I’ve been a fan of Godzilla ever since I was a kid and would watch the old Toho classics with my mom on TV. We even thought Godzilla’s son with the weak, floaty ring of fire he would puff out was fun despite how ridiculous it was. After 2014’s American take on the franchise was a monstrous success, Japan wasn’t about to be outdone with the monster films they created.
So here we are with Shin Godzilla, helmed by Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi who also worked with him in a new cinematic experience that only true fans of the King of Monsters will enjoy. It’s just a shame the hot mess of bad pacing and direction is the true monster here that will send everyone else running in terror.
Shin Godzilla is the 31st(!) film in the long-running series, and has the infamous monster starting out as a mutated monstrosity created from various radioactivity, rather it be waste or from Nuclear fallout, that makes its way out of the ocean and skittering onto land while smashing up things in the process. Of course this sends the nation into a panic as the military, the prime minister, other government officials and scientists come together to discuss handling the monster. Most of the film follows Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) as Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and how he does his best to get everyone on the same page in order to stop Godzilla from causing more damage and taking more lives. What follows is a battle between mankind and the king of monsters that takes a few bad turns when they find out the more they attack the monster, the more it grows and mutates to adapt to their attacks.
Now I’ll be honest, I wasn’t feeling the way Godzilla was introduced at first, as he (it?) looks quite silly with bulbous eyes and glowing, scrotum-like sacks on the sides of his neck (I kid you not, search for the images or watch the film and see for yourself) that made the monster look like something reminiscent from the Power Rangers or some kiddy Japanese show. But when they started attacking it and mutated into a grotesque version of Godzilla and then into the form that most people are familiar with, that’s when it really grabbed my attention. The CG special effects aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be either, as Godzilla is motion captured this time around instead of the classic using a guy-in-a-suit approach, but the effects can get a little muddled looking at times.
Sadly, that’s where all the good things about the movie end as the rest of it can be a snooze fest for most, but to be fair I’m sure there are some who will still enjoy it. Between the bad pacing and overall lack of direction of the film, to 95% of the film focusing strictly on various government factions deciding, arguing, etc on how to handle Godzilla, I nearly nodded off a few times. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the movie wasn’t two hours long, but thanks to it being so, only true fans will be able to see this through to the end.
I did enjoy how the film pokes at how the US tries to intervene and help destroy Godzilla with a nuke, despite making both countries very uneasy about detonating a nuclear device on Japanese soil for a third time. So you can definitely see how Japan tried to make this film tie into the events that brought about the first 1954 movie with nuclear fallout giving birth to the monster we all know and love. I also liked how the Godzilla featured here is more akin to the Cloverfield creature as it’s like a giant baby that’s been plopped into the middle of a nation and is just roaming about and counter-attacking to whatever people throw at it. But again, these cool things only make up about 5% of the movie, so they come way too far and few between.
I really wanted to love this film as I do with most of the franchise’s other iterations, but only hardcore fans of the king of monsters and those who enjoy heavily cerebral monster films are sure to love Shin Godzilla and his many mutations. Others on the other hand will want to pack their bags and run for the hills from this slow moving, hot mess monster.