Godzilla the Series: An Exercise in Over-Analysis – Part VIII

"A $60 wet bar? Screw you, package tours! Godzilla SMASH!"
“A $60 wet bar? Screw you! Godzilla SMASH!”

Episode 9 – Hive

On the vaguely-Pacific island of Santa Marta, a species of enormous, animate plant disturbs a band of youthful-looking looters come to scavenge the island’s hastily-evacuated luxury resort. So, in five seconds we have a deserted island, a grumbling volcano, and plants trying to build up their Hentai street-cred. Just another day in Godzilla: The Series.

And, like any other day, H.E.A.T. arrives after the credits, and team lead Nick Tatopolus is quick to claim the moral high ground. “We’re not just here on their word,” meaning the word of those damned looters. “The resort company also asked us to check it out.” The increasingly-annoying Randy, for once, delivers some useful information with his follow-up quip. “And he asked in the universal language: moolah.”

So there’s one groovy mystery solved. We know now that H.E.A.T., like the Ghostbusters before them, works on spec. Probably offering “professional megafauna investigation and elimination.” Or, in the managerial argot of the late-90s, “innovative, giant monster relocation services and solutions.”

He knows he shouldn't be checking out her ass...but like all hetro nerd boys, he just can't help his eyes.
He knows he shouldn’t be checking out her ass…but like all hetro nerd boys, he just can’t help his eyes.

Whatever the case, an underwater thermal geyser spills Our Heroes onto the beach, wreaking their trusty inflatable motor raft. While Nick and Randy work to hot wire it, Craven, Elsie and Monique carve a path inland through the surprisingly lush foliage. And what’s Elsie talking about, “underground nuclear tests” back in the 50s? This whole set up spells B-A-D in big, blinking letters. You’d think someone (Nick, say?) would suggest staying together…at least until the boat’s fixed.

But no. Our team splits up. “Something inside the ash,” Elsie theorizes as they truck on, “must be acting as a super fertilizer.” Who died and made you Team Botanist? Weren’t you a paleontologist just a few episodes ago? Or are you just talking to fight off the heeby-geebies? At least Mendel gives into them honestly: “Help me! Their alive,” he shouts after accidentally falling into a tangle of vines. Bored with this Odious Comic Relief, Elsie decides to climb a tree and gather samples, splitting the team up even further. Mendel at least has the good sense to protest. Nevertheless, he melts at a wink from the good Dr. Chapman, since, as we all know, Mendel’s whipped something awful.

At the resort hotel, the French Fry and the Cowardly Scientist find a bevy of vicious vines. Retreating into the building, they stumble across Nic Cage’s ultimate nightmare: a hive-full of pick-up truck-sized bees. Monique breaks an ankle during the ensuing chase through the hotel, and even with only one good leg she still manages to keep Mendel alive. Her disdain for his lack of survival skills is palpably French, and thus awesome.

Offshore, Nick and Randy fix the boat. The island’s active volcano has, of course, fucked with their communications, forcing them inland…right into the carnivorous vines. Godzilla arrives, apparently just in the Nick of time (pun intended—that’s why I used italics)…only for the vines ensnare to him as well.

Trimming the verge made easy!
Trimming the verge made easy!

Bullshit…but let’s talk about fluctuating superpowers for a second. About Superman turning back time by flying around the world really fast. About He-Man holding starships in place with some magic lasso She-Ra stole from Wonder Woman. About Aquaman, cira Superfriends, and his glass jaw. About all those Decepticon that got taken out with a single punch. I’m talking about Godzilla being unable to wrench himself free from a bushel of fuckin’ triffids. Why? So Dr. Nick and Randy can rig up a laser rifle, on site, out of whatever they’ve got in their backpacks. Times like this, I wonder about Dr. Nick. He could be MacGuyver in disguise, befriended by a giant reptile. If so, I wish he’d hurry up and tell Godzilla to squash Nightrider.

Laser-equipped, Nick and Randy retreat to Minimum Safe Distance so they can watch Godzilla trim the verge. And just when The Series has lost me by padding out the episode with false tension, it wins me back by having a giant bee snatch Randy away. Can I hope for the slow, painful death of this show’s (official) Odious Comic Relief? There’s no real harm in hoping, is there?

No. Because you’ll remember that hive, which consumes most of the hotel. Despite this, Mendel and Monique (through sheer cartoon luck) come tumbling out of the vents right into the Queen’s Throneroom. Formerly an Olympic sized swimming pool, Her Majesty now takes up all the available space…in some shots. Like so many cartoon monsters in this pre-digital age, Her Majesty’s proportions will radically and constantly shift throughout the fight scene to come. As will Godzilla’s.

