This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Carlos (Ctron3120)’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
And so my International Halloween Marathon comes to a close with Shin Godzilla (I'll go back and review all the films in full (and the films I watched before this marathon) I promise).
The success of Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) inspired Toho, the Japanese company that owns the rights to Godzilla, to make Shin Godzilla AKA Godzilla Resurgence (2016). With direction and a screenplay by Hideaki Anno, creator of the infamously dark Neon Genesis Evangelion giant robot anime, and a horrifically scarred appearance for the titular creature, this is again a darker take on the franchise.
Paralleling the original Godzilla’s inspiration from the WW2 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky dragon no 5 incident, Godzilla Resurgence was inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The film was nominated for 11 Japan Academy Prizes (Japan's equivalent to the Oscars or BAFTAs) and won seven (Best Cinematography,
Best Art Direction, Best Lighting Direction, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing, Director of the Year and Picture of the Year).
When Godzilla is seen off the coast of Tokyo and begins to rampage through town, a coalition of Japanese Politicians, Scientists and the Japanese Self-defence forces must try to deal with this animalistic monstrosity while international ambassadors follow their own agendas.
The main human characters are Rando Yaguchi, Hiromi Ogashira, Kayoco Anne Patterson, Hideki Akasaka and Goro Maki . Rando Yaguchi is the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Japan, and he heads the Godzilla research task force. He is mostly serious and calm, except when the prime minister and his cabinet are destroyed by Godzilla's atomic breath. Hiromi Ogashira works for the Ministry of Environment. She is an introvert and stoic, similar to Rei Ayanami from Hideaki Anno's own Neon Genesis Evangelion anime.
Kayoco Anne Patterson is a Japanese-American woman and the United States government liaison. Her name is spelled as Kayoco with a c (instead of the more common k) as an anglicization of the Japanese name Kayako. While Kayaco seems callous and arrogant at first, her Japanese ancestry and closeness to her grandmother makes her realise she needs to do the right thing. She objects to the UN nuking Japan to try and stop Godzilla, as she doesn't want to see her grandmother's home country nuked for a third time. Hideki Akasaka is the prime minister's aide and the closest thing the film has to a human antagonist (apart from the various foreign governments embroiled in the events). He is skeptical of Yaguchi's sea monster theory at first, as is the prime minister initially, but they soon see proof. He supports the UN nuking Tokyo to get rid of Godzilla (as he thinks they would do the same if an American City was attacked by Godzilla, like New York). Goro Maki is a Posthumous Character, a Japanese zoology professor who moved to America and is implied to have committed suicide. He discovered Godzilla decades ago (in his first form) and researched it, but the American Department of Energy suppressed the information. He also figured out a way to stop Godzilla, but hid it behind a series of strange convoluted puzzles and deliberately left out key pieces of data, meaning the rest of the cast must figure out the his last mystery to save humankind from Godzilla. The film focuses on the humans and their reactions to Godzilla rather than Godzilla himself, particularly in the third act.
In this film, Godzilla was portrayed by Mansai Nomura in motion capture. Mansai Nomura is a Kyōgen actor (Kyōgen is a traditional form of Japanese theatre, focused on comedy). A 10 kilo weight was strapped behind Mansai, and Mansai incorporated the techniques of traditional Japanese dance, to realize the slow movements of Godzilla. Godzilla was mostly CGI in this one, but the motion capture means it is still technically a man in a suit, and special effects supervisor Atsuki Sato made Godzilla's skin look like rubber rather than realistic animal skin. Some of Godzilla's interactions with his environment were done by pushing a prop through the miniatures and the final shot of Godzilla in the film is a sculpture, so some practical effects were still used in the film.
Godzilla is re-imagined as a shapeshifting marine creature (still reptilian in nature but probably not a dinosaur this time) who feed on nuclear waste. We only see the tail of Godzilla first form in the water. On land, in his 2nd form, he becomes a semi-quadrupedal being, before shifting into his more famous bipedal form (in fact, he has two bipedal stages: his 3rd form is closer to a realistic theropod dinosaur, while his 4th form looks closer to his classic shape and look (which is what he has for most of the movie)). I think the idea of Godzilla starting as a quadruped is a meta-reference to how the original Godzilla film was inspired by The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (an earlier monster movie that had a quadrupedal reptile as the antagonist). Godzilla's 3rd form has small, stubby arms similar to a T.Rex. Godzilla's signature atomic breath can now become a purple beam of energy and he can also fire it out of his tale and the dorsal fins on his back. This was the tallest Godzilla featured in a film at the time it was released, standing 118.5 metres (or 388.77953 feet) tall in his 4th form. However, just a few years later, Shin Godzilla is dwarfed by the anime trilogy's Godzilla Earth (300 metres/984.252 feet) and the MonsterVerse Godzilla (he had a growth spurt after the 2014 film, so he was 119.8 meters (AKA 393 feet) in Godzilla:King of the Monsters).
The climax of the movie is amazing. As the Japanese Government plans to freeze Godzilla, they manage to get international support. The Americans send in drones to cause Godzilla to expend his atomic energy. Then the Japanese forces send in trains with explosives against Godzilla as well as detonating explosives in nearby (empty) buildings. Godzilla is knocked over and tankers full of coagulant send it into Godzilla's mouth, eventually freezing him solid. As the Japanese government plans to rebuild Tokyo, we see strange humanoid creatures in Godzilla's tail, so if/when Godzilla thaws, these creatures will also emerge.
All in all, Shin Godzilla is a complex, entertaining and dramatic take on a beloved franchise. Perfect for G-fans, cineastes and foreign film fans everywhere.
And with that, that's the end of my International Halloween Marathon 2019. See you all next October!
Part of my International Halloween Marathon 2019