Shin Godzilla (Japan 2016)

Rating: **
Review Date: 5/7/17
Cast: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara

"Man is more frightening than Gojira."

After the Japanese fat-shamed the latest Hollywood "Godzilla" movie, this is what they come up with instead? I actually laughed out loud at the monster's first two ridiculous looking forms, and Gojira's final form isn't much better with its awkward looking thunder thighs, tiny and immobile skeletal arms, bristling teeth, and distended jaw. This is yet another reboot of the Godzilla legacy, where a mysterious monster born of radioactive waste stumbles into Tokyo and destroys everything in its path. The Japanese government is too old, slow, and useless to respond, so a young politician named Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) assembles a crack team of nerds, rebels, and outcasts to quickly gather and analyze information on the creature outside of established channels and procedures. When military force fails to stop the beast, Yaguchi's team formulates a substance that might be able to coagulate Gojira's blood and freeze him. Unfortunately, the US government has convinced the United Nations to drop a thermonuclear bomb on Tokyo to exterminate Gojira, and Yaguchi's operation has run out of time.

I was really looking forward to some good old fashioned kaiju action in this film, but it turned out to be sorely disappointing. The monster is really just a metaphor to support a tedious and long-winded political drama about natural disaster protocols. The majority of the film takes place in conference rooms as people argue about scientific theories, collateral damage, emergency aid, legal red tape, bureaucratic interests, the unprecedented ramifications of mobilizing the Japanese Self Defense Force, internal and foreign policy, and the Japanese economy. It is SOOOO tiresome, but maybe that was the director's intention - to point out the absurdity, waste, and futility of modern governments, and the price of running a democratic society. The characters are dull and uninteresting for the most part, which gives the film a more gritty and realistic tone. The one exception is Kayoko (Satomi Ishihara), a stunningly gorgeous and upwardly mobile Japanese-American ambassador whose cartoonish personality is laughably out of place with the rest of the film.

The visual effects are uninteresting and unconvincing, which comes as a surprise in this day and age of big budget CGI wizardry. The cinematography is uninspired and the handheld camera work is annoyingly gratuitous. The melodramatic music score incorporates some of Akira Ifukube's original themes, but is mostly forgettable. Despite all of the heavy handed political satire, the underlying message is about the strength and resolve of the Japanese people to come together in the face of crisis and prevail. It's also about Japan working in cooperation with the international community, even though America isn't depicted in a particularly positive light. So, if political, economical, and ecological drama and satire are your thing, "Shin Godzilla" might be the movie for you. But if you're looking for science fiction, horror, and giant monster action, you'd best look elsewhere.