Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Seatopia Sucks!

This isn't a review of the film "Godzilla vs. Megalon" (1973), but rather a diatribe against the subterranean race in the film that threatens to destroy the people of the surface world (us) because they're pissed that we have been testing atomic bombs, and they have gotten tired of dealing with all the bad vibrations caused by the detonations.

"Godzilla vs. Megalon" is one of the late-era Godzilla movies where the former Japan-squashing terror has been transformed into a kid-loving, cuddly, funny good guy. I won't bash this aspect of the series because I grew up loving these movies (and, being the demographic target of them, didn't realize that they were specifically geared to appeal to me). The main problem I have with them is their heavy-handed attempt to thrust upon unsuspecting kids various ecological and other concerns. In this case it is the danger of man messing with nature and the atom. In the case of "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster" (1971) it was pollution. This was the early 1970s after all, and I suppose the filmmakers wanted to convey a message that hippies, conservationists and the Earth Day movement were promoting.

Anyway, Seatopia became the vehicle for the promotion of the ecological message in "Godzilla vs. Megalon". The bad guy of the movie is supposedly the monster Megalon--but the people of Seatopia are the ones who unleash him to destroy the surface world, so they are the real protagonists.

Seatopians are apparently a bunch of hippies who dance around and (for some mysterious reason) have a middle-aged, hairy American dude in a toga, wearing an Isis tiara as their leader. His name is Emperor Antonio (huh?). I guess he must have added a bit of an "exotic" feeling for Japanese audiences, but for an American audience he is just plain-old lame. The disco-dude leader isn't the only thing lame about Seatopia though. Their coolest claim to fame is that they are somehow connected to those mysterious statues on Easter Island. I'll concede that's pretty cool, but how long can you coast on that one fact?

Emperor Antonio

Easter Island Statues

You could say "Yeah, but they control a huge kaiju monster who does battle with Godzilla." Yes, but, for a giant monster, Megalon is pretty lame himself. He's a giant beetle with strange drill bits for hands. That sounds cool, but they don't seem to have much use. He doesn't really use them as drills. He just kind of bangs them together to indicate he's ready to fight. I'm more inclined to believe that he was supposed to have really neat claws, but suffered some sort of birth defect or something like that (possibly caused by the surface dwellers' poisonous radioactive bomb activities?) and he ended up with what we see in the movie.

I'm not done ragging on Megalon. He also seems to be barely able to rouse himself when he's summoned to the surface by Seatopia's fearless leader. One of the quotes that has always stayed with me from this movie has the leader saying something to the effect of: "Oh Megalon, great and powerful one, protector of the people of Seatopia, rise up and defeat our enemies on the surface world. Megalon...Wake Up!" Once he finally does get to the surface, he has to be guided to his target by a robot that was made by a surface-dwelling toymaker. More on that robot later.

If all this isn't bad enough, even the Seatopians seem to realize that their monster-savior is somewhat lame. While the battle is getting underway we discover that they had to request another monster (from another universe no less!) to aid Megalon. This monster is Gigan--another strange creature who is sent, upon request, from the Star Hunter M Universe! Gigan has a pretty cool-looking sunglasses-type visor-thing for eyes, and a table saw mounted in his chest--but he's also saddled with awkward hooks for his hands and feet. He's very pointy, but not really a very effective monster.

Finally, the "great" civilization of Seatopia can't even create their own robot to guide Megalon to his target (kind of like a 1970s version of a GPS unit). They send a couple of agents (two Japanese-looking guys who each have a trait that makes them seem more "exotic" so they can pass for inner-earth dwellers: one has a chunky black beard and the other one has a Michael Penn-esque hairdo) to hijack the robot Jet Jaguar. Jet Jaguar may be the coolest character of the movie, but it's interesting that he's the creation of a bachelor toymaker who has his little brother (nephew, step-son, foster child, youthful ward?) living with him in his workshop.

Michael Penn

The Seatopian agents tell the good guys that their race is working on an army of robots but supposedly don't have the time or resources to do it on their own (yeah, right). Instead they plan on stealing Jet Jaguar and using his technology to create their army. Lame, lame, lame! Needless to say, the Seatopians' plans all fall apart. Jet Jaguar is returned to the good side (and inexplicably programs himself to grow to the size of the other monsters). He joins forces with Godzilla and they take down Megalon and Gigan in a tag team match for the ages! Seatopia is destroyed and the surface dwellers (us) are able to return to their atomic testing in peace.

In closing, Seatopia is like many of the fangless dictatorships we've seen over the past few decades, who bluster and threaten with great sound and fury, but can't back up their words with actions: Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, North Korea's Kim Jung Il... The list goes on and on. Seatopia's toga-wearing disco leader fits right in with these losers. He should have left well enough alone--claiming that eventually he'd unleash Megalon to start the mother of all battles while reminding everyone how cool their Easter Island connection was (hell, there was even an "in Search of..." episode dedicated to the mysterious statues).

R.I.P. Seatopia ...That bunch of posers!

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