Don't know about you but, personally, I want a girl who'll smack giant bees in the face for me.
Some of us don’t care about short skirts or long jackets. Some of us want a girl who’ll smack giant bees in the face.

Since we now know H.E.A.T. works on a pay-for-play basis, I’d love to see the resort company try to deduct collateral damage to their assets out of Dr. Nick’s quoted price. Does Nickles start low or play high ball? He seems to have the Giant Monster Hunter market cornered…for the moment…but how long will that last? Where’s the South Pacific’s answer to this shifty bunch of gaijin scientists? (In a future episode, that’s where.) Where’s Hicks and the U.S. army? They don’t see to have have any problem violating other country’s territorial sovereignty. Assuming there were underground nuclear tests here “in the 50s,” what’s to say the Go’ment gave up its stake in this radioactive bit of paradise? Maybe the whole “resort company” thing is a front—like the “casualty and property insurance” business that supposedly signs Monique’s paychecks.

A better episode than I remembered, Hive gives everyone something to do, even if that something amounts to “get captured.” Randy gets captured by a Killer Bee only to be rescued by the surprise team-up of Monique and Craven. Craven gets to help Monique move around while she (in a pure, unbridled display of Awesomeness) defends him by smacking giant bees in the face with pool furniture. This traumatizing adventure in Science, of course, allows Monique to learn respect for Craven and his contributions to the team.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Elsie gets captured by giant vines…who don’t seem to do much beyond grab you and pull you above the treeline. Dr. Nick rescuers her with his new laser backpack, and you can tell the boys in marketing really wanted to paint Nick as an Action Hero. Not only does he rescue the redheaded damsel in distress with his handmade (and far-too Ghostbuster-like) proton pack, he gets to catch her in his arms like a nerdy Fabio impersonator, straight from a Harlequin Romance cover…if Harlequin Romance novel covers were drawn by armies of underpaid South Korean animators.

The Love of Nickles Topadopolus
The Love(s) of Nickles Papadopolus…”It’s ‘Tatopolus.'” Yeah, whatever.

Eventually, everyone meets up at the hotel (since it’s the only building on the island), with the Big G kicking the Hive over pretty much of his own accord. Godzilla’s nigh-invulnerability really comes to the fore here, with the Big G getting a decent fight scene under his belt for the first time in what feels like forever. After those wrestling matches with El Gusano Gigante and the Orange, Candy-Striped Ooze, Godzilla’s had a run of low budget opponents with glass jaws. Not so with the Queen Bee or her hive of Killers. Having already survived the ocean’s depths and the U.S. military (who so-handedly dispatched the “first” Godzilla in 1998), Randy’s “Lizard King,” (no, honey, that’s Jim Morrison) here survives everything from bee stings to volcanic eruptions. Funny when you remember all the crap his progenitor caught from overly-serious G-fans for dying down at the hands of a few F-18 fighter jets. This Godzilla could give the Tick lessons in poise and it’s nice to see…even if it does shoot any dramatic tension this show had left in the head.

The tropical resort provides a nice twist on the usually-monotonous Jungle backgrounds…though I always hate how easy it is for giant monster movie makers to lose perspective in natural settings. The tendency is to film (or animate) the scene at your creature’s eye level. That’s fine if, as here, you want audience sympathy for your titular monster. Godzilla doesn’t have the Disney eyes or open face you really need to shamelessly manipulate your audience into giving a shit…but he makes up for it by being…well…Godzilla.

I like to give Our Human Heroes (and their world) crap in the spirit of good, clean, all-American fun. Unfortunately, I came to this show looking for good, clean, all-Japanese fun: monster wrasslin’! Nice to see an episode actually deliver that, garnished with just the right amount of familiar genre tropes. Like the volcanic eruption that ends the episode and, handily, cleans up after Godzilla and The Bees.

May Jason Voorhees smile upon you, Agent Dupre.
May Jason Voorhees smile upon you, Agent Dupre.

In fact, it wipes out the whole island in the tradition of Godzilla vs the Sea Monster. Godzilla survives, of course…to Dr. Nick’s evident delight. Despite all my complaints, a good monster time is had by all.

This is the most “traditional” episode of the show thus far, sharing its setting, plot-structure, and resolution with many an SF film “from the 50s.” I could rattle of a whole baker’s dozen of them (and those are just the ones that end with a spontaneous volcanic eruption)…but then again, if you’re reading these words, chances are you could too. Join us next week, then, for another great inside-joke fest of a Godzilla episode, as we journey to Old Mexico and meet the Winged Serpent.

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