Thank you for resisting what I'm sure was a significant temptation to make Barsi's life a bed of roses after keeping her alive. This feels much more true to life, as unfortunate as that statement is, and far more meaningful. And speaking as someone with mental health issues, my profound gratitude for making the effort to weave this kind of stuff in.
 
No posts this week. Work laptop is blocking AH.com now. And using the phone to copy and paste and link images is a bastard.

Thank you for the kind words. I actually never was tempted to make Barsi perfect as that never seemed realistic. And yes I absolutely take mental health seriously and so should you. I meant every word.

And yeah I guess that I misspelled yeah as yea, yeah?

See you Saturday. It'll be a monster of a post.
 
No posts this week. Work laptop is blocking AH.com now. And using the phone to copy and paste and link images is a bastard.

Thank you for the kind words. I actually never was tempted to make Barsi perfect as that never seemed realistic. And yes I absolutely take mental health seriously and so should you. I meant every word.

And yeah I guess that I misspelled yeah as yea, yeah?

See you Saturday. It'll be a monster of a post.
Damn.

Will Thursday be available ?
 
"This Democratic-Reform pseudo-coalition of convenience is making for strange bedfellows either way." - Not American, but it seems to me adding more parties is a good thing to stir up the stage and help bring about better policies?

"Pat Buchanan of Virginia won a narrow victory" - President Buchanan might be a disaster for the social and health reforms under Gore?

"New Gingrich of Georgia swept the “Super Tuesday” primaries" - then again New might be the Pres.

I am hoping Perot does not run.

"Dave: We could have President Enby the Peacock!" - cheap gag, da dum tish....
 
AniMagic with Debbie Deschanel - Cool more AniMagic.

"Disney/Amblimation animated feature, Hansel & Gretel, a fun and deconstructive take on the Grim Brothers tale." - interesting.

"Disney had played with the story for years. He had a 1932 Silly Symphony short Babes in the Woods about H&G." - Plenty of Pedigree then.

"Steven Spielberg" - well Mr S does like his movies about kids...

"Yea, we went to the archives and dug everything up: the original script by A.J. Carothers, the Master Tapes and sheet music of the Sherman Brothers songs, concept art, costume studies, the whole works!" - soo cool that Disney keeps all this stuff. I often wonder where it all goes when a company goes kaboom or reorganises.

"Steve fell in love with the midcentury minimalist look of the cover art for the 1964 album," - that LP is very 60's indeed.

"The animation was nominated for an Annie for innovation." - something for the home release disk cover.

"the dialog was very snarky and borderline self-aware." - sounds like fun.

"So the witch was tweaked into a more sympathetic character." - go Carrie!

"She was replaced by someone younger and more beautiful, in other news." - ouch.

"We dispensed with the green skin and nasty teeth and made her a perfectly normal forty-something woman with a few extra curves and wrinkles, just to heighten the stupidity and vanity of it all." - I can see a lot of Cosplay of this Witch.

"Two uncontrolled chaos machines. Not bad kids per se, but certainly in need of some guidance and attentive parenting." - like a lot of kids then.

Nancy Cartwright, Jude Barsi, John Goodman, Bette Midler and Frank Welker - great cast there.

"The Sherman Brothers’ original six songs were taken almost word-for-word" - bet they or their estate was happy with the acknowledgement, and royalties?

"she lets her guard and glamor down, that’s when he and the kids actually get to know her and learn to love her." - nice happy ending there for Agnes and everyone else.

"Hansel & Gretel debuted on March 29th, 1996, and managed to pull in $89 million[2] against a $52 million budget," - not a terrible return there. Certainly not a flop. I suspect ITTL me saw this on video later.

"Steve offered me a job at Amblimation, and I accepted." - well congratz.

"And with that, we are out of time." - a lot less clips from the movie in this episode...

Nice movie there @Geekhis Khan.
 
"actress Judith Barsi, who most recently has been doing voice work for animation as well as for the computer-generated dinosaurs in the upcoming Dinotopia." - ohhh cool.

"Jude Barsi, 1996 (Image by @nick_crenshaw82)" - cool pic.

"I’m eighteen and still playing precocious little girls" - can never quite escape heh?

"(as Pip) “Come out, come out, it’s time to play! Let’s laugh and dance the night away!” (giggles menacingly)" - reminds me of Harley from Batman.

"Luke Skywalker’s apprentice Halixiana in the made for TV Star Wars special Luke of Tatooine," - guess someone did not like their time in the makeup chair then!

"I had to lose fifteen pounds for the Star Wars thing" - body expectations even in ITTL Star Wars?

"They have tutors or therapists sometimes, Disney is really good about that," - good to know.

"TG: You’ve found other former child actors and formed a bit of a support group, yes?" - go Drew!

"Neal Patrick Harris too. Dr. Who was a roller coaster for him." - us readers too. Glad he's got support.

"And before someone screams about the cat thing, yea, I’ve stopped that. I feel like [bleep] for doing that." - good that got mentioned.

"They put you in a cast and maybe give you some pills for pain. It’s the same if you break your brain. It’s no different." - damm right. Hoping that more conversations about this in 199x will an impact on people and lead to better healthcare and meds earlier.

"They hired me not just to voice and act, but I became a production assistant and gofer." - nice Jude has more than just voice/acting work.

"You also got nominated for an Emmy playing an alcoholic teen on Law & Order. " - that's good on a CV there.

I like Jude Barsi, she seems a cool person. Be interesting to keep reading what she gets up too.

Nice chapter @Geekhis Khan
 
Go Go Britzilla!! New
Gorgo (1996)
2009 – on Monsterland.net by Vikram "LilVikRex" Bukhari [Canadian; from Alberta]

A Guest Post by @Plateosaurus with some tweaks by me and assists by @Nathanoraptor and @GrahamB


[poster: an elephant-sized creature peers out from the ocean by a boat as a young child reaches out to it on a moonlit night]

220px-Gorgo_1961_Film_Poster.jpg


Director: Terry Jones

Writer: Michael Palin and Terry Jones

Producers: Tim Burton and Jerry Juhl

Effects: Disney’s Creatureworks

In the same period Toho had brought Godzilla into a new age and UPA was introducing a new generation of Americans to the silver screen’s biggest stars, MGM, just a few years after the latter was made another drone of the Disney monster, had decided to throw their hat into the Kaiju ring. Partnering with Columbia, which arguably still shared the distribution rights, MGM decided to remake the old 1961 Kaiju film Gorgo, which is often regarded as the “British Godzilla”.

Like the 1961 film, 1996’s Gorgo is at its heart a tale of friendship and a mother-daughter love story, just in this case one about a large saurian monster who is captured by humans and sold to an entrepreneur, leading its angry mother to rampage and destroy the city. In some ways it’s your typical kaiju film: man pisses off giant monster, giant monster eats city, Captain Exposition laments man’s hubris in the face of nature. However, this film differentiates itself in several big ways, not just from other kaiju films, but from the 1961 original, to the point that calling it a remake instead of a reboot can be charitable, but that’s grasping at straws.

