While Western audiences laugh at the infamous monster, Ishirō Honda’s classic 1954 Gojira, made just nine years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was a thoughtful and sensitive response to the nuclear devastation. Hideaki Anno, similarly, has created a version of the Godzilla franchise that personifies and encapsulates the horror of nuclear destruction, as well as being a further response to the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Known primarily for anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and dark, psychological themes, it comes as no surprise that Anno should take the approach he did: using Godzilla to exemplify human foolishness.
The movie boasts tightly packed and fast-paced dialogue throughout and a majority of scenes that take place in government boardrooms, yet retains the ability to terrify. When disruption emerges in Tokyo Bay, it is deputy chief cabinet secretary Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) who realises that it is a living organism and urges immediate action. Nevertheless, Anno portrays the events through a macro lens, rarely focusing in on one character. He chooses instead to provide a full scope of Godzilla’s wrath, from the city’s destruction to the intricate government workings in times of chaos, creating a documentary-like film.
The monster in its first form seems somewhat humorous to viewers, slithering along the streets of Japan with large, dead eyes and stubby arms after emerging from Tokyo Bay. It causes destruction and casualties wherever it goes, releasing gallons of blood from its gills. It’s evolution, however, prompts terror and the realisation that this beast could destroy humanity if it is not stopped. Those in charge, meanwhile, are fumbling and the experts are clueless. The director uses subtle humour no doubt to criticise the government’s delayed response to 3/11. The creature, feeding off nuclear fission, is truly the embodiment of nuclear threat – seemingly unstoppable and bigger than humanity could ever imagine. As a character says: “Godzilla. Truly a god incarnate”. By focusing on humanity as a whole, rather than specific people, the film demonstrates that no one is exempt from nuclear war.
A unique and slightly strange addition to the franchise, Shin Godzilla is both entertaining and alarming, taking political aim at humanity as a whole through the metaphor of the classic monster, Godzilla.
Shin Godzilla is released in selected cinemas on 10th August 2017.
Watch the trailer for Shin Godzilla here: