Rodan (1956)

Rodan is the first in this series that is not a proper Godzilla movie. While Rodan becomes a Godzilla character later in time, that is because the rights to the character were acquired after the fact. So this movie doesn't reference the big guy at all, even when it should, because Godzilla doesn't exist in this universe. But he will. So that's confusing. It's also directed by the guy who directed the original Godzilla, Ishirō Honda. He'll return in our next movie, Mothra. Both Rodan and Mothra are going to be co-starring in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, out this year. So let's see how he does...

The Recap:

Hey, we're in color this time! The movie starts with two men who keep getting into fights with each other, because that's what men do, y'all. They both work for a mining company, but soon, neither of them do, because one of them turns up dead, by horrific and unnatural means, while the other one goes missing. Naturally, the coworkers begin to suspect this missing man, named Goro, as having killed him, but since this is a Kaiju movie called Rodan, I think we can draw our own conclusions. The victim, Yoshizo, is found after the company discovers some flooding in one of their mines, the cause of which is unknown. The main character, who's name is frustratingly unknown, meets with Kiyo, Goro's sister. Things are... tense about the whole situation.

The company stages a head count, and determines that everyone is in attendance minus some guards and Goro, and there were no other ways out of the tunnel, so where is he? The guards, forming a search party hear some weird sounds and look around the flooded area, until one of them is pulled under by something, and another starts blindly firing a gun into the water? WTF? Is he trying to kill his friend or something? Anyway, all of them are attacked by... something? We see naught but a shadow.

The authorities don't know what to do, so Yoshizo's wife goes to yell at Goro's sister, Kiyo. The former still thinks it was Goro who killed her husband. She's stopped by a bunch of other women, but Kiyo hears it and when Shigeru gets home (we finally have our main character's name, unless I missed it before), she hides in his arms. He cheers her up by telling her that more people are dead, some of Goro's friends this time! See, he can't be the killer. Don't you feel better, Kiyo? She does, and doesn't. Emotions are complicated, people, we all need to grieve in our own way. You know, the Five Stages of Grief -- OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING!

This thing.

This thing.

The two are attacked in their own home by that horrific-ant-demon-thing. It's the scariest thing that's happened in this whole series, since it comes out of nowhere, and we don't know what the hell it is. It's a nightmare. It is making the same weird sounds that we heard in the tunnels, so now we can assume that this is what killed all those people. Shigeru gets the authorities, who attack the creature. Their bullets don't do anything, and the creatures escapes into the city as civilians run away. Shigeru and the armed men chase the creature up something called a Slag Heap, which might be a good band name, but means, and I had to look this up, the unused stone that is discarded after smelting down ore. So, the leftovers, essentially. It kills two of them, then rolls down the hill and out of sight of the humans. Fortunately for Goro, the wounds look like those of the first victims, clearing his name. Eventually, it enters the mine again, breaking through a barricade.

At this point, a military force arrives, and a bunch of dudes enter, heavily armed. The flooding has started to recede, which I guess is good, and the military begins placing machine guns along the mine path. Goro's body is finally discovered, as is the creature, which the military wastes no time in shooting. Again, to no avail. Damn! Where is that avail? Shigeru realizes that the creature is right on the mine tracks, and he releases a cart headed right toward it. He also decides to hop on board and Strangeloves his way onto the creature. By the way, I'm not sure if this thing is Rodan or not, so I'm going to use the term "creature", or "thing" until it is named. Sorry if that's offensive to anyone. Anyway, the cart thing does seem to work, wounding the creature, but we soon discover that there are more of them! There's more gun-fire, and soon, with all the excitement, the mine collapses!

Back up top, there is a Godzilla Raids Again style police line-up, where everyone tries to discover just what the hell is going on. Notably in attendance is a Dr. Kashiwagi, played by Akihiko Hirata, who played Dr. Serizawa in the original Godzilla! A quick look at this actor's filmography shows that he makes appearances in quite a number of Godzilla movies, all as different characters, so that will be fun to look out for. He's significantly less eye-patched in this movie, though, so 0 stars from me, thanks. Not-Serizawa discovers that the creates are Meganulon, hatched from eggs that found just the right temperature and humidity to hatch in the mines. Shigeru is still trapped in the mine, and there was no response when he was called to, leading the others to believe him dead. Luckily (or maybe not, I write these as I'm watching the movie), there is a handy earthquake!

Earthquake.

Earthquake.

It is, as it turns out, because when the team from the mining company, along with Dr. Kashiwagi, go investigate the epicenter of the quake, they find Shigeru, alive. Good for you, my dude. Less good is that he's suffering from amnesia. Bummer, dude. He's taken to the hospital, and doesn't recognize his boss, or Kiyo. The doctors decide that they must do everything they can to bring his memory back, probably to ask him what he saw down in the mines. They show him more pictures of dinosaurs, a trend I'm convinced is going to occur in every single one of these film, and eventually, he reacts strongly to seeing the Meganulon. Meanwhile, some more people learn that Mount Aso is going to erupt, so it's just bad thing after bad thing in this movie.

We then get our first glimpse of Rodan in this movie, and it's really cool. There is a thing making loops in the sky at supersonic speeds, so a pilot goes out to follow it. There is a crazy scene of him chasing the thing, before it destroys his plane and kills him. It's awesome! The creature begins to develop notoriety around the world. It's speed and altitude make it impossible to identify. There are even theories that there are more creatures, since the sightings happen so far away from each other, but at such close times. There's a couple that goes to the crater to take pictures, and then Rodan (I'm assuming this is properly Rodan), arrives and flies over them. This kills them and sends their stuff flying all over, leading to some confusion over the way they died. The dude's camera is found, and one of the pictures reveals a blurry image of the creature. Dr. Kashiwagi is informed, and it's back to looking through dinosaur pictures, a decision I'm convinced was made specifically to piss me off.

Stop doing this.

Stop doing this.

The creature, they learn, is a Pteranodon, but the problem with that is that the Pteranodon wasn't as big as this creature. Also, those Meganulon creatures from before were from the same time period, so there's probably a connection. Meanwhile, Shigeru reminds us that he's still in the movie by having a flashback after seeing some birds eggs hatch. It reminds him of when he was trapped in the mine, and he saw a goddamn gigantic egg!

Big Egg!

Big Egg!

It, too, hatches, and Rodan (?) emerges! It immediately begins eating those Meganulon! I'm using all these exclamation points because it's so awesome! Shigeru wakes up just drenched in sweat, and tells Kiyo that his memory is back. He's also desperate to get in on that "dinosaur pictures" action, so he goes and confirms that it was a Pteranodon he saw. He also says that he saw it grow larger as it ate the larvae, which I certainly didn't see, but whatever. He leads them down into the mine to find the egg.

Of course the creature is not there, but neither is the shell, which is weird. They find a piece of it, and it's so thick! It's crazy! They then use good old fashioned calculus to determine the size of the egg based on the piece they have, and by "good old fashioned calculus", I mean "type it into one of those giant, room-sized computers they used to have in the fifties."

This thing is the true Kaiju.

This thing is the true Kaiju.

Dr. Kashiwagi names the creature Rodan, and tells everyone that, based on their calculations, Rodan has a wingspan of 270 feet, and weighs over a hundred tons! Awesome. Also, I read somewhere that Rodan's name came from the species name. Pteranodon. But Radon would have gotten confused withe the element Radon, so they changed it. So that's cool. He also tells them some more stuff they learned from the computers, which is that Rodan is capable of flapping his wings and causing massive shock-waves of destruction. Note: We see some shots of this happening in the trailers for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. When asked what caused Rodan to hatch in the first place, Dr. Kashiwagi goes to the old standby, hydrogen bomb tests. You know it, you hate it. Also, it's at this point that I must point out that Godzilla's absence is very felt at this point. I know that this movie doesn't take place in the same universe as the first, but it still feels like he'd be mentioned, even if he shouldn't be. It's weird.

Rodan emerges, while a team of army dudes watch. One guy jumps in a jeep and heads off to alert base, but Rodan flies over and just friggin destroys the car! There is an awesome dogfight in the air, where three planes try to shoot down the beast, to no avail. They instead try to lure him out to sea, to some avail. They are able to get it to crash into the water, which would be a great time for a Godzilla. Instead, it destroys a bridge and flies off, but the pilots tell us that them firing at it cause it's speed to half. So that's good. It flies over the city, causing a bunch of incredible destruction. It even lands, causing some normal, Godzilla-type damage. Tanks surround it and shoot at it, making it angry. There's a 6 hour long scene of tanks shooting at Rodan, before it gets annoyed and flies up, tearing up the city as it does, and sending the tanks flying. That's when news of a second Rodan comes in! A second Rodan! Be still my beating heart.

