Every now an then my process shifts around to a more indulgent direction and rather than my original fiction builds inspiring the fiction I’m working on or will one day work on I feel compelled by the challenge to create in bricks the fiction that already exists. This month there were two such projects: one was Godzilla, the other was building Y-wing fighters from Star Wars at different scales from the two scales that the Lego company manufactured, a full size Y-wing to fit a mini-fig, and a micro-scale Y-wing to fit half the palm of your hand. I build two in-between scales I’m really proud of.
Godzilla has a rich history with me: there was the cartoon Godzilla, in which he was a good monster who protected a ship of explorers in the ocean, and the costumed Godzilla of the Japanese movies of the sixties full of battles against other monsters like Mothra and Gamera–movies I enjoyed, even though the thirteen-year-old me was a little disappointed by the poorly costumed monsters and whose suspension of disbelief was not quite there. I’d been aware of some lousy remakes with modern CGI used for the monsters which I avoided entirely and did get suckered into watching the one from seven or eight years ago in which he battled Mothra. Absolute shlock. And now another likely schocky film is being made that will likely be absolutely without story and watch more like a professional wrestling match from the 40s than a monster movie.
I won’t keep the image of my Lego Godzilla from you any longer. Here’s a shot of him.
I won’t prevaricate. I’m not as happy with this build as I have been with say, the Y-wing builds I came up with shortly before tackling this one. I’d originally wanted his spinal fins to look more like the star-shaped bone ridges we see on any version of Godzilla and had to settle for angled plates of different sizes and shapes. I did succeed with some criticism from my partner of broadening his belly and back to give him the rotund appearance he is known for in many of the later films and in one anime in particular that inspired me to build this Godzilla. The anime is a three-part hour-and-a-half episode anime about the evacuation of the Earth to save the population from the indefatigably destructive and invulnerable monster Godzilla. Godzilla channels energy of an unknown kind along his back plates and releases from his mouth a beam of energy sufficient, it seems, to lay waste to large sections of metropolises. The anime documents humanities efforts to find a way to kill the giant monster where nuclear strikes and radiation poisoning of all varieties had failed to slow the monster down.
What inspired me to create this Godzilla was the way they depicted him in the anime (which came out only recently on Netflix and you can catch it now if you want). Godzilla, unlike the monster from other movies, doesn’t want anything except to destroy everything on the surface of the planet that it can. He seems not to eat, procreate, excrete, or metabolize in the same way we do. He seems almost a being of pure energy trapped in indestructible flesh. The Godzilla of the sixties Japanese movies was always an ally of the Japanese state, and would emerge to fight any other monster that menaced the countryside. In most of his incarnations, Godzilla, was a good guy. But not this beast from the anime. It was amoral. A force of nature. And the story is very much one of man against nature. I was compelled by the emergence of a plague-like monster with such a despair-inducing mandate–so despair inducing, that while humanity can, it builds a worldship and packs all life on Earth with it to take to the stars in search of another home. (They can’t find one, thus the return story to try to take Earth back from the monster.)
It’s funny how it took Godzilla’s reinterpretation as a force of nature, a genuine god on earth, or a demon, or inscrutable alien with or without intelligence to make an impression on me strong enough to want to create the build of the beast.
Godzilla in the anime, the basis of my build, has much the same shape of my build, long, round, rotund all through the core of his centre of mass, and still large and not skimpy in the head and tail. His leg’s look awesomely strong, as they would need to be to propel a creature of his mass and size, and I’m pleased to say that I got that right. In fact, that may be the only thing I’m perfectly satisfied with in this build, which is still saying quite a lot.
It took three sets worth of green-heavy pieces to build him: two of the Lego Creator Mighty Dinosaurs sets, and one of An Unexpected Gathering sets (Bilbo’s hobbit hole set).
I hope you are enjoying this reverse process of letting fiction inspire the build. Something seems natural that the process should work both ways, forwards and backwards. My advice on building a larger iconic build of this nature is to put hard initial thought into the main Lego elements that will give the build its basic shape and function, if there is to be any function. Build the whole build using the basic plates and do not attempt to add any surface detail or colour, skin, scales, armour, or weapons. Find out of the basic build will bear its own weight in all of its sections and create a pleasing feel to lift up in your hands. Once you have achieved this, you can smile a satisfied smile and proceed assured of victory. Few complications will emerge once the basic structure is sound that you will not be able to solve.
And now for the “so what?” question that I will attempt to answer and try to answer with every post. Essentially, you’ve done a build that impresses or doesn’t, but it matters to you. Why does does it matter to you, and why might it matter to someone else?
Challenging to answer this time, but let me try. Sometimes we notice with Lego or any other system of parts you bring together if you’re a sculptor especially, or a painter, and especially if you are an installation maker, that we marvel at the verisimilitude of an idea that we may or may not love, but we are astonished that the work was even able to be completed in such a way.
Let me give you a counterexample. Lego has recently released a Stranger Things playset with both good dimension and the evil dimension of the house represented, with trees that allow you to set the house of the mother and child where the little boy is spirited away to monster land upside down. Wow. And as I examined the model further, I noticed details from the show like the mother’s alphabetical light system and the boy’s bedroom, the eighties corded phone and the green sofa chair, and was amazed that they managed to get everything so right. I don’t really like the model that much, I wouldn’t buy it if it were a quarter of the price, and although I love the show, I never yearned in that backwards creativity way for art to become a Lego or other kind of build or art or sculpture. The subject matter seems unseemly to me as a subject for art, because in measuring its success, there is no singular essence the presence or non-presence of which deteremines whether something essential has been captured or not in the art. For me, the show’s many virtues does not include a single virtue or creative principle that can be captured in art, only lots of individual, separate principles which Lego or scupture or painting cannot sythesize or amalgamate into any one element of oneness and greatness. It’s too complex. But, I can be dazzled by the success of the builder in entrapping all the various principles of the show that are individually meritorious.
At the risk of tooting my own horn, my Godzilla’s greatness is in that I captured the nature of nature versus man in the form of monster whose rotundness of shape and the supporting details of the foot claws, hand claws, spine plates, and hand claws make the monster a unified recognizable concept. Stranger Things is lots of things, too many things to be great in a playset depicting all the characters and their rooms and spaces. On the other hand, were your or I to attempt to create one of the monsters from Stranger Things, we would have a valid object of artistic curiosity to ponder at and be truly mystified by. How did they do that, we ask? With the house set of Stranger Things, we ask only after the hundreds of not truly difficult imitations of the many aspects of the show, and begin to count them.
So, what I’m saying, in conclusion, is that in taking a work of art, a show, or an element of a show, more likely, backwards and adapting it to a sculture or other artistic medium, there must be a singular unique magic you capture, a unitary greatness that makes people wonder that the thing was attempted, let alone accomplished. When taking a piece of work as a whole, like a TV show, and trying to capture all of it, you fail to mystify and amaze at the single unified principle and and merely impress with a list of small achievements.
I’ll work at this blog as fast as I can, which isn’t very fast, but you may expect a long post on the Y-wing starfighters in a matter of weeks which will be yet another backwards trip from existing art into adaptation and an attempt to capture some essence.
See you soon, readers!