Hey fandom! Have you seen the brand new TOHO SHIN-GOJIRA trailer yet? If not, what are you waiting for? View below:
This new design for the first Japanese Godzilla in over a decade has proven very polarizing – and for obvious reasons. It’s outlandish yet mythological, injured yet horrifying. That’s all well and good & has been discussed to death. But what about this new trailer; what does it tell us?
ShinGoji’s design doesn’t bother me; I think it’s unique and a glorious callback to his origins (and will make one hell of an amazing vinyl figure). What I am having a hard time getting behind, however, is the tone we’re heavily exposed to in this montage. Everything from the look of the cast to the color palette to the editing and cinematography seems to be heavily implying that worldwide audiences are in store for a romantic Japanese Melodrama – and that will certainly prove more polarizing than their Godzilla design upon release.
Godzilla has taken many forms over the years in both Japanese and American cinema; he’s featured in pseudo-historical dramas, children’s films, straight-up sci-fi, and campy B-level romps. Some of these films have featured similar aspects to what we’re seeing in this new trailer – but none of them have tried to or achieved this same and very distinct tone.
There are many interesting implications to this, some more fulfilling than others. Are we in for a melancholy treat – one that shows us how and why Godzilla is still relevant within modern popular Japanese cinema? Or are we in store for a re-hashing of the ’54 classic with model-pretty actors and a modern, sepia-tone setting? Clearly we won’t have an answer to these questions until the film hits this summer, but what we’ve seen so far looks like a unique departure from both directors’ past filmography. Gone is the gritty, hyper-reality of Shinji Higuchi’s recent live action ATTACK ON TITAN films and the fantastical practical effects of his previous Godzilla work. Tackling a tentpole franchise in live action isn’t something Anno Hideaki has done in recent years as well- his last big-screen live action film being the CUTIE HONEY adaption (which was wild and cartoonish, to say the least). Anno’s more recent work involved the writing and overseeing of the critically acclaimed EVANGELION animated films, of which landed him the Goji-gig with Toho. But none of Anno’s films resemble SHIN-GOJIRA – not like Higuchi’s work on the Titan films, anyway. So what are we in store for?
If we take clues from TOHO’s statements on this film’s existence, it becomes clear that they are eager to prove his relevance to Japanese audiences with their own film. Legendary’s success with Godzilla worldwide in 2014 had the studio majorly second guessing their decision to keep his films on the backburner at home, and this seems to be the sole reason SHIN-GOJIRA now exists. The question (for me, anyway) seems to be: Is this a good enough reason to make a film? Of course they’re looking to make their most well known character profitable in Japan again, but is the desire to one-up the successful American iteration of your character enough reason to give us what we see here?
Godzilla is enormous in SHIN, purposefully even larger than the already too-big Legendary Godzilla. SHIN’s titular kaiju is also bizarrely outlandish in appearance, much moreso than the already out-there Legendary-G. The film also looks to be going even heavier on the “real world scary factor” than Legendary’s film – even in it’s emulation of the original ’54 film (which Legendary tried for as well). If we look at where all these fingers point, it feels as if TOHO is 100% trying to reclaim their beast’s soul rather than give audiences a film they’ve been clamoring for.
None of this is to say the film won’t be what audiences want – we have no way of knowing that until butts are in seats. Hell, most fans will even argue that TOHO hasn’t had a handle on the soul of Godzilla since they killed him in 1995… But waiting 12 years for another Japanese Godzilla film and being treated to one that appears to place Godzilla amidst a modern romanticized drama is rather… jarring. Perhaps they’re echoing tonality from the original masterpiece as many clues would have us believe; yet we live in a world that lacks the equivalent of a modern-day Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Will modern audiences be able to connect to a film that attempts to echo these same sentiments?
Japan’s questionable history with CGI aside, the film looks to be expertly crafted and we know TOHO is sparing no expense. Many of the trailer’s shots (see above) are even framed as wonderful homages to scenes from G-films past – But the focus is undeniably placed on the expensive & well known actors, each of which seems to be milking their scenes for all they’re worth.
Only time will tell how all these paradoxical puzzle pieces will fit together, but a lot is riding on this film. TOHO wants a new Godzilla series of their own to rival Legendary’s, yet they’ve given us a Godzilla that looks much more suited to giving citizens nightmares than combating other kaiju.
Al things considered, SHIN-GOJIRA looks to be like nothing we’ve seen before. We’ll find out July 29th whether that’s a good thing or not.
Jon D. B.