In Toho's newest Godzilla feature, our titular anti-hero/villain/force-of-nature faces his most powerful enemy of all time: bureaucracy.
Godzilla Resurgence (or Shin Gojira, as it is known in Japan, or Godzilla Vs. The West Wing, as it is now known to me and my friends) is Hideaki Anno's (Yes! THAT Hideaki Anno) attempt to make Godzilla scary again in the modern world. He does this by making a realistic movie about what ties up government action and aid when a natural disaster hits a contemporary country like Japan. All the red tape, politicians and department heads each trying to save their own butts against any possible outcome, and people waiting too long to make any calls just in case it damages their future ambitions... It's all on display here, and it's both scary and, quite honestly, a little boring.
It's intriguing in its own way, but Anni tries way too hard to turn a Godzilla flick into a clone of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. Godzilla Resurgence is about 90% talking head scenes (or walk-n-talk scenes), and everybodytalkssoveryquickly too. If you're watching the subtitled version of this thing you'll have to be able to read pretty dang fast in order to keep up. It doesn't feel very much like a Godzilla movie, and that's both good and bad. But I'll get back to that.
"What's it ABOUT?!" you spurt at your screen like a fat American baby who can see the jar of baby food in the tray in front of him, but whose arms are too short and pudgy to actually grab it for yourself. Well, Godzilla Resurgence is like most of all the other Godzilla movies ever made: Godzilla marches through Tokyo, stepping on shit and blowing the fuck out of the city, and the army tries to stop him, big fight. I mean really, what more do you actually need? Other giant monsters for Godzilla to fight? Maybe, but only after the reboot does its thing and has mankind barely triumph over the radioactive monster first. But there is more to it than JUST army versus monster. See, initially Godzilla is only about a city street-wide. He's a relatively little, gilly, bug-eyed, weird-looking, eel-like thing on two legs that virtually slithers through Tokyo causing minor damage (comparatively, next to his other movies). He is able to slip back into Tokyo Bay before the Japanese government can do jack or shit about him though, since all the bureaucrats are all too concerned with making sure they're not held responsible for any of the after-effects of the giant aquatic beast's rampage, and nobody seems to care about stopping it.
But then, of course, Godzilla spends a little while out at sea mutating into a 118-meter tall behemoth with a giant, whipping tail about three-times longer than his main body, and teeny-tiny T-Rex arms who then comes back to Japan's capital city with a vengeance, apparently looking for some glow-in-the-dark nuclear late night snacks.
Nothing can stop the Big G this time, even though the Japanese Self Defense Force, some international scientists, the US Army, and the US Air Force are called in for support. All that these forces do is PISS GODZILLA OFF. Honestly, Godzilla's impervious skin and fire-turned-nuclear breath in this movie is indeed terrifying. In previous Godzilla movies, whenever the main man unleashes his radioactive breath the audience just says, "Ah! Cool!" But here, in Resurgence, when Godzilla unhinges his jaws and lights up the evening sky with his power, the whole crowd in the theater just stared at the screen in dead silence. It was scary-awesome. But then Anno had to go and ruin it by giving the titular character "back lasers" that shoot out from a couple of dozen places along his spine-fins, and that just looks ridiculous. Sigh... Anno, what the fuck, bud?
Anyway, the biggest surprise of all in this movie was writer/director Anno's complete 180-degree turn from his ideas behind his genre-changing anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion to this, his newest creation. In Eva, it seemed clear to me that Anno thought that the youth of Japan were nothing but idiots. His main young characters were either completely wimpy can't-think-or-themselves puds, loud-mouthed know-it-alls, or compliant quiet pussies who just did what they were told, even if it meant throwing themselves into a fire because "even if [they] die, there'll be a replacement." But in Godzilla Resurgence, Anno quite blatantly shows us what he thinks of the adults running Japan today: they're all self-serving pansies who couldn't make a decision unless they had someone else to blame if it went anywhere wrong. However, it's the YOUNG up-and-comers who save the day in Resurgence! The young politicians rise up to the challenge of leading the country in the wake of their elders' untimely Gojira deaths, and they take chances and put their careers on the line in order to make the right call when it needs to be made! YEEEAAAAAH-HAAAA! They're the REAL MVPs!
This idolization of the youth in this flick is a little heavy-handed and forced, and you can see this "younguns saving the country" bit coming a mile away, but that's alright. There have been worse (MUCH worse) Godzilla movie set-ups in the past. Think Godzilla Vs Megalon. Or Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster. Or hell, any Godzilla movie since the first one and until The Return of Godzilla (aka Godzilla 1984).
Lets see... Even though I wasn't particularly fond of the Big G's look in this movie, it worked in this environment. He was more organic-looking and threatening than he's ever been before, and once again, some of his power displays were world-rockingly awesome. I liked the basic idea of the film (bureaucracy sucks and never gets any shit done), but the only solution that Anno and company can come up with to this global problem is "Kill all the old fucks who won't change, and who won't take responsibility for their actions, if and when they ever DO act... Then the idealistic youth can take charge and lead us to victory!" Mass murder, although quite enticing in this current political world, is a bit too messy for my taste.
