Shin Godzilla Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Manga Entertainment
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi
Written by Hideaki Anno & Sean Whitley
2017, 120 minutes, Rated 12A (UK)
UK theatrical release 10th August 2017
Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi
Yutaka Takenouchi as Hideki Akasaka
Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson
Since starting out in 1954 in Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla, the beloved Atomic-breathing monster has created the world’s longest running franchise. He (or she? We’ll stick with he for ease) has survived dodgy looking rubber suits and CGI Hollywood makeovers, now coming full circle in something of a welcome return to his roots.
We start out on a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. As they try to figure out what is causing the problem a young executive dares to suggest that it’s a creature of some kind. Sadly for his disbelieving bosses, and the country, he is proved right as a huge aquatic creature rises from the depths and causes chaos and destruction. He assembles a team of experts and volunteers to find any weaknesses before its too late.
Firstly, you don’t specifically have to know your monster history to enjoy Shin Godzilla. True, it will excite die-hard fans of the indestructible franchise as it feels very much like the Godzilla of old, but this is an origin story akin to Daniel Craig’s introduction as Bond in Casino Royale or Christian Bale as the Dark Knight, as we are re-introduced to Godzilla in a pretty smart way that is both bold and original.
The film is set in modern day Japan and they are faced with Godzilla for the very first time. The aftermath of the attacks that ensue do conjure up images of the country’s recent natural disasters and nuclear plant meltdowns, which give a sense of realism bringing gravitas to its poignant core.
As emotive as these scenes are, Shin Godzilla is also very, very funny, it owns the silliness and runs with it amounting to what is essentially a behind the scenes look at how the government of Japan (or any government for that matter) would really work if faced with the impossible. The humour comes from the satirical look at the responses from the powers that be and the red-tape (the real looming menace of the film) that slows down the process of dealing with disaster.
Gone are the gung-ho days of old when the military would wade in and fire at will, now we have action decided by committee as everyone tries to pass the buck and ensure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before taking action. It’s kind of like watching Amando Iannucci’s In The Loop with a giant lizard at the centre instead of the venom-tongued Malcolm Tucker.
The joke does start to wear a little thin across two hours, as the film stubbornly sticks to this narrative that neither creates any real tension or any level of empathy for the characters, and after the 100th board meeting of the film you do find yourself longing for more action. The once big laughs become slight sniggers and then later light inaudible snorts... you just want some stuff to blow up! Thankfully we do get plenty of this later down the line.
Godzilla from the outset is a creature of some fascination. For the first time on film we literally see him evolve in front of our eyes in a great 2017 upgrade to the creature’s mythology. He first appears as a creature with no arms and grows into the Godzilla we know and love. He also has a new in-built defence mechanism using his dorsal fins that is beautiful to behold.
The towering monster has never looked so good, maintaining the look of a man in a suit whilst combining CGI and a much more vicious temperament, with bigger teeth, bigger claws and a tail that is a beast all of its own. If King Kong was to face off against this version its hard to imagine him standing a chance in hell.
Unlike the ending to Roland Emmerich’s 1998 hatchet job, Shin Godzilla has a much more novel way of dealing with its titular character and one that is fascinatingly barmy.
Of course it also wouldn’t be a Godzilla movie if it didn’t tease further installments. There is a moment that hints towards something terrifying in the future of the beast’s evolution, you can read all about the theories online but it would be better to see the film first and draw your own conclusions. Either way, there are clearly plans to keep this fresh direction for the franchise going.
Despite some pretty hokey visual effects the film just feels right, and we are given some terrific aerial shots of Godzilla in the cold light of day that is something severely lacking in today’s over-use of a moody aesthetic. It is a pleasing film that’s only guilty of perhaps being a little too long to sustain the brilliance that it creates in the first act.
Hollywood has largely failed to hit the mark with its interpretations of the infamous creature, Gareth Edwards came closest in 2014, but with Godzilla 2 soon coming our way courtesy of Warner Bros, a monster match-up promised later down the line and a tease of future Shin sequels, it’s a good time for fans of the ‘King of the Monsters.’