By Frederic Friedel

I watched Godzilla 2014 — well, most of it. Netflix seduced me. But spoiler alert: it really sucked. It has Bryan Cranston in it, at least for the first third of the movie. Then (another spoiler alert) he dies. Probably he said “this is silly. I am the Breaking Bad star and this is too much.”

However I stuck with the film, waiting for the incredible special effects that would inevitably come. Same as I did with Jurassic World, which was basically a B-movie but had superb dinosaur animation. Take a look at what they did with CGI. Or Avatar, which was in fact produced in stunning 3D.

After a modestly promising start the Godzilla 2014 monster appeared, as did a new player, the flying Muto, which is its mortal enemy. Both are hundreds of feet tall and can crush cars by stepping on them. But: they are played by men in suits! Can you believe that?

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This is our 2014 hero, towering above skyscrapers, but clearly a man in a funny suit. I have brightened these screen grabs to reveal what the makers sought to hide by showing most of the movie in ominous darkness.

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Godzilla’s enemy Muto is much worse. This hundred-foot pterodactyl-like creature is a man in a tight rubber suit, with some appendages — for example he is holding sticks covered with latex. With which he can destroy buildings. You can watch the action in the following YouTube extract:

I have left the time stamp visible in the screen grabs above so you can go to the relevant parts and see for yourself. The impression is worse when you actually see the monsters move.

Of course this Men-in-Suits production technique has a long history. When the first Godzilla (Gojira) was made in 1954 the producer wanted to use stop motion animation that he admired from the original King Kong. But he decided that the film would take years to make, and he only had months to do it. So he went for the costume solution.

The genesis of the first Godzilla costume technique is well described in the above documentary (starting at 26m 55s), giving us an impression of how laborious things were sixty years ago.

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Godzilla 1998, made five years after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, still stuck with a giant monster played by a man in a (tight) rubber suit. You can watch some HD footage, if you have the nerve for it.

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Yes, this is really the giant 1998 Godzilla, hundreds of feet high, crossing a dual parkway bridge.

So what is it with this genre, haven’t they heard of CGI? I mean we are entering the world of Virtual Reality, where people will soon be saying: Hawaii? Yes, it was pretty, but nothing like the VR version, which was far more stunning, with whales and dolphins, and even a full volcano eruption.

Written by

Frederic Alois Friedel, born in 1945, science journalist, co-founder of ChessBase, studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford.

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