Shin Godzilla aka Godzilla Resurgence is actually one of the better Godzilla films in recent years. After the disappointing 2014 American movie and the atrocious 2004 ‘Final Wars’ from Japan Shin Godzilla at least feels like what a Godzilla film should feel like in the year 2016. Godzilla is a character that is not stranger to analogy. Since his first appearance in 1954 he has been seen as symbol of Atomic weapons, War, America, Japan. In later years he would be a hero but at the heart of his origins is the Nuclear terror he represents. After the March 2011 Earthquake and the Fukushima disaster that followed it seemed only a matter of time before these themes would be explored in a Godzilla movie. While the America Godzilla in 2014 had scenes of a nuclear disaster it’s ‘Shin Godzilla’ that explores the events politically.
The movie starts off in a fairly exciting way. Things happen fast and the disaster comes unexpectedly. It almost reminds me of the start of George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ in which we are thrown headfirst into events with as little idea as the main characters about what is actually going on except that things are bad. Godzilla’s early appearance visually echo’s scenes from the 2011 Tsunami and later on as the disaster grows Japan struggles to respond. America steps in to help and when that doesn’t work there are drastic measures which America is willing to take to wipe out Godzilla (you can guess what). It’s a little over the top the way America is portrayed but again it echos March 2011 events when rumors were flying around that the final solution to Fukushima would be to bomb it to stop the radiation spreading further. Towards the end the actual solution is fairly similar to events in real life if we take Godzilla as a walking nuclear disaster.
The film is directed by Hideaki Anno whom most of you will know as the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. He is definitely the right man for the material but for fans of Evangelion this might seem a bit too close to the show. Godzilla and his destructive powers remind me a lot of “Angels” from Evangelion. The “Shin” in ‘Shin Godzilla’ can also be a word for “God”. Not only that but throughout the film toy can clearly hear the music score of Evangelion playing throughout some talky scenes where they plan to attack Godzilla. This is as close as we may get to a live action Evangelion movie.
The effects in this movie are fairly impressive. There are some parts where there is obvious CGI in particular the beginning when a baby Godzilla appears. Obviously the CGI budget all went on the adult version of the big G and the destruction he causes.
Here come the negatives…. First. This is a talky film. If you are watching the subtitled version prepare to be doing a lot of reading throughout the movie. Second there is an actress in this whose name i’m not even going to look up, but she portrays an America born Japanese who comes to Japan to aid the government. She is supposed to be American but her English is all phonetically spoken since the actress does not speak english in real life. It’s cringe worthy not only because of that but because every time she is on screen she throws in a few words of English while speaking to Japanese characters (Michael Wong anyone?). She also has weird mannerisms and body language as if this was how all American people act. She needs to go back to acting school or model school or wherever.
Finally. All the characters in this film are politicians or government workers. There is no human face to this film, whatever tragedy that happens to people in this movie is not show through any secondary characters. Quite strangely, we never even get a death toll number in this movie. For a film that shows destruction on a mass scale and then ends on the theme that “Japan needs to stand by itself” there is little visible consequence which I find a little unusual for a film that tried to represent a real event through the destructive force of Godzilla. It’s a little wonder that this is the case when you rarely hear of life in Fukushima on the news despite the fact that it’s still a disaster area and that there are still people living in shelters. It’s not news to the rest of Japan which has got on with it’s life. There in lies the ultimate flaw of the movie, it has no face. What we have here is a movie that has taken a side on a national issue, Japan’s defense, and if you aren’t sure what side it’s taken then let’s just say that it has the approval of the current Prime Minister of Japan. I had really hoped that Hideaki Anno would have taken a more balanced approach but this definitely leans to a certain point of view.
At the end of the film they talk about rebuilding Tokyo and coming back from this disaster. If a disaster of such scale ever did befall Tokyo it would certainly not be back to business. Financially it would be the end.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a good movie. This is a good Godzilla movie, this is a Godzilla movie we have been wanting. It’s well done, it’s clever and different to what came before. I recommend it.
The end scene with the tail gave me chills…