The King of the Kaiju makes a triumphet return in Shin Godzilla, the first Godzilla film in nearly 12 years from Toho Pictures. But is this monster movie ready to wreak havoc on general audiences or is this a film only for the diehard fans?
Received well enough, 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, had its detractors, especially among fans of the original Japanese movies. Shin Godzilla, directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame, takes Godzilla back to its roots.
While Godzilla terrorizes Tokyo, he his not on screen as much as one might think. Instead, the story focuses around Yaguchi, a young man occupying a fairly high position in the Japanese government, and his attempts to stop Godzilla without resorting to the most drastic of measures. While the film hits the ground running, with an attack beginning in the first few minutes, the crux of the film is about how unable to deal with this monster the government is. Couple this with the increased pressure from other nations around the world, and you have a movie more about Japan’s place in the global sphere, similar to how the original Godzilla (or Gojira) was about nuclear weapons.
Spending so much time wading through the bureaucratic mess of the Japanese government doesn’t necessarily sound like an enjoying movie, and the filmmakers knew this. Instead of super serious drama, the movie is actually quite funny. While it may be challenging to read two lightning quick lines of subtitles appearing at the top and bottom of the film simultaneously, you’ll notice that every single person, whether they have one line or several, gets introduced with a name and title. This is a running gag throughout the movie. Couple that with numerous smash cuts and juxtaposed shots of characters saying one thing as the exact opposite thing is occurring and you can find yourself chuckling for a good portion of the film, even if it never delivers a real laugh out loud moment.
Of course, this being a Godzilla movie, we have to talk about the monster. While trying to avoid spoilers, the movie starts with the attack almost from the word go. However, this isn’t the Godzilla you’re expecting. For this new origin story, Godzilla is entirely CG and evolves throughout the film. This is a spoiler you will want going in because the early version of Godzilla looks, in a word, awful. The movie shouldn’t be judged on this fact alone, but it is definitely worth knowing going in.
Once he appears in a more recognizable form, Godzilla looks great as he tears a path of destruction through the city. Purists will enjoy how closely Toho Pictures keeps to the original, even with some new abilities thrown in.
However, those hoping to see more of the monster than they did in the 2014 film may be a tad let down. Godzilla is a presence throughout the film, but it’s one more felt, rather than seen, through the tension and the impact of the monsters actions.
There are a few negatives worth mentioning. It bears repeating that Godzilla looks pretty terrible at first. Another, is one of the human characters in particular. While there are only a few characters to really attach to, the most puzzling is Satomi Ishihara, an envoy from the United States. The actress moves between Japanese and English at random times in the film, but her English is very odd and un-natural sounding. For a character that is supposed to be in deep with the US government, it’s not a very believable performance. Despite this, her relationship with Yaguchi and her own struggles throughout allow her to serves as a moderately successful secondary character.
In a world where the vast majority of movie goers are more familiar with the recent american versions of Godzilla along with the 2008 film, Shin Godzilla strives to speak to the classic fans. Those without an appreciation of the old films may struggle to really enjoy this one, but going in with an open mind will allow a certain level of admiration for what Toho Pictures is attempting to do. As for diehard fans, this movie will easily sit higher than the film from two years ago, and one can see how much love the production team has for this classic film franchise. Toho Pictures set out to make a film that returns to the classic Godzilla movies, updated with modern technology, and in this regard they succeeded.
Score: 8.0 / 10
Shin Godzilla will have a limited theatrical run in the US from Oct.11-18