Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★★

"...the haunting embodiment of the accumulated regret of humanity, rising from the depths to enact the horrifying violence that we all feared would come."







Fucking hell. This Godzilla left its dregs in my soul.

The American Godzilla is a big lizard with a pretentious look and modus operandi.

Shin Godzilla is the haunting embodiment of the accumulated regret of humanity, rising from the depths to enact the horrifying violence that we all feared would come.

Regret as violence, the things that entire countries carry, but also the dark regret that each of us hides away as deep as we can bury it.

Like The Thing, Shin Godzilla feels like witnessing the potential birth of a Lovecraftian entity, a dead-eyed being in constant agony from aberrant evolution, and it's absolutely chilling because it feels uncomfortably realistic. Living in 2021 means never ruling out anything showing up on tomorrow's news. There is also an element of randomness, fate, to the creature. As with Chernobyl, Fukushima, COVID - was this our fault, or is nature that unpredictable, that indifferent, that inhumane....? I'm not sure which is worse.

Realism is the name of the game with regards to presentation in the film. Lots of faux-news style in the camerawork, helicopter shots, CCTV, etc., and it works like gangbusters. Not only that, but a blistering pace mimics the mindset of the political figures trying to manage this walking nuclear apocalypse that - when things can't afford to get any worse - gets ten times worse, to stomach-churning effect.

The oft-mentioned bureaucratic satire is definitely there, and pretty damn enjoyable: at turns Kafkaesque, laugh-out-loud funny, and exasperating. The comedic bits, constant dog and pony shows, and denialism imbue the film with strong social meaning and rhetorical wit.

What surprised me, though, was how far the film eventually strayed from that tone. Instead of digging deeper into a cynical takedown of modern government and society, it swims upstream towards a more hopeful and nationalistic spirit. Both tones exist in a weird harmony, an honest, clear-eyed equilibrium. The protagonist of the film is Japan itself, and the film really feels like Japan processing deeply personal conceptions of its history and identity, through satire and earnestness.

This is an adult genre film, one that doesn't feel the (American, I'd say) need to be couched in an adventure with plucky heroes at the center of the action. Shin Godzilla is primarily boardroom meetings, interspersed with beautiful, despair-inducing visions of viscera and death. And wow - that final image will leave you shaken as the credits roll.

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