With Godzilla: Resurgence (or Shin Godzilla as it’s titled in Japan), Toho is finally back in the game. For fans of the long-running monster saga, it’s a welcome return for the studio who originated the iconic creature creation, but unfortunately, it never lives up to the drama of the 1954 original, or the bananas fun of all the B-Movie schlock that followed.
Set in modern day Japan, Godzilla: Resurgence finds the King of Monsters emerging from the depths of the sea once more to stomp through the city streets, but Resurgence is more interested in the government shenanigans surrounding ‘Zilla’s appearance than the mutant lizard himself. Where Ishiro Honda‘s 1954 classic was centered around the subtext of nuclear war and it’s destructive repercussions, Hideaki Anno‘s update is centered around more modern issues — namely, the relentless inanity of bureaucracy. World War II was the great tragedy of the original Godzilla’s time; ours is government inefficiency.
Most of Godzilla: Resurgence plays out as political satire following the Prime Minister and his enormous team of advisors, consultants, and experts as they quibble over how to handle the unprecedented threat. As Godzilla emerges from the ocean in a trail of blood, like a red oil spill spreading across the surface, the beaurocrats squabble over what to do and what department it falls under — the biologist and environmentalists want to preserve the specimen, the military advisors want to destroy it, and some of the team is preoccupied by whether or not the footage is even real. As Godzilla is flooding the streets with a stream of washed-up boats, they’re tucked away in their office dealing with red tape and minutiae.
To the credit of the film, it’s all pretty funny, and the actors play their roles to hilarious effect, but it’s not what you come to a Godzilla film for. What you do come to a Godzilla film for — the city-stomping monster madness — is sorely missing. Godzilla has only a handful of scenes, and they’re only a few minutes long each. When he’s doing what Godzilla does best, the film is a blast. This is a good Godzilla. He’s fearsome and formidable, a force of nature far beyond what man is prepared for. “God incarnate,” they call him. But the fact that he’s so great only makes you miss him more during all the scenes that are focused on the mundane.
The creature design itself is a lot of fun. There’s just not enough of him. He’s got the classic man in a suit physicality, lumbering through the city streets with a sort of casual indifference toward whatever gets in his way, whether a civilian-packed building or military resistance. Nowhere near the behemoth size of the Gareth Edwards‘ Godzilla, this version of the King of Monsters doesn’t quite climb to skyscraper height, but he has a mighty tail, tiny little humanoid claws, and some sick new lasers that shoot out of his dorsal fins.
When we first meet Godzilla, he’s the pollywog version of the giant monster; a serpentine, bug-eyed baby beast with spiky, spread out teeth, slithering through the streets like a chinese dragon float in a street-stomping parade. But as the film tells us, Godzilla is capable of self-contained evolution outside of the rules of nature, and he quickly becomes the upright, bipedal force of fury we all know and love. But as soon as he does, he disappears again for the bulk of the film.
And that’s what keeps Godzilla: Resurgence from being the delight it should be. As funny and cheeky as the human antics are at times, there’s too little of the monster himself. If you thought the recent American incarnation of Godzilla witheld the title beast too often, Resurgence has even less. That said, the folks behind Resurgence have nailed a really fun tone and crafted a fine incarnation of the classic creature and I sincerely hope we get to see this Godzilla go toe-to-toe with another giant monster before too long.
Godzilla: Resurgence runs in US theaters for a limited theatrical event from October 11th-18th.