The army tries to lead both Rodans out to sea (I'm pluralizing Rodan because that's what the movie does). After this attempt, both Rodans disappear, but Dr. Kashiwagi is convinced they are back on Mount Aso. By helicopter, they go, and find the creatures hiding in the mountain, in caves. Naturally, the plan is made to cave in these caves, trapping them inside, though they figure this will trigger an eruptions. I just hope they stay there long enough to get this all to happen. Kiyo goes to see Shigeru at the base on the mountain, I guess 'cause she still wants to be in the movie. The missiles are launched that are supposed to bury the Rodans, and they strike true. Mount Aso becomes too volatile, and the army base has to pull back. They then open fire of the second strike force, same as the first.

It's literally just this shot for 10 minutes.

It's literally just this shot for 10 minutes.

Eventually, the mountain does erupt, but not before both of the Rodans escapes. Its seems all for naught, until one of them... flies back down and lands in the hot soil? Then dies? It's unclear. The other one flies in and catches on fire? For some reason? The army retreats, and the day, once again, for the first time, is saved.

The Review:

So, that was Rodan. Overall, I thought it was a little boring. Without anything to fight, it was just the Rodan scenes and everyone reacting to it, which is fine, but not as exciting as Godzilla Raids Again. I thought this movie was better than the original Godzilla, in a few ways. It felt faster, and cooler than that one, and weirdly scarier. When Rodan took out that first pilot, it actually was an intense scene. And then seeing the helmet with blood on it, that's some next level stuff.

There is some talk about global warming causing the earth to flood, and it strikes me that there are some issues that have been around since 1956 that we still haven't gotten around to fixing.

The human element was, once again, lackluster. Shigeru and Kiyo weren't the most interesting couple, but I did like that they at least tried to wrap up their storyline by having her show up at the army base. I guess they got some notes from the abrupt ending of the last movie. That being said, I'm not sure why either of them were even in the movie, other than to fill time, and show us stuff that happened that we wouldn't have otherwise seen. The amnesia subplot seemed weirdly thrown in, and that, too, just kind of ended. But whatever, at least we got more Akihiko Hirata, which was cool, and, most important, we got so many dinosaur picture scenes. How would we know we were watching a Kaiju movie if they weren't looking at pictures of dinosaurs? Which leads me to the main event, Rodan himself...

RODAN WAS SO GODDAM AWESOME! I don't know what I was expecting, but the first time I saw the King of the Monsters trailer, I was just like, "What? That's just a large bird, I don't see what the big deal is." I was dead wrong. RODAN WAS SO GODDAM AWESOME! I absolutely loved watching him. I'm so exciting to see a big budget, CGI version, rather than a puppet/costume from this movie. That's gonna be great. I just loved it! Every scene he was in, I was like, "Whoa!" you know? Like when he just flew over that car and crushed it, or when he was getting shot by the tanks while grounded, then he flew up into the air, and just destroyed those tanks. Guys, RODAN WAS SO GODDAM AWESOME! Absolutely every scene with him was the best scene of any movie I've ever seen. Obviously, I'm exaggerating a little, but you know what I mean. I LOVED the dogfight scenes, where planes were chasing after Rodan. They wer so well done! Maybe it was just a relief to see these movies in color, but I thought they were a ton of fun to watch.

As for the bad parts, it was pretty obvious that you rarely saw Rodan flapping. We was straight-winged in most shots, unless it was a close up, where it was most likely a suit. But that's fine. They also did more of that "There's more than one" thing that I hate. I don't know, I just feel like it makes it less special if there are a number of Rodans or Godzillas. It's better if there's only one, and it's unique, and I know it. I don't want there to be, like 10 Mothras in the next movie, just one. So we'll see. I'm pretty sure both Rodans died in this movie, so I don't know how they'll bring him back. Probably just have another one show up. That's annoying, but fine. I'll accept it, because, say it with me, RODAN IS SO GODDAM AWESOME!

And that's it. Rodan came out one year after Godzilla Raids Again, and the next movie in our series, Mothra wouldn't come out until 1961, five years later. Hopefully by then, they'll have invented CGI (spoilers: they didn't). See you then, everybody.