“Shin Godzilla” (2016)
Running Time: 119 minutes
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Directed by: Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Featuring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara
It may defy imagination but there have been twenty-eight previous ‘Godzilla’ films, including the Hollywood versions with the release of “Shin Godzilla” (2016) (a.k.a. “Godzilla: Resurgence”) being the twenty-ninth – this is truly a historic movie series, as well as being a franchise for the ages. There has never been any franchise with the longevity of the ‘Godzilla’ series, and there has never been revenue inducing phenomenon in the history of movies.
What is unique about this particular entry into the ‘Godzilla’ lore is that this is the first time Toho Studios have consciously rebooted their property, pretty good timing really considering all the free publicity from Hollywood, as well as the new productions coming out of the US over the next few years. Wisely Toho have employed two Japanese directors that have a large amount of experience in genre films as well as being relatively young, so as to boost the hopes for the future of their iconic monster franchise.
“Shin Godzilla” starts as the Japan Coast Guard investigates an abandoned yacht in Tokyo Bay, but their boat is destroyed. After seeing a viral video showing the area, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi theorizes that the incident was caused by a living creature. His theory is dismissed at first but later confirmed when news reports show a massive tail coming out of the ocean.
Yaguchi is put in charge of a task force to research the creature. Due to high radiation readings left behind, the creature is theorized to be energized through nuclear fission. The U.S. sends a special envoy, Kayoko Anne Patterson, who reveals that a disgraced, vehemently anti-nuclear zoology professor, Goro Maki, had been studying mutations caused by radioactive contamination.
The creature, now named Godzilla after Maki’s research, reappears, now twice its original size, and makes landfall again near Kamakura en route for Tokyo.
Of course this is just the beginning, so look out Tokyo!
This movie carries much of the paranoia that featured in the original “Godzilla” (1954) after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan by the US military as well as all the cold war tensions that would become the norm. Much like the science fiction movies of the 1950s and 1960s that were produced by the US, which featured the fear of what atomic as well as later, nuclear weapons would and could wreak on the world, Japan had its own answer. So the West had movies like the classic “Them” (1954) featuring giant size ants, a product of nuclear testing, “Tarantula” (1955), you guessed it a giant spider, but Japan gave us the biggest and baddest of them all, what would happen if nuclear tests created something nobody could control, ‘Godzilla’.
It is no coincidence then that the US plays a large part in this new interpretation of “Godzilla” as people responsible for his creation then their covering up as well as trying to destroy him using the same weapons. This is a trope, the one where the unknown threatens mankind, and then it transpires mankind is responsible for the very creation of the problems. Think the white walkers in “Game of Thrones” (2009 -2019). Surely this is something that we can all look at in the world we live in today, with problems such as global warming, crazy people in seats of power, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a super power run amok with a feeling of unearned entitlement.
This movie is a real ride, it is Japanese cinema at its B grade best, it is true that Japanese cinema has been influenced by US cinema, particularly after the end of World War II, and of course there are any number of auteur directors that have been produced. But by any measure it is the monster movie, in particular ‘Godzilla’ that most people know. With a couple of US remakes and reboots over the past few years it is refreshing to see ‘Godzilla’ once again being produced in Japan, set in Japan and being worked on by the Japanese.
The directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi have much experience in their own seperate work, this shows in their storytelling as well as the way the action has been set up. I think they have an eye on the social, political and environmental issues that face their home county, illustrating all these points within their monster movie. And why not, there is precedence for this in US monsters movies of the 1950s. The directors also know their audience, with the type of effects used to show their very individual monster, they are a kind of throwback to the older versions of Godzilla, when you see them you will have to laugh- they are fantastic.
If you love monster movies or just love Godzilla then this movie will be for you. If you have seen the many monster movies from the US in recent years then this is a great way to see where the mother of all monsters originated – at least its country and culture of origin. This movie would be a worthy addition to any personal library, it has everything a monster movie should have with the added advantage that it works very well even though you will spend the entire running time reading.
“Shin Godzilla” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.