Director – Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
Cast – Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara, Ren Ôsugi, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kôra, Mikako Ichikawa, Jun Kunimura, Pierre Taki, Kyûsaku Shimada, Ken Mitsuishi, Shingo Tsurumi, Kimiko Yo
Release Year – 2017 (US)
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Growing up, my younger brother and I’s biggest fascination was with dinosaurs, and our hero was Godzilla. When I learned that Toho would be producing a modern day reboot of Godzilla(Gojira), I was glad to see the originators of the Godzilla franchise would be giving fans another film. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla film was a win, and I had high hopes that this Japanese-produced Godzilla flick would be just as enjoyable. I did what I could to stay away from trailers and the spoilers that come with them, and doing so served me well. Shin Godzilla, otherwise titled Godzilla Resurgence for the international market, is a direct homage to the “king of all monsters” from 1954 to the 1980s. Shot in the same vein as said films, Shin Godzilla will be laughable to those unfamiliar with classic Godzilla. However, for the lifelong fans this is a film loyal to its predecessors, and one I am glad to have seen.
Set in modern day Japan, a strange occurrence in Tokyo Bay forces an emergency gathering of politicians and cabinet members. Seismic readings indicate a large moving object has risen from the ocean floor and is making its way towards land. When a giant seaborne creature erupts from the waters and begins laying waste to the city, horrors beyond anyone’s wildest dreams have become reality. A previously extinct lizard has been feeding off nuclear waste dumped by the American government, and its internals serve as a nuclear core. This puts the creature in “God Mode”, making the Japanese military’s strongest maneuvers pointless against an impenetrable beast. The fate of Japan and subsequently, the rest of the world, lies in the hands of a team of scientists, military leaders, and politicians who must work together in hopes of saving mankind from the byproduct of its own arrogance.
Penned by co-director Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Shin Godzilla is unlike any of the previous 30 Godzilla films, 29 of which were produced by Toho. To start, the characters provide a unique take in that there are no singular heroes. Our lead, Rando Yaguchi, is an analyst for the Disaster Prevention Bureau and he cannot succeed at his job without the help of Hiromi Ogashira, the Deputy Director of Nature Consultation who serves as a consultant. A team of scientists from around the country is put together to share their thoughts and their data, with nobody trying to take the biggest piece of the pie. This is a story about selflessness to save the country and people you love. The Japanese military calls upon the US for aid, but when their bombers are rendered useless they threaten to go nuclear. These folks cannot handle the thought of Japan suffering a third nuclear attack (from the same country as well), so they must work tirelessly amongst themselves and the international community / the UN to prevent that from happening.
I enjoyed watching the scientists do their work, and despite some of the cheesiness engulfing the film I was surprised that the science was respectable. There isn’t much bunk science here. You will see that the film draws influence from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which stemmed from the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The original Godzilla film, Gojira, played on the nuclear presence of recent events, and this reboot does the same.
Directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Huguchi do a fantastic job of bringing the old school Godzilla to life in our modern day. It has been 12 years since the last Toho Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars, and it feels like they took this effort even further back. The opening sequence affirms this when we see the sea creature breach land. It looks to be shot in the same vein as the older flicks, where a man in the costume did all the movements. From what I have gathered, the creature action is provided by CGI, but it is done via motion capture from a man in a costume. This allowed the filmmakers to keep the the creature’s mannerisms intact with the older look and feel, while employing CGI to work out the kinks. So why am I saying “creature” and not always “Godzilla”? Well, this is a new Godzilla, and he has the ability to adapt. Anno wrote Godzilla to be Earth’s apex lifeform, and he does that by adapting to meet the advances of his adversaries. This will be fully explained when you stare in awe at the film’s haunting climax, which could show what is to come for the future films. I dug the look of Godzilla (once he becomes Godzilla) and this is the biggest Godzilla to date. Standing at 389 feet (118.5 meters), this gives him a 34 foot advantage of the 2014 Godzilla. I must say, though, that 2014 Godzilla is much chunkier. Heh. Anywho, I definitely have some dislikes with how this Godzilla was used. This all has to do with his trademark ability to shoot energy. In every previous Godzilla flick he shoots energy from his mouth. He does that here too, but the filmmakers take things up a notch by having him project energy from his spines. I don’t balk at the idea as a whole, but when you see the level of insanity that comes with how the filmmakers employed this tactic, I think you’ll agree with me. Simply put, it is too much and downright silly. The acting performances from our leads are good, and because of how they were written nobody really steals the show. They all go through the sameemotions, which come down to only two emotions consisting of calm and a nervous excitement. The actors do put in their work though, as Anno’s screenplay is heavy in dialogue. I did not find the dialogue to make this a boring effort though, as there are lots of characters (328 credited actors) and they tend to speak in group settings where their lines are evenly distributed.
If I were you I would be wondering how this compares to the other recent Godzilla film, the US made 2014 effort. I must say that I do prefer the 2014 film as it is superior in nearly every element. To start, I prefer how it is shot. I enjoyed this flick being a homage to classic films, but I prefer to see cheesy graininess when it was the only way you could make a film – not done intentionally. Secondly, the characters are more engaging than they are here. You can see a stark difference between both film with this. In the American film the lead volunteers to defend his country in hopes of saving his family. With this effort there isn’t a family or romance element. Everyone is working together to save their country. There is a hero in the American film, whereas here there are public officials actually doing their jobs (take note, America). Lastly, the biggest difference between the two films is the monsters themselves. In the American version Godzilla must serve as the force equalizer to save earth from the MUTOs, whereas in this film Japan must save the earth from Godzilla. Both are origin stories and neither are wrong in how they begin their respective franchises. However, I much prefer to see Godzilla serve as the hero than the villain.
Overall, Shin Godzilla is a great throwback to the films I loved growing up. Lifelong fans of Godzilla have to see this. It has its negatives, and if you disagree with me on them then I am truly happy for you. If you don’t, this is a still a good film I recommend you check out.
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