CAN THERE BE A BAD GODZILLA FILM?
Film Review by Fiore
Godzilla and I share a com-patriotism unlike others. We both arrived in 1954, and our careers have paralleled each other since. It is therefore, virtually impossible for me to write poorly about a Godzilla movie. I even sat through repeated showings of GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER and everyone, even the most die-hard fans, recognize that as a fiasco.
So, I can tell you SHIN GODZILLA, also known as GODZILLA RESURRECTION, is an interesting view, but it is more about Japanese nationalism than it is the monster; and the changes they’ve made to Godzilla are rather uncomfortable.
SHIN GODZILLA assumes 1954 never occurred. This is the first time Godzilla has ever shown his dorsal fins. All movies prior to this release are forgotten and ignored.
Godzilla is shown developing. He goes through the stages of amphibian development, of which we see three. The tadpole stage is comical, with big googly eyes. He looks like a giant slug with fins. There is a transformation to young adult before the creature disappears beneath the waves and leaves viewers with over an hour of political dialogue among key characters.
When Godzilla appears in adult form, he is on screen roughly 10-12 minutes. He is a slow moving lump of lava skin with useless T-Rex style arms. In PREDATOR mode, this new version now has lower jaw mandibles. His incomparable fire is replaced by molten vomit which transforms into a laser beam that emits from his mouth, tail and fins. He lights up like a Ronko Safety Light, good for hundreds of feet of illumination!
I’m not impressed with the changes; in fact, I think they’re silly. The story further reveals this Godzilla can mutate at will. It can shrink itself to a small size, or even sprout wings and fly to other continents. Now there is no need for Godzilla to encounter Mothra, Ghidorah or Rodan; he can simply mutant and be all of them by himself.
Godzilla is actually a co-star in his own film. Basically, all he wants to do is make his way to the nuclear power plant to eat. In this respect, the film bears a slight resemblance to GODZILLA REBORN, though there is no Super X and no prolonged segments with the King of the Monsters. The real story is the promotion of a young generation of Japanese politicians who are strong nationals and desirous of nothing dealing with global ties.
Godzilla films have always had an undercurrent of social commentary; even the childish ones. In every film there was the theme of the dangers of nuclear power; Godzilla represents the embodiment of nature’s rebellion against man’s attempts to harness the sun. The environment and recycling was the theme in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH; GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER was about genetic mutation (he warned about Monsanto years before it was popular); GODZILLA VS GIGAN concerned illegal aliens, as did MONSTER ZERO AND GHIDORAH. Perhaps Godzilla should have built a wall, and let Mexico pay for it. One of the better scenes in SHIN GODZILLA is a close-up of the monster’s tail. It appears to be comprised of the screaming bodies of those who have died in nuclear holocaust. In this aspect, the movie borrows a theme from GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, in which Godzilla is a demon, though it is presented better in GMA.
In the two-hour film, Godzilla in all his forms carries about 16 minutes. The remaining time is establishing a new, young generation of Japanese leaders who want to return Japan to a strong independent country, with no responsibilities or commitments to other countries, especially to America, who they see as an overbearing enemy.
When the tadpole Godzilla emerges from the ocean, one of the government officials claims shock at the amount of destruction the creature caused for only being on land for two hours. One of the young bucks counters with the claim that in those same two hours, the Japanese government was powerless to destroy the animal because the old vanguard was too busy checking all of Japan’s policies and treaties to ensure they were not offending anyone, nor overstepping their bounds. This then, becomes the running theme of the film.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. GODZILLA LARVA TREK TO RIVER
2. EMERGENCE OF ADULT GODZILLA
3. THE FREEZE BOMB
SHIN GODZILLA features the same type of photography the original series presented. Up angle camera shots, close ups of the head and highlights of key body parts. This Godzilla is stiff and robotic. You would never see it grappling with Destroyah, or swinging its tail to smash MUTO into a building.
The version of SHIN GODZILLA I saw was the original Japanese version. Subtitles were placed both on the bottom and top third of the screen. It was rather challenging, but even slow readers should have enough time to glean the general gist of the story. If the film is Americanized, I’m certain the story and dialogue will change considerably; American audiences aren’t likely to sit through the Japanese version of a Knut Rockne speech.
For Godzilla fans everywhere, this film is a must-see. In the scheme of Godzilla films, it is nowhere near the Heisei series nor the Gareth Edwards version. It will be in my collection, but I guarantee I’ll re-watch only about 12 minutes of the film.
THE GRADE FOR SHIN GODZILLA = C