Godzilla Resurgence (Shin Godzilla) (2016) (film review by Frank Ochieng)

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 US 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’ (aka ‘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 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 terrorising 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 ‘instalments, 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 that ‘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 50s and 60s 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 has the Japanese raucous reptile stomping his way into the hearts of avid fans looking for the monstrous large lizard to "strut his stuff" in the doomed streets of Japan.
GODZILLA RESURGENCE has the Japanese raucous reptile stomping his way into the hearts of avid fans looking for the monstrous large lizard to “strut his stuff” in the doomed streets of Japan.

‘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 jeopardised citizens in the territory?

As the Japanese government agonises 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 super-powers 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 movie-goers 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

Toho Studios

2 hrs.

Starring: Hiroki HasegawaSatomi IshiharaYutaka TakenouchiRen Ohsugi and 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



Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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