Shin Godzilla REVIEW

Shin Godzilla REVIEW

0 comments 📅27 August 2017, 10:12

An abandoned yacht is discovered in Tokyo Bay. A sudden eruption of steam causes a partial collapse in the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line tunnels. Something is seen in the mist.

As Tokyo adapts to the impossible truth that something massive is coming ashore, soldiers, scientists, politicians and civilians alike struggle to discover just what it is they’re facing. And more importantly, if it can be stopped…

Shin Godzilla is phenomenal, pretty much from the opening scene to the last. Directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi balance the colossal destruction caused by their biggest star with a surprising, and nuanced, human cast.

Front and centre in that team is Rando Yoguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa), a young cabinet secretary who’s the first person to realise they’re dealing with a monster. Put in charge of a task force of brilliant outsiders, he’s ordered to find a solution to the Godzilla problem at any cost. He’s aided  -and sometimes hindered – by characters like Hideki Askaska, an aide to the Prime Minister (played by Yutaka Takenouchi and Kayoko Anne Patterson). Meanwhile, Kayoko (Satomi Ishihara) is a special envoy for the US President and a woman with political ambitions all her own.

There are three keys to the success of Shin Godzilla and that cast is one. Hasegawa is a serious, intense lead whose fundamental idealism and belief in Japanese national character drives the movie along. His character Rando is focused to the point of humourlessness but he’s never unlikable. It’s the sort of role Jimmy Stewart or Denzel Washington would have played in a different time and Hasegawa excels at it. He’s not alone, with every cast member turning in good work. Mansai Nomura, who plays Godzilla via motion capture, is especially great. This version of the king of monsters, his skin glowing with nuclear fire, is nightmarish precisely because of the clear intelligence Nomura brings to it.

That leads to the second key to the movie: its realism. Strange as that sounds for a film where Japanese armed forces battle a hyper evolving nuclear skyscraper, it’s true. Godzilla’s biology, the human responses to it and the sheer scale of the problem are all given their due and all work perfectly. This plays, to Western audiences, like a grounded, modern response to an impossible disaster. It also plays, at several points, like an extended episode of The West Wing. Rando and his colleagues’ fierce, dogged determination and idealism is inspiring and hard won and there’s the same sense of good people doing their best in impossible jobs. The closing act, cutting between the frantic efforts to perfect an anti-Godzilla weapon and desperate politicking to stop a nuclear weapon again being fired at Japan, really brings this to the fore.

The film also expertly ties itself to modern Japanese culture. Where the original was clearly influenced by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks in World War II, this film draws from closer to the present. The 2011 earthquake and the Fukushima disaster are both clear influences on the movie. The contrast between the bureaucratic senior politicians and Rando’s hard-charging team of misfits is also a contrast between the response that natural disasters all too often have and the responses we want. But even then the film picks no easy targets. There are moments of heroism and self-awareness among the older generation too, and the ending, for Rando and Godzilla, is pleasingly morally ambiguous – again, giving the film far more weight than you’d expect.

Godzilla may be the perfect organism. This may be the perfect Godzilla movie to date. Epic in scale and ambition, it’s an intensely confident, gripping and often beautifully shot monster movie with multiple messages. Listen to them all.

Release: 4 December 2017
From: Manga Entertainment
Format: DVD & Blu-ray
Price (RRP): £17.99 (DVD), £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Age Rating: 12

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