A sharp blend of old and new revives a classic franchise
by Eliana Bollati
Shin Godzilla is the first Godzilla movie to be released by Japan’s Toho productions in over decade, and unlike more recent Western releases, Shin Godzilla stuck close to its roots. Avoiding a lot of slick production and using CG effects more sparingly.
During its release in Japan earlier this year the film made a total of $73 million, staying at the top of the Japanese box office for its first two weeks, and remaining amongst the top ten box office films all the way through until the end of September. The film made $130,805 during its limited theatrical release in Australia. While at the American box office, the film grossed $1.8 million from screenings across the 13th to the 25th of October.
Co-directed by Hideaki Anno, creator of the wildly popular classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gainax co-founder, Shinji Higuchi. This latest instalment in the franchise is a treat for those with a love for the monster movies of old.
In 2015, Anno announced their intention with the film was to bring Godzilla back to Japan, and that is exactly what he achieved with this contribution.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of Shin Godzilla is the way Anno & Higuchi have captured the feel of the original monster, while still progressing its evolution into the realm of today’s special effects.
In fact, evolution is exactly how they achieve this. Having his monster literally evolve from a shambling creature slithering on its belly through the streets of Tokyo like a snake, into the terrifying, two-legged lizard.
There are allusions too, to Anno’s other works. The CG effects and devastating laser attacks used by Godzilla in his final form are reminiscent of Evangelion’s Angels.
But it is not just through his conception of Godzilla that Anno manages to cleverly and seamlessly blend the old and the new.
Just as the original 1984 movie was a rich source of metaphor for the Japanese psyche in a post-atomic world, Shin Godzilla offers a poignant critique of the world we live in today.
It’s packed with striking visual references to Japan’s more recent tragedy, the earthquake and tsunami which caused the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant on November 3rd 2011. While the narrative touches on the lack of foresight, planning, polarization and divisiveness which often plague our modern bureaucratic procedures.
There are moments akin to political satire within the film, as the Japanese government scrambles to deal with a massive disaster they were completely unprepared for, and the actions and dialogue of the actors closely mirrors the official policies and statements of the Japanese government in the aftermath of 2011’s Tsunami.
The film’s rebooted heroes were also a homage to the original instalment. It is a group of public servants and scientists who are tasked with finding the impossible solution of defeating the monster. After so many instalments involving military heroes and missiles, seeing the franchise return to its anti-nuclear and everyman roots was refreshing.
The way Anno blends the destruction of Godzilla with this political drama creates a film which delivers moments of explosive action, high tension, kitschy comedy and thought-provoking questions. And all while treating the past source material with an astounding amount of reverence and respect.
There is no word yet from distributors Toho, Madman, or Funimation about a DVD or Blu-Ray release. So those who missed out seeing it during its short stint at the cinemas may have to wait sometime to bring the king of monsters to home TV.