One might nostalgically recall the days back when the cheesy yet infectious Japanese monster movies were such a magnificent draw during those hazy Saturday afternoons showcasing the double creature feature matinees that aired weekly on television. We were considered very lucky if we had Mothera battle Gamera in one showing followed up by experiencing the sheer thrill of watching Rodan take on his latest ferocious foe as well. However, as well-known as these mentioned Far East big screen beasts were in all their glorious rage and colorful destruction nobody was as legendary or instrumental in seriously wreaking havoc on vulnerable Japanese soil both heroically or horrendously than our heralded King of Carnage in the celebrated _Godzilla_.
The famed and humongous rumble-and-tumble reptile makes a grand return courtesy of Toho Studios reviving the catastrophic critter in writer/co-director Hideaki Anno’s and Shinji Higuchi’s monster mash offering **Godzilla Resurgence** (a.k.a.”Shin Godzilla”). Interestingly, the last _Godzilla_ flick that was released by Toho Studios was more than a decade ago in 2004. Naturally, Japanese audiences were privileged to the exploitative antics of the favorable large lizard when **Godzilla Resurgence** premiered earlier this year.
Thankfully, Anno’s and Higuchi’s spry creature concoction is now showing up in limited release in other countries as _Godzilla_ dusts off his combative cobwebs from yesteryear and makes a contemporary return to the cinematic psyches for baby-boomers looking to revive their childhood memories of the spike-toothed rampaging rogue doing what he does best: stomping through the endangered streets of Japan in the name of high-wire popcorn entertainment. In any event, there is a willing welcome wagon to embrace this familiar and feisty monstrous menace with robust enjoyment. There have been previous _Godzilla_ editions that were not necessarily received with the pat-on-the-back reception (yes Roland Emmerich–we are referencing your disastrous take on 1998’s _Godzilla_). Still, **Godzilla Resurgence** accomplishes the impossible as it stays close to its humble 1954 roots while managing to sprinkle some fresh impishness within its clever manufactured mayhem.
The screening experience of viewing the majestic monster _Godzilla_ is stunning and surreal because the film’s handlers create the terrorizing tension and torture of a full-scale predator crashing his way into the miniature-sized obstacles (people, buildings, bridges, power lines, etc.) with demolished durability. The physical details on the _Godzilla_ monster are hideously wondrous and every bloody drool from the creature’s jagged mouth and ominous scaly skin is profoundly sinister. The thought of Godzilla’s two-ton tail pouncing and waving with destructive defiance generates the additional mystique of this Asia-based destroyer.
For those not quite informed about the backstory of the _Godzilla_ mythology it is quite simple: a classical creature was born/created back in 1954 at Toho Studios where filmmaker Ishiro Honda presented a monster flick that would go on to endure as a cult favorite in Japanese cinema and elsewhere around the world for the next six decades. Sure, the various _Godzilla_ installments (not including the derivative American versions) were saddled in inspired cheesiness (you got to love the laughable “man-in-the-monster-suit” cheapened special effects) with toy model sets serving as a deteriorating Japanese background to _Godzilla’s_ cinematic wrath. Nevertheless, the clear message was received thoughtfully and philosophically–_Godzilla_ and his creepy contemporaries was conceived and symbolic of that country’s disillusionment with its atomic bombing past. As a result, the Japanese-based beasts were reflective of the man-made devastation that haunted a targeted region of the world that knew annihilation and humiliation. _Godzilla_ made for some escapist thrills and chills for Japanese movie audiences in the heyday of the 50’s and 60’s but Honda’s alarming predatory pest would also resonate as a freakish catalyst for the country’s past and present turmoil for political, societal and technological survival. Hence, _Godzilla_ is a representative (and product) of a historical nuclear blast that remains as an immense ugly chapter in humanity.
**Godzilla Resurgence** (_Shin Godzilla_) introduces good ole Godzilla as a mystery wrecking machine unbeknownst to the Tokyo city officials that have no clue in how to contain the unknown boisterous, beastly intruder as he storms through Japan like a loose sledgehammer through a light bulb factory. Once the return of the ravenous Godzilla had been identified the big brass now has to figure out how to eradicate the enormous fiendish phenomenon. Do they nuke the corrosive creature without the dire consequences of sacrificing its jeopardized citizens in the territory?
As the Japanese government agonizes over what should be done with Godzilla’s dubious presence as he methodically smashes everything in his wicked path the cynicism grows moment by moment. Specifically, why is Godzilla’s tumultuous existence impacting their way of life? Is the creature’s overstayed welcome some sort of plot from the rest of the world to dump unrest and debauchery on their sacred grounds? Better yet can the foreign superpowers such as the United States, China or Russia collaborate to help terminate the mighty monster? Will Godzilla disturb global concerns and if so how will the militaristic mindset play out in Japan’s beleaguered backyard?
**Godzilla Resurgence** aims to be more than just a typical giant monster movie mired in splashy CGI special effects and engulfed explosions. Anno (“Evangelion”) and Higuchi (“Attack on Titan”) actually serve up a sophisticated and thought-provoking creature caper that digs underneath the throwaway exploitation surface. The tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is firmly maintained and the moviegoers are treated to their share of Godzilla’s manic mischievousness. Importantly, Anno and Higuchi amp up their brand of a disguised political potboiler in the form of a sci-fi monster B movie that sufficiently labors at mirroring the current-day chaos and conflicts that bombard a modern-day Japan (or any inserted nation for that matter). Whether spotlighting international trust/distrust or pinpointing kaiju (meaning “big, brutal monsters”) terrorism as an allegory for Japan’s temporary unseen but inevitable national fallout caused by an impenetrable nature disaster it is quite revealing that **Godzilla Resurgence** delves beyond its cartoonish ruination.
Whatever interpretation that one derives from **Godzilla Resurgence** the verdict is undeniably sound that Toho Studios delivers a lively and message-driven platform about uncontrollable forces and critical decisions that befall an ambivalent country undergoing in-house scrutiny. To put it in layman’s terms: **Godzilla Resurgence** is a surprisingly well-done despite its sometimes campy makeup. Surely **Resurgence** is solid enough to uphold the G-man’s beloved legacy in the kaiju genre.
**Godzilla Resurgence (Shin Godzilla)** 2016
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Satomi Ishihara, Yutaka Takenouchi, Ren Ohsugi, Akira Emoto
Directed by: Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Written by: Hideaki Anno
MPAA Rating: NR
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy/Action & Adventure/Drama
Critic’s rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) **Frank Ochieng** 2016