Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★★★

Oustanding in every way.

In hindsight, it's easy to pinpoint a lot of Shin Godzilla's influences: the political drama of The Return of Godzilla, the apocalyptic real world-inspired imagery from the original 1954 Godzilla, and a lot of Hideaki Anno's Evangelion-isms are just a few obvious ones.

But while watching the movie, everything feels extremely fresh, and often very weird.

This was by far the boldest reworking of the Godzilla movie Toho had ever produced at this point. In many ways, this is even as radical a reinterpretation as the loathed 1998 Godzilla of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich.

And yet, I find it strangely comfortable and welcome.

Perhaps it's the little nods to the legacy, particularly the generous amounts of Ifukube music and stock Godzilla sound effects, that are just the spoon full of sugar needed to make the medicine go down.

Or maybe it's the fact that the film deviates from the classic stuff in details, but remains true to the original's spirit. Even the new Godzilla design, on closer inspection, isn't as radical as it appears at a surface level. Look at an image of it in black and white and tell me it's not actually a fairly recognizable variation of the "traditional" Godzilla look.

Or maybe it's because this franchise was in desperate need of something fresh to begin with.

Though I love them all, the overwhelming majority of Godzilla movies made since the 1990s have been a lot more interested in trying to recapture the lost glory of the early Showa classics from the 1950s and 60s or doubling down on the established tropes of the Heisei period than they were in expanding the style of the series or remaining vital and relevant artistic expressions for their contemporary audiences.

There are exceptions, of course. Films such as Kazuki Omori's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Shusuke Kaneko's Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack were both topical and very inventive additions to the franchise.

But for me, it's quite clear the later Heisei films and the Millinieum series are more accuratley represented by fan service heavy "throwbacks" like Godzilla vs. Mothra 92, Godzilla Tokyo SOS, and Godzilla Final Wars.

Heck, even the American Monsterverse movies from Legendary are astonishingly faithful to the conventions of classic Japanese monster movies.

Shin Godzilla is absolutely none of that.

Only time will tell if the next wave of Japanese Godzilla movies will continue down this path of bold innovation. The odds on that are pretty 50/50 in my opinion: Shin Godzilla was a critcial and commercial triumph in every way, but Toho's similarly ambitious and idiosyncratic anime Godzilla trilogy underperformed and underwhelmed. Plus all this talk of a Marvel style shared Universe series of films has an extremely corporate and heavy risk aversion connotation to my ears.

But either way, Shin Godzilla will continue to endear no doubt. Higuchi and Anno outdid themselves here. For the first time in my adult life, there was a new Japanese Godzilla movie. And it was amazing. And it was relevant. I'm not foolish enough to expect these qualities every time, but I'm thankful I got it all with this one.

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