Tim Burton called Gorgo “a sweet little tale of a boy and his monster.” Bernie Brillstein called it “Freeing Weidí meets Godzilla as written by Monty Python”. Others call it “that MGM Godzilla parody”, “Britzilla”, or “Burton & Palin’s salute to Ray Harryhausen.” Call it what you will, it’s a fun flick.

Gorgo-1.jpg

(Image source “dailydead.com”)

But first, the obligatory Plot Summary:

It’s the “modern day” of 1996 and the European seas have been plagued by a giant monster since the 1960s. Dubbed “Poseidon”, it’s a giant reptilian beast that, due to habitat encroachment and overfishing, has a history of attacking ships and raiding communities for their fish stocks. One small community in Yorkshire in particular regards her as a kind of bogeyman, where bad communities and people are punished when she eats the fish that sustain them. The Nilssens are one of these Yorkshire fishing families. Patriarch Joseph (Rodney Bewes) regards her as a nuisance that can be tolerated, 22-year-old son Herman (James McAvoy) sees her a menace to be destroyed, and young 12-year-old son Sean (Tom Sturridge) is endlessly fascinated by her.

Sean is a shy and emotional kid with dreams of being a scientist, and, unbeknownst to his father and older brother, at night he likes to sneak out onto the shores, where he has met and befriended three playful little sea monsters, which he names Stheno, Euryale, and Gorgo, after the three gorgons from Greek myth. He suspects they’re actually Poseidon’s offspring, but isn’t sure. Either way, he’s “never telling dad” about them. Stheno is suspicious of Sean and Euryale is shy and timid, but Gorgo, the smallest, is curious and playful, and soon befriends Sean.

Sadly, Gorgo becomes so friendly with Sean that one day he follows Sean and his family’s fishing boat, and is soon trapped in their fishing net. Herman suggests that they “cut off its bloody head and toss it back” while Sean pleads with his father to just let it go. But his father instead brings it back to show off to the other fishermen, where it becomes a local sensation, with many wondering if it’s related to Poseidon. The local authorities have Gorgo transported to an abandoned dock for temporary containment and Sean, feeling guilty for getting Gorgo captured, convinces his father to be Gorgo's watchman.

Sean, of course, sneaks in behind his father’s back to talk to Gorgo, who is clearly sad, and calls pitifully out to his sisters Stheno and Euryale out in the ocean, who call out to him in turn. It’s a scene that’s either sweet and heartbreaking or sappy and boring depending upon whom you ask.


GORGO cries out sadly to her distant sisters as melancholy music plays.

Sean: Oh, Gorgo, I know that you miss your sisters. Don’t worry, I’ll break you out of here and get you back to them. I don’t know how, but I will…

GORGO makes a sad mewling noise as SEAN hugs her nose.



While the town and county officials debate what to do with “the sea creature”, they alert some scientists, who want to study her. Meanwhile, the clueless mayor Jerry McGonagall (Michael Palin) gets a call from a corporate representative from Dorling Systems. The scientists, led by Gerald Hendricks (John Cleese), confirm by a blood test that the creature is indeed the offspring of Poseidon, which sends the town into a panicked frenzy. Led by Herman Nilssen, they demand that this little “Gorgo” be removed from their town immediately before “mother arrives”, or better yet cut it up for bait.

That night, many of the town council, as pressured by Herman, secretly sign a deal with Dorling Systems, a hydrodynamics technology company headed by the smarmy Martin Dorling (Tim Curry), to give Gorgo over for experiments to develop new technology. Dorling, backed by Herman, rallies a mob of disgruntled fishermen and business owners to push past Joseph and seize Gorgo, even as Sean begs his older brother not to. Gorgo is then put in a tank on a flatbed lorry and taken to Dorling’s London headquarters.

Meanwhile, out in the ocean, mama Poseidon has heard the cries of her chicks and meets with Stheno and Euryale, who are clearly agitated. Poseidon then makes a B-line for the city of London. Navy fleets engage, led by arrogant and incompetent leaders, hoping to block her way. Mama soon tears through the navy fleets, exits the water, tears through the army, and rips apart buildings and scatters civilians along the way in a single-minded mission to find Gorgo. The scenes play out with a blend of horror, comedy, and popcorn-fueled city-smashing spectacle, all duly (and dully) narrated by Lord Raymond (Sir Richard Attenborough) in a nod to Raymond Burr in the old Godzilla films.


A BUSINESSMAN (Eric Idle cameo) is driving along the M5 when POSEIDON crashes across the highway in front of him, flattening a Lorry. Momentarily shocked, he picks up his car phone and hits the speed dial.

Businessman: Ah, yes, Miss Dalrymple? Can you please tell my three-o-clock that I can't make the meeting? We're having a bit of a giant monster issue on the M5.


All of the obligatory London landmarks are destroyed, with Poseidon even going out of her way to destroy the NatWest Tower in an obvious “take that” to the controversial skyscraper, which many considered an out-of-place eyesore at the time (Palin was recently asked at a Con panel what she’d think of the Gherkin, to which he alluded that she might use it for “something rather inappropriate and R-rated”).

3fe3ff532693595e312ef80222c4a77c9a8fff28_hq.gif

Burton’s team deliberately recreates this scene (Image source “aminoapps.com”)

In the process of trying to reach and free Gorgo, however, she causes the Dorling Building holding Gorgo to collapse, trapping Gorgo along with Sean. As Sean and Gorgo cry out, father Joseph, hearing the cries, manages to organize a group of citizens, including Hendricks and some of his scientists, to help sift through the rubble to free them. Despite a direct attempt by Dorling and his minions to stop the rescue, Herman, afraid to lose his brother and suddenly aware of his errors, punches Dorling in the face allowing the group to succeed in freeing Gorgo and Sean, finally reuniting Gorgo with her mother and Sean with his father and brother in a heartwarming scene wryly commented upon by McGonagall and Hendricks.

Poseidon then, almost as a comedic afterthought, devours a fleeing Dorling in a single gulp.

The mob, Dorling’s minions, and Herman are arrested and are due in court soon, with Herman willing to “face up to his mistakes” and make things right. Sean and Gorgo, Stheno, and Euryale have one last moment together as Poseidon looks on before the three swim off with their mother into the sunrise, with one last narration by Lord Raymond before Hendricks tells him, “that’s enough, m’lud. Show’s over.”

And now for the obligatory Production discussion:

The story of the Gorgo reboot began with the success of Kong: King of Skull Island and the announcement of the Godzilla 1997 release. MGM Chair Tom Wilhite wanted in on the game. They considered using the retained rights to the old Hasbro Inhumanoids before it was realized that 1961’s Gorgo had been an MGM release, and that conceivably they still had distribution rights along with Columbia. Production rights were up in the air and arguably public domain given that the original production company, King Brothers, had been defunct since ’69. Still, though MGM contacted Turner if only to avert any sort of lawsuit, frivolous or otherwise. Turner agreed to share production and distribution if his Columbia Peach Grove Studios could have the Theme Park rights, whose ownership was likewise ambiguous.

