+++ Opinion +++
Godzilla is back on everyone’s lips thanks to his theatrical appearance “Godzilla Vs. Kong”. In addition to the film, in which the atomic lizard fights the equally iconic gigagorilla, there is a huge mass of Godzilla films in streaming that you can fall back on.
But if you only want to take time for a single film with the cult monster, I strongly recommend “Shin Godzilla”, which is only available for a few more days (namely until August 30, 2022) in the Amazon Prime Video offer:
» “Shin Godzilla” on Amazon Prime Video*
The monster film, which has been showered with awards in Japan, offers strong special effects as well as a tonality and story that we should probably appreciate even more today than when it was released in 2016.
The Tokyo Coast Guard notices a rapid succession of unexplained incidents. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) suspects that a large, unknown creature is behind it. However, his warnings are ignored until it becomes obvious that he was right: a gigantic creature rises from the water and crushes everything in its way. The government of Japan acts as lazily as the administration of Tokyo, in the ever-changing conference rooms one shies away from final decisions.
Meanwhile, Yaguchi stumbles across research by a disgraced professor that says the creature Godzilla was created by radiation. The Japanese military is helpless, and Japan’s politicians have a headache over the radical US proposals. With the help of US special envoy Kayoko Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara), can Yaguchi devise a plan of salvation?
When you think of Godzilla, you inevitably think of a giant lizard battling other giant threats. Movies that revolve solely around Godzilla represent a rarity, although that is where its origins lie. 1954’s “Godzilla” went down in film history not for its spectacle, but for the intense tension that runs through the classic. Ishirō Honda’s sci-fi horror is a barely disguised, haunting exploration of the nuclear trauma Japan suffered nine years earlier.
The fact that the “Godzilla” franchise has detached itself from these oppressive roots is by no means cause for cultural pessimism. Since then, the lizard with the atomic breath has trudged through straight-line suspense films, powerful spectacles (as is currently the case in “Godzilla Vs. Kong”), fascinating trash and heartily honest silliness. This mess is part of the allure! Still, it’s downright refreshing to see the more serious side of this terrifying creature again.
Shin Godzilla ties into the early days of the Godzilla franchise as directors Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno (the latter also wrote the screenplay) once again use the title character as an oversized and harrowing metaphor. This effects-heavy catastrophe drama deals with the Tōhoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami of 2011 and the nuclear disaster in Fukushima caused by these events without hesitation.
In the first act in particular, Higuchi and Anno eerily mimic images of the devastation that swept the world in 2011. And the helplessly held press conferences full of misinformation and hypocritical calming phrases are not only reminiscent of the now ten-year-old series of Japanese disasters. From today’s perspective, “Shin Godzilla” predicted the sluggish, sometimes overcautious, sometimes completely irresponsible political reactions of numerous countries to the corona pandemic.
“Shin Godzilla” is not only a return to the beginnings, but also modernization through realism. It goes without saying that it remains a film about a radioactive behemoth that devastates Tokyo – so the term “realistic” has to be used with caution. What is meant is the kind of realism that was popularized by Christopher Nolan: It’s about improbable things that suddenly seem plausible thanks to a slower pace of narration and a down-to-earth aesthetic.
This starts with Godzilla himself: Shin Godzilla groundes the concept of a towering lizard that will one day emerge from the depths of the water by initially sketching it as an aquatic creature. Only as a result of several metamorphoses does the monster, which gets out of the water trembling, bleeding and panting, become the two-legged, dinosaur-like giant lizard that we know. At least approximately. Because it is heavily implied that this Godzilla is not an intelligent primal force. The giant monster appears absent-minded, apathetic, and possibly blind. His roar is sorrowful, Godzilla acts aimlessly, and his exterior is covered with scabs and tumors.
Shin Godzilla is not a popcorn cinema fantasy, but the consequent, gruesome, mental continuation of the nightmare of an atomically mutated monster. The imagery goes along with this “Nolanesque” realism: cameraman Kosuke Yamada emphasizes the gigantic dimensions of Godzilla with shots that appear semi-documentary. Sometimes through short shaky camera images looking up at him from the ground, sometimes through calm long shots in which Godzilla looms menacingly over Tokyo.
With Godzilla’s metamorphoses, the film also changes: As close as “Shin Godzilla” is to the catastrophe images from 2011 at the beginning, the film gradually becomes a larger, oppressive parable. “Shin Godzilla” sometimes remains with the shockingly overwhelmed crisis apparatus, which turns out to be just as dangerous and haphazard as the monster: experts who repeatedly don’t believe young women, no matter how much they have shown insight. Decision-makers who are primarily concerned about their poll numbers. And the USA, who want to solve everything with carpet bombs.
Meanwhile, with increasing menace, Godzilla symbolizes the crushing guilt of ignoring warnings in the past and not acting efficiently enough in the present. Ultimately he becomes the scaly sword of Damocles: there is always no question that the danger will return and become more untamed.
In the world of “Shin Godzilla” this means a monster that transcends human understanding. Now it reminds us of failure in the pandemic. But a quick glance at the news is enough to make you aware: In the worst case scenario, “Shin Godzilla” will be a striking reminder of belated action on the ecological crisis in a few years’ time…
*The link to the Amazon offer is a so-called affiliate link. If you make a purchase through this link, we will receive a commission.
Note: This is a re-release of an article previously published on DashFUN.