Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shin Godzilla Review

Because when a Godzilla movie hits theaters, you go see it. And you don't ask questions. I had heard about Shin Godzilla because I had seen trailers and advertising, but I had no idea it was coming to one of my local theaters until I was looking up showtimes early this week and saw it. After doing a little more research, apparently this is going to have a really funky release schedule and thus it might be a challenge for you to actually find a theater that this is in. But I was lucky enough to come across it by chance, so I hope you all can have the same luck. If not, it wouldn't be the end of the world if you had to wait for VOD or DVD to watch this. I do have a couple other reviews that are on my queue to write, but I decided to fast-track this review before all of them so that I can do my part before it disappears. If it's even still here. That out of the way, it's worth noting that I'm not one of those super mega Godzilla fans that has watched and re-watched all 6,987 Godzilla movies. Yes, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. However, I do like watching this creature terrorize cities when the opportunity is presented to me, so that's what I did. And yes, I enjoyed my time with this umpteenth iteration of this movie! If you get the chance to watch this, definitely check it out!

The story here is pretty much the same as every Godzilla movie ever made. There's really not a whole lot that can be done with this character that hasn't already been done a hundred times, so I don't really know why we keep feeling the need to make more Godzilla movies. But in this instance I'm not complaining too much. I do feel this is essentially Japan's response to the 2014 American Godzilla movie by Gareth Edwards, a movie that I personally enjoyed. There were some phenomenal special effects, sweet action sequences and some good build up with characters. One of the major complaints that movie got was that there wasn't enough Godzilla in it. To that I respond that all the best monster movies save the big reveal for later. The first appearance of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park or the shark in Jaws took around the same amount of time make their first real appearance, so I think that's a dumb complaint. However, if that was an issue for you, Shin Godzilla just might be your Godzilla movie because he comes early and often to terrorize Japan. And man are those sequences intense. This is a fantastically powerful beast that shows no mercy and is practically unstoppable.

My big problem with this movie is that when Godzilla is not on screen this movie is as boring as tar. The only human characters that the movie focuses on are politicians. Mostly Japanese politicians as this movie is stuffed full with meeting after meeting after meeting with a group of Japanese political leaders gathering in a variety of different rooms discussing the politics of what to do with this monster that is now there. And of course we go through all the same discussions that happen in every other Godzilla movie. First there are discussions of does this creature really exist when it is first spotted. Then we make decisions to tell the public that this is not a serious threat. Then it starts killing everyone and all the politicians have to eat their words and figure out how to stop it. Of course the first decision is to try to shoot it down and bomb it with the military. But as is the case with every Godzilla movie, that doesn't work. Then we have to do more strategic planning to figure out how to stop it. So yeah, it's like they felt obligated to safely move through every Godzilla plot point there is. In a very uninteresting way. With tons of politics and council meetings. And no character growth.

For the first half of this movie, I was fine with this. It didn't necessarily interest me, but there was enough splicing this with the Godzilla action scenes that the movie had my attention. But then the movie slammed to a halt. Without giving specific plot spoilers, there are two major Godzilla action sequences. One towards the beginning and one towards the end. Between these two sequences there is a bridge of boring nothingness that almost put me to sleep and lasted way too long. One thing I loved about the 2014 Godzilla is that it gave us characters to care about and it spent time building these characters so that when we didn't have Godzilla in the movie, there was still a movie to watch. Not the case here. Certain parts of this movie are like going to one of those hour-long city council meetings when they're not talking about much and the council members themselves look bored to tears. Not a lot of fun. I would've liked to see some character progression with regularly people
instead of just sitting in political meetings where nothing interesting happens. Sure, there is plenty of political commentary and satire with all these scenes, but it still wasn't interesting enough to keep my attention.

But then Godzilla actually shows. If you are patient enough with the movie to endure all the boring politics and lack of characters, when Godzilla shows up or wakes up, the payoff is immense. It's really weird how this Godzilla starts off, though. When he first showed up, he looked so weird that I didn't think it was even Godzilla. But then he evolves or metamorphosizes into this giant, awe-inspiring monster that is in fact an outright monster. The special effects aren't quite as good as the 2014 Godzilla, but I half wonder if that was intentional in order to give this Godzilla a throwback look because I definitely got an old Godzilla vibe with this. It felt like a modern-day 50's disaster film. Or maybe that's just how live-action Japanese is. I really don't know any better. But either way, this Godzilla is enormous and terrifying. And it's abilities when it unleashes them are jaw-dropping. And there is this sense of panic because he comes with zero warning, forcing millions of people to abandon their homes, much like in real life with actual natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters don't wait until everyone is perfectly situated and this movie was a pretty good metaphor for that.

Overall, despite a lot of boring politics in this movie, I would recommend you watch this if you get the chance. While I can't say for sure, my guess is that those who are huge Godzilla fans will have a fantastic time because this felt like a nostalgic throwback to the old Godzilla movies. I wish we would've had more depth and substance in between terror sessions instead of being a boring slog with only politicians as our main characters instead of some normal human beings to follow. I also wish this movie would've tried to do something new and different instead of being super safe by following point by point what every other Godzilla movie has done as if going down a checklist instead of making a creative movie that adds to the lore. But despite all of this, it's still a lot of fun watching Godzilla show up and terrorize the city and that level of terror is certainly kicked into high gear. Godzilla is large. He is terrifying. He shows absolutely no mercy. When people try to stop him, it only seems to make him angrier as he seems to be out for vengeance towards Japan and thus you really have no idea how to stop him. So when push comes to shove, despite this movie's imperfections, I do think it's worth a watch if you get the chance. I'll give Shin Godzilla a 7/10.

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