Tim Burton and his Skeleton Crew were recruited to do the production with an assist by Muppets alum Jerry Juhl, although Burton declined to actually direct it himself. Terry Jones would thus be tapped for the director’s chair, while the script would be penned by Jones and fellow Python alum Michael Palin, who’d also play town official Jerry McGonagall. Knowing that the film would inevitably be compared to Toho and Universal pictures’ creations and wanting the film to stand apart, Palin would give the film a comedic makeover, subtly and affectionately lampooning of the clichés of the kaiju genre in the way only Brits can do while simultaneously indulging in the guilty pleasure tropes of the genre. Burton and company gave the film a full Harryhausen-esque makeover, deliberately quoting the tropes and cinematography of vintage Kaiju films from the midcentury even as they used modern effects techniques to wow audiences. Filming took place in both Cornwall and London throughout late spring and summer of 1990 with set shoots at Elstree Studios in a deal arranged with Atlantic Communications.

Undoubtedly, we’re here for Poseidon and the Gorgons, so let’s start with them and their design. First, they have quite the unique look: instead of the generic Godzilla-lite design of the 1961 version, they’re semi-quadrupedal creatures taking inspiration from the dinosaur Baryonyx[1], with long necks, snouts, arms, and claws, memorably described by Palin as the result of “An anteater, crane, and crocodile [having] a ménage a’ trois”. Coincidentally, they’re reminiscent in some ways of fellow British kaiju Giant Behemoth, coincidentally also created by Gorgo creator Eugene Lourie. They did keep the iconic original Gorgo “ears”, though.

220px-The_Giant_Behemoth.jpg
OrderlyDisgustingAvians-size_restricted.gif

The Giant Behemoth (1959) (Image sources Wikipedia & “gfycat.com”)

Meanwhile, Gorgo has gained the two siblings of Steno and Euryale in this iteration as the production team had a thing about the number 3, and all have different personalities: Gorgo, the youngest, is friendly to humans as far as reptilian kaiju go, oldest chick Stheno is aggressive, while middle chick Euryale is shy and timid.

As for visuals, they’re all primarily rendered by a mixture of animatronics, CG, and practical effects. There’s even some stop motion effects courtesy of Burton, Selick, and Chiodo, especially in the marine and London sequences, all of which display heavy Harryhausen influence in their composition.

Story-wise, on one hand there’s a very Spielbergian feel to the film, especially in the relationships between Sean and the gorgon triplets, Gorgo in particular. Gorgo and her sisters are shown as intelligent, playful animals much like bear or lion cubs, while Poseidon is treated with awe and fascination as much with fear, like an ancient god. Like all the best kaiju films, there’s a clear theme of man’s hubris against nature in it: most of the people (outside of the smarter ones) regard the Ogratitans as horrifying monsters that must be destroyed before they can hurt humanity. But this proves a bad decision, especially since Poseidon only starts attacking people after Dorling or the navy hurt them. Indeed, even before that, there’s the fact that reckless overfishing of the ocean is what drove Poseidon to emerge and start raiding the fishing boats in the first place.

Personally, the highlight would be both John Cleese‘s Professor Hendricks and Tim Curry’s Martin Dorling. Hendricks is the friendly and reasonable but immensely snarky scientist who studies the Ogratitans, while Dorling is the smarmy CEO of Dorling Systems who chews the scenery like a salesman and a preacher. Both are already amusing, but when the two characters share scenes, their arguments are as hilarious as they come. Is it any wonder they’d reunite for the comedy Horseplay[2]?


POSSIDON emerges from the water of the Lower Thames, roaring. People flee in panic. HENDRICKS and DORLING watch, amusingly unperturbed, even as panicking pedestrians flee all around them.

Hendricks: Ah, yes, I see her now. Clearly your standard Giant European Sea Saurian. (points with his pipe) You can tell by the, ah, ear-like protrusions on either side of the head, as well as the long sauropodian neck, which distinguishes her from the related Asian Kaiju, which is notable for its back plates and noxious breath.

Dorling: (sneers) Thank you for the zoology lesson, Professor. Now, will any of this help us to, say, not get devoured by her?

Hendricks: (scowls) Um, not exactly. (partially under his breath) You simian.

Dorling: (smirks irritatingly) Then may I advise, if it's not too forward of me to interrupt your eminent scholarship, that we just perhaps run in terror?

Hendricks: (snorts in annoyance) Given the situation, yes, that would be the advisable course of action. (pushes past Dorling) Take him first!!

HENDRICKS and DORLING, screaming in panic, join the fleeing crowd.



Cleese and Curry are not alone – the film is crammed with British stars, most of whom originate from the comedy scene, ranging from minor roles to small cameos. All three Goodies appear in minor roles in an immortal scene, with the late, great, Tim Brooke-Taylor as a twittish Prime Minister who offers no useful solution to stopping Poseidon's rampage, whilst his two more sensible advisors (Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden) try and cope with him. Fellow Likely Lads star James Bolan plays a trigger-happy admiral who’s obsessed with torpedoes in a rather Freudian way. André Morell plays Sean’s grandfather, and Vincent Winter, who starred in the first film, plays a newscaster who’s seen it all.

For Eighties Britcom fans, we have Stephen Fry and Tim McInnerny, basically replicating General Melchett and Captain Darling as a bumbling British army colonel and his sniveling sidekick leading efforts on the ground to stop Poseidon (and failing), with The Young Ones appearing (in character) as soldiers, leading to multiple laugh-out-loud comic moments. Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson also appear alongside Brooke-Taylor's Prime Minister, as a man giving the prime minister updates on the monster's progress and his stupid sidekick. Music scene-wise, Peter Gabriel stars as a police constable, the Spice Girls are protesters against Dorling, while Vera Lynn is a frazzled grandmother.

Finally, in a tongue-in-cheek nod to the tacked-on Raymond Burr role in the American Godzilla releases, acclaimed British actor Sir Richard Attenborough plays the character of Lord Raymond, who stoically stands around the “command center” with the PM and gives pointless exposition and navel-gazing reflections on events before being politely asked by the PM to “kindly please shut up.” Even the other actors didn’t fight giving Attenborough top billing as an extension of the meta-gag.

However, the film does have its cons. For one thing, Sean, in spite of a decent performance courtesy of Sturridge, comes off as rather annoying, being either whiny or irritatingly snarky, almost to an extent of the Kennys in Gamera, not to mention more often than not he is always right and barely allowed to be wrong. There’s also the rather inconsistent tone that the critics often notes: the film jumps between being playing its conventions of the genre straight for a Spielbergian adventure drama story or mocking/satirizing them in a Pythonesque farce a la Terry Gilliam. This can be blamed on studio interference from Columbia, who got cold feet at Jones and Palin’s darkly comedic script.

The film did very well at the box office making $184 million against its $45 million budget, but despite a lengthy push, didn't get any major awards (save for some Saturns, but who even cares for them?). Merch sales were also quite successful, from toys, to a novelization and comic adaptation, to even a video game. There was also a TV pilot done by Rich Chidlaw, but it wasn’t picked up.

