Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable
Friends of mine who are devotees of Godzilla have informed me that Godzilla is a genre unto himself. There is not American equivalent to what Godzilla represents and what he represents. And I freely admit that I don't get it. I am not inculcated into the cult of Godzilla. When I watch a Godzilla film, I am a true outsider to this subculture.
Having said that, my point of view has value. Movies need to stand on their own and communicate themselves to people even outside of their prospective fans. While Star Wars fans may have deeper insight and perspective of the franchise, the non-fan should be able to bring their point of view to the table. If defenders of the Harry Potter movies need to keep pointing to things in the book in order to advocate for the quality of the films, then something has gone wrong with the film. The movie must communicate as it is on its own terms.
And it is with this perspective that I begin my review of Shin Godzilla.
The story begins in the "found footage" style of an abandoned boat just when a strange phenomenon occurs in the waters below. We then follow a series of political figures from the Prime Minister of Japan all the way down the line. Mostly we follow an idealistic political aide Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) who tries to get the slow and often intransigent bureaucracy working to save the country from the looming threat that they call Godzilla.
For the most part, the movie is a political satire of the all red tape that the nation faces in midst of a crisis. Apparently it is a cynical view of the inefficiency of the government during the Fukushima disaster.
And the idea for the movie is clever. The ideas they are playing around with are very interesting. And Rando is a fascinating character.
The problem is the execution.
First of all, the cutting together of the found footage style is incredibly disjointed. The filmmakers don't commit to this style, but that is probably for the best.
Second, the creature design is rather absurd. Throughout the film Godzilla evolves. But until he reaches his final form, the look of the creature borders on silly to disgusting. I did enjoy the fact that they went back to the traditional man in the suit style Godzilla. And the destruction of Tokyo was the most realistic they have done.
Third, the movie is ultimately rather boring. There is not nearly as much Godzilla in it as I would like. This also happened to be my problem with the most recent American Godzilla remake.
Fourth, there was a strong anti-American sentiment throughout the film. Given the historical context and references presented, this isn't necessarily a gigantic problem except that I found it constantly distracting to have my home country specifically called out constantly.
Finally, the movie feels like it wastes good characters. A lot of the motley crew that Rando pulls together have incredibly interesting moments. You can't help but feeling a much more interesting film was lurking behind the surface. Perhaps if the filmmakers did not go so heavy on the political satire, they could have concentrated on telling a more coherent, character-driven story.
Fans of the Godzilla franchise may see something different. But for me, I saw what you usually see in Tokyo after an encounter with Godzilla: a bit of a mess.
1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars