Shin Godzilla Review

by Jimmy Akin

in Culture, Film and TV, Science Fiction

Shin-Godzilla-2016I just finished watching Shin Godzilla–the 2016 Japanese Godzilla movie, whose name means “Godzilla: Resurgence”–and it was surprisingly good!

The movie is a complete reboot of the Godzilla franchise, meaning that it is a first contact story.

In this continuity, Godzilla has never appeared in Japan before, so we get to see people struggling to come to terms with a giant kaiju attack in a world where one has never occurred before.

This is unusual in a Godzilla film, as all of the previous sequels have at least treated the original, 1954 movie as Japan’s first encounter with Godzilla.

The film is two hours long, and the first 28 minutes are surprisingly goofy (so my inner MST3K crew was active), but then it gets quite good.

(NOTE: Apparently much of the goofiness in the first 28 minutes is due to the fact that the filmmakers are implicitly criticizing the way the Japanese government reacted to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which they were trapped by their own bureaucratic habits, said stupid things in press conferences, and dealt ineffectually with the early stages of the crisis.)

My initial impression (though I’ll need to think about it) is that this may be the best  Godzilla film except for the iconic 1954 Japanese original (the one without Raymond Burr)–which is absolutely mythic.

One of the things I liked about this film is how fresh it felt. After thirty previous Godzilla films, you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of new things to do, but this film managed to find a surprising amount of virgin territory to explore.

Of course, the movie’s plot reflects up-to-date technology, so the fact that everyone has a cell phone results in things appearing online before the Japanese government is even aware of them, and it’s nice to see government officials scrambling to keep up with what the public has already learned through social media.

There’s also an interesting and fundamentally productive cooperation between Japan and the United States in the movie, though it’s clear the relationship has bumps.

Some viewers might want more kaiju action that we actually get in the film. Godzilla periodically goes into dormant periods as his body adjusts to changing circumstances, so he doesn’t mount a constant assault on Tokyo (which he really doesn’t do in any movie). This gives the human characters a chance to devise ways of dealing with him.

When Godzilla is active, though–or at least once he’s up to full steam–wow! At the midpoint of the film Godzilla mounts a devastating attack that is easily the most spectacular thing he has ever done on screen!

Despite the fact that the Godzilla action isn’t continuous, the film is surprisingly quickly paced and doesn’t get boring, even when the puny humans are the focus.

The film also more credibly establishes Big G as a global threat than in previous films. Given the way this version’s biology works, if they don’t stop him now, the human race–and apparently most of the biosphere–is toast.

Perhaps the thing I liked most about the movie was the fact that the humans–and particularly the military–is not portrayed as ineffectual.

Often in Godzilla movies, they aren’t able to even dent him until, at the last minute, a scientist comes up with a magic bullet that suddenly kills or neutralizes Godzilla, ending the film.

In this movie, however, the military is able to do damage to Godzilla before the final climax (in fact, that’s apparently the reason for his longest dormant period).

And when the final confrontation occurs, the humans have mapped out a creative, multi-stage plan to execute, in which they intelligently take down the big lizard in stages.

This plan has them doing things we haven’t seen before, such as overtaxing Godzilla’s ability to shoot rays and wear down his offensive capabilities, as well as intentionally knocking down skyscrapers onto Godzilla so that they serve as huge kinetic weapons and pummel him like giant clubs. Cool!

Of course, there is sequel potential here, and the final shot of the movie hints what the sequel will likely involve.

There are things about the film I didn’t like, but overall it was a fun watch, and I’d recommend it to fans of Godzilla films and other kaiju movies.

Here’s where you can watch it on Amazon.

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