While Gorgo doesn’t have the grand scope and characters of the Godzilla movies of the same time or Kong: King of Skull Island, and certainly isn’t a must-see for most kaiju fans, Gorgo is indeed a decent outing for them and casual fans alike. In fact, I personally prefer this for its deeper themes and tone.

So, what were your thoughts on Gorgo? Please leave them in the comments so I can get my payday too. Next time, we look at Godzilla’s next outing.


Lord Raymond: And thus, we see the hubris of man, and how by trying to control the natural world we merely invite her wrath!

Prime Minister: Oh, do be quiet, Lord Raymond.





[1] Interestingly it was thought at the time that Baryonyx would be able to walk on both all fours and on two.

[2] A 1998 comedy about horse racing.
 
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Gorgo!

ITTL me is soo defiantly watching this - so many Brits in this Britzilla movie! Probably brought it on disk too!

Sounds like a fun romp as well- I wonder if there is enough material for a directors cut later on to restore the tone/feel of the Palin script?

No place for Nigel Hawthorne or Derek Fowlds from Yes, Minister?

I would bet this does well in Commonwealth countries.

Great work @Geekhis Khan, @Plateosaurus, @Nathanoraptor and @GrahamB.
 
Good update; was there no room for Anthony Stewart Head or Richard Griffiths (who would have both been good choices as prime minister--Head did play one in Little Britain)?
 
It’s the “modern day” of 1996 and the European seas have been plagued by a giant monster since the 1960s. Dubbed “Poseidon”, it’s a giant reptilian beast that, due to habitat encroachment and overfishing, has a history of attacking ships and raiding communities for their fish stocks. One small community in Yorkshire in particular regards her as a kind of bogeyman, where bad communities and people are punished when she eats the fish that sustain them. The Nilssens are one of these Yorkshire fishing families. Patriarch Joseph (Rodney Bewes) regards her as a nuisance that can be tolerated, 22-year-old son Herman (James McAvoy) sees her a menace to be destroyed, and young 12-year-old son Sean (Tom Sturridge) is endlessly fascinated by her.
I love that the existence of the monster is already a proven fact instead of the cliche that nobody believes in it's existence.
Sean is a shy and emotional kid with dreams of being a scientist, and, unbeknownst to his father and older brother, at night he likes to sneak out onto the shores, where he has met and befriended three playful little sea monsters, which he names Stheno, Euryale, and Gorgo, after the three gorgons from Greek myth. He suspects they’re actually Poseidon’s offspring, but isn’t sure. Either way, he’s “never telling dad” about them. Stheno is suspicious of Sean and Euryale is shy and timid, but Gorgo, the smallest, is curious and playful, and soon befriends Sean.
I see the family conflict already. Also nice justification for the name.
Sadly, Gorgo becomes so friendly with Sean that one day he follows Sean and his family’s fishing boat, and is soon trapped in their fishing net. Herman suggests that they “cut off its bloody head and toss it back” while Sean pleads with his father to just let it go. But his father instead brings it back to show off to the other fishermen, where it becomes a local sensation, with many wondering if it’s related to Poseidon. The local authorities have Gorgo transported to an abandoned dock for temporary containment and Sean, feeling guilty for getting Gorgo captured, convinces his father to be Gorgo's watchman
Oh no, I hope Gorgo is ok.
While the town and county officials debate what to do with “the sea creature”, they alert some scientists, who want to study her. Meanwhile, the clueless mayor Jerry McGonagall (Michael Palin) gets a call from a corporate representative from Dorling Systems. The scientists, led by Gerald Hendricks (John Cleese), confirm by a blood test that the creature is indeed the offspring of Poseidon, which sends the town into a panicked frenzy. Led by Herman Nilssen, they demand that this little “Gorgo” be removed from their town immediately before “mother arrives”, or better yet cut it up for bait.
That bid reminds me more of Jaws with the incompetent major.
That night, many of the town council, as pressured by Herman, secretly sign a deal with Dorling Systems, a hydrodynamics technology company headed by the smarmy Martin Dorling (Tim Curry), to give Gorgo over for experiments to develop new technology. Dorling, backed by Herman, rallies a mob of disgruntled fishermen and business owners to push past Joseph and seize Gorgo, even as Sean begs his older brother not to. Gorgo is then put in a tank on a flatbed lorry and taken to Dorling’s London headquarters.
That's going to end well.
All of the obligatory London landmarks are destroyed, with Poseidon even going out of her way to destroy the NatWest Tower in an obvious “take that” to the controversial skyscraper, which many considered an out-of-place eyesore at the time (Palin was recently asked at a Con panel what she’d think of the Gherkin, to which he alluded that she might use it for “something rather inappropriate and R-rated”).
Lol spicy Commentary on urban development. I can almost imagine the scene where the authorities are informed about the destruction of famous London landmarks and get visibly shaken and sad just to shrug off the destruction of the NatWest tower.
In the process of trying to reach and free Gorgo, however, she causes the Dorling Building holding Gorgo to collapse, trapping Gorgo along with Sean. As Sean and Gorgo cry out, father Joseph, hearing the cries, manages to organize a group of citizens, including Hendricks and some of his scientists, to help sift through the rubble to free them. Despite a direct attempt by Dorling and his minions to stop the rescue, Herman, afraid to lose his brother and suddenly aware of his errors, punches Dorling in the face allowing the group to succeed in freeing Gorgo and Sean, finally reuniting Gorgo with her mother and Sean with his father and brother in a heartwarming scene wryly commented upon by McGonagall and Hendricks.
Heartwarming ending, humanity's hubris gets defeated by the power of family love.
The story of the Gorgo reboot began with the success of Kong: King of Skull Island and the announcement of the Godzilla 1997 release. MGM Chair Tom Wilhite wanted in on the game. They considered using the retained rights to the old Hasbro Inhumanoids before it was realized that 1961’s Gorgo had been an MGM release, and that conceivably they still had distribution rights along with Columbia. Production rights were up in the air and arguably public domain given that the original production company, King Brothers, had been defunct since ’69. Still, though MGM contacted Turner if only to avert any sort of lawsuit, frivolous or otherwise. Turner agreed to share production and distribution if his Columbia Peach Grove Studios could have the Theme Park rights, whose ownership was likewise ambiguous.
Ted Turner and his theme park right! I hope his version of the Kong Encounter is going to be good.
Knowing that the film would inevitably be compared to Toho and Universal pictures’ creations and wanting the film to stand apart, Palin would give the film a comedic makeover, subtly and affectionately lampooning of the clichés of the kaiju genre in the way only Brits can do while simultaneously indulging in the guilty pleasure tropes of the genre. Burton and company gave the film a full Harryhausen-esque makeover, deliberately quoting the tropes and cinematography of vintage Kaiju films from the midcentury even as they used modern effects techniques to wow audiences. Filming took place in both Cornwall and London throughout late spring and summer of 1990 with set shoots at Elstree Studios in a deal arranged with Atlantic Communications.
Sounds like a fun parody of the genre with lots of British humour to boot.
Undoubtedly, we’re here for Poseidon and the Gorgons, so let’s start with them and their design. First, they have quite the unique look: instead of the generic Godzilla-lite design of the 1961 version, they’re semi-quadrupedal creatures taking inspiration from the dinosaur Baryonyx[1], with long necks, snouts, arms, and claws, memorably described by Palin as the result of “An anteater, crane, and crocodile [having] a ménage a’ trois”. Coincidentally, they’re reminiscent in some ways of fellow British kaiju Giant Behemoth, coincidentally also created by Gorgo creator Eugene Lourie. They did keep the iconic original Gorgo “ears”, though
Cool modernisation of the character. Although it would've been funny to see them do a gag about it looking like Godzilla.
As for visuals, they’re all primarily rendered by a mixture of animatronics, CG, and practical effects. There’s even some stop motion effects courtesy of Burton, Selick, and Chiodo, especially in the marine and London sequences, all of which display heavy Harryhausen influence in their composition.
They did it they finally got their Harryhausen kaiju movie! Finally they can rest now.
Personally, the highlight would be both John Cleese‘s Professor Hendricks and Tim Curry’s Martin Dorling. Hendricks is the friendly and reasonable but immensely snarky scientist who studies the Ogratitans, while Dorling is the smarmy CEO of Dorling Systems who chews the scenery like a salesman and a preacher. Both are already amusing, but when the two characters share scenes, their arguments are as hilarious as they come. Is it any wonder they’d reunite for the comedy Horseplay[2]?
Delightful dynamic, would watch the other film just to get more of that.
However, the film does have its cons. For one thing, Sean, in spite of a decent performance courtesy of Sturridge, comes off as rather annoying, being either whiny or irritatingly snarky, almost to an extent of the Kennys in Gamera, not to mention more often than not he is always right and barely allowed to be wrong. There’s also the rather inconsistent tone that the critics often notes: the film jumps between being playing its conventions of the genre straight for a Spielbergian adventure drama story or mocking/satirizing them in a Pythonesque farce a la Terry Gilliam. This can be blamed on studio interference from Columbia, who got cold feet at Palin’s darkly comedic script, and also some rewrites from Hickox.
Too bad, I would love to see the original script.

