Culture

Sgathaich: Shin Godzilla

Christmas SgathaichIn over 60 years of this franchise the original film has never been remade. Sure we had a weird American movie that was very much not Godzilla and a second attempt at an American Godzilla that was much better that started off the monsterverse. But the original film in Japan has always been almost sacred. Every era, every film in Japan (outside of the anime trilogy) has treated the first film as having happened, except this one.

The original Gojira is a dark serious metaphor to the dangers of nuclear weapons. It is a disaster movie that takes the form of the attack of a giant monster the country is powerless to stop.

Sin GodzillaIn the year 2011 Japan was hit by a massive tsunami which leads to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Shin Godzilla directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi is very much a critique of the Japanese Government and its overly bureaucratic nature in the wake of these disasters. This is most evident in the first act of the film. While in the original there were people from all over as the leads, here the protagonists are all government officials so we see the disaster from a government perspective.

The film opens with a small team of people investigating an abandoned ship floating in Tokyo bay. After finding some odd pieces of research a large explosion can be heard, the sea starts boiling and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is suddenly flooded by a strange red liquid. From here the action moves to the Japanese Government as they go from meeting to meeting, their inaction and unwillingness to take action due to bureaucracy over who should be responsible is paralleled as a large creature begins to move first up the river (the pile up of boats directly referencing the tsunami) before coming on land in its second form.

The second form of Godzilla has an unusual but somewhat chilling look, a creature clearly not built to walk on land as blood comes out of its gills and it wobbles about yet it continues to devastate the area while the Government continues to try and find out whose jurisdiction this falls under.

Godzilla here is portrayed as a rapidly evolving creature, once more paralleling the slow movements of the Government. Times where it could have been dealt with then and there prevented by inaction resulting in the time when they were willing to gun it down, it no longer being effective.

The 4th form of Godzilla which is the main one seen in the film is a terrifying beast, drawing once more from the original concepts of the beast. This form is black covered in radiation scars and an almost blood red glow coming off it. This beast comes off as a nightmarish mutation rather than some large dinosaur.

The most harrowing scene comes when Godzilla/gojira (in a nice touch they use both its names, with Godzilla openly being what the Americans refer to it as) uses its atomic breath. The music switches more to a funereal dirge the track called “who will know our tragedy” as its lower jaw splits open and hits dorsal fins glow purple, suddenly black smoke spews from Godzilla’s mouth before it’s replaced by flames and massive sections of Tokyo are engulfed in flames evoking images of the fire bombings in WW2 as well as the nuke.

Shin Godzilla is a very different beast to the American monsterverse films. While they follow the later era Godzilla VS monster films this one is a much slower and haunting film resembling the original more. It is also charged with political commentary with many parts of the dialog coming out as condemning the current nature of Japanese politics. Sadly that part will not be as strongly resonating with western audiences due to lack of knowledge or reference point for them but the film is still written in a way that is enjoyable if dark and a very interesting contrast to the American ones.

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