Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★★

"History shows again and again
How nature points up the folly of men" -B.O.C.

I have the suspicion people won't take too kindly to the new Godzilla "reboot" from the company that first brought this un-Godly creation to screen in 1954 (actually, that's not true, he's/it's *very* Godly, it's even in the name here which translated roughly to "God Godzilla") and, with two exceptions in 1998 and 2014 from Hollywood, have done so ever since. But it depends on what the expectations are; the sold-out audience I sat and watched Shin Godzilla with were likely people who had grown up with the big green menace - the "King of All Monsters" - or were coming to it for the first time, and want to see Godzilla rip up a city, blow some fire, and for military men and beleaguered officials trying to fight back. You do get that, but there's something else this time: bureaucracy. Lots of it.

If Franz Kafka had arisen from a century-long slumber in the afterlife and came back to do a draft of a Toho Godzilla movie, it might look like this - the folly of people who have to go through the *process* of one stage of negotiation to another, how leadership works, how information and orders and things like paperwork and conference meetings with officials and ministers, this is what is at the core of this first Godzilla movie in 12 years. But that's part of the goof in its way: this is, at least at first, moving so fast that it may have the opposite effect for some watching, that there is so much information (and for American/English speaking audiences who don't know Japanese plenty of subtitles to read - gone are the days of actors in rubber suits or English-dubbed voiced) that it goes into overload.

That's the point though, the inefficiency or, if not quite that, how long it takes to get some orders through: there's a moment where some copters can take some shots at Godzilla (albeit they don't know yet how impervious he/it is to the shots of human weapon-fire), and they don't get the order because of two lowly humans running on the ground near Zilla's feet. There is so much densely packed information and characters talking - and, believe me, practically every character gets a title card above their heads introducing them, whether they have many lines or just one - that it does get to be too much, when it veers on turning into a Christopher Nolan movie as far as characters not stopping in many scenes to let moments breathe or for visuals to do more of the telling, and the satire of institutions gets stifled.

Luckily that's not throughout the whole run-time, and one of the strengths of this Godzilla movie, which is not a guilty pleasure like the 60's/70's movies but not deathly serious/dull like the Edwards movie, is that when the creature comes up the pacing is just right. There may not seem to be a lot of Godzilla in this, but I think between his three appearances, with the first where he looks like a lump of weird red/blood-gilled WTF, like he's a Godzilla knock-off puppet that's been deflated almost like a fake-out, and then when he comes into his own in the mid-section as the BIG monster, they make it pay off well. And to contrast this I got into the performances from the key players, which are Yaguchi, the low-level official who gets a lot of responsibility to figure out an alternate path to defeat Godzilla before it reawakens (this after destroying most of Tokyo with a massive fire attack), and Kayoko Ann Paterson which, as the name suggests, is an American-Japanese character and the actress carries a great deal of screen presence for her scenes (and even some good conflict for her character in the third act).

There is some messages to take in about how this new Godzilla figures into the modern world, just as Gojira in 1954 fit that post-WW2 world (again, this is now a Godzilla movie where none existed before, this doesn't stop Toho and director Hideaki Anno from using all the superlative music cues from the original series), so here the theme connects back to the 2011 earthquake and nuclear reactor disaster that happened in Tokyo. Without saying too much the third act brings it back around to how the reactor issues were solved in real life, and though by this point the satire is flattened out by the drama and sincerity of the story (and the tension of will-they-won't-they in a beat-the-clock scenario), I liked how sincere the movie was and how it contrasted with the stuffy bureaucratic-technocratic-ness of the first two acts. Good ideas will always rule the day whether it's people defeating a Tokyo-stompin' beast, or those making it into a movie featuring motion capture CGI (very impressive at that), and some solid filmmaking.

It's far from perfect or anything even classic, and I'm sure if I'd seen more Godzilla movies - I'm not a newcomer but I can't tell you all the details of what Ghiddora or Megalon or those guys do - I could place it firmer in the cannon. I can simply say that this is a really enjoyable monster movie and a clever if occasionally too "talky" and cumbersome movie. Again, talky itself isn't a bad thing when it's interesting, and here the talk is mostly fine.

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