Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★★


Birthday weekend rolls on with another of my favorite movies featuring MY BEST BIG BOY. I can't believe I saw this in the theaters, enjoyed it, and then just kept living my life as if it wasn't a big deal. Why didn't this spark my interest then? Weird to think about, now that I'm obsessing over the character.

Another interesting thing is that now I'm watching this with the context of most of the other Godzilla movies under my belt. Which I think improved it in my eyes a great deal. Knowing the rich history of this character and seeing him truly rebooted for the first time in Japanese cinema is thrilling. Especially since they really do bring him back to square one, where he's a Lovecraftian evil that is the perfect metaphor for Japan's continued post-war struggles. In this case he stands in for the Fukushima nuclear disaster that was spurred by natural disasters, once again allowing Godzilla to be a multi-faceted monster that represents both our will against nature, and nature's will against us.

What stood out to me most on this watch was the primary dichotomy of the movie. On one hand, this is a nihilistic comedy about the inefficacy of bureaucracy in the face of disaster and Japan's identity as a post-war country. It depicts modern living in Japan (though I recognized a lot of American life in this movie as well) as a dystopia where elected officials get to play with civilian lives like pieces on a chess board. On the other hand, the movie also presents us with the ultimate utopian vision for the future - the best and brightest idealists are among those elected officials and band together to work without rank and solve the problem as humanely and efficiently as possible. We are presented with both our stark reality and the not-all-that-crazy-to-imagine ideal where we actually trust the smartest and most capable people to lead us.

Every great decision this movie makes is the result of that central tension. Ultimately, the team of experts that band together to figure out how to solve a problem like Godzilla are some of the most compelling human characters in any Godzilla movie. And when you consider the franchise's history with family units, alien races, reporters, and scientists, it's genuinely remarkable that bureaucrats in suits and ties end up being so interesting and fun to spend time with. And Godzilla himself is pure, menacing evil in this movie; the scariest he's been since the original 1954 movie. This is a monster movie and a horror movie, which are often conflated to being the same genre, but here they truly are. And it's somehow also one of the funniest movies in the franchise, displaying a cynical sense of humor that feels right at home in a real world on the brink of global catastrophe.

Also, the design and FX work are stellar. I don't believe there are any practical suitmation scenes in this movie, which could be considered a disappointment, but all of the digital FX are rendered to look like suitmation. I think this is a tremendously effective compromise that allows for some truly stunning sequences, like when our heroes use the city of Tokyo itself to strike back. It also means they can do the evolving creature thing that became popular in earlier eras of the franchise and give MY BEST BIG BOY a truly frightening make-over. Love the way he looks in this, especially in his final form.

All in all, truly top-tier Godzilla, and a bit disappointing Toho has basically said they'll never make a sequel to this, even though I have no fucking idea what a sequel to this movie would look like.

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