Shin Godzilla is only in U.S. theaters for one week and you should go see it! In my books, it’s the best Godzilla movie ever and truly gets back to the roots of why I loved the Japanese monster movies as a child.
I grew up loving Godzilla movies and watched them as much as possible on network TV and VHS. I loved them more on VHS because I could fast forward through all of the weird fairy scenes and get back to the action. What I didn’t really understand as a kid, was the history and angst behind the movies, which is mostly lacking in the new American versions but is pretty much in-your-face-America with the latest Japanese release.
The anti-nuclear angst is prevalent throughout the film, and Godzilla’s force-of-nature rampage and the slow and bureaucratic reaction of the government has strong ties to recent natural disasters in Japan, primarily the Fukushima nuclear disaster following an earthquake and tsunami. The willing sacrifice of many Japanese men and women in the fight against Godzilla also seemed to be a tribute to those brave workers who fought to stabilize the Fukushima reactor.
In addition to the nuclear and governmental angst is a very heavy emphasis on U.S. / Japan relations. The depiction of American officials and scientists was amusing to me, especially the droll sleazy (evil?) voice with which all Americans spoke – obviously planned to portray the gung-ho, manipulative, finger-on-the-button people we all are. Through most of the movie, you can tell that Japan is ready to emerge from shadow of their bigger brother, but they certainly give Americans credit where it is due… the protection provided by American military prowess (and when all else seems to fail, nuke ’em). Yes, if I had to pick a “villain” in the movie, it would be the good ol’ U.S. of A.! Godzilla is just a bad ass force of nature to be reckoned with and Japan wants to do it on its own terms.
The monster effects and military action are the best I have seen in a Godzilla movie. Sure, I enjoyed the 2014 American movie, but at its heart it was an American popcorn movie that didn’t provoke much thought. Most of the monster effects in Shin Godzilla are motion captured, so its not exactly a guy in a big rubber suit (though the opening act sure made it seem that way!), but it always had that feel. The Japanese Self-Defense Force action against Godzilla was also amazingly like the battles of the past against the kaiju, but with a modern combined arms warfare and allied forces flair.
One of the things I am irritated with in modern action movies is that one way or another, a city has to be destroyed in some horrible fashion. This is forgivable for Shin Godzilla because Godzilla was the original city smasher before it was “cool.” This Godzilla is certainly good at his job of repulsing attacks while laying absolute waste to Tokyo!
The ending leaves it open for a sequel, which I welcome and I definitely want to see what the next evolution is…
Most importantly (for me), they dropped all the mystical, fairy people. Often in Japanese entertainment, there has to be something cuddly or cute that is almost always completely out of place and (in my view anyway) detracts from the actual story. I hated those fairy people as a child and was so happy to see that they didn’t make an appearance in any way!
All in all, I was very pleased with the movie and even my 11 year old daughter enjoyed it and was surprisingly able to keep up with the very fast subtitles. FINAL WORD OF ADVICE: If you do go to see it, focus on the words on the bottom! The dialogue moves fast and any time anyone new speaks, it gives their title above their head. If you read their name and title, you will miss what they said.