“Shin Gojira” Movie Review

godzillaAfter 12 long years, another Godzilla film is finally roaring back into theaters this week! Shin Gojira, or Godzilla Resurgence, as it’s being called in the states, is the 31st film in the Godzilla franchise produced by Toho, and the first Japanese made Godzilla film since 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.

Die hard G-fans will be delighted to see that the Japanese haven’t lost an ounce of their touch in making these films especially after a decade plus absence at the cinemas, and have even more tricks up their sleeves this time around.

To begin Sin-Gojira is definitely a product of modern times and Japanese sensibilities; gone are the outlandish and fantastical storylines of previous entries in the series. Instead, the film returns to the dark lifelike portrayals seen in the original film, which is especially resonant in a wary post-Fukushima Japan. Amongst the portrayals of chaos and destruction, some scenes look like they could have easily been lifted from news footage following the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown of 2011.

Aside from its dark shift in tone and strict adherence to gritty realism the film is also unique in the respect that it’s actually the first true Godzilla reboot. While other films in the past have been direct sequels used as a stepping stone to the original to relaunch the series, this film truly is its own origin story; taking place in a world where prior to this film Godzilla does not exist and is a brand new unpredictable, alien threat to Japan and the rest of the world.

The film also returns to its roots and makes Godzilla the sole central focus of the movie with no other monsters or antagonist to fight. Much like the original, Godzilla is treated once again similarly to a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami or any other naturally occurring disaster. In Shin-Gojira, he truly is a terrifying force of nature, made more lethal than ever, aided by the wrongdoings of man that is almost impervious to human intervention whatsoever and mankind is helpless to deter.

Godzilla himself also gets a few new updates, new powers, new biology, a slightly tweaked origin story and perhaps the most intimating Godzilla creature design yet to be portrayed on screen. Amongst other additions Godzilla is given a new origin featuring a hyper accelerated evolution process, far more lethal and devastating atomic breath, guided lasers that shoot from his spines, early detection radar senses and other new abilities all which make him more lethal and unpredictable than ever before in the past! He truly is once again a cruel, frightening, unforgiving force of nature be to reckoned with and the filmmakers do an excellent job at conveying the sense of panicked urgency and the dread that the character’s experience: battling the clock and racing against time in a desperate attempt to stop the monster and save the rest of the world.

While the film is very dialogue heavy it never comes off too slow or as if the film is trying to kill time. Every scene is meticulously planned, mapping out every process of the disaster from start to finish as the human characters desperately attempt to find solutions. The movie actually feels like what would probably happen and take place if Godzilla really were to attack Japan today. Bureaucratic red tape, inept political leadership and bi-national geopolitical discourse are featured prominently throughout the film. As far as realism is concerned, this entry in the series is the reigning champion and without a doubt an unabashed politically charged social commentary of modern Japanese politics.

While the film is brilliantly shot, acted and executed, I will concede that this offering will probably be best appreciated by long-time fans of the Godzilla series. Newcomers to the franchise may be in for a surprise if they are expecting an offering similar to the Legendary Pictures Godzilla release from 2014 which is panders more and is geared closer to Hollywood trends and sensibilities.

The movie is not dubbed and contains a lot of subtitles even for an overseas film. Since the movie deals heavily with the Japanese government and bureaucracy every couple scenes, it seems a new government official or agency is being introduced (their name and/or position in Japanese). However, the way the movie is shot, with quick scenes and swift dialogue, coupled with even more English subtitles superimposed over the Japanese ones, it can all be a bit overwhelming for the casual viewer trying to keep pace with the story. Perhaps an English dub of the film may materialize once the film is released to home video, however if one wants to get the get the true depth and emotion that the actors portray on screen, I highly recommend viewing the original Japanese cut first.

All of this aside Shin-Gojira is a beautifully shot, acted and executed film. The film makers remain true to the character and original source material, while also taking new, daring liberties that ultimately pay off in the end. It is an excellent addition to the series and a fresh start to a new era of Japanese Godzilla films. Long-time fans and newcomers alike should waste no time and see this monster of a film which is truly best appreciated on the big screen. Go out and see it today!

Shin-Gorjira is playing nationwide in select theaters for a one-week limited release in U.S. and Canada October 11–18 on 440 screens, in Japanese with English subtitles.

Photo Courtesy: IGN

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