Great chapter @Geekhis Khan
 
For anyone wondering, you’ll have to wait a bit to see more about this film. I won’t be posting the guest post relating to this film in the official Hensonverse guest post thread until the timeline officially reaches 1996, since the post will also relate to and be also partially also about another work that will be released in 1996 from the same writer (who I should mention might be a bit of a surprise) behind The Assassination of Julius Caesar.
For those curious, I’ve finally posted the guest post mentioned here over on the guest post thread.
 
God Loves, Man Kills New
Interview with Richard Donner
From Comics Craze Magazine, May 1998 Edition


Richard Donner is, of course, a legend in his own right with a long and distinguished career. But for Comics fans like us, he’s of course most loved for his forays into Comics-Based movies, most notably the 1978 Superman film and the subject of today’s interview, the 1996 X-Men film, which he produced and directed[1] (and which are, respectively, our #5 and #2 Best Comics Moments Outside of Comics). Its upcoming sequel, X-Men 2: Rise of the Sentinels, is produced by Donner, but not directed by him.

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CC: Mr. Donner, it is a blessing and an honor to speak with you today. Needless to say, we are all fans of your work with Superman and the X-Men alike.

RD: Thank you, and I’m happy to be here.

CC: And with X2 coming to theaters now, we thought that we’d take the time to talk about 1996’s X-Men with Liev Schreiber, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lee, and Rachel Lee Cook. What is it that first brought you to the X-Men franchise?

RD: Well, honestly, it’s the central themes. There’s a real depth to the comics line which addresses some weighty subjects like bigotry, persecution, and prejudice all while resonating with the feeling of alienation that a lot of teenagers have even while also hoping that they’re somehow someone special, and magical. It’s a theme that any number of marginalized people from ethnic and religious minorities to the gay and lesbian community to even unpopular teens can relate to. And when I saw Frank Oz’s Spiderman in ’91 I knew that the effects and costuming had finally reached the stage where X-Men movies could be done right. I immediately contacted MGM and proposed an X-Men film, only to find that they were already considering one, with Joss Whedon, who’d won an Emmy for the “Dark Phoenix” saga on the animated series, being tapped to write a screenplay. Stan Lee and Chris Claremont at Marvel and VP Margie Loesch were happy to let me produce and direct and I worked with Joss to draft a treatment.

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A Bit of This and That…

CC: The resulting treatment evolved into the film’s screenplay and largely followed a combination of the themes and story elements of “Days of Future Past”, but without the time travel aspect, and a heaping dose of “God Loves, Man Kills”. It notably also features the initial rift between the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants, who begin the film as allies. What led to these decisions?

RD: Well, we had a very long discussion about what we wanted to do, Chris, Joss, and I, along with my production associate Kevin Feige[2], who is a huge X-Men fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the comics that impressed even Chris and Joss. Naturally they poached him from me after the film debuted (laughs). We clearly wanted the whole Mutant Persecution aspect to be central to the narrative, so adding in Reverend Stryker and Senator Kelly was a natural, with cameos by other Hellfire Club folks. These became the principal antagonists rather than the Brotherhood, whom as you noted are shown to be allied to Xavier at the beginning.

CC: With the legendary Malcolm McDowell as Stryker and Law & Order’s John Slattery as Senator Kelly, of course.

RD: Yes, and they were both brilliant. The plot would center around Stryker as a far-right-wing anti-mutant bigot enflaming tensions while Kelly would be the political arm, spinning up his plans for the Mutant Registration Act and similar anti-mutant legislation. Malcolm gave Stryker a sort of combination televangelist/political demagogue personality while Kelly was strongly based on Joseph McCarthy with hints of various Fascist politicians, even cribbing from some of their speeches.

CC: Yes, the whole McCarthy Red Scare vibe was clear, and we noticed that the exchanges between Kelly and Kelsey Grammer’s Dr. Hank “Beast” McCoy at the Capitol hearing were right out of McCarthy’s exchange with Joseph Welch.

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(Image source Ice the Burn)

RD: Exactly, I’m glad that you noticed. Sometimes the greatest monsters are the real ones. And rather than have a central supervillain threatening massive death and destruction, we took a riskier approach where the threat was more abstract and visceral: the rise of Hate and Repression, with Xavier and Erik’s divergent reactions to the rise of Stryker’s anti-mutant crusade driving the plot rather than some MacGuffin search or Big Evil Plan to foil. Somehow the stakes feel bigger since they’re actually relatable. Nobody has experienced an attempt at world domination by a magical supervillain using a magical weapon, but we’ve all seen the rise of violence and prejudice. We introduce Professor Xavier and Erik “Magneto” Lensherr as friends and comrades in the fight for Mutant Rights, but already we can see the cracks forming, of course, as Erik in particular, as a Holocaust survivor, can’t help but be painfully reminded of the rhetoric of Hitler and the Nazis in Stryker and Kelly.

CC: Xavier played by Patrick Stewart and Erik played by Christopher Lee, of course. And you actually begin the film at Auschwitz with a young Erik, played by child actor Thomas Dekker, first manifesting his powers.

