The Godzilla films have become the longest running franchise in movie history, beginning with Ishiro Honda’s social-activist monster movie in 1954. After twelve long years, the king is finally back in the hands of the Toho Company.
Tokyo Bay’s Aqua lIne is subject to a substantial incident, and subsequently an emergency cabinet meeting is held to discuss a solution. During the meeting, an unknown force emerges onto land: Godzilla. Faced with a colossal unknown threat, the film follows the meetings and debates held by government officials, representatives and field experts discussing the possibilities of eliminating the threat of annihilation against the backdrop of Tokyo’s outlandish demise.
Shin Godzilla is the most original Godzilla production in a very long time, and is very revisionist of the monster genre that audiences know and love. Rather than prioritising the every move of cinema’s most famous titan, directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi centre their concern on international relations and the conversations and pressures that would emerge in the immediate aftermath of an unprecedented attack, in this case, from an unidentified life form. While this does not sound particularly realistic, many of the discussions in the film are grounded in realism. The directors even made the cast talk faster so that they sounded authentically like politicians and bureaucrats. These elements are refreshing and provide an unconventional approach to a wearied formula, but they do begin to run dry as these naturalistic conversations begin to appear repetitive. Narrative is established economically in the exposition, and any progress it undergoes is expected and sparse. Much of the run-time is spent chronicling decisions being weighed, and then waiting for the decisions to be executed. These decisions are reached by characters that fail to experience any arc or transformation; they are established as promising instigators of narrative complication, but unlike Godzilla, they do not evolve beyond how they initially appear.
As for the titular monster himself, the first sighting of his disruptive freedom is very surprising, and even the most seasoned of Godzilla fans will be stunned at his embryonic design. Surfacing on land not fully evolved into the creature audiences recognise, this reincarnation appears as a whale-like creature morphing into the discernible Gojira – which is fitting, as the name Gojira originates from splicing the two words gorira and kujira, meaning gorilla and whale. Its conflicted existence as it forces itself to evolve is visually intoxicating, and once it has evolved, it looks phenomenal. The design of the creature provides evidence that the creative team have gone back to basics in their revitalisation of the image conjured when one thinks of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original design. It will be sure to please seasoned audiences; this is the thirty-first Godzilla film, and this design may be the best since the original. Granting that the titular character possesses a striking address, its presence is never as threatening as one would hope. The chaos that Godzilla inflicts is gloriously presented, but fails to incite a responsive emotional impression on the viewer. A sense of unwavering dread is only achieved through the films final shot, whereas in the 1954 original, a mere glimpse of the ocean was enough to send chills pulsing through your body – the perception of what lay concealed underneath its vast ripples was sinister and unnerving.
There is less screen time for Godzilla than many had anticipated, which was a harsh criticism of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 reboot, but the havoc the creature wreaks is much more turbulent than the latter. Despite not giving priority to the monster itself, the political and historical subtext, alongside some welcome humour, make this pure reestablishment of the king of Kaiju’s an esteemed addition to the series.