Shin Godzilla marks the King of the Monsters’ return to the screen for the first time in over a decade as a Toho iteration – and what a splendid comeback it is. Godzilla is one of the longest-running ongoing franchises in cinema history, and its long-lasting popularity is due in no part to the series’ ability to continual re-invent itself while tapping into Japan’s real-life contemporary anxieties. Shin Godzilla, which is co-directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, throws in a couple of surprises even long-term fans will find unexpected, whilst honouring the ethos which gravitated us towards the monster in the first place.
By this point, everyone knows what to expect from a Godzilla movie – plenty of monster destruction and mankind having to come up with a solution to overcome it. Here the beast returns to its roots as an allegorical force of horror, this time channelling the devastation of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck Japan in 2011, as well as a reminder of the nuclear panic which inspired its creation back in 1954. The film critiques the Japanese government’s failure to act quickly after the natural disaster, as well as the various bureaucratic bodies to go through before definitive decisions can be made. The interference of the U.S. is also satirised to great degree – so much so that the film could be interpreted as a clarion call for Japanese political autonomy.
The latest incarnation of the beast is arguably the most original to date. Without going into spoiler territory, let’s just say that Godzilla is portrayed as a brand new evolutionary form. One of the joys of this series – and why most entries are original in their own right – is due to the wide array of filmmakers allowed to exercise their own vision on their respective films. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi have made Godzilla their own here, and while it’s bound to alienate some long-term fans, most will undoubtedly commend it for its experimentation.
Overall, Shin Godzilla works magnificently as both a monster action extravaganza and a political satire. It’s a welcome return to form for cinema’s greatest monster and the resurgence fans have been waiting for since 2004. The franchise might be heading into its seventh decade, but with Shin Godzilla it feels like it’s just getting started all over again.
Words: Kieran Fisher