It’s probably fair to say that all we really need to know about Shin Gojira or Godzilla: Resurgence (with Shin meaning all or either of “rebirth,” “renew,” “reboot,” or even “God” and Gojira as the Japanese name for Godzilla) is in the trailers that have now been released. The Japanese film appears to be more homage than reboot, using original music (at least in the trailers) and a style that looks like a modern director trying to merge classic giant Japanese monster movies with American 1970s Irwin Allen disaster films. Fair warning: This is not a sequel to the U.S. Godzilla movies. It is a reboot of the Japanese 2004 version featuring the same giant monster that perennially wreaks havoc with Japan.
Advance reviews from Westerners confirm what it all looks like: bad acting, strange direction with much of the film consisting of office interiors with close-ups on the reactions of astonished citizens, and little screen-time for the title baddie. The U.S. trailer, released this week, will be painful to most. Yet there is something nostalgic about the retro sci-fi kaiju look, the cuts, the sound effects and music in the trailer. Several Japanese trailers devote less time to office interiors and close-ups and give us a better look at Godzilla. Will Japan audiences see this in a similar way to how American audiences have reacted to Netflix’s 1980s throwback show Stranger Things?
As for the local response, Shin Gojira is already a hit in Japan, released there in late July, garnering high praise for being loyal to the character while offering a commentary on the current culture and politics of Japan. One Godzilla fansite warns American audiences to view the film with that in mind. It’s not targeted at international viewers and the message of the film may not translate, despite the subtitles.
We’re given a strange window to watch the movie–it is only being offered in limited release, October 11-18, 2016. Clearly this is not a monster film for the masses, or even in the realm of the $160 million big-budget 2014 Warner Brothers Godzilla film. Here are three trailers to compare:
Clearly some of the depictions of Godzilla are superb, showing co-directors Hideakki Anno and Shinji Higuchi have good eyes for the startling film image, especially when Godzilla is off-center, rampaging away on the edge of the movie screen. But what’s the story on all the office shots? Lack of funds for special effects? An effort to dramatize the story more? Are U.S. audiences just stuck in the need for bigger and better special effects?
Those who check it out October 11, 2016, may get these questions answered. Godzilla: Resurgence will be here in theaters and gone in only a week.