• Review: Shin Godzilla (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Sat Oct 22 11:26:04 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: Japan assesses its relation to the rest of
    the world and its relation to itself and its culture
    in a reboot of the classic Japanese series. This is
    the most serious Godzilla film since the first, and
    except for the novelty the first film had, this would
    probably be the best Godzilla film ever made. It also
    has the best special effects. Hideaki Anno writes and
    co-directs with Shinji Higuchi. Rating:
    high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

    It starts with what sounds like a drum booming three times. Then
    comes a roar that sounds like steel girders collapsing under huge
    pressure. In 1954 this was the opening of the film GOJIRA, the
    film that introduced to the world the creature called Gojira or
    Godzilla. And that is just the sound that starts SHIN GODZILLA,
    the reboot of the Godzilla series.

    That 1954 film was much more than just a special effects outing not
    being about much. It was about something. It asked the question
    more relevant today than it was in 1954 of whether scientists are
    responsible for the uses to which their discoveries are applied.
    It was the subsequent Godzilla films that got to be silly fun.
    Until now, none but the first Godzilla film had serious purpose.
    In SHIN GODZILLA once people realize that something grim is
    happening the film turns into a seemingly endless string of
    discussions, debates, and power struggles among government
    agencies. Some of the politicians definitely are more responsible
    than others, though American audience may have trouble keeping
    straight the very large set of characters and agencies. Soon the
    Americans are bulling their way into the war against the
    prehistoric titan Godzilla. For some the American aid is a welcome
    presence and for others it is a theft of power.

    When it appears that the Japanese islands may have to be evacuated
    the issue becomes how the Japanese love their home and culture,
    similar to the theme of THE SUBMERSION OF JAPAN (1973). SHIN
    GODZILLA even works in a small tribute to Japanese origami. This
    is all very serious in intent though the various agencies in-
    fighting at times humorous. The film also serves as a tour of
    Japanese government agencies and of Tokyo districts.

    At the beginning of the story, there are strange things happening
    in Tokyo Bay. There are people disappearing and the underwater
    tunnel is flooded. A strange geyser comes spraying out of the
    water. Soon there is a gargantuan amphibian creature crawling
    ashore, knocking over buildings and at the same time metamorphosing
    into the Godzilla shape we are used to seeing. While all this is
    happening the civil government is having an endless string of
    meetings trying to decide how to handle these catastrophes. This
    combines with special effects of urban destruction. The images are
    more realistic than in most Godzilla films but with still much less
    immediacy than we might have expected after seeing genuine building
    destruction on 9/11.

    Much of the danger from Godzilla comes from his being much bigger
    in SHIN GODZILLA than he has been portrayed before. He is powered,
    it seems, by a nuclear reactor in his body. Visually this is one
    of the most awesome-looking renditions of the creature. The
    special effects people at Toho often tamper with his looks
    depending on the intended audience. He is much rounder and more
    pleasant looking in the episodes aimed at a younger audience. In
    this film he looks as tall as a mountain.

    Fans of the series will be pleased that the films reuse sound
    effects taken directly from the first film. Also, the film makes
    generous use of Akira Ifukube's music from the early films. What
    is missing is the man in the monster suit. Some of the effects are
    obviously digital. This is Toho's foray into having Godzilla be an
    animated digital figure rather than a man in a suit.

    Some of the film will be difficult to follow for American fans.
    There are two sets of subtitles on top of each other, the location
    (e.g. "Prime Minister's Headquarters") or character's name and
    title in Japanese, and then the dialogue in English on top of them.
    (The English for the location or character is shown at the top of
    the screen.) Even speed readers will have trouble keeping up.
    American viewers would have been a better served with a film at 2/3
    the length and with half the number of characters. This might be a
    better film to see on video. I rate the SHIN GODZILLA a high +2 on
    the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

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    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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