Godzilla Resurgence (Japan, 2016)

It is not an easy task to be optimistic and think of another local (in case of the Japanese market) follow-up for Godzilla after the success of the Hollywood’s recent attempt to present the giant monster on big screen just two years ago. But the recent Japanese audience reaction towards Godzilla Resurgence seems to break the myth of Hollywood as barometer for any success in any market. While being an enormous success, one still can’t help but compare it with the recent Hollywood adaptation.

In case of both films, it isn’t as much of a question of film technologies deployed than of the values and ideas shown and held by each films.

While Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla ended with the giant reptile saving the city, undermining the power struggle among individuals supposedly working towards the eradication of the monster, Hideo Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Godzilla Resurgence featured a collective body finding solution to a great problem, that is, the monster.

Interesting point of the film was when millions of people in Tokyo was entrusted into the hands of people who are, in a regular course of life, deemed as “rejects” of the society. Being an “otaku”, unlike its connotation outside Japan, is not very welcoming as an adjective for the general Japanese population, film director Hideaki Anno, himself has a reputation of being one (as depicted in Kazuhiko Shimamoto’s Blue Blazes and Insufficient Direction by Hideaki Anno’s wife, Moyoco Anno). Obsession on any subject matter, mostly on matters of pop culture, science and the likes, are not really equated to intelligence as represented in the Japanese literature. In effect, Godzilla Resurgence became an addition to a set of recent literature in Japanese Pop Culture which are meant to empower and redefine the “otaku” stigma (this set of literature, in my mind, includes the novel Densha Otoko, and animated series GATE).

Godzilla Resurgence, too, has this very conscious attempt to go back to Ishiro Honda’s depiction of the monster as a metaphor for the nuclear attacks in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which happened only almost a decade before the first Godzilla film was released. Only this time, instead of letting Godzilla make its trip back home in the deepest sea, the government, with the effort of the Godzilla team and the JSAF, made its first attempt, finally to defeat Godzilla. Another interesting point of the film is when they were able to deploy their weapon to defeat Godzilla only hours before another attempt, by UN and the United States government in the film, for a nuclear strike to be launched.

The narrative’s active resistance for the nuclear bomb solution embodies a recent fashion in Japanese literature remembering the atrocities and terror brought by the bombs (which, if one would remember, were dropped to the Japanese islands by the United States government themselves, not as a war offensive but as a spectacle), which are probably triggered by the Fukushima Daiichi crisis back in 2011 (moments after the great earthquake and tsunami). In this manner of remembering, the relationship with US government, as depicted, are not totally lukewarm, and the team who are finding a solution to beat Godzilla are set to not going to abide by the US’ move, instead, sought help from another nation who carries the same sentiments as theirs.

It is as if Godzilla Resurgence is made not just to reprise the original formulation of the franchise, but also to reaffirm nationalist sentiments. A way of suggestion on how the faithful population must be taken cared of in the danger of compromise of another nation’s agenda. A way of telling the people that the government can be relied on in the face of catastrophe. And a way of telling the people to use whatever they can contribute to help: that there can never be any outsiders, that any knowledge, no matter how general or specialized, can be of help with nation building.

Godzilla Resurgence is that one rare instance in cinema, wherein right-wing political sentiments are delivered void of any annoying elements. In which it is not just tolerable, but very enjoyable too.

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