Shin Gojira, Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla: Resurgence – the 31st installment of the Gojira franchise – surprised me with a very fresh and bizarre take on the same classic story while not only referring to the original, but casting the source material itself in a new and interesting light.
Gojira (1954) expressed the terror felt by the Japanese people as an invulnerable nuclear force (the United States) reigned over their nation as it saw fit in the post war era. Similarly, Shin Gojira took a metaphorical political tone. As the radioactive monster emerges, the film focuses on government beurocracies paralyzed for hours in debate as if to imagine away the bizarre circumstances the characters can hardly seem to believe. This satire doubtless speaks to the Japanese people’s anger at thier government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 in which officials delayed for months to deal with the seemingly unsolvable problem of Reactor 4 – which may have at any time melted down to wreak unknown damage, possibly even rendering the northern hemisphere uninhabitable. The structure of the film and the inscrutability of the monster Gojira conveyed this helplessness and fear – an almost cosmic horror.
Previous films in the series built on and changed the original creature design as technology improved, giving Gojira a more active, cognizant, and engaging feel. Shin Gojira however, seemed to ask the question: What if the original representation of the monster was not so clunky and unintelligent looking just because of the film technology at the time required it to be so? What if the 1954 representation was the correct representation of what the monster really was like? In doing so, a very strange monster is created: Gojira takes on an unsettlingly witless quality. Its big, glassed-over eyes stare off into the distance not just becuase the costume can’t do any better, but because that’s just the way the monster is. It’s creepy as hell.
Also noteworthy is the film’s odd narrative arc and strange approach to production: both of these definitely aren’t up to modern standards and left a sort of unsatisfying feeling. This however, was great. Departure from obedience to form was bold and respectable – I’d like to see more movies willing to take risks even if that means some pretty silly campiness.
Good job, Toho!