Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★★

Wow. A NEW JAPANESE Godzilla film. I mean, we’ve been waiting since 2004 when Ryûhei Kitamura’s fun and crazy Godzilla: Final Wars was unleashed on us, a classic not-killing-any-darlings supercut-esque visual mayhem of silliness and lots and lots of love. It’s uneven, I’ll admit that - and the martial arts stuff (and that motorcycle chase) just doesn’t belong in it. But still, what a trip. Probably the oddest Godzilla flick ever made.

Well. Until now. But it’s not surprising, considering it’s the brainchild of Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi - both from the world of anime (Neon Genesis Evangelion for example, and directors of the recent Attack on TItan films). Shin Gojira is basically a complete reboot of the mythos, ignoring all the earlier films - which is a good thing. The G universe is way to confusing and packed with giant monsters it would be hard to actually do something new with it, so why not go back to the seriousness of the Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 classic.

The story is the same: a giant monster appears in Tokyo and the government gets their hands full trying to evacuate and stop it from causing more damage. But that’s where the similarities stop. Instead Shin Gojira reminds me of an earlier Toho film, Shirô Moritani’s Submersion of Japan from 1973 (later re-edited by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and retitled Tidal Wave, a fun mess). Based on Sakyo Komatsu’s doomsday novel Nippon Chinbotsu) and also filmed as Japan Sinks in 2006, it tells the story of the sinking of Japan (no surprise), but focusing on the moral dilemma of not being able to save everyone and the politics around it. A very impressive disaster flick, but very gloomy and dark.

So that’s what you need to expect from Shin Gojira. This is no fun and games. The big G actually looks quite terrifying here, being the animal it really is - or a pure force of nature, not caring about anything except its own survival. When the spawn of Godzilla crawls up in the beginning it’s like a demon, a creature from hell, crawling through Tokyo (including OVER skyscrapers, which also produces a quite traumatic scene where a family tries to escape from their apartment) with it’s big, wild fish-like eyes staring emotionless. But the film cuts back to the politics behind it all, the administration trying to cope with this huge disaster maybe a few times too many for those who expect non-stop monster action. Personally I love this. It feels fresh and original, more like a Kaiju version of Zodiac and Spotlight - lots of turning papers and talking in telephones.

But don’t worry, there’s actually tons of awesome destruction to behold also. Gojira is a mean bastard here, taking no hostages and uses both his atomic breath and all kinds of radioactive beams - and of course his body - to flatten Tokyo in impressive scenes using both miniatures and super detailed CGI. Much of it echoes the 2011 Japanese earthquake (and it’s tsunami) and the resulting Fukushima disaster, which is true to the tradition Honda created with his original film: don’t fucking fuck with fucking mother nature and stay away from fucking terrible nuclear fucking weapons and energy.

A nice touch is also to use original Akira Ifukube recordings to score this very modern and offbeat (aka Japanese) production. It nicely stands with one leg in the world of anime and manga and the other in the old school of Kaiju. It’s been a huge hit everywhere, except maybe in the US where SOME of the fans and critics have raged - probably because it’s refreshingly anti-American from time to time (but kinda reaches out a hand also), because Japan NEEDS to take back Godzilla from the Americans and be a what it was meant to be from the beginning. I’m not talking Gareth Edwards’ film here, which is more Japanese than I expected it to be - but it’s more about the idea of Godzilla as an American childhood icon - something created by atrocious dubbing and making the films EVEN more childish than most of them where during the sixties. Godzilla deserves more than being a MST3K-style sunday matinee.

One of my faves this year, without a doubt.

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