Before I start on my review of Shin Godzilla, I want to take a moment and acknowledge the passing of Haruo Nakajima. He died a few weeks ago. He was the man who portrayed the original Godzilla and played him in 12 movies.
I love Godzilla and that’s no secret. I own shirts, multiple dvds and even some mint on card figures of the Big G. My love is so big I went to the afternoon showing on release day of the 2014 Godzilla movie, just so I could say I was one of the first to have seen it in the Netherlands!
I liked that movie. Even though it had obvious flaws, it managed to bring Godzilla back to the masses, along with the genesis of the Legendary Monsterverse, which now includes Kong: Skull Island, released this year. It’s already been announced that there will be an epic new movie that pits these two titans of the big screen against each other. When the news came that there would be another Japanese Godzilla, I couldn’t do anything but be excited, especially because it was the first new Japanese film starring Godzilla since 2004. I hoped I would get to see it in theatres, however no such luck. The movie even got an international release and did well in the box office. So after a year of waiting I finally got my Blu-Ray copy and I immediately watched it last night. I am glad I did.
After the success of Godzilla 2014, Toho Studios decided to bring back the King to the shores of its birthplace Japan. They hired Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno to write and direct the movie. Anime fans might know their names, they are two of the co-founders of studio Gainax and the creators of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Higuchi has also worked on the Gamera trilogy in the 90’s, which were also an acclaimed success. Higuchi was co-director and in charge of special effects, Anno directed and wrote the story. They made a Godzilla movie that nods to the past but also is very much of the present. The nods are present in the soundtrack with usage of some of the older songs and in the reveal of Godzilla being a man- made creature.
The wait was more than worth it. Anno and Higuchi gave us a Godzilla for the modern day. The 1954 Godzilla was a metaphor of the horrors of nuclear devastation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The 2016 Godzilla, however, is a metaphor of the disasters that hit Japan in 2011; the Fukushima Nuclear reactor disaster and the Tohuko tsunami and earthquake. It’s a walking tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor in one. The way they portray this is to give Godzilla multiple forms.
The opening of the movie shows the bay of Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line being flooded and destroyed. Cut to a scene where the prime minister and his cabinet try to make sense of what is happening and how to react accordingly. The movie is about the power of the Monster and the destruction natural disasters can cause, but it’s also an indictment of the way the government works and deals with calamities. Their inadequacy and their overly bureaucratic government only made things worse, just like in 2011. The main character Rando Yaguchi, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and his anti-Godzilla team are the stars of the movie, countering the rigid and static ways of old school politics with rapid fire jargon and fluid way of idea forming.
There is a lot of politics in the movie, with quick scene transitions to keep things moving and interesting. The monster is brought to life with an amalgamation of CGI, practical effects and animation. This gives a real feel to the monster, so it seems more grounded in our own reality. Godzilla has a horrific and scary design, which came as a surprise, as in the promotion materials he looked kinda goofy, with small T-rex arms and beady eyes. On screen he is designed to be the most evil of all Godzilla’s ever portrayed, being the tallest and most enigmatic of all.
Shin Godzilla: Conclusion
I do recommend this movie, as it is a good way to get started in the Godzilla Movie universe. It’s fast paced and it kept me invested for the whole two hours. In the end it left me filled with hope and love, as the penultimate message of this movie is that humanity is strong and we will always bounce back and get back up after whatever is thrown at us, giving hope for the future.
So pull down the curtains, grab some snacks and get ready for a Monster of a movie.
Bonus giveaway: my copy of Shin Godzilla came with a digital code. So if you want to watch this movie yourself, leave in the comments who your favourite monster is and why! If your answer pleases Big G himself, you get the code. Winner will be picked on August 31.