I loved Shin Godzilla because it broke me down psychologically and forced me to reexamine everything I ever believed was true. You see, the lesson of Shin Godzilla is that the best representative of the human spirit is… bureaucracy?!?!
This seemingly crazy assertion isn’t that much of a stretch. The movie jumps from one bureaucratic agency to another, in effect telling the story of Godzilla’s rampage from the perspective of government employees who have to deal with the chaos. I’ve never seen a movie told from this perspective; it’s some Criterion-level experimental film-making. Any other movie would have followed one bureaucrat, even going so far as to show him or her with their mate, their kids, dealing with the hassles of life, thus forcing the viewer to acknowledge that yes, indeed, this person is a human being – I’d better empathize with them.
But Shin Godzilla races from suit to suit, never really caring if the viewer has a chance to pick out their favorite bureaucrat. The characters aren’t shown as humans first and bureaucrats second, but as bureaucrats first and foremost who happen to have human responses to the situations they’re thrown into.
I remember in one of the older Evangelion movies, someone said that humanity was the “eighteenth angel”, or that the collective sum of us was a godlike being. Shin Godzilla has a similar lesson, with the spirit of humanity shown as a meta-organism, with bureaucratic organizations as limbs of the meta-organism. Humanity’s strength doesn’t come from the individual, but instead, humanity dominates the planet because each individual can cooperate on a level that no other animal can compete with (except maybe Godzilla). In the older Godzilla movies, they would show military guys tossing out a few missiles, then the camera would zoom in on their horror-stricken faces as Godzilla would take a missile in the ass and not even notice. Then Godzilla would wail on some other monster, get winded, then leave on his own, and the credits would roll while some kids with Stockholm Syndrome would cheer and thank Godzilla for all his help. But in this movie, Godzilla really does face his most dangerous opponent… Godzilla vs. The Human Species.
Shin Godzilla is a morality tale, a lesson for humanity. I’m not sure when exactly the idea of the “individual” was born historically (maybe the Renaissance?), but Shin Godzilla is an alarm, and it’s warning us that it may be time to prune the tree of individuality. Maybe the human meta-organism starts to look foolish if too many limbs start to mimic one another in a strange caricature of individuality. Just think of all the hardcore “rebels” out there, all fighting “the Man”, all wearing the same edgy clothes and listening to the same music. Unless someone is an artist, or an intellectual, or a wizard, or a diehard eccentric, then maybe it’s better to find a good spot to sit within the bureaucracy and then simply tend to the species in whatever way best suits the temperament of the “individual”. We are certainly in an age when people are getting more entrenched in their respective ideological or ethnic camps, after all.
As a dude who’s always been a hardcore individual – and I say that without pride, as it has its downside – Shin Godzilla was a powerful psychedelic brew designed to destroy all my childish ideas about how the world works. It’s like when Paul Muad’dib took the Water of Life; before Shin Godzilla, all I saw was darkness, but now I see the big screaming lizard within, praise praise praise his name!
Which brings me to my Godzilla as God point. Before Shin Godzilla, there was an American-made Godzilla film back in 2014. It had a lot of beautiful shots, and there was an unforgettable sequence where some military guys jumped out of a plane and fell through a dark, dusty, burning hellzone while a bunch of giant demons were fighting one another. So good.
But it also made the mistake that a lot of Godzilla movies make; actors with hefty price tags demanded a lot of screen time, which meant we spent too much time learning about so-and-so’s baby mama drama, which is hard to engage with when you really just want to see a giant monster squat and take a shit on a city in flames.
However, this was the film that gave me the idea that Godzilla truly is God, or at least, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god-being. If enough people believe in a thing, and meditate on it and speak to it and sing to it, the thoughtform must become real out there in “the internet of spirits” or the world of abstractions or the astral plane… or whatever you want to call a higher realm that affects human behavior, but can’t necessarily be seen or measured. Just think of all those humans circling around the black cube of the Kaaba, or gently smooching the Wailing Wall, or twitchin’ and flailin’ in one of those American megachurches. All of that human intention goes somewhere, and if it’s not being eaten by a hyperdimensional being beyond our comprehension, then it’s surely creating such a being. Either way, it exists!
So when I was watching the American version of Godzilla, and seeing his raw power, the pure reptilian hatred turned up to one thousand, and fifteen 9-11s happening every minute or so, I couldn’t help but think that GODzilla must surely be a stand-in for that ancient idea (or thought-form) that we’ve been feeding for thousands of years, and which in turn controls our behavior and, many times, ends up destroying or mutilating people beyond recognition. There are surely other such beings. Sports would be a powerful god-being for Godzilla to meet in a “versus” setting. Any political -ism would also surely have its own kaiju equivalent.
It’s also interesting that Godzilla has represented different things at different times as we transition through the human story we’re in. In the first movie he was like a force of nature punishing humans for their wrongdoing, and it was kind of sad when we had to put him down. Then he became a pro-wrestler, and he was even a little heroic (sort of like an angry drunk belittling you but also giving you good advice). Now he’s like a dark mirror showing us where we are today, but it’s from the perspective of the gods, so neither of us can understand what the other is trying to say, but the atrocities and works of art that result from our attempts at communication make for an interesting story all the same.