RD: Yes, we wanted to establish the stakes right up front and make it clear why Magneto has the beliefs that he does. Going straight from the Holocaust to a McCarthyite hearing made that all very clear.

CC: And once those themes and stakes are set up, you introduce our two point of view characters: Wolverine played by the imposing Liev Schreiber, who let’s face it is Logan in real life, and Kitty Pride, played by Rachael Leigh Cook.

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Rachel Leigh Cook in 1996 (You want the Image source? Go Fug Yourself. Seriously, that’s the website)

RD: Yes, we determined very early on that with so much information and exposition to dump on audiences, most of whom probably did not read the comics or watch the cartoon, that having a “new” character as an audience surrogate would be needed. Joss was really pushing for either Jubilee or Kitty, and we ended up picking Kitty since her powers would be integral to the plot as it unfolded. And with the almost ludicrous level of popularity that Wolverine had at the time, he seemed like a natural. We considered beginning with Wolvie on the run from the Weapon X program, but Joss urged making Kitty the focus since her innocence would make her a good source of audience sympathy. Joss came up with the visual of her literally falling through her high school locker, nervous as she spoke with a boy that she liked. It was so wholesome and relatable that when her sudden unexpected “outing” as a mutant turns her into an immediate pariah with her crush, her teachers, and her parents alike, we get to see up front the cruelty and unfairness of the prejudice and fear. Kitty is a threat to nobody, but suddenly she is treated as one. Something that any gay teenager can tell you is all too real. Naturally, when she runs away, she meets up with Wolvie, who is an aimless drifter[3].

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Liev Schreiber in 1996 from our timeline’s The Daytrippers (Image source Eye For Film)

CC: So, Schreiber was a relatively unknown actor at the time[4]. How did you come by him? Why not a bigger name?

RD: (laughs) Well, that’s certainly what the studio wanted! Mel Gibson’s name was thrown around, but I knew that he’d take over the production. We interviewed Bruce Willis and Viggo Mortensen and Dougray Scott, but when we saw Liev we knew we were looking at Logan. He was a bit young, 28 at the time, but once the makeup was applied and his trainers bulked him up, he worked great for the effectively ageless Logan and worked to give him, as he put it, a “feral masculinity” that he based in part on Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Wolfman.

CC: Naturally. So Kitty and Wolvie continue their road trip, trying to keep a low profile. And we enjoyed the two of them together. The scared, lonely runaway and the jaded old curmudgeon. But eventually they are outed and attacked by an anti-mutant lynch mob, who were riled up by Stryker’s TV rants. You told USA Today that Stryker’s rants were based in part on anti-Tutsi broadcasts in Rwanda leading up to the genocide. And soon even Logan is getting overwhelmed by sheer numbers, even if they can’t really seem to hurt him, and Kitty is fleeing in terror from the mob using her phasing powers to escape, even phasing out so that a shotgun blast passes harmlessly through her. Thankfully some of the X-Men arrive, namely Pam Grier’s Storm[5], German actor Christoph Waltz’s Nightcrawler, and of course Grammer’s Beast, who have been alerted to the incident by Xavier using Cerebro, and they are together able to break up the mob and rescue Wolvie and Kitty. What can you tell us about that scene?

RD: Well, we deliberately made it brutal, messy, and ugly. No showy martial arts. Almost no harness work. Logan restraining himself even as he is forced to kill in self-defense, but preferring to slice away a rifle barrel and headbutt. Kitty in a panic the whole time, phasing her way out of trouble through animal instinct. Logan bleeding profusely from superficial wounds from the bottles, bats, rocks, knives, and gunshots. We actually had to tone it down to avoid an R rating. We also get to meet Storm and Kurt and comics fans finally get to hear what “bamf” actually sounds like! (laughs) You’d be amazed at how much sound editing went into making it sound “right”.

CC: The X-Men take Logan and Kitty to Xavier’s School for the Gifted, where Wolvie is introduced to Jean Grey and Cyclops, setting up the love triangle going forward. And we gotta say, Jim Caviezel and Julianne Moore were two more great casting choices, with Jim’s Cyclops so noble and heroic and yet kind of an arrogant prick and Julianne gave Jean a lot of depth and sympathy, with so much clear internal power there.

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Jim Caviezel and Julianne Moore c1995 (Image sources FanPop on Pinterest and NNDB)

RD: Well, Julianne makes everything better, and I’m glad that we got her when we did before she decided to focus on quirkier indie projects. Thankfully, the clever script and the empowering themes spoke to her and her screen charisma with Liev was a great mix of flirty and frustrated. Jim and Liev put so much masculine tension into a scene. And that was where the real story was, how these very different people reacted to their shared experiences. Logan’s story and Kitty’s story thus became not just the exposition magnets, but the real driver of the film as they go through character development, Logan from a jaded drifter out for himself to someone willing to fight for a greater cause, and Kitty going from a scared teenager rejected by her friends and family desperately in need of a new family ultimately learning the difference between healthy and toxic relationships. Of course, there was a third story in there too as Jean learns more about her true potential, with Storm eventually letting her know that Xavier has actually put a block on her powers to protect her from herself.

CC: Yes, we count her line “Woman, you have no understanding about how powerful you truly are” as one of our top Comics Quotes. It’s of course become an iconic line, particularly in female and even homosexual comics fandom, who have adopted it as a motto.

RD: You can thank Joss for that line, and also thank him and Kevin on insisting that we take some time to set up Jean’s future arc, which every comics geek knows, but should be a surprise to general audiences, we hope.

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Heath Ledger and Karl Urban c1996 (Image sources newidea.com and Amazon.com)

CC: And while Logan steals the show and we can’t get enough of his belligerent love triangle with Jean and Scott, Kitty is really the center of the action that drives the plot. You introduce most of the X-Men themselves through her, in particular Heath Ledger’s Angel and Karl Urban’s Pyro, plus lots of good background cameos like Jubilee and Bobby Drake. Angel and Pyro in particular become important in her life as the near-literal Angel and Devil on her shoulder.

RD: Yes, we originally considered having Iceman as her “angel”, but the effects would have been costly to do right and the natural symbolism of Angel was so good that we went with it, even if it was a bit on the nose. Logan had a similar angel/devil relationship in Cyclops and Jean, the former symbolic of his jaded feelings of rejection that pushes him back and away from growth and Jean as the woman who can sense his inner heroism and pulls him forward.

CC: So, not just love triangles for their own sake.

RD: Perish the thought! Of course, making Angel into Kitty’s positive influence meant that we needed to age down Angel and gave him a slight tweak in backstory as another kid whose parents, this time very wealthy, rejected him when his wings started to grow. I rather liked the flashback scene where he keeps trying to cut off his own wings, but they keep growing back, if I do say so myself. He’s a literally angelic embodiment of the beauty of the human soul and he’s despised for it, and despises himself for it. Pyro has a similar story, but in his case, he is a very angry kid from an abusive home with a massive persecution complex, but he is also a charismatic bad boy that Kitty is becoming attracted to, even as Angel seems to have a crush on her in turn, of course. The three actors were just so fantastic together.

