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‘Shin Godzilla’ and ‘Mothra vs. Godzilla’ at the Vista

“Shin Godzilla” (2016), directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, will be shown on Sunday, Sept. 1, at 10:30 a.m. at the Vista Theatre, 4473 Sunset Dr., Los Angeles.

“‘Shin Godzilla/Godzilla Resurgence’ … is essentially a Godzilla reboot in that it acts as a new origin story for Godzilla. Fascinatingly, the filmmakers use the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent clumsy government response here as the inspiration for the movie.

“Proving that Godzilla really, in a way, represents the distillation of each generation’s fears about our technology, inability to properly use such technology, and the overall awesomeness of nature itself.

“‘Shin Godzilla’ is as much a black comedy about how poorly government bureaucracy is equipped to respond to a national disaster as it is a new kaiju movie. Also ‘Shin Godzilla’ marks the full transition to CGI/motion capture effects technology with the Godzilla monster essentially being performed/executed in much the manner that Andy Serkis performed the Gollum character in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies.

“Unlike the Heisei/Millennium iterations of Godzilla, ‘Shin Godzilla’ really struck out for a more nuanced, darkly comedic, topical tone, carving out a new tonal space for the Godzilla series.

“Often considered one of the very best of any Godzilla cycle for its totally unique tone and approach to the Godzilla story, ‘Shin Godzilla’ is a must for any Godzilla fan who wants to see how Godzilla can be reborn in our modern era and be as relevant today, if not more so, than ‘Godzilla’ was in 1954.” — Craig Hammill, 35mm Secret Movie Club programmer/organizer

The Kaiju Summer series concludes with “Mothra vs. Godzilla” (1964), directed by Ishiro Honda, on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 10:30 a.m. at the Vista.

“When the original 1954 ‘Godzilla’ proved itself to be (forgive us) an international monster hit, Toho Studios immediately rushed into production ‘Godzilla Raids Again’ (1955).

“‘Godzilla Raids Again’ begins what would come to be known as the ‘Showa Era’ of Godzilla movies. The ‘Showa’ referring to Japan’s longest-serving Emperor Showa (Hirohito), who was emperor from 1926 through his death in 1989. The Showa Godzilla era would include all movies through 1975’s ‘Terror of Mechagodzilla.’

“Without giving away too much from the original ‘Godzilla,’ let’s just say another Godzilla is discovered who also wants to kick some serious human a@# until we get to ‘Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster’ where Godzilla will undergo a transition to the good and heroic.

“Toho, realizing the public’s thirst for movies where things get destroyed on an epic scale (a thirst that hasn’t been slaked yet as any grab bag of U.S. summer trailers through 2019 will show us), also produced several stand-alone non-Godzilla monster movies, including ‘Rodan’ about a monstrous pterodactyl and ‘Mothra’ about a mostly benevolent gigantic butterfly-moth.

“All these monsters, including Godzilla, would come to be known as Kaiju. Kaiju means ‘strange creature’ in Japanese and is considered a sub-genre of the larger tokusatsu (literally ‘special filming’ or ‘special effects’) genre. Rodan and Mothra proved to be so popular on their own that it was only a matter of time before they were weaved into the Godzilla storyline ‘Avengers’ style so the kaiju could face off in World Wrestling Federation style.

“In fact, it might be fair to say that the Godzilla series really lit the way for the Marvel Expanded Universe. For all kaiju and Marvel fans, it is even known that Godzilla and the Avengers squared off in a series of comic books, thus cementing the relationship.

“But here in ‘Mothra vs. Godzilla,’ Godzilla is still a terrifying sea beast who views humanity more as a huge shabu-shabu opportunity than as a species worth fighting for or saving.

“‘Mothra vs. Godzilla’ introduces us to Mothra [who]hails from a difficult-to-reach island where two ‘shobijin’ (small beauties), less than 12 inches tall, have beautiful voices and a connection with Mothra.

“The Small Beauties go to Japan to try and plead the case not to exploit a huge egg that has been discovered by Japanese businessmen. This egg is the egg of Mothra, the island’s god. Do the humans listen? Of course not. Mothra is essentially a good kaiju who represents in many ways the Earth’s own ecosystem fighting back against petty, greedy, and single-minded humanity who only sees dollar signs in exploiting natural resources.

“Here the kaiju is the hero and the humans are the bad guys. ‘Mothra vs. Godzilla’ introduces elements that will dominate the remainder of the Showa era. Humanity (or humanity in the guise of aliens) will try to exploit things they shouldn’t exploit, kaiju will meet for battle royales, and the 1960s explosion of poppy color, music, rock and roll will seep more and more into the Godzilla movies.

“‘Mothra vs. Godzilla’ is best viewed as the movie that shows this transition.” — Craig Hammill

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