Shin Godzilla movie full length review - Godzilla Post-3.11 Earthquake & Fukushima Disaster
This is a movie for the Japanese, by the Japanese, of the Japanese. And Godzilla is originally a Japanese franchise, a mass entertainment movie but made in defiant protest to nuclear weapons, or generally technologies which mankind cannot control.
The new Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla Resurgence, is a movie which follows the original spirit, but with events taking place in contemporary Japan after the 3.11 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and subsequent Fukushima Daiichi NPP incident. Live broadcasting of natural and nuclear disaster, smartphones and social media, extensive bureaucracy incompetent to handle extreme situations, discourse about the adaptability of law and constitutional order to external threats, military alliances with US and US's assertiveness towards Japan, all play part in this film.
It attempts a quite realistic portrayal of the Japanese bureaucracy at work albeit with much caricature and simplification. What was seen as a reality or how it should have been handled to contain the damage is realistically portrayed in the film- which might not quite strike a chord with overseas viewers who are not so interested in the current state of affairs in Japan. However, this "too much talking" by politicians and bureaucrats criticized elsewhere is the very core of the film; it is a strong anti-thesis of a Hollywood-style movie with a superhero with a cute girl in danger saving the world and detonating a nuclear bomb all so casually. Shin-Godzilla does not have such superheroes but average people of different backgrounds working as teams; there is no romance involved at all; and the threat of nuclear attack on the city is averted (although Godzilla is nuclear-fed and bursts out nuclear laser beams and destroys half of Tokyo and most of the Japanese government). All conventional weapons of the Japanese Self-Defense Force as well as US are tested but to Godzilla they're just annoying itches; I bet even a nuclear bomb won't work for the beast as this Godzilla have probably been consuming nuclear waste as a tea snack.
This Godzilla is a really devastatingly fearsome beast which made me almost shouting Nooooooooo! at the theater. This is not some kind human-loving monster who fights another monster for the sake of humans. It's not even simply evil. It's just simply unsympathetic to humans like earthquakes, tsunamis, or radiation-spills.
In short, if you like disaster and panic movies, more than you like action packed comic hero movies, then you will enjoy this movie; perhaps more so if you like Director Anno's animation works like the Evangelion series, or his earlier undertakings in The Wings of Honnêamise or Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and understand the references and similarities. Fans of past Godzilla movies might be either delighted to find subtle homages or perhaps disgusted as how it partly departs from the conventional formula of Godzilla movies.
There are obvious flaws in this film. Sometimes, the line between natural realistic portrayal of the Japanese reacting in extreme disaster situations and just pure bad acting is blurred. And the main actress, Satomi Ishihara, is good at acting as daikon radish is, as we say. But Godzilla films were never about good acting.
I really enjoyed watching this one at a local theater in Tokyo on the premier day. It is a very timely, originally-crafted, a bit thought- provoking, visually satisfying, and overall an entertaining film from a Japanese point of view.