Oh, and the music. For the most part, it was alright (I loved when they brought in the original Gojira Attacks and Japanese SDF themes in the overall movie score, but Anno just had to pull in Evangelion tracks for some reason. The addition of the Eva tunes just completely pulled me out of the movie. They're so recognizable to fans like me, that it'd be like if Steven Spielberg were to unapologetically put the Indiana Jones theme in the middle of a really uplifting emotional moment in Saving Private Ryan. Both stories take place during WWII, so what's the big deal, right?... The big deal is that the Indiana Jones music is already iconic and 100% associated with another product. When you hear it, you think of that other product. As a film maker I would have assumed that Anno would only want his audience to be focused on his new movie, and not to think about his old stuff while watching the new movie. It was just such an odd choice, and it was done multiple times during the course of this flick. Even Mehve said later that he expected a giant Angel to appear, or for Godzilla to unzip and show himself to be an Angel himself whenever the Eva music made its mark.
Oh, and as Cupcake pointed out after we left the theater, can't Japanese productions find people who can both act AND speak English well? There are several bit characters in the movie who come from America, and who are obviously native speakers, but who don't seem to know how to act their way out of a soggy, radioactive, paper bag. Then there is that one main character (a young American woman politician who's grandmother was Japanese, but who's other ancestors were American, despite the fact that she doesn't have one ounce of Caucasian DNA in her whole body) who can act, but who speaks the worst English I've ever heard of in a movie from a character who claims to have spoken the language her entire life. I am so glad that they kept the English subtitles up during the many times she was chatting in "Engrish" phrases. Painful.
Final word: Watch it if you like giant monster movies. Watch it if you love political movies. But don't watch it if you want a REAL Godzilla movie (i.e. a movie with more than 8 minutes of actual Godzilla footage during a 2 hour runtime).
*Here we go again! Ha ha ha! Oh my, another decade and another Japanese-produced Godzilla movie! I just couldn't pass it up. I'm like the Hugh Jackman of kaiju movies... I'll never retire from the role!
So, after my debut in the American Godzilla movie in 2014, the Toho people said, "Gojira, we can do better! How would you like to be in another Japanese Godzilla movie, but this time we'll get Hideaki Anno to direct!"
At the time I had no idea who this Anno was. I hadn't kept up with anime for years and years... I think the last one I saw was Gundam. Which one? There's only one Gundam, isn't there?...What? There's over TWENTY now? Well, see! [Chuckle] I am very much out of the loop on my anime.
My point is this, I signed up without knowing just how trippy a director Hideaki Anno was, and I didn't read the script ahead of time. I had no idea that he wanted the character of Godzilla to start off as a wriggling fish creature with bug eyes! When they showed me the puppet for that early sequence I just kept my real thoughts to myself and said things like, "Oh, Anno-san, that's amazing. You are such a visionary!" [Laughing out loud, slapping knee] Everyone else could smell the bullshit I was spewing, but Anno ate it up and asked for seconds.
Oh! But let me back up a bit first. So, after I put on all that weight for the American Godzilla movie, I went on a crash diet for this new movie... What are they calling it? Shin Godzilla? Ha! I'm surprised Anno didn't call it Shin Seiki Godzilla! That'd be just like him. Oh, so I went on a crash diet to get back down to my Japanese Godzilla dimensions, but something happened with my metabolism or something after getting soooo American fat. The only place that the weight would come off was my upper torso and my arms. My legs and my belly stayed very rotund. I was embarrassed at first, showing up to the set on that first day of filming, but Director Anno looked at me and he smiled a huge smile and said (and I'll never forget this), "Gojira-san, your body is so very creepy right now! That's perfect! Don't change! Very creepy!"
"Very creepy"? Is that something you say to your star? To a living legend like me? [Laughs riotously] I'm kidding. I give Anno a hard time. I did watch his Evangelion anime after the movie wrapped, and I could tell he was an amazing individual. We laugh about this kind of stuff now.
This movie was fun to make, but not as much fun as Final Wars. Oh man, it was so great to have the entire old cast back together again for Final Wars! Gigan Sagikawa, Anguirus Mizuno, and Rodan Yamato... It was just a giant party during the making of that movie. Shin Godzilla though, it was mostly all business. Since most of the movie was just humans talking about government stuff, I just sat on the side and napped whenever I could. It was in truth very boring... Yes! I know! How can one make a Godzilla movie and have it be boring? [Laughs] Oh well. I don't write them, I just walk around the sets stomping on things. What a way to make a living!
(*Translated from Japanese)
ROOOOOOOOOaaaaaaaaaaa-AAAAAAAAR! GROOOOWL! SMASH! ROOOOOOOOOOaaaaaaaa-OOOOOOAAAARRRR!
(Note from the Rossman: Carl apparently liked it, but all anybody's been able to get out of him since we all left the theater was Godzilla-like noises, snarls, and him breaking stuff. He's flipped the break-room table 3 times now. I can tell you that this shit is getting old.)