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Old 08-03-2017, 02:10 PM   #1
Chimpbot
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Review: Shin Godzilla

Title: Shin Godzilla
Director: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
Production Company: Toho
American Distributor: FUNImation
Writer: Chimpbot

A Return to Form…Mostly

Bureaucracy is the real monster.



If there’s one word that best describes the Godzilla series of films, it would be “Change”. Over the course of 31 films (29 from Japan, 2 from the US), Godzilla has been many different things over the years. While Gareth Edwards’ 2014 take on the character was clearly channeling the character’s more heroic qualities, Shin Godzilla, Toho’s 29th entry in the series, eschews much closer to the 1954 original in terms of tone and characterization.

Shin Godzilla is Toho’s third reboot of the series. Unlike the other two, however, this new film is not connected to the original at all; it stands wholly on its own, which gave directors Shinji Higuchi (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and Hideaki Anno (Attack of Titan Parts 1 & 2) the opportunity to reinvent the character. With that being said, it’s important to get this out of the way early: This isn’t the Godzilla you think you know. This isn’t like any Godzilla you’ve ever seen.

The film begins rather quietly, with the Japanese Coast Guard investigating an abandoned yacht in Tokyo Bay, floating near the Aqua-Line Tunnel. The only items found on the boat are a large envelope, eyeglasses, a pair of men’s shoes, a map and an origami crane. While these items are ultimately clues to the mystery surrounding Godzilla’s origin, the scene is quickly interrupted by a massive disturbance in the bay. Extensive damage is caused to the Aqua-Line tunnel and the Japanese government is left clueless…until viral footage of an enormous creature’s tail surfaces online.

The first chapter of the film is extremely critical of the government, skewering them for their slow reaction to a major crisis. Shin Godzilla portrays the government as slow, plodding and crippled by procedure, directly paralleling the response to the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis in 2011. The film almost becomes a dry comedy as the viewer is bogged down by endless deliberation; by the time they declare the incident a national disaster and proclaim the creature cannot survive on land…the giant, amphibious mutant lumbers its way into the city, tearing up everything in its path.



The creature soon reveals its ability to rapidly evolve and – after a botched attack by the Japanese Self Defense Force - is allowed to escape back into the ocean. By the time the creature, now called Godzilla, returns, it has more than doubled in size and resembles the Godzilla we know and love. Unfortunately, the government’s inability to act decisively during the first encounter led to Godzilla becoming nigh-impervious; the JSDF is effectively impotent, the country is helpless and turns to foreign aid. The United States steps in, ultimately “offering” to nuke Godzilla, which would obviously destroy Tokyo in the process. This begins a countdown, of sorts, as a task force comprised of younger Japanese politicians sidesteps the political process and constructs a plan to stop Godzilla while simultaneously sparing Tokyo.

While Godzilla is certainly the centerpiece of the movie, those looking for a film where he has a lot of screen time will be sorely disappointed. His presence can be felt throughout the entire film and the scenes he is featured in stand out as highlights. In contrast, these scenes are juxtaposed with what can be best described as endless boardroom meetings and talking. Lots and lots of talking. While the movie does a great job of realistically portraying how a typical governmental body would respond to a disaster, the talky bits bog the movie down considerably. Further exacerbating the problem is the existence of a Japanese-American character, played by an actress who does not speak English natively; we’re treated to multiple scenes hampered by stilted English dialogue spoken by someone who clearly has trouble with the language. The intent behind the character was great, but they absolutely dropped the ball on the execution. While this isn’t an issue with the dubbed version, it certainly drags things down for those who prefer subtitles.



The film’s score is quite good, incorporating orchestral and “hard rock” tracks with a soft, operatic piece played during one of the iconic destruction scenes. Rounding things out are some classic songs used throughout the series’ 63 year history and a few tracks borrowed from Evangelion. A good number of the classic sound effects are also used, including two of the original roars for Godzilla. Overall, it was a nice touch and longtime fans will likely enjoy the callbacks.

As for Godzilla himself…as I mentioned earlier, this is easily the most unique take on the character we’ve ever seen. In terms of behavior, he most closely mirrors the 1954 version; instead of having a discernable personality, he just destroys. He is presented as an ever-changing creature, capable of mutating and evolving to match its surroundings practically on the fly. We get to see him grow and change as the film progresses, which is surprisingly refreshing; after seeing him as a fully-formed creature in 30 other movies, it was enjoyable watching this version become the nigh-unstoppable nightmare. His various forms were well designed and make sense within the context of the film. The googly fish eyes may look odd at first, but it makes sense when you consider his new origin. In terms of his abilities, he’s never been able to do anything quite like what he’s capable of in this particular movie.

