Bringing Godzilla Down to Size (2008)
I recently stumbled across the documentary Bringing Godzilla Down To Size, which was originally included on Classic Media’s DVD release of the genre classics War Of The Gargantuas and Rodan. This in-depth and surprisingly engaging film explores the history of the Japanese Godzilla franchise and focuses on the special effects and technical aspects that dominated these productions. Technicians and actors are interviewed, providing a wealth of insight into the complexities of the films. This documentary also demonstrates the very unique nature of the Japanese film industry and its obsessive attention to detail.
The main question asked by this film is why is Godzilla still principally played a man in a suit? At a time when Hollywood’s uses CGI at every potential opportunity, Japanese sci-fi movies still rely heavily on old-school techniques. Miniatures, physical effects and actors in animatronic costumes are still commons. For over fifty years, Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah and other giant creatures have been brought to life in this old fashion manner. Is the Japanese effects industry just as traditional as other aspects of their culture? The documentary’s answer is surprisingly simple. The old techniques work
Narrated by Godzilla fan boy extreme, Alex Cox (director of Repo Man, Sid And Nancy), the film celebrates the art and craft of the Japanese monsters genre and reflects on the future of Godzilla in the digital age. Bringing Godzilla Down To Size reveals through a multitude of interviews, the love and respect that the technicians and artists have for this series. The meeting between the three actor/stuntmen that have played Godzilla over the years is quite touching. The documentary manages to tread the narrow path between informed narrative and gushing fan boy eulogy. It also provides a very interesting overview into the world of pre-digital visual effects.