With Japan’s release of Shin Godzilla not long after the success of Legendary Studio’s Godzilla (G14), many wonder how the two stack up against one another. During the recent G-FEST XXIV, a panel titled “Shin vs Legendary” led by Ira Taborn compared and contrasted the two films that have much more in common than you might think. Let’s break it down…
Monsters vs Destruction
Both films are mostly shown from the perspective of the human victims as opposed to the monsters. G14 has FEMA showing up on two separate occasions while Shin Godzilla deals with the government’s behind the scenes reaction to the disaster. This is likely due to two major incidents that Japan and the United States experienced since their last Godzilla movies. In 1998’s Tri-Star Godzilla the military are bumbling idiots with no real focus on the damage. In a post 9-11 US, that type of destruction is no longer taken lightly. Since their last Godzilla movie, Japan also suffered disaster since their last Godzilla film. Much of Shin Godzilla was influenced by the Fukushima Disaster and criticism of the way their government handled it. In fact, some scenes are direct parodies of their response. Another interesting comparison, in both films the monsters are never seen unless also being witnessed by human characters.
Director Gareth Edwards, at this date, has made three movies. Monsters, Godzilla, and Rogue One. From these films you can see that he loves telling epic stories from the perspective of small people. It’s more about what it’s like to witness something like that from a human standpoint. Shin Godzilla is a critique of the Japanese government. The message is that a government that is not decisive is unworthy of its people. Godzilla 2014 doesn’t have any political commentary. Legendary Godzilla is a “mood” piece while Shin Godzilla is a “think” piece. Shin Godzilla points its finger at a government that doesn’t reward its workers for doing their jobs but punishes them for failing. As a result, everyone is afraid to act for fear of making mistakes.
In G14 the military respect and work alongside Godzilla. Just as the monster had changed from destructive menace to quasi-hero in the old Showa series, so too does this Godzilla claim that status by the end. In the case of Shin Godzilla (the word “Shin” meaning one true god, Godzilla) they bring back the creature’s original essence as a destructive force of nature. Likewise, the relationship between Godzilla and the military is a more traditional adversarial one.
An audience member brought up how Shin Godzilla is more brightly lit rather than the darker, sometimes hard to see Legendary version.
Who’s the bigger monster?
Coming up…Gorgo, Konga, and Reptilicus!