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For those viewers who believe Godzilla films consist of two guys in rubbery costumes wrestling with each other while a badly dubbed cast carries on some semblance of a plot, this film will be a revelation. This Godzilla film is a dark and occasionally frightening tale with heavy supernatural elements. This film takes Godzilla seriously, and so will you.
Ignoring all previous Godzilla films, the story opens with the destruction of an American nuclear submarine, with very familiar glowing back fins disappearing into the murky depths. The story then introduces us to a tabloid news team that discovers the legend of the guardian monsters of Japan. Named Baraguon, Mothra and King Ghidorah, they terrorized Japan in ancient times before being imprisoned. The team also meet an old prophet who warns them that Godzilla is returning, now possessed by the souls of dead Japanese soldiers from World War II who feel that modern Japan has forgotten them. He also predicts that the guardian monsters of Japan will be resurrected to defend their home from Godzilla.
Soon Godzilla reappears with a vengeance, but so too does the three guardian monsters. While Baraguon is quickly dispatched by a fiery death, the two more formidable monsters remain. Japan watches, wondering if Mothra and King Ghidorah can stand against the fury of Godzilla, while the military has their own designs on destroying the monster.
Director Shusuke Kaneko (“Cross Fire”) and co-writer Kei’ichi Hasegawa have re-imagined Godzilla as a vicious, feral beast that lays waste to everything he sees. Sporting pure white eyes, large fangs and a blowtorch-like fire breath, this Godzilla is a nightmare come to life. Kaneko also emphasizes the terror of seeing this creature by using camera angles to simulate the experience of looking up at a towering beast. This is also the most realistic of the Godzilla films, focusing on the massive collateral damage that occurs when giant monsters brawl.
The creature suits designed by Fuyuki Shinada are very life-like and possibly the best ever. Especially in the case of Godzilla, who shows a scary new look for this film, and the change looks good on him. The cinematography and matte work are also excellent, although the CGI effects sometime appear unrealistic. Composer Ko Otani’s score enhances the monster and battle scenes, and gives the film a distinctive atmosphere.
The plot is quite imaginative and takes the Godzilla series in a new direction by adding fantasy and horror elements to a reliable science fiction formula. An inventive and bold new take on a classic monster, the movie daringly depicts the harsh reality of a monster rampaging through a city while still being able to convince the audience to suspend disbelief for 105 minutes.
But perhaps it is too daring to make Godzilla be possessed by dead Japanese soldiers of World War II, who now feel the current generation is ignoring their sacrifices. Since Japan entered World War II voluntarily and intent on aggression, one wonders how the spirits would like to be remembered and how they can justify their actions in instigating conflict with other countries. Godzilla is a worldwide cultural icon and his films are not appropriate forums to express nationalistic opinions. This concept detracts from one of the best Godzilla films in several years, one that is sure to please kaiju and science fiction fans. These movies should inspire feelings of enjoyment, not cause controversy and anger.
Shusuke Kaneko (director) / Kei’ichi Hasegawa, Shusuke Kaneko, Masahiro Yokotani (screenplay)
CAST: Chiharu NÃ®yama …. Yuri Tachibana
Ryudo Uzaki …. SDF Admiral Tachibana
Masahiro Kobayashi …. Teruaki Takeda
Shiro Sano …. Haruki Kadokura