Shin Godzilla (2016)
Shin Godzilla (2016)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 2 hrs.

Release Date: October 11th, 2016 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi Actors: Hiroki Hasegawa, Satomi Ishihara, Yutaka Takenouchi, Ren Osugi, Akira Emoto, Kengo Kora

 


 

I

n Tokyo Bay, off the coast of Yokohama, a recreational craft is discovered adrift. Coast Guard members climb aboard to investigate, making use of found-footage imagery, which becomes the first of many sequences that mimic a now trite form of horror-movie presentation (which crop up routinely throughout). Suddenly, disaster strikes, as steam erupts from the waters and the Aqua-Line tunnel springs a leak. Could it be an undersea volcanic eruption, thermal vents, or a big whale? As it turns out, it’s a monster.

Curiously, the following events attempt an uncommon level of realism by charting the unidentified creature’s presence through the assemblage of ministry meetings, media reports, talks of disaster relief efforts, briefings on structural damages, debates on ways to reassure the public, and all sorts of press conferences and council gatherings, frantically reviewing laws and other texts to determine legal avenues for contending with the monstrosity. At one point, biologists and environmentalists are consulted. As scenes rapidly cut from one official room to the next, it’s almost like a documentary about democratic functions and bureaucratic interferences. “So much red tape!”

Essentially, this is a Godzilla film shown from the viewpoint of commerce and government responses. Military actions are initially minimal; instead, wordy discussions about money take center stage, though conversations about scientific possibilities and analytical data, such as the behemoth’s metabolism and energy source, are also included. Virtually every undertaking is examined from the perspective of elected officials’ decision-making processes – from the construction of cabinet bills to interagency predicaments to humanitarian aid to the meddling of foreign superpowers (here, a badmouthed United States, self-serving and disingenuous). Talking heads abound; characters spew dialogue continuously, leaving little opportunity for the oversized juggernaut to tromp around the country. Even background small talk involves commentary on legislative wheeling and dealing. It’s all so analytical and procedural (perhaps satirical, too) that it oftentimes feels as if watching a day in the life of politicians rather than a monster movie (or, in a way, like the instructional intentions of “Contagion” and “The Big Short,” wrapped up in the cinematic values of thrills and comedy, respectively). Even the deployment of tanks and helicopters, which engage in an explosive campaign, seem mundane and devoid of suspense. “Protecting a country isn’t cheap.”

Eventually, the titanic amphibian/reptilian resurfaces, mutating into larger forms and wreaking greater havoc. But the CG is largely unconvincing, while several shots of Godzilla himself look like a stiff puppet. Sequences of his annihilation of cityscapes also tend to appear too clearly like miniatures, almost as if purposely mimicking the dated yet endearingly cheesy look of Harryhausen’s works; the contrast between believable negotiations amongst statespersons and the near comical nature of Godzilla and his rampage is too extreme (the music tracks, some of which are throwbacks to older films, are similarly unfitting).

Despite a decent budget, it’s difficult to take this terrorizing force with any sincerity. Even the sizable cast, representing so many departments and divisions, poses nominal individuality – and a dearth of sympathetic heroes. They’re all interchangeable, uninspired, generic managers and executives, save for Kayoco Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara), a conspicuously attractive liaison.

Shortly after his introduction, it’s evident that Godzilla basically serves as a governmental crisis that must be addressed with haste, diplomacy, strategy, luck, brainstorming sessions by top brains, and international coalitions. The radioactive beast serves almost literally as a condemnation and escalation of the invention and use of nuclear weapons (as well as the fallout, such as stock market declines, future funding for reconstruction, and the reputation of Japan), while battling him is a playbook for how forms of government and economic systems operate during – and in the wake of – a major catastrophe (such as the more recent, relevant Fukushima disaster and earthquake/tsunami episodes). Unfortunately, though a notable experiment in furthering the legacy of this famous movie monster, it’s very far from solid entertainment. “What a waste of time that was.”

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10