Shin Godzilla Review

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Godzilla is known by many names — King of the Monsters, God Incarnate, and Gojira to name a few. Yet Godzilla will always be Japanese, a creation of the atomic age back in the 50s. Weirdly enough, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Japanese Godzilla film — the last being 2004’s Ryuhei Kitamura’s Godzilla: Final Wars. That’s all about to change as Hideaki Anno (creator of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”) is set to reboot Godzilla for a modern age. Is Shin Godzilla a worthy successor to those that came before or is it a failed attempt to capitalize on the success of the American adaptation?

Shin Godzilla is definitely a worthy successor to the classic films. It pays respectful homage to the films that came before while also breathing new life into Toho’s dormant beast. Just don’t expect a lot of scenes with the titular character.

Shin Godzilla follows a massive gilled monster who emerges from the deep and begins to rip through the city, leaving nothing behind but destruction. As the Japanese government scrambles to save its people and combat this unknown threat, a group of brave scientists comes together to try and find a weakness in this seemingly immortal enemy.

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Writer-director Hideaki Anno grounded Shin Godzilla with astounding realism. Reverting back to Ishiro Honda’s 1954 Gojira blueprint of “if this really happened then this is what would probably happen.” Many of the film’s comedic scenes occur when government officials try to get past all of the red tape when they’re trying to deal with Godzilla. It’s hilarious to watch because, sadly, this is what would probably happen in real life. It’s an interesting look at modern Japanese bureaucracy, especially to outsiders such as myself. Political satire isn’t the only thing that Shin Godzilla touches upon, there’s a lot on its plate. Not only is the film an origin story but it also satires disaster films as well.

Unfortunately, what it isn’t though is your typical kaiju film. Similar to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, there’s only a handful of scenes where Godzilla wreaks havoc upon the Japanese people. When we first meet Godzilla, he’s just a cheap CG character. However, as soon as he evolves into the monster we know and love, he looks and moves much like the original Toho Godzilla. He’s designed much more menacingly with the glowing red accents and scarred look.

That’s what keeps Shin Godzilla from matching the hype. When we do get Godzilla on screen then the film becomes tremendously fun. This version of Godzilla is a fearsome force of nature that is the epitome of “God incarnate.” When we don’t get Godzilla on-screen then what we do get is something that feels like a live-action anime. The editing is lightning fast and used to hilarious effect. Cinematographer Kosuke Yamada cinematography feels very much like Anno’s “Neon Genesis Evangelion” in the way that the scenes are framed.

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There is also a lot of scientific banter and human antics that occupy a majority of the runtime. Unless you’re fluent in Japanese then it’s going to be hard to keep up with the massive amount of characters in the film. There is a heap of labels that appear on-screen that explain every character’s position and location. But while most of these characters are useless, Rando (Hiroki Hasegawa) and his rag-tag anti-Godzilla task force are the real heroes of the film. They’re hardworking, dedicated, and extremely bright. Everyone portrayed their characters with gusto and the chemistry between everyone is palpable. Unfortunately, the weak link to the film is Satomi Ishihara as Kayoko Ann Patterson. Her shaky English and odd American backstory all seem out of place.

Overall, Shin Godzilla is a refreshing reboot of their beloved icon. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi set an entertaining tone to this Batman Begins-style reboot. Disappointingly, there’s just not a lot of scenes featuring the big guy. Ultimately, this is what keeps Shin Godzilla from becoming the delightfully fun film it should’ve been.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms
NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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