Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Godzilla Rises in Japan, for the first time in 12 years

The Godzilla franchise is one of the most prolific in the movie biz. Writing in The New Yorker, Matt Alt reports that the Japanese are releasing their first Godzilla film in 12 years.
The 1954 “Gojira” resonated so deeply with its audience because of the painfully fresh memories of entire Tokyo city blocks levelled by Allied firebombings less than a decade before. In the preview for “Godzilla Resurgence,” you can see how the directors are again mining the collective memories of Japanese viewers for dramatic effect. But their touchstones are no longer incendiary and nuclear bombs. Instead they are the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which killed close to twenty thousand people and introduced Japan to a new form of nuclear horror caused by out-of-control civilian reactors. Indeed, the now fiery-complexioned Godzilla seems to be a walking nuclear power plant on the brink of melting down. For anyone who lived in Japan through the trying days of late March of 2011, the sight of blue-jumpsuited government spokesmen convening emergency press conferences is enough to send a chill down one’s spine. So is the shot in the trailer of a stunned man quietly regarding mountains of debris, something that could have been lifted straight out of television footage of the hardest-hit regions up north. Even the sight of the radioactive monster’s massive tail swishing over residential streets evokes memories of the fallout sent wafting over towns and cites in the course of Fukushima Daiichi’s meltdown.

It’s an open question as to how foreign audiences will perceive the subtext of these scenes, or if they even really need to. Equally so for the shots of the Japanese military’s tanks, aircraft, cruisers, and howitzers engaging the giant monster, which at first glance might simply appear a homage to a classic movie trope. But “Godzilla Resurgence” appears at a time in Japanese history much changed from that of even its most recent predecessor. In the last twelve years, the Self-Defense Forces have gone from little more than an afterthought to folk heroes for their role in 2011 tsunami rescue efforts, and now to the center of a controversy as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes through legislation to expand their role abroad. Traditionally, Japanese monster movies have used images of military hardware hurled indiscriminately against a much larger foe as a potent symbol of the nation’s own disastrous wartime experience. But the regional political situation for Japan is far more complicated now. The fight scenes hint at changing attitudes toward the military in Japan.
Here's a trailer:

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