Shin Godzilla Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Funimation Films
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Written by Hideaki Anno
2016, 94 Minutes, Not Rated
Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi
Yutaka Takenouchi as Hideki Akasaka
Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson
Ren Ohsugi as Prime Minister Seiji Okochi
The new incarnation of Shin Gojira is a Japanese language action/drama featuring an evolving megamonster that rises out of the Tokyo Bay. Heavily detailed, this movie follows the Deputy Foreign Minister (I think) Yaguchi as he fights government red tape to save Tokyo from not only Godzilla but dangerous US military interference.
The political message behind writer/co-director Hideaki Anno plays so much into the filmmaking, it’s impossible not to mention. Each person is introduced with subtitles, each location is announced with surtitles, and each fighter plane, tank, and navy vessel is titled exhaustively. Every decision that the ministry of defense makes requires at a minimum of three locations for the cast, with between ten and seventeen close-ups of each executive offering their counsel and the prime minister’s response. The first commandment of filmmaking is “show, don’t tell” and all the telling gets tiring very quickly. It is with a purpose, though. Through Yaguchi, co-directors Anno and Shinji Higuchi share a disdain for the bureaucracy of the Japanese government and question why their nation is not allowed its autonomy.
The crux of this conflict comes with attempted American interference in controlling the Godzilla threat: even as the Prime Minister and Yaguchi both despair over the US’ “bomb it all, ask questions later” attitude, they are helpless to stop it without foreign interference. The final Yankee solution is so devastating, Yaguchi is finally pressed to risk his life and those of his team to stop the country more dangerous than the monster.
Anno and Higuchi’s concept for Godzilla is interesting but complex. Their incarnation involves a nuclear-waste ingesting monster that feasts on the remains of early barrel dumping into the bay. I can’t remember specifically, but I’m also pretty sure the US was involved in that dumping. This is the same premise of the US-helmed reboot of 2014 and it mirrors our global concern over balancing renewable energy with responsible waste disposal. The shadow of Fukushima still hangs heavy in recent memory. Unlike the oddly-muscular hero Godzilla that saved San Francisco, the Japanese Gojira is pure destruction. His irradiated cells allow him to adapt at horrifyingly fast levels and he can grow new appendages and weapons as his environment grows more hostile. It looks strange, but at least he starts out looking more “fishy”, which makes sense for a creature that is amphibian. He has really gross fishy eyes, too; it really works for a disturbing profile.
Despite a message of heartfelt concern over the political state of Japan, Shin Godzilla isn’t a success. Between making a farce of the neutered government, appreciating then vilifying foreign meddling, the battle of brains versus brawn to destroy Godzilla, and a clearly Japanese-born actress trying to play an American, I don’t know if this is supposed to be satire or action or drama or even comedy. There are plenty of jokes, but the end is so heavy with the potential destruction of Japanese culture that it doesn’t feel funny. But there is soooooo much coverage of the political process that it can barely be called an action movie.
It certainly put more thought into what an actual attack of this nature on a country would look like, unlike a typical American monster movie would, but without a more impactful method of revealing its moral, Shin Godzilla doesn’t roar so much as weep.