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A tribute to the original 'King of Monsters'
AFTER two lukewarm Hollywood outings, Godzilla has returned home with Shin Godzilla, the first Japanese adaptation in 12 years by Toho, the original studio behind the franchise.
Released domestically in late July, Japan's most famous lizard is living up to its nickname as the "King of Monsters" by smashing box-office records there and grossing 4.5 billion yen (S$59.6 million) so far.
It opened in Singapore on Thursday and is the first Japanese blockbuster to be released in IMAX format here.
In just over a fortnight, Shin Godzilla's domestic takings have surpassed the total box office of its last cinematic outing, Godzilla (2014), made in Hollywood by British director Gareth Edwards.
The amount is also more than double the gross of Toho's previous film, Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).
Over 100 million people have watched the giant reptile tear through cities around the world and battle various monsters since it was first introduced to Japanese cinema audiences in 1954, making Godzilla one of the world's most recognisable and successful movie monsters of our time.
The current reboot is written and co-directed by Hideaki Anno - who is also behind the popular Neon Genesis Evangelion anime franchise - together with Shinji Higuchi who most recently helmed the live action Attack on Titan films and doubles as special effects director.
Shin Godzilla's executive producer Akihiro Yamauchi (Parasyte, 2015) reveals via an email interview that Japanese fans were the ones who encouraged Toho to reboot the franchise, which is recognised by Guiness World Records as the longest-running in movie history.
It is the 31st film in the Godzilla franchise - the 29th to be produced by Toho, and the Japanese studio's third reboot. Another Hollywood-produced movie is set for release in three years, while a cross-over with King Kong is targeted for a 2020 release.
The effort to make the current film feel radically different from Edwards' 2014 blockbuster - which Yamauchi feels is developed as "a battle action film" - is deliberate. He says Shin Godzilla is a throwback to the original 1954 work and "more of a social film".
The central concept, Yamauchi explains, is Japan versus Godzilla: "We wanted to depict how people will react to Godzilla and confront it in a reality where the monster is surfacing for the very first time in contemporary Japan. Godzilla in this film also represents some of the anxieties of the people in Japan."
The biggest challenge, he says, is developing the dialogue-heavy script, which took one and a half years and extensive research.
Yamauchi shares that he also became interested in and inspired by the 16th film of the franchise - Godzilla (1984) by Koji Hashimoto - while developing Shin Godzilla.
That movie marked the first time Toho rebooted the series and was a direct sequel to the 1954 original with its darker tone and themes.
In Yamauchi's opinion, Godzilla's universal appeal lies in the creature being an anti-hero. "I think that people may find themselves fascinated by the unusual existence of Godzilla, which is neither simply righteous nor evil."
Since working on Shin Godzilla, he adds the King of Monsters has started growing more and more on him.
"Godzilla has not been close to me as much as other 'hero' characters," Yamauchi admits. "That said, (it) has also been watching over me from a fixed point of its long-lasting life, like a strict mentor. Now, it has become my bread and butter."