ‘LOTR’. Which he did.
The bottom line…If you love the book. If you love Lord of the Rings, you will enjoy The Hobbit. While one can argue that the book can be down in two parts, not three (‘AUJ’ only takes us to chapter 7 in book). Howard Shore’s score is on par, the acting is top notch, from the smallest roles (no pun intended) to
Ian Mckellan’s grandiose reprisal of Gandalf. The pacing isn’t always there. You will feel it a few times throughout the adventure. The 48fps does give everything a more plastic look, even in 3D. But no one flaw takes away from the experience. And while I cannot give ‘AUJ’ the same, enthusiastic 10 I gave ‘Fellowship of the
Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’ (Return of the King had it’s flaws so I gave it a 9.5), our first return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit, part 1 gets a solid 9 from me! I only hope that, instead of a ‘extended edition’ on home video, there is a ‘shortened edition’ released with Ian Holm and Elijah Wood left on the cutting room floor.
- Orlando G Acosta
So much material has come out since Jedi’s release back in 1983. I was 9 when it came out. I remember it being an ‘all day’ event. Arriving at the old-pre megaplex-single screen days-theater at around 10 in the morning. I met about with about 5 friends and we waited until, I believe the 6 o’clock show. It was the next available showing and so we took turns standing in line, with half of us keeping our place in line while the other half spent countless quarters at the arcade nearby. What an experience that was. I don’t remember much on going to see Empire because I was 3 years younger and did not see it opening night. I mention this because like a lot of you, I have grown up with Star Wars. Since then I have played almost every Star Wars video game, from the old Atari 2600 to current system games (still waiting for a Mac port of The Old Republic). George Lucas’ space opera has been carefully woven in to the fabric of my life. I, like most, have both enjoyed and suffered through the saga’s vast expanded universe and prequels through the years. I remember reading a news article in the early 90′s about how Lucas was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress” and thus beginning my journey into Japanese samurai flicks, in which to this day I am a huge aficionado of.
Now lets discuss the prequels. While I have my issues with them (and there are many), I bare no anger or hard feelings towards Mr. Lucas. Yes I friggin’ hate Jar Jar like the most of us. I didn’t agree with making “The Force” all about science (READ: midichlorians). That, for me, really diluted the whole Tibetan Buddhist interpretation of the Force. Hayden Christensen seemed to never really find his characters’ motivation as he felt, to me, more perplexed out of character than in character. Even Natalie Portman, who I think is an excellent actress, I had some issues with. But all things said, the only thing I blame George Lucas for is raising the bar so goddamned high with the original films that nothing else, whether by his own hands or not, could ever come close to. It’s like we’re so over protective of the fond memories of Episodes IV,V, and VII that we give nothing else a chance. Because nothing else compares.
So now am I excited about the announcement of Episode VII or not? When I first got the news alert on my iPhone my heart fluttered for a few seconds. I felt little butterflies dancing around in my stomach but quickly those butterflies turned to lead as I felt a heaviness in my bowels like right when you feel the urge to blow chunks out your ass. My excitement turned to dread. But you what? I have, since then, have regained hope that all will be well. Mark Hamill is in the news again so that’s a good sign. He NEEDS to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker. No one else can do it and Luke needs to be in the story. We need closure to the series George. This is your opportunity to deliver and deliver in spades. Cast Mark, Carrie and Harrison…They won’t refuse. Well, maybe Carrie will than just kill her off in the opening credit crawl. The Thrawn trilogy should be the backbone of the story. Of course, the twins would have to have been born yet because Carrie and Harrison are a bit too old to be new parents. Another scenario would be to do what Disney did with Jeff Bridges in TRON Legacy and make him look younger for his CLU part via CGI. Hey and while we’re at it, how about an animated Episode VII 1/2: Shadows of the Empire?
Oh and…If any powers that be need a suggestion on who to get as a director….pick me….pick me.. While you may not know me. I am the great director that has yet to direct. Where’s my experience? Well..Don’t have much Except I have, in my mind, directed my very own Episode VII since I walked out of the theater back in ’83. I would give just about anything to have the opportunity to finish it. And I know I am not alone!
- Orlando G Acosta