24th Feb2017

Glasgow Frightfest ’17: ‘Shin Godzilla’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara, Ren Ôsugi, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kôra, Mikako Ichikawa, Jun Kunimura, Pierre Taki, Kyûsaku Shimada, Ken Mitsuishi, Shingo Tsurumi, Kimiko Yo | Written by Hideaki Anno | Directed by Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi

shin-godzilla-poster

Godzilla, officially THE King of the Monsters, returns to his Japanese roots following the 2014 Gareth Edwards directed US film in Shin Godzilla. Set in present-day Japan, the film sees an unexplained seismic event occur off the coast of Shinagawa, causing ripple effects all the way to the capital. Ministers scramble to figure out what’s going on but only cabinet secretary Rando Yaguchi knows what the audience already does. That Godzilla has majestically returned and has his fire-breathing, stomping sights on Tokyo once more…

It’s hard to belive that Godzilla, such a symbol of the nuclear fallout of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and (to a lesser extent) the Daigo Fukuryū Maru incident at Bikini Atoll, would still be around today. And, more importantly, still be as relevant as he was all those years ago. For Shin Godzilla, like its 1954 forefather, is once again a cultural metaphor for the ills of Japanese society. This time round Godzilla’s “rebirth” and subsequent destruction is inpsired by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. More importantly it points the finger at an inept government, unwilling or unable to act during those disasters; and highlights the sacrifices of the common man.

For those more familiar with the huge kaiju-filled monster movies of Godzilla’s past, that saw the legendary lizard take on the likes of Mothra, Ghidorah, Mecha-Godzilla et al, Shin Godzilla may come as something of a shock. Rather than concentrate on the monster himself, co-directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi instead turn their focus onto the people involved with defending Tokyo from the havoc and destruction reeked by Godzilla. Much like the destruction of Godzilla was inspired by true events, so are the characters. In this case the ‘Fukushima 50′ – a group of workers at the nuclear power plant who risked their own lives to keep the plant from spiralling into a true nuclear disaster. Here Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi present the “everyman” scientists, willing to use logic against the king kaiju rather than brute force, as the heroes; not the dithering government so confused by the situation and, ultimately, relying on outside forces – the American military – to do their job.

What’s also new in Shin Godzilla is… Godzilla! Gone are the cheap and cheerful rubber suits (which will always have a special place in ANY Godzilla fans heart) and in comes a combination of animatronics, puppetry and CGI. Yes, it seems the Japanese have taken a page out of America’s playbook and rendered their new version of Godzilla using the very latest in digital effects work. What does this mean for Godzilla though? Well this time round the king of the monsters looks VERY different.

Initially emerging from the sea as a strange googly-eyed “infant”, Godzilla’s eventual final, fourth, form only emerges after numerous battles with the Japanese army and his move inland. And that fourth form? Instantly recognizeable as Godzilla but with some subtle differences that make this iteration more menacing and more unstoppable. Can we talk about that laser beam breath for a second? Wow. The way it cuts through buildings like a hot knife through butter is a joy to behold – I also love the fact it’s this “weapon” that is both Godzilla’s power AND weakness… And *mild spoilers* what is with those kaiju/Alien/humanoid hybrid creatyres emerging from the tip of Godzilla’s tail in the closing moments of the film? Talk about a cliffhanger! I hope that their appearance bodes well for a sequel to Shin Godzilla and more adventures in this new Japan-set kaiju era.

***** 5/5

Shin Godzilla screens at Glasgow Frightfest tonight at 9.00pm

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