Shin Gojira / Godzilla Resurgence 2016 Review / First Impressions

Shin Gojira / Godzilla Resurgence 2016 Review / First Impressions

To preface, I should explain that I consider this more of a first impression than an actual review as the Japanese in the film was far above my level. Whilst I can understand interpersonal conversations, it is no exaggeration to note that every line of dialogue spoken in Shin Godzilla takes place in a boardroom context and as such I can’t render a full verdict.

As you can probably tell already, Shin Godzilla is a very talky film and scraps the personal element present in most of the older entries. The film is exactly as the tagline states: ニッポン対ゴジラ Japan vs. Godzilla, and does away with character relationships more so than Gareth Edward’s film did. And yet, if you have been paying attention to the trailers and posters released, this Godzilla contrary to flame wars raging on various kaiju forums, is exactly the film that was advertised. Godzilla washes up on shore, wrecks Japan, and in an intentional echoing of the Fukushima disaster, follows various departments of the government as they attempt to contain the disaster. Japan as a country is the protagonist, not lead actor Hiroki Hasegawa.

Expect a menacing Godzilla and many, many boardroom meetings that focus on hundreds of characters that, Hiroki Hasegawa aside, appear for 5 minutes at most. One of my biggest worries for the film given the marketing’s boast of how many famous faces would appear was that it would turn in to a vapid who’s who of Japanese cinema; and whilst there certainly are many more characters than you could possibly care for, caring for any of the characters is never the film’s goal. Instead it rushes from scene to scene with captions to fill in the gaps akin to Kinji Fukusaku’s Battles Without Honor or Humanity series (and as my girlfriend who I watched the film informed me, very Evangelion).

So with the film treating Godzilla as a natural disaster that can only be dealt with in an equally real world fashion, does the film get boring? It’s hard for me to deliver a verdict on how well written the film is due to the business level of Japanese in the film being so high, but what I can say is that Hideaki Anno knows how to direct a movie. Stylistic direction and cinematography has never been one of the Goji series high points, yet here Anno delivers a film that is always moving, inventively framed and charges on with the stylistic force of Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions. Not since the pop art masterpiece of Monster Zero have we seen a Godzilla film this creatively shot. Anno’s take is stylistically detached in a way that will split fans. I was very impressed Anno’s direction, yet I can see many wishing for a warmer, more personable movie. I consider Higuchi’s Attack on Titan to be one of the very worst films of the past decade, and feared Shin Godzilla would be something of an anime-esque over the top mess. Thankfully, this film couldn’t be any more different.

The special effects equally impress, with Higuchi seemingly intentionally harkening back to his work on the Heisei Gamera films, with some shots mirroring Revenge of Iris in particular. There are a few close ups where Godzilla definitely looks a grade or two lower than 2014’s Goji, but for the most part this new film knows how to hide the difference in budget, and over 90 percent of the time, he honestly looks fantastic, as does the destruction. Referring back to the direction, Anno and Higuchi’s choice of angles plays a big part in selling his scale and authenticity in a way that the series hasn’t seen before.

So what about Godzilla himself? If the human element of Godzilla 2016 remains closer to 2014 than I know many fans had hoped for, the big G himself couldn’t be anymore different. This Godzilla is very much who you saw in the trailer; he’s no protector of the earth, instead he’s the nasty force of destruction that we’ve only really seen before in the original film and GMK.

As for the rest? I’m sure I’ll update this review later, but for now I want to leave it completely spoiler free. What I will say however is that it is amusing to read posts from other kaiju fans on forums freaking out over what they ‘think’ Godzilla does in this film. Some of it is completely false, but really most of it is just wildly exaggerated. We’ve seen Godzilla shaken up much more than this in films previous, with not nearly this amount of controversy.

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