Toho chose to take an entirely different route for this film and opted to utilize CGI effects for practically everything, as opposed to the classic suits and miniatures the series is so famous for. The results are a mixed bag; some of the scenes look quite good, while others feature a rather significant drop in quality. They did, however, keep one foot in the classic style by utilizing motion capture for Godzilla’s fourth form. Amusingly enough, this form’s movements were so stiff and slow that it almost wasn’t necessary; the two previous forms – which didn’t use motion capture – were much more fluid and life-like than the one utilizing an actor.



Overall, it’s a very ambitious entry in the Godzilla series and easily ranks amongst the best. It is, of course, not without it’s fair share of flaws: The English-speaking scenes are awkward, the few American actors used are stilted, the film is extremely dialogue-heavy, the pacing is questionable and the visual effects can be very hit-or-miss. With that being said, the satirical nature of the story – and the overall story itself – makes up for some of the issues. Godzilla himself is more interesting than he’s been in quite some time and a direct sequel (should they decide to not treat this as a one-off film) would take things in an even more bizarre direction…which might not be a bad thing at all.

Genre fans should definitely check this film out, but it's also a great jumping on point for newcomers, as well. It maintains an appropriate level of seriousness throughout.

Score: 4 out of 5



The Good
  • Fresh take on the character
  • Isn’t shackled to the 1954 film
  • Solid cast
The Bad
  • Visual effects can be dodgy
  • Endless boardroom meetings
  • The film is overly talkative
The Ugly
  • Awkward Engrish always ruins a scene
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Old 08-04-2017, 11:13 AM   #2
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Thanks for the great review man! Love to see more movie reviews from you. I need to do nice in-depth reviews like this myself since I'm going to the movies now every weekend.
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Old 08-04-2017, 11:57 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Evil Avatar View Post
Thanks for the great review man! Love to see more movie reviews from you. I need to do nice in-depth reviews like this myself since I'm going to the movies now every weekend.
I'd be more than happy to provide a few more reviews. I wanted to post a review for this a few months ago...but, I wanted to wait until I could get my hands on a more complete version of the movie and get a couple viewings under my belt.

I'll be sure to keep 'em coming, though!
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Old 08-04-2017, 12:06 PM   #4
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Excellent review, I agree. However... I was really wanting to see this but now I'm not so sure. My major beef with the the last (American) Godzilla movie was that it didn't feature Godzilla very much. To hear that this one appears to be taking that same route, especially with more board-room meetings as opposed to monster action, makes me have second thoughts now...

I do like that baby Godzilla pic tho.
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Old 08-04-2017, 01:07 PM   #5
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Good review. I'll hold off on getting the Blu-ray until the price drops.
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Old 08-04-2017, 01:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by PacerDawn View Post
Excellent review, I agree. However... I was really wanting to see this but now I'm not so sure. My major beef with the the last (American) Godzilla movie was that it didn't feature Godzilla very much. To hear that this one appears to be taking that same route, especially with more board-room meetings as opposed to monster action, makes me have second thoughts now...

I do like that baby Godzilla pic tho.
To be fair, all of the movies tend to take that route; the most screentime he's ever had is roughly 25 minutes. One of the classic movies also featured him as little as five minutes.

Godzilla's presence is definitely felt throughout and the time he is on the screen is great. If you're looking for a movie with a ton of monster action in it, this isn't the one for you.
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:22 AM   #7
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Godzilla's presence is definitely felt throughout and the time he is on the screen is great. If you're looking for a movie with a ton of monster action in it, this isn't the one for you.
I don't think I need a ton of giant monster action, but I would like more than just a reveal at the end like that last movie did. This one looks like you get to see him (albiet in different forms) throughout, so that is a plus.

Also, I just heard about this:

Original 1954 Godzilla actor, Haruo Nakajima, dead at 88
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:34 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by PacerDawn View Post
I don't think I need a ton of giant monster action, but I would like more than just a reveal at the end like that last movie did. This one looks like you get to see him (albiet in different forms) throughout, so that is a plus.
You see him throughout the entire film...much like the 2014 film, actually. You see plenty of Godzilla throughout, but he's not racking up nearly a half-hour of screen time.

Quote:
Also, I just heard about this:

Original 1954 Godzilla actor, Haruo Nakajima, dead at 88
Yeah, I heard about that yesterday. It's a real shame; he was apparently a really nice man and enjoyed interacting with fans all over. He made a ton of appearances in the US over the past few years.
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:36 AM   #9
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Very nice review!
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