Shin Godzilla Review
by Luke Brown
From a terrifying metaphor for unspeakable horrors, to a friendly protector, to an undead embodiment of the souls lost at war, Godzilla has gone through many iterations in its lifespan. Shin Godzilla redefines the character once again, shaping Godzilla into an unstoppable force of nature. Unlike other versions, this Godzilla does not act out of pre-determined thought, but rather animalistic instinct. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, Japan, 2016) returns to the roots of the characterization of Godzilla, the creature being mutated due to radiation, however, in a modern world this takes the shape of radioactive waste dumped into Tokyo Bay rather than nuclear weapons testing. Not only does this function to update the character to represent more topical, modern-day fears, but also reclaims a back-story seemingly lost amongst the many adaptations. There are scenes throughout the film that directly mirror news footage of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, that took place in 2011. Once again these scenes function to reclaim the identity that Godzilla originally had: a monstrous, physical representation of the horrors that have beset Japan.
While the film functions as a national catharsis, it also functions as a scathing indictment of the countries government. There are numerous scenes throughout the film that display the comical levels of bureaucracy present in Japanese government, meetings adjourning only for all the present parties to move to another room to begin a different meeting, a ludicrous amount of people needing to give permission for action to be taken. It is clear that Hideaki Anno, the films writer and one of its directors, has very little faith in the government’s ability to aid its own citizens, which was one of the greatest critiques of the nation following the previously mentioned disasters in 2011.
Shin Godzilla may, at first, appear to be a dire, mournful film, but it is also quite clearly one full of hope and national pride. When the shackles of bureaucracy are shed, the Japanese people unite in order to find a way to save their country from further destruction, just as was seen in Godzilla (1954). The film has a clear pride in Japan’s ability to rise up after even the most devastating events have occurred, and it’s people’s ability to repair that which has been destroyed.
Shin Godzilla is not only interesting for its narrative, however, but the visual effects that are present in the film warrant note as well. While the American’s had, at the time of release, already released two Godzilla films utilising computer graphics, Shin Godzilla is the first Japanese film in the franchise to create an entirely CGI Godzilla. While miniatures are still used throughout the film, the King of the Monsters himself is created through motion capture and CGI, the tradition of men in rubber suits done away with entirely. Shin Godzilla both updates and reclaims the character in ways that are reminiscent of its past, while being aware of Japan’s present, ushering in a new era of Japanese Godzilla films.