CC: What’s the X-Men without a little soap opera, right? But we of course get a bit of action tossed into the mix of introductions and exposition and expository montages when Logan is introduced to the Danger Room.

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(Image source Cinema Blend)

RD: Yes, that was a fun little set piece and helped add some action into an otherwise rather inactive part of the early second act. And from a plot and story standpoint it gave the viewers a chance to experience not only how the X-Men interacted, but what their powers were and how they functioned as a team to overcome the many obstacles. We even get some mild slapstick as Logan, refusing to listen to Storm and Cyclops, charges in and gets thoroughly, and of course harmlessly, thrashed and burnt.

CC: But this burgeoning new safe space is thrown upside down at the midpoint when the school is visited by Magneto and Mystique. Kitty, urged by Pyro, uses her powers to spy on “the teachers” since all the students can tell that something is up. This results in her witnessing Mystique, played by the incredibly seductive Natasha Henstridge, and making blue look beautiful[6], trying to convince Nightcrawler to help her and Mags remove Stryker as a threat, but Kurt flat out refuses her plan. Kitty also witnesses Mags and Xavier arguing about what to do about Stryker, with Mags increasingly urging for “stronger action” and openly warning that they must “silence that dangerous fool, whatever it takes!” And that’s, of course, when Mags notices Kitty hiding in the walls.

RD: Yes, we wanted Kitty’s original sin as it were to be something very innocent like a young teen would do. And this little bit of misbehavior leads directly to Kitty and Pyro being approached by Magneto, who quickly recognizes Pyro’s attitude as useful, and more importantly he sees Kitty’s powers as (in a Lee impression) “exactly the skills that we need for our mission, since Wagner fails to appreciate the gravity of our cause.” Sorry, that was a terrible impression. Pyro is an easy sell, of course, because he’s got a lot of anger and resentment within him for Mags to exploit, but Kitty is a harder sell. Discovering her heritage as the grandchild of holocaust survivors, he uses his own experiences, specifically showing her his camp tattoo, to seduce her over the Brotherhood of Mutants, as he is naming his new splinter organization. She, of course, is swayed by his story and agrees to help in their mission, which she believes is to break in to Stryker’s mansion and “plant a thought” in his head to make him stop his dangerous demagoguery. She in turn drags along a reluctant Angel.

CC: And we must say that Lee was just chilling there. You both sympathize with him yet are also terrified by him, and by how easily he manipulates these young people over to his radical cause, which strangely makes you understand why people are so terrified of mutants to begin with.

RD: Yes, we wanted to keep some grey in the narrative here, and Christopher is just such a talented actor in ways that a lot of people don’t fully appreciate. We’d fallen in love with his nuanced portrayal of Timothy Harmon in Jurassic Park, the balance between the obsessive Dr. Frankenstein and the enthusiastic little boy who believed in flea circuses and wanted to create real magic. The truth is that even Xavier admits that Mags is right about Stryker and Senator Kelly, that they are an existential threat to mutant kind. He’s not a fool. Xavier is shown to be at a loss about how to deal meaningfully with the threat and he strategizes with Storm and Jean and Beast, hoping to find a peaceful way to show the world that the two are dangerous without inviting further risk, knowing that Mags’ violent strategy will only invite a violent counterstrike.

CC: Yes, Xavier’s “We must at all costs avoid a civil war!” contrasted with Mags’ “We are already at war, whether you choose to see it or not, my friend.” Xavier, of course, has no idea what Mags’ plans are for the three young students, but he’s sure that it will be bad. But Magneto also realizes that Xavier will eventually learn of the plan, or at least use Cerebro to discern the students’ location, and try and stop him, so Mystique disguises herself as Storm and sabotages Cerebro, which leaves Xavier incapacitated when he tries to use it to find where the missing students went.

RD: Yes, we knew that we needed to take the X-Men out of the picture somehow while our teenagers are pulled into this plot.

CC: And said plot was also a chance to introduce the rest of the Brotherhood, in this case Timothy Spall’s Toad and Ron Pearlman’s Sabretooth. And while we all totally loved Pearlman as the tough-talking Sabes, Timothy Spall was just perfect, we must say, as Toad. Just revolting, sniveling, and both literally and figuratively slimy!

RD: Yes, and he had a blast and we had a blast with him.

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The Angel and Devil on Kitty’s shoulders (Image sources Pinterest and Marvel Database)

CC: Toad, of course, stays back with Angel and Pyro while Mystique and Kitty infiltrate Stryker’s mansion using their respective skills to bypass the security and Sabretooth stands guard. Naturally, Magneto was interested in Kitty for exactly this reason: her ability to be the perfect B&E specialist, even better than Kurt, who was his original plan with his teleportation power. And Toad lets slip to the teen boys that, in reality, the plan is not to “plant a thought” in Stryker, but to assassinate Stryker and replace him with Mystique in disguise!

RD: Yes, this mission is really about power, not just self-defense. The Brotherhood is hoping to subvert and coopt the anti-Mutant fear and rage to their own aims, to “be the enemy’s general officer”. Mags hopes to sew chaos in order to set up the conditions that allow for the Brotherhood to secretly rule the world, “Homo Superior” in his natural place above the “less evolved”, and ironic echo to the very eugenicist evil that so harmed young Erik.

CC: “He who fights monsters…” and all. Angel, of course, isn’t having this and palms Toad’s slimy communicator and leaves, feigning nervous nausea. He flies up to the roof of the mansion and alerts Kitty over the comm just as she and Mystique, who is already disguised as Stryker and drawing a knife, confront Stryker, forcing Kitty to choose her side.

RD: Yes, and we (laughs) had to reshoot the scene where Angel uses the comm about twenty times since it kept slipping out of Heath’s hands from the Toad-slime, which was, amusingly enough, based on Astroglide! We kept a couple of the drops in for comedy and to add some tension. But anyway, yes, Kitty makes her choice.

CC: Which is naturally on the side of good. It was a beautifully executed scene as she charges Stryker, yelling for Angel to come get them and she grabs Stryker and phases them both out the wall. Stryker is screaming as they fall, but this is of course where Angel can swoop down to grab them as they fall and they fly into the night. Beautifully shot.

RD: Thank you. And thank our editor, Steve Rosenblum, for making that all flow so well!

CC: But, of course, the X-Men aren’t just sitting around idle here. While all of this is going on with the Brotherhood, back at the X School, Logan is arguing with Cyclops about what they can do to find the missing students, with Logan insisting that they’re with Magneto and instinctually certain that they will go after Stryker or Kelly, but Cyclops remains reluctant to take action against fellow mutants, particularly without Xavier there to give his wisdom.

RD: Yes, more drama as Storm interdicts between the two as they seem on the verge of a fight. We really wanted to show just how much the X-Men rely on Xavier’s leadership by taking him out of the picture, and it all falls back into arguments while an exasperated Beast gives up and goes to check on Xavier.

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(Image source SensaCine)

CC: And while they all argue, Jean gets her big moment and goes to Cerebro and uses it herself, despite, of course, having not yet felt ready to earlier. It’s a big strain on her, but she finds the location of Kitty and Angel. Which, of course, leads them to an abandoned warehouse where the two teens have Stryker tied up, since despite literally saving his life, he’s threatening to have them arrested and is ignoring Kitty’s apologies, referring to her as a “monster.”

