Destroy All Musicians! Giant Monsters vs. Music Video

No movies today – instead I’ve decided to wallow in music videos featuring battles with giant monsters. Why is this particular combination on my mind? Three reasons.

  1. The discovery that Miike Takeshi made a couple of music videos for Kikkawa Kōji (courtesy of Agitator: The Cinema of Takeshi Miike (FAB Press, 2003) by Tom Mes).
  2. A recent binge on Japanese science fiction movies directed by Honda Ishirō – The H-Man [Bijo to Ekitai-ningen] (1958), Varan the Unbelievable [Daikaijū Baran] (1958), Battle in Outer Space [Uchū Daisensō] (1959), Mothra [Mosura] (1961), King Kong vs. Godzilla [Kingu Kongu tai Gojira] (1962), Matango (1963) and Atragon [Kaitei Gunkan] (1963).
  3. The unexpected video content of Iceland’s entry for Eurovision 2021.

With that in mind, I’ve selected five music videos exploring this theme, sorted into chronological order. That’s enough preamble – it’s time to RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!

OK perhaps not that kraken. (Although an argument could be made for this clip from Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell (2020) being a sequel to my first choice.)

Beastie Boys “Intergalactic” (1998) – directed by Nathanial Hörnblowér (aka Adam Yauch)

A giant robot soars through space to the strains of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”, while the three scientists (Beastie Boys) “piloting” it fight amongst themselves. Landing in the streets of Tokyo, much to the horror of the local citizenry (some of whom are sporting fake moustaches or quiffs), the robot lowers to the ground three men dressed as construction workers (Beastie Boys) who move off through the subway system like a manic cross between Power Rangers and Weeping Angels in a heroic pose-a-thon while rapping lyrics empty of any real content. Meanwhile the body-popping robot receives a blast of energy from the purple trident held aloft by a creature with a giant purple octopus for a head, lobster claws for hands and wetsuit flippers for feet. Things look grim, but the robot defeats the creature (the old “push it into the powerlines” trick) and returns to space (apparently without the construction workers – left behind perhaps as ambassadors?) There’s a similar DIY aesthetic on display to Spike Jonze’s distillation of 70s cops shows in the video for “Sabotage” (1994), although Beastie Boys member Yauch’s main reference point here is the fantasy/SF TV series Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot [Jaianto Robo] (1967-1968). Whether these events have any bearing on the man with the green octopus head dismantling a cardboard robot in the Mad as Hell clip above is uncertain, but I feel it would be more than appropriate to see this as an act of revenge from a monster’s angry offspring.

Go! Go! Fushimi Jet (2002) aka Kikkawa Kōji “Pandora” – directed by Miike Takashi

The only version of this video I could find online lacks any English translation, so I owe most of my understanding of the plot to Tom Mes (book cited above). The clip opens with a 90 second animated prologue depicting the discovery in Cuba on 26 June 2002 of footage from a “lost” silent samurai film titled Go! Go! Fushimi Jet. The newly discovered footage shows a bunch of unruly warriors in the aftermath of a battle as they clean up after the corpses. They unearth a mysterious crystal globe but are immediately confronted by wandering ronin Fushimi Jet (Kikkawa Kōji) who begins to cut his way through his foes. Meanwhile, the crystal globe reveals a fleet of flying saucers on their way to Earth, and the carnage of battle is interspersed with glimpses of a young girl waking somewhere in space and holding another globe which might be a control device for the fleet. With most of his enemies dead, Fushimi Jet is threatened anew by a giant praying mantis rearing above the landscape, prompting his eyes to flash and a jetpack to grow on his back, taking him into aerial combat with the mantid menace. Miike’s editing of the combat to fit the music is fairly effective but lacks the manic fervour of his opening to Dead or Alive [Deddo oa araibu: Hanzaisha] (1999). The ronin was named Fushimi Jet in homage to the character Kikkawa Kōji had previously played in Miike’s contemporary yakuza film The City of Lost Souls [Hyōryū-gai] (2000) – the character would turn up again in a 1970s setting for the music video “The Gundogs” (2002). Although Miike is better known for his modern gangster films, he had ventured into the samurai genre with Kumamoto Monogatari (1998-2002) and Sabu (2002) and would return to the jidai-geki with a revival of the popular blind masseur character Zatōichi (2007). He would go on to have further fun with monsters (giant or otherwise) in Ultraman Max [Urutoraman Makkusu] (2005) and The Great Yokai War [Yokai Daisenso] (2005).

