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Film: Shin Godzilla (Shin Gojira)
Director: Hiedaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Writer: Hideaki Anno and Sean Whitley
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi and Satomi Ishihara
This film is one that when I heard it was coming out, I was excited. I’m a fan of Godzilla and I’ve seen most of the movies featuring this kaiju. This is one that I checked out thanks to hearing about it discussed on podcasts. I’m now giving it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs and for October movie challenges I’m doing. The synopsis is Japan is plunged into chaos upon the appearance of a giant monster.
We start with a boat being found drifting in the bay. It is searched to find that no one is on board. There is some information left and an origami swan. Soon after this, there is a vent of heat coming from the ocean floor. It causes a nearby tunnel to collapse. We then see the Prime Minister of Japan, Seiji Okochi (Ren Ôsugi), meeting with all of his advisers and cabinet members to figure out what this is.
There are different ideas of what it could be thrown out there. Some are that it is a dormant volcano that was under the water and this is shot down due to the depth. Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa), who is a lower level employee, throws out the idea that it is an unknown marine creature. He is rebuffed and later told to keep his farce comments to himself when they are in important meetings.
He turns out to be right though. A lizard like creature follows the water as it channels through the city. It destroys bridges, boats and cars, anything that is in its way. The scientists that look at the data don’t think it can leave the water though. It walks with its head down, as it seems its back legs cannot hold up the weight. The PM Okochi goes on television to tell the public this information. The problem is that during this press conference, he is proved wrong and this causes him to lose credibility. It does just that, stands up and heads for Tokyo. For some reason though it stops, turns back and disappears back into the water.
Yaguchi is then given the authority to create a team to research the creature. He uses biologists, hackers, those who are against the government and others that are multiple faceted to figure out what this creature is. That is when he meets with Kayoko Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara). She is working as a spy from the United States and is of Japanese descent. They’re allowed to trade information to better understand. We learn that the US knew about the creature ahead of this. There is then a joint venture between the US and Japan to stop it.
It is here that we learn its name is Godzilla or Gojira in its native tongue. It appears there was a prehistoric marine creature that has been eating illegal dumped barrels of toxic waste in the water and the owner of the boat found out about this. She shares quite a bit of information that Yaguchi takes back to his team.
The cabinet then thinks that the creature will do a similar thing it did last time, but they are proved wrong again. It walks into the city on is back legs, as it has mutated. It is heading for Tokyo, where they are trying to evacuate the people. PM Okochi is given the okay to the military to use force to try to stop Godzilla. They then learn that their weapons do not pierce its hide. After they have tried to attack, the US finally decides to help with military action. We then see that Godzilla has the ability to breathe fire and beams form from its mouth and dorsal fins. Japan is given a short amount of time before nuclear weapons will be used. Yaguchi has to learn as much as they can of an alternative way to stop it, or we could see a repeat of nuclear bombs being dropped on Japan.
That should be enough of a recap and I’ll lead off here stating that I’m a huge Godzilla fan, as I’ve seen all of the films in the series and own them. Now with that said, this one has already become one of my favorites. I like that this one has went back to the roots of the series. I like that Godzilla is once again a bad guy and attacks the city. It is hard to hate him though, as it is a creature just going about its nature. This one is highly political, which is where I’ll go next.
We are getting a social commentary on the danger of nuclear power, weapons and its waste. That was something we also got as far back as the original. This one is fairly against United States. As an American, I know my country has done some negative things in our own and in other countries. I’m against that, but it is interesting to see how negative the film looks at the US. It isn’t wrong though. I also think this film speaks out about the red tape and hurdles of trying to get things done through the government. There is a lot of this film where they are trying to get things passed and what they have to do to ensure it. What is interesting is the backroom deals are happening every day, even when we aren’t in a crisis. I like when a film, especially one like this can carry such a deeper message. I thought the ending was plausible and I liked it as well.
A negative I could see some people have is that we don’t get a lot of Godzilla. I feel it is harder to show more of the creature, when it is just this one. This movie doesn’t take long into having it attack the city. Much like films of the past, this one is showing the destructive nature of it and how the human characters find a way to defeat it. We are focusing more on the latter. I don’t find this to be a problem, but I could see people thinking this is boring.
I would have an issue with this movie if it wasn’t for the acting. There are so many characters and the film tries to keep up on who everyone is. I thought Hasegawa was good as the star. He is someone who is told to keep quiet, but he speaks out for what is right. I liked his character in that and he is the hero that is needed in the film, especially where the ending goes. I also like the interesting character of Ishihara. She is a Japanese woman with an American last name in the film. She has political aspirations while taking a liking to Yaguchi. She is out there for her own gain and toeing the line of what is right. The rest of the cast played their roles realistically and I really thought I was looking in on government operations, with shout-outs to Jun Kunimura, Ôsugi, Akira Emoto, Yutaka Takenouchi to just name a few.
Where I’ll shift next is effects, cinematography and soundtrack. I thought Godzilla looked good, except for the eyes. They look like those plastic googly-eyes you stick to everything in its first form. This makes sense the more I think about it as they’re stating this is a fish like creature and the eyes fit for that. There was a couple times of iffy CGI, but for the most part it looked great, especially with Godzilla’s final form. The cinematography was well done. The score was great. We got the original Godzilla theme as well as some more modern songs. I thought they fit the film well. I think some classic songs make the creature that much more majestic. I also liked that they had the roar back to original way it sounded which was good.
Before closing this out, I want to briefly touch on the subtitles. They were fine and I had no problem as I tend to watch everything I can with them on, but I did with the subtitles of who the characters are that flash across the top. It was a little too much to keep up on what they were saying while trying to see who the person was that was saying it. I like the idea they were going for, but it also made everything a little bit too busy. I might watch this dubbed next time so I can focus there.
Now with all that said, I think this is one of the best films in the series. The film plays out very realistically. The story was good having deeper issues underlain of nuclear waste, government bureaucracy and their thoughts on the US. The acting in the film was good. The subtitles of the film make it a little bit busy for my liking without ruining it. The creature looked good aside from the eyes. The CGI was also well done except for a few scenes. The score was great. The biggest gripe that I will state is that I wish more of it could have been the creature destroying the city, but with most films in the series, it shows more of the people trying to figure out how to stop it. It makes sense in the grand scheme. With all of that said, I would recommend this film if you are kaiju film fan as this is one of the better ones I’ve seen.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10