RD: Yeah, the irony is that if they let him go or he escapes he will probably get found and murdered by the Brotherhood, so they’re restraining him to save his life. This gives us a clear view of Stryker, that he’s truly in terror of Mutants, sure that they’ll drive “proper humans” to extinction. We played this directly off of Magneto’s lessons to Pyro, even using similar lines and camera angles, showing the similarities between the mutual fear and anger driving them.

CC: And Malcolm McDowell is, as always, mesmerizing. But of course, Angel convinces Kitty that they need to go back to Xavier, but the X-Men soon arrive anyway in the jet, setting us up for the big showdown.

RD: Yes, Storm takes charge and puts everyone, including Stryker, on the plane. She tells Stryker that he is not their prisoner and that they will release him once they get him safely away from the “angry fanatics”, assuring him, over his skepticism, that they mean him no harm. She’s really trying to use this as an opportunity to show Stryker that mutants are not his enemy.

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(Image source What Culture)

CC: But, of course, Magneto arrives, having tracked the jet, and as they try to escape, he physically pulls the plane into a death spiral, forcing Storm to use her wind powers combined with Jean’s telekinesis to land them relatively safely on the outskirts of the city center. The X-Men emerge from the crashed jet and thus begins the big showdown between the X-Men and the Brotherhood that every comics fan had been waiting for! So many great fight phrases for the fans here: Wolvie charging Magneto and nearly getting physically ripped apart since his adamantium skeleton is, well, magnetic. Jean Grey saving him with her mental powers and Wolvie in turn saving her from a charging Sabretooth, who seems to recognize Logan, but not vice versa. Magneto holding off both Storm and Jean, tossing around cars or using them as lightning shields. Toad dodging Cyclops’s eye beams and using his tongue to steal his visor, leading to his unchecked eye beams carving holes into the sides of buildings and taking him and Angel effectively out of the fight as Angel flies the effectively blinded Scott to safety. Nightcrawler bamfing in and out dodging Pyro’s blasts. And all of this while panicked citizens run for cover…which of course does the cause of mutant kind no good. I mean, lots of exciting fan service here[7].

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The disadvantages of Adamantium (Image source YouTube)

RD: Yes, we really worked closely with Brian [Henson] and the effects team and stunt coordinators to storyboard out and execute some exciting battles here that really showed the full range and potential of the powers. We also wanted to take the fight to many levels, with Toad chasing Kitty and Stryker across the rooftops and up and down through floors and walls, his agility and persistence against her abilities.

CC: And naturally Logan has to be the one to save the day here.

RD: Of course! He’s able to outwit Sabertooth even as he can’t overpower him, leading him into a powerplant and tricking him into slashing a fourteen-kilovolt transformer, zapping him unconscious. He then manages to sniff out Kitty and slice off Toad’s tongue just as he has Stryker in a choke hold with it.

CC: “What’s the matter, Toady? Wolv got your tongue?”

RD: (laughs) Yea, Joss strikes again!

CC: And they get away with Stryker, saving the life of the most ungrateful d-bag ever, who is still cursing the mutants. “These mutants saved your life!” as Kitty says. “Yes, from other mutants,” he replies.

RD: Yes, to him if mutants didn’t exist then he’d never have been in danger to begin with, right? For all of their hard work, Stryker “thanks” the X-Men by teaming with Senator Kelly to create an all-volunteer paramilitary “Sentinels” organization for citizens to “do their part” to track and contain the “mutant threat”, with lots of Blackshirt/Brownshirt vibes. And a newly-recovered Xavier exposits that they’ve teamed with Bolivar Trask of Trask Industries, so the comics fans will know that “proper” Sentinels will be right around the corner.

CC: Which as the title and trailers indicate will appear in X2.

RD: Naturally.

CC: Not to mention that while Logan sees Kitty safely enrolled in Xavier’s school, he himself is off to follow some directions that Xavier gives him about his past, leading him to what we can only assume is to the Weapon X facility.

RD: Well, no secrets for the upcoming film will be revealed by me!

CC: Of course. But let’s talk subtext and metatext here. Many have accused you of basing Stryker on Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell, both of whom have been highly critical of Disney and both of whom threatened to sue Disney over the portrayal as slanderous. And much of X-Men’s production occurred in 1995, the year of the DC terror bombing and the rise of domestic terror groups like the Sword of Liberty. How much did you consciously quote these real-life groups?

RD: None at all, actually. I can’t say whether we were subconsciously influenced here, or what Malcolm added consciously or otherwise, but none of those people ever came up in story discussions and the characters and their actions, including Stryker’s Old Testament fire & brimstone sermons and hateful appeals to violence over the TV, all date from comics produced in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Chris Claremont based his characters off of the past actions of various violent bigoted fanatical political and religious leaders in history from Savonarola to Torquemada to Hitler to McCarthy and we added in a bit of Hassan Ngeze in Rwanda. I’m more curious to see [Limbaugh and Falwell] looking at a character based on real world war criminals and dangerous demagogues and seeing themselves in him.

CC: Yes, very interesting indeed. Now, X1 broke $262 million worldwide[8] driven by the action, the effects, and more importantly the story. You got rave reviews from comics fans and mundanes alike. Ebert raved about its themes and drama.

RD: Yea, and the Box Office led to a lot of relief at the studio since by that point costs on The Road to Ruin, which was filming in the next sound stage over, had spiraled out of control with the trade mags predicting disaster. They’d already pushed it to August and there was a lot of worry that we’d need to make up for the losses to keep the studio in the black that year.

CC: And we all know what happened there! Do you expect a similar response to and box office from X2?

RD: (laughs) well, I’d like to hope!

CC: Richard Donner, thank you for speaking with Comics Craze.

RD: My pleasure, thank you!

CC: X-Men 2: Rise of the Sentinels will be out in theaters next month.



[1] Cyclops visor tip to @kirbopher15. (Oops! Sorry about the charred hole in the wall.)

[2] He started his career in our timeline as an assistant to Lauren Shuler Donner, Richard Donner’s wife. It seemed natural to bring him in here.

[3] Yes, a lot of the same story beats as our timeline’s Bryan Singer film since a lot of the same producers and writers are involved. Things will diverge from here. Note that it was Singer that changed the young POV character to Rogue since he felt that her inability to touch or be touched would heighten the themes of isolation, which they did even if the changes to her age and background annoyed some fans.

[4] Yes, sadly no Hugh Jackman Wolvie here, since he only got the job after Russel Crowe recommended him, and even then, he was a last-minute replacement for Dougray Scott. Here Crowe isn’t yet breaking out enough to be a major contender for the role, none the less recommend Jackman.

[5] Hat tip to Mrs. Khan for this casting.

[6] She will wear actual clothing, no rubber body suit pseudo-nudity, sorry pervos!

[7] Beast is still back at Xavier’s school, managing things and attending to the recovering Xavier.

[8] Roughly on par, adjusted for inflation, with the Bryan Singer film from our timeline.
 
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