The Japanese government struggles with the sudden appearance of a giant monster wreaking havoc in their country.
It was around this time, 3 years ago that “Shin Godzilla” was released in select theaters in the U.S. I have those awesome memories of sitting in the theater and getting the closest experience of watching a Godzilla film in Japan. I just wish the film was better at elevating that experience.
The first thing I should say is that this was a plot-driven movie. Not to say I don’t hate them personally, but I think that was where the major problems came forward.
Now before I get into those problems, I want to say that this movie and the original ’54 film were very similar. In that their plots were good allegories of tragic events that have happened prior. The original took inspiration from the 1945 WW2 Bombings and this one took inspiration from the 2011 Earthquake/Nuclear Plant Disaster. Both were evoking a sense of dread, sadness, and despair to show the harshness of nuclear catastrophes. This was something that “Gojira” did extremely well. “Shin Godzilla” on the other hand, doesn’t.
This film didn’t have emotion. It didn’t have that emotional resonance to make one feel for what was happening. That resonance was helped in “Gojira” by showing the concern of Japanese citizens. In there, there were scenes where one got good perspectives on how an individual was dealing with Gojira’s arrival/aftermath. Not too mention, the film was presented in a mostly mature/real manner. Shin was presented in this manner too, but the fact that it doesn’t have any depth with the civilian side of the mayhem was disappointing. Thus that emotional connection with them was not there at all.
Instead of the film focusing on the civilians, it focused more on the political side. Showing many government officials as the main characters. I could get behind this idea and at times it can work for showing how the government would handle a situation like Godzilla. But the film hardly gave any time to develop each character. Not only that but there were a tad too many characters present, thus making it more difficult to follow. Their acting was fine, though the American actors were certainly not.
The pacing, for the most part, was quick. There were moments of slow scenes and where it took time to show the aftermath of Godzilla’s destruction. But each scene toward the beginning was coming and going. There was little time to breath or let the mood sink in. But after Godzilla unleashed sheer destruction in Tokyo, the film grind to a halt. By that point, the movie became very slow and boring.
That part might be very well due to the dialogue. Which at points I didn’t mind and I found myself engaged in some capacity on how the government was going to stop Godzilla. But the vast majority of the dialogue was political talk/jargon. There were a couple times where characters would step away from that which was a breath of fresh air. Though the inconsistent pacing and serious political banter made it difficult to latch onto anyone.
By the way, whoever was in charge of displaying the English subtitles needed to simmer down. The subtitles were out of control as they would not only show each character’s name/government position, but also the names of city wards, document names, names of specific building floors, etc. This made it hard for me to focus my eyes on where it was needed. If you don’t like reading subtitles, I can’t imagine what this film would be like to you.
The cinematography was out of control too. On the other hand, whenever there were outdoor scenes, they were really good. Whenever there were indoor scenes, they were…interesting. It seemed like the directors, Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, wanted to use every shot/angle in the film book. There would be some shots that made me question why they chose it that way and how did it contribute to the film in any way. The best example I can think of was when the camera was mounted on a rolling chair or when the camera was showing chair legs. AMAZING!
But when the cinematography was really good, it was really good. Whenever Godzilla was in the city, there were some well-done perspective shots. It’s these that make one get the sheer size and power of the King himself.
The music for the film was great. The “Persecution of the Masses” was a theme that can really send chills down the spine. The other theme “Who will Know (Tragedy)” was also good. There were also familiar themes from the Godzilla franchise that was a real treat to hear.
The opening credits was nice as it reminded me of “Gojira.”
I guess the final thing to talk about is Godzilla. This iteration was an interesting one. It’s very different in terms of its abilities. For one it can evolve from a minilla-type creature into the more familiar shape. His atomic capabilities were truly something. My favorite scene from the whole movie was when he unleashed hell onto Tokyo. The whole mood, atmosphere, and music amazed me so much that my jaw was wide open when watching this for the first time in the theater. I love the sound effect that went for his purple atomic breath. I liked the split-jaw detail, the many rows of teeth, and the fact Godzilla looked like a mutation. The “fifth” form can lead to some interesting theories. I will say there were times where Godzilla can be creepy. I’ll say if one were to get a closer look at the tail, one will definitely get shivers.
While this Godzilla certainly was interesting in its look and abilities, personality-wise, that was where it fell apart. In “Gojira,” Gojira was simply animal, an animal that doesn’t want to do anything wrong necessarily and he just wanted to be left alone. The film doesn’t dive into the environment edge that much. But not only that, Shin was rather uninteresting and inconsistent in how approached Japan. At first, he (fourth form) doesn’t emote, roar, or anything besides walking. Then in the climax, he seemed to be more active and taking action. One could make the argument that he now had a full grasp of what humans were capable of. But for a film that was trying to execute a giant monster attack in a “real” manner, Shin didn’t behave very much like a real animal. He was an unstoppable force of nature sure, but still, an animal that could at the very least feel or show emotions which this film was lacking heavily.
Also, I know the film wanted to make references to the other films in the franchise; but adding past Godzilla roars to Shin, added to the dull characterization of this incarnation. I would have loved to hear what an “original” Shin roar would be.
“Shin Godzilla,” was a film, much like with “Godzilla (2014), that let my Godzilla fandom get the better of me. It had interesting ideas in terms of how it handled its plot and Godzilla himself. Some of the cinematography and music was really good. There were some nice visuals. But the film didn’t evoke the same feelings that “Gojira” let out. This was due to uninteresting characters, an inconsistent pace, and sometimes confusing political jargon. If one is a politician who likes Godzilla movies, you might like it. But for me, it didn’t do it for me, unfortunately.
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