Godzilla has been making a strong comeback in the last few years starting with 2014 were Hollywood redeemed itself for allowing Roland Emmerich to make that awful Zilla film back in 1998. This has set the foundation for a franchise that will see the King of the Monsters go up against King Kong in the next installment.
The success of the 2014 film also inspired Toho Studios to reboot the franchise for a new generation while giving one of Japan’s greatest pop-culture icons a fresh start. The result is Godzilla Resurgence (also known as Shin Godzilla), Toho Studios third reboot of the franchise and the first not to follow the events of the original film.
Godzilla Resurgence presents a much darker and more grotesque depiction of the iconic kaiju. This is also not some over the top destruction fest that has a “by the numbers” storyline. It’s instead a more cleaver film that provides a thought provoking examination into the many political issues of modern Japan with in the context of a Godzilla film.
Following a series of mysterious incidents around the coast of Japan, Rando Yaguchi (Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary) is convinced that it’s the work of a living creature. His theory is at first dismissed but when a creature makes landfall, the government scrambles to deal with it. Yaguchi is put in charge of a task force after the military fails to kill the creature which has been dubbed Godzilla. With the international community putting pressure to use nuclear weapons, its a race against time to find a way to kill Godzilla before Tokyo is decimated.
Godzilla Resurgence is a film that returns the series to its more political roots while having a much darker tone than previous films. The film combines elements of found footage into a more politically charged film. Audiences are presented with a story that looks at the government bureaucracy when trying to resolve a crisis (or in this case, a Godzilla attack).
Basically it’s the equivalent of The Thick of It made into a kaiju film.
Meanwhile the film is less about Godzilla causing destruction but a critic of Japanese politics. The biggest target of the film is the bureaucratic system of the government along with the role that seniority plays. At the same time we see a conflict between the young and ambitious versus the political opportunists. Similar to The Host, the film also is heavily critical of the role the United States government has in Japanese affairs. While not so much anti-American but more of a rallying call for political leadership to take a stronger stance when it comes to protecting its interest on the international stage.
Themes are strong in Godzilla Resurgence but it also presents a problem for anyone who is unfamiliar with Japaneses politics. Hence it’s best advised to look into the political culture of Japan before watching this film.
Godzilla Resurgence is more then Toho Studios version of a comeback but also a reminder that kaiju films can still have a thought provoking themes. While the 2014 film just had to not be bad, this film had the burden of rebooting the franchise without latching onto the legacy of the first film.
Final Score: 8/10
Disclaimer: I bought my own ticket for the North American release of Godzilla Resurgence.