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard “People-Vultures” (2016) – directed by Danny Cohen & Jason Galea

I love this video so much! This video follows on directly from “Gamma Knife” (2016), which saw the band perform a summoning ritual while colour-coded wizards plunged their knives into the earth, leaving behind an ominous egg surrounded by dead or unconscious bodies. “People Vultures” shows us what hatched from that egg – a gigantic composite vulture creature incorporating the seven bad members (drummers and keyboardist forming the feet; guitarists and bassist making up the torso; singer wailing from inside the creature’s beak). The creature trundles menacingly through the outback, encountering and defeating various enemies with its laser eyes before using its final opponent’s body as a guitar to signal the beginning of its doom-laden reign. Citing Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain [La montaña sagrada] (1973) as an influence, the filmmakers’ debt to TV shows like Ultraman (1965-1967) is more evident here. The vulture-thing is an astonishing creation, taking inspiration from Galea’s established aesthetic for the band to create the final wheeled monstrosity in collaboration with the Melbourne-based Boxwars team of cardboard architects. Despite its obviously constructed nature, it functions magnificently as a fearsome creature in conjunction with the band’s portentously frenzied guitar riffs.

The Feedbacks “Giant Monster” (2018) – directed by Jendo Shabo

A short and sweet pop punk depiction of a giant cat with purple laser eyes causing havok. The band wake up, panic, attempt to escape the city but end up zapped. The emergency personnel attempt to manage the rampage with the use of distracting toys and catnip grenades while evacuating the civilians. The cat is a natural and is well-integrated into the urban landscape. The news bulletins layer some light humour into the piece, and the random giggling instagrammer who stops to film an injured emergency worker ends up crushed under the cat’s paw. Fun all around! The director is currently completing a short Batman tie-in film titled A Gotham Nightmare (2021).

Daði og Gagnamagnið “10 Years” (2021) – directed by Guðný Rós Þórhallsdóttir

A lot has happened since 2020. Immediately upon completion of their would’ve-been-a-winner Eurovision entry “Think About Things”, Daði Freyr and his backing band Gagnamagnið were kidnapped by evil aliens who saw their music and dance stylings as an incipient intergalactic threat. After a series of adventures (depicted in the just-released-today 80s-retro free-download game Think About Aliens), Daði og Gagnamagnið have become Iceland’s first line of defence against giant monsters. “10 Years” depicts their latest battle against a cute, moth-like giant monster who is first seen batting playfully at a mobile of felt planes. Daði and friends’ first attempt to see the creature off with their sweet dance moves is a stalemate, but after combining to form a giant robot their repeated dance routine is triumphant, leaving the creature to bop along under the credits before climbing inside one of the mountain backdrops to hibernate. Gagnamagnið’s shiny new satin jumpsuits function well both as an upgrade of their previous costume, and as the official uniform of an anti-kaiju strikeforce such as the similarly-initialled G-Force introduced in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II [Gojira tai Mekagojira] (1993). The overall tone is sweet and nonsensical – much like the band. I’m intrigued by the sound of the director’s previous work The Day the Beans Ran Out [Dagurinn sem baunirnar kláruðust] (2018), a short film about a man living peacefully through a zombie apocalypse until he notices his food is disappearing more quickly than it should – hopefully I’ll be able to track it down!

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