Shin Godzilla, a Movie of Monstrous Proportions
Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla Resurgence in the English version, is a 2016 kaiju movie produced by Toho, who have released dozens of Godzilla movies prior. This is the first Godzilla movie to be released by Toho for 12 years, the last being Godzilla Final Wars (2004). The movie sees a return to form for the series, with only Godzilla as the main threat and the humans figuring out ways to beat him. The movie was well received by some and mixed by others, where do I stand? I love it, I think it’s one of my favourite Godzilla movies to date. Why? Well, let’s get into it.
The plot can be summarised in five words. ‘Godzilla arrives and chaos ensues.’ That is essentially what the plot consists of, but it’s surprisingly deep at times. A lot of the movie centres around the schemes the main characters and the side characters come up with to tackle Godzilla, butting heads over whether to take the offensive approach or the tactical and slow approach. But ultimately, these character subplots are only supplementary to the real story, Godzilla laying waste to Japan. When Godzilla shows up the movie becomes very tense, feeling like a race against time as he looms ever closer to the end of his destructive journey. The plot is slow but the constant reappearance of Godzilla keeps you hooked and the plans they come up with are occasionally quite clever. I also like the science behind Godzilla, it doesn’t make sense but it’s fun to think about, the idea of him being an ever evolving force really sets the seal on his presence as an indestructible foe. Overall, the plot is like many Godzilla movies before it, Godzilla shows up and throws down and the humans must defeat him. However, the movie is also a clever art piece in terms of its message. It satirises the Japanese government and depicts them as unable to accept new ideas and this ultimately leads to their demise at the hands of Godzilla. Godzilla himself is also a confirmed analogy for nuclear destruction, more specifically the power of nuclear energy and the destruction it can cause. So while the plot isn’t too original it is clever in its themes and there are a lot of moments that do make you think, so I give it a pass.
I will admit this, the characters in this film are very lacklustre and don’t have much personality other than their archetypal stereotype traits. We have the young smart protagonist with a new approach to the situation, the young girl with big dreams and a lot of smarts, and a collection of older guys refusing to accept the new ways and try to conform to their status quo. Honestly the one with the most defined character is Godzilla himself, he’s a mindless beast but still the most developed of the bunch since he adapts to his situations. There isn’t really much else to say about this section, the characters are just so bland and like cardboard cutouts, so there isn’t much more to really discuss.
From what I’ve gathered about live-action Japanese films is that a lot of people say they often lack in terms of special effects, at least by today’s standards. I personally have no issues with the effects in these movies and Shin Godzilla is no exception. Godzilla himself is both a mix of animatronic and motion capture CGI. Gone are the days of the guy in a rubber suit, despite this Godzilla really does feel like he’s there most of the time. There are some scenes where he’s more mobile and it does look somewhat fake. There’s another scene where Godzilla in his second form (more on that in a bit) is gushing blood from his gills, and it honestly looks really fake and is quite distracting in my opinion. Not to mention, the first time we see Godzilla we only see his tail and it looks beyond fake. But where this movie really shines is in the depiction of Godzilla’s size and power. From the moment we see Godzilla’s tail in all its fake CGI glory, it looks enormous, and when he finally breaches land he feels gigantic. When he reaches his final form, he’s so tall that only wide-angle shots can show his full body, and this just adds so much depth to his design. Not to mention the CGI when used is actually pretty good, in fact until I saw the scenes where it was used during production, I didn’t know that was CGI, and that’s impressive. The highlight of this movie is a scene where Godzilla’s jaw unhinges like a snake’s, disturbing stuff, and then billows out tons and tons of thick smoke all over a Tokyo district. Then suddenly it flashes into a violent and devastating flame, engulfing the district and setting one of the most apocalyptic looking scenes ever in a Godzilla movie. The shot of Godzilla standing among the fire wrought city is one that is both gorgeous and horrifying, oozing with symbolism but is still awesome to look at. Aside from that the rest of the presentation is fine, camera angles are standard, the action scenes are somewhat well paced and the final shot of Godzilla’s body (without spoiling too much), is one that is both fascinating and intriguing, begging for expansion. The presentation is definitely the movies best point just with Godzilla’s depiction alone.
But I know why you’re all here, you want to hear about the King of Monster himself, Godzilla. In my opinion, this is one of the best looking Godzilla design to date. I really like the Millennium series designs and have a fondness for his original designs from all those years ago, but this is the form I associate most with Godzilla’s monstrous side. Unlike other incarnations, this Godzilla has multiple forms (Frieza would be proud), and each one barring his first all boasts unique designs and a certain level of dread to them. His second form is the first where we see him in full, and it’s easily the creepiest. Like a mix between a shark and a frog, it lumbers around on its legs and just wobbles its way through Tokyo. But it is a very menacing wobble (not the first analogy I would have used but here we are I guess), and his lidless eyes really make him look like a savage and unhinged beast. The third form isn’t visible for long, looking more like the OG Godzilla, standing on two legs but still relatively small and marine looking. It looks more gnarled and fleshy and is perhaps the most uncomfortable form, but the fact that it’s so small and falls over in quite hilarious fashion as it bumbles around makes it the weakest of the forms for me. Then the fourth form appears, and this form is 100% awesome. The design is very bumpy and layered, perhaps reminiscent of exposed muscle. His face is terrifying, having sunken eyes with tiny pupils, unsettling to say the least. One thing I do like is his small arms, I know it’s a weird detail but the fact he barely moves them or uses them is an interesting choice, almost like the T-Rex and it’s small arms, he has no use for them he can just walk his way to destruction. Godzilla’s abilities are fierce, and they offer some really creative scenes including the Tokyo firestorm and the reveal of his trademark Atomic Breath is very powerful. Not to mention his new abilities such as an Atomic Breath from his tail and beams of energy shooting out of his back spikes. This Godzilla may not be as nostalgic as the other ones, but I think that as a modern update it’s done right, not like the two American versions that preceded it. That said I do still like the 2014 version of Godzilla, but this one just feels like the real Godzilla to me. If you want a Godzilla that will both terrify and amaze you, this one is definitely up your alley.
- Story: 3/5 – The story isn’t anything special and is very similar to previous instalments. Though the expansion/alteration of Godzilla’s lore is interesting and the themes presented can be real think pieces.
- Characters: 2/5 – These characters are cliche to the point of irony and all have predictable motivations and character moments that don’t really make them stand out.
- Presentation: 4/5 – This movie’s combination of practical and CGI effects are really well done and meld together well. Godzilla aso looks amazing and the shots they include with him are pretty spectacular. Not to mention the music in this movie is great. (Quick not: I recommend listening to Persecution of the Masses fro the movie saoundtrack, it’s a haunting song that resonates with the themes in the movie.)
- Genre Representation: 4/5 – For an action movie, it’s good and for a Kaiju monster movie it’s great. The moments with Godzilla cater for both these genres and leaves you satisfied.
- (Unique Grade) Godzilla…ness: 4/5 – I wish we’d got to see more of him, but the scenes we did see were incredible, with his designs all looking neat and scary.
3/5 – The by the numbers elements in this movie do drag it down a bit, but aside from those this movie is awesome with some great Godzilla action and some stunning moments to add to the franchise.
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