Shin Godzilla (2016) review
Explosive origami popsicles
From directors Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack on Titan Parts 1 and 2), Shin Godzilla is a reboot of the classic Godzilla film with a modern twist. In the film, Godzilla is an allegory for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The events of Shin Godzilla are similar to the terror Japan experienced during those disasters much like how the original 1954 version of Godzilla embodied nuclear holocaust.
The science fiction kaiju film is a bit of a mess in between the battle and giant monster sequences. You’re subjected to witnessing the politics that go into making decisions during a time of crisis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the Prime Minister of Japan is represented as being so indecisive that it lingers on incompetency. Actors in the film purposely talk faster than the normal individual, which makes it difficult to fully process everything that is occurring. It also doesn’t help that so many human characters are thrown at you every few seconds and it’s impossible to individualize anyone other than a few of the main characters.
While Shin Godzilla represents the third time Toho has rebooted the franchise, it’s a bit frustrating to witness everyone discover things about Godzilla that you already know; he’s radioactive, he destroys everything, he has atomic breath, and he’s unpredictable. How anyone could honestly go on record saying they’re not familiar with Godzilla in the slightest, especially the Japanese, seems ludicrous. The sequences spoken in English suffer for the obvious reasons (being a second language to the cast, lines having stiff delivery, scenes becoming stale because of it, etc), but you give all the shortcomings a pass since this is a Godzilla film and you came to see Godzilla not the acting of the century.
If you’re familiar with Evangelion at all, you can tell that this film was created by the guys who were responsible for one of the most well-received anime titles of all time. The cinematography by Kosuke Yamada captures the action from angles you’d never expect. Even scenes in the office are uniquely shot as the camera is placed in a drawer facing up as it slides out and the seat of a chair as it rolls around the room. The camera latches onto the end of Godzilla’s tail to showcase the King of the Monsters from behind as he stomps towards Tokyo and is strategically placed on the ground to capture the continuous track of a tank as it changes direction.
Godzilla is a freaking beast this time around. Godzilla was the biggest he’d ever been in Legendary’s 2014 reboot directed by Gareth Edwards, but he’s actually over 33 ft taller in Shin Godzilla at a whopping 389 ft tall. He also has a different appearance with what looks like liquid hot magma pulsing through his back (and yes, this practically makes him glow in the dark). Godzilla looks like an out of control, erupting volcano swallowed a horde of zombies. He evolves throughout the film crawling on all fours when he first emerges from the boiling ocean with gills that gush blood, eventually starts walking around on two legs, and grows nearly double in size by his final appearance. His atomic breath has also been tweaked and is now purple. Godzilla’s bottom jaw opens up sideways during its execution and he also has the ability to close his mouth and shoot his atomic breath from the dorsal fins on his back and the tip of his tail.
Like most Godzilla films, you’re left wanting to see more of the big guy. Shin Godzilla is resolved in a way that is basically saying,” We know more awesome stuff is coming, but we need a save point in the meantime.” It’s a temporary solution that involves popsicles, train bombs, and origami. The destructive sequences are absolutely extraordinary and are executed flawlessly. The one downside is that Godzilla somehow got stuck with googly eyes, which is a humorous choice but entertaining nevertheless.
Shin Godzilla is a lot of fun if you can focus solely on the monster mayhem. Any sequence involving Godzilla is like a highlight reel of destructive bliss. Shin Godzilla is a fantastic entry in the Godzilla franchise, which leaves you anticipating where Toho will take this new Godzilla next. Seeing him take on a modern day version of MechaGodzilla would be a kaiju fan’s wet dream.