Over the five decades since his 1963 premier, Godzilla has served as a stand-in for a number of things. From the horrors of atomic warfare to the planet’s anger at humanity over pollution to the rage of Japan’s war dead, the big green lizard has served a number of metaphorical needs. So, on a theoretical level, I have no real issue with the fact that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi are using Godzilla Resurgence, the first Godzilla movie from Toho in twelve years, as a way to comment on bloated government bureaucracy and red tape. It’s just that this is all that the movie is concerned with, and, unfortunately, that makes for a boring Godzilla movie.
A sudden break in the underwater portion of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is the trigger for an emergency meeting of government officials to deal with the disaster. As various functionaries attempt to offer their own beat guess as to what has happened, one is criticized for suggesting that there is evidence showing that it could be some sort of large underwater creature that could be the problem. But this being a Godzilla film, we already know that thisa guy is right and that soon a familiar giant bipedal lizard will be stomping his way across the city.
Except that this is where Anno amd Higuchi throw us a curveball. What is moving throw Tokyo Bay and then up the Nomi River looks more like a giant lungfish than the traditional Godzilla. Will this be another monster that Godzilla will rise up to attack? No, this is Godzilla, just an early form of his development. In an interesting conceit, Anno and Higuchi have expanded on the idea that of Godzilla as being a mutated product of radiation by showing us that actual process. By doing so, we come to view him as much a victim of radiation as are the people running from beneath his feet.
As Godzilla continues to grow ans mutate ultimately into his familiar form, we see numerous government officials meeting and sending orders up and down the chain of command. We get what the directors are saying about bureaucracies fairly quickly but the way they continue to hammer the idea home for a majority of the film gets pretty tiring fairly quickly. Anno and Higuchi do break in with some monster action every now and then, but there really isn’t enough to build or even sustain any kind of momentum. If you found that the 2014 Hollywood-produced Godzilla film was light on monster action you won’t find things much better here.
Fans will be glad to know that Toho and Anno and Higuchi have continued the man-in-a-rubber-suit tradition of portraying Godzilla. But instead of models, they digitally composite the monster into live action backgrounds seamlessly. Combined with a number of low angle shots looking up at the towering monster that help sell Godzilla’s size and mass, the overall effect is some of the most realistic imagery the series has seen. The only real drawback to the technique is that Godzilla’s eyes don’t blink, which tends to distract from the illusion, especially during Godzilla’s early stages.
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