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"Shin Godzilla"; powerful new Godzilla movie for a new Japan....

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This entry is about the latest Japanese Godzilla movie, "Shin Gojira (aka Godzilla Resurgence)" (2016)

********* MAJOR SPOILERS!!! *********

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Just saw this last night at the movies and wow... after 12 years, Toho studios revives the Godzilla brand with a vengeance.
This is (at least to my recollection) the most powerful and politically charged Godzilla film since the 1954 (unaltered) original film "Gojira" (the pristine Japanese version, without the American-shot insert footage all over it). It's also a Godzilla film with a LOT to say about everything; Japanese bureaucracy (the first half hour of the movie is pretty much a political farce), Japan's role in the world (great line: "Post-war Japan never seems to end"), the environment, and once again, the dangers of nuclear energy (the disaster at Fukushima obviously weighed heavily on the filmmakers).

As said above, the first half hour or so of the movie is basically a bureaucratic farce; a mutated sea creature (an 'evolving' Godzilla) comes ashore and wreaks havoc. Images of boats in the streets were obviously inspired by the 2011 monstrous tsunami that caused the Fukushima disaster. The creature looks like some kind of wild, angry sea serpent; with gills and wide-fish eyes. Not quite Godzilla, but a super-menace all the same. The Japanese leadership is in organized chaos; more time is spent deciding which room to have the next part of the briefings in than in how to deal with the giant, rampaging creature (which, at first, they can't even AGREE on whether it's a creature or not). This running joke at bureaucracy is funny at first, but ultimately taxing; we get it. Bureaucracy sucks in a crisis. Haha. The wait through this admittedly funny but ultimately tedious gag is worth it however because the movie soon shows its real cards as characters are thrust into action and as the creature begins to spontaneously mutate (an ability gained by its feeding on carelessly dumped nuclear waste in the Pacific), the movie begins to pare down to the essentials and becomes a true, epic, disaster movie. Of a kind and scale not really done in this series since the 1954 original. By it's 4th incarnation, the creature finally resembles something a lot closer to the classic Godzilla architecture and it's at this point the movie REALLY takes off.

The characters are colorful and surprisingly engaging (certainly more than in the 2014 US-made movie); the prime minister finally gets his act together. A young government official rises to an undreamt of challenge, in an almost "Designated Survivor"-type story arc. Basically the metaphor seems to be that Godzilla acts as both instrument of terror and as a bulldozer for eliminating the worst elements of 'old Japan' leadership/bureaucracy and clearing the way for a younger, more decisive generation to rise to the challenge (however unwittingly or reluctantly). And it's the scientists who save the day, not the troops; as they work tirelessly around the clock to find a way to rid the world of Godzilla and preventing a US-UN led nuclear strike against the temporarily dormant (but still very dangerous) creature. In fact, the scientific approach of the movie even manages to sneak in a few long-unanswered G-fan questions; such as how a creature of Godzilla's size support its own weight, how its skin is so seemingly invulnerable, and what are the dynamics of a nuclear-fission powered creature, and how does it 'cool down' to avoid meltdown? It's nice to see that the movie attempts to throw some real-world analysis at Godzilla, even if it's forsaken for entertainment, more or less.

A couple of issues mar this otherwise brilliant movie: an unfortunate bit of casting has a very Japanese actress playing an American-born and raised daughter of a US diplomat (her American accent is shaky at best; and basically burst the bubble of her character's believability). There's also lots of over-the-top comic style acting in the first half of the movie that threatens of undermine the danger; admittedly, this was by choice, as the style slowly segues into a more serious and gravitas-laden approach as the film goes on. But this initial approach makes the movie a bit of a slow burn. It's not until Godzilla finally 'evolves' into his true self that the movie REALLY kicks it into high gear; both in tone and in action set pieces.

Godzilla's devastating encroachment into Tokyo is arguably the best since the '54 original as well. It is powerful to watch (especially on the big screen; this is only the 5th Godzilla movie I've seen in theatres). The creature also has new and more dangerous abilities that we've NEVER seen in a Godzilla movie before. Not to sound too cliche, but this ISN'T your granddad's Godzilla, and I mean that as a compliment. The creatures' radioactivity is dealt with about as realistically as possible; there are true and dangerous consequences to a giant, radioactive monster plowing through an island nation. This Godzilla is as less metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and more about the more recent horrors of Fukushima and the world governments' seeming impotence to help Japan during a very dark hour. The characters in this movie slowly shed the bureaucracy that failed them and embrace self-determination in order to survive. They use ingenuity rather than nuclear weapons to save the day. Most importantly, they also embrace the ideas of a younger, less patient generation that wants 'post-war Japan' to come into its own again.

Honestly, this movie was more politically charged than the entire run of Kurosawa movies at times. This is easily the most ambitious Godzilla movie in 62 years, and once it kicks into high gear, it's also one of the most powerful.
If you're a Godzilla fan who doesn't mind a slow-burning first half? The movie is very rewarding. One of the best G-movies in a long while...

2 Comments On This Entry

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p0is0n0us Icon

12 October 2016 - 11:27 AM
Looking forward to seeing this movie, probably have to wait for the DVD release though.

obsolete toaster Icon

12 October 2016 - 11:05 PM
Hope you get to see it as soon as you're able; I know you're a fellow G-fan, and this is one of the better ones.
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