DKN Commentary: Gorath
Episode 103: Destroy All Monsters

“Shin Godzilla” Official Review

by KentJuly 29, 2017

I wrote about my initial thoughts on Shin Godzilla within 36 hours after watching the singular viewing of it within my area back in October.

My initial reaction to the film was one of tremendous disappointment, but I could appreciate certain elements of the film (such as the effects). But I still believed I needed to see the movie, at least, one more time before completely making those sentiments official.

Well, after viewing the movie for a second time, I have concluded that just about everything I wrote about Shin Godzilla back in October is still valid, but with one small exception: The U.S. release of Shin Godzilla includes an English dub track for the movie and I found that to be an incredible relief considering the movie, with it’s subtitles and the titles of the individual heads of the Japanese government appearing throughout the movie, I found it incredibly difficult to get everything I needed to have a complete experience with the movie. That dub track, I’m pleased to say, has made my second viewing experience a significant improvement and made it easier to follow the movie as a whole.

But with all of that said, I still have a tremendous time accepting this as a Godzilla movie.

Let me put into bullet points the issues I have with the movie as, if I were to go into detail about the points, I believe I could turn this review into an incredibly long post:

  • None of the characters are likable.
  • The characters are also one-dimensional.
  • Godzilla’s metamorphoses add nothing to the character.
  • The use of classic Ifukube music and sound-effects doesn’t work within the film proper and, I believe, is nothing but an attempt to pander to long-time Godzilla fans.
  • Godzilla has no motivation or personality.
  • The way to defeat Godzilla is brought up within the first hour of the movie and, yet, the movie is padded with material that really adds nothing of importance to the film.
  • Godzilla is brought to the ground way too easily and defeated just as easily.
  • The structure of the movie is not good.
  • Godzilla’s brief hibernation is a cheap way of allowing the government to produce the solution that will ultimately defeat Godzilla.
  • Godzilla’s lower jaw splitting open, along with the laser dorsal plates and the tail able to shoot a laser, are visually impressive but don’t work for the Godzilla character.
  • Most of Godzilla’s movements are unnatural/disjointed.
  • Godzilla is nothing but a pawn used to tell a story that is not a Godzilla story.

That last point I want to put a little more emphasis on for a moment…

Higuchi and Anno, the directors of the movie, wanted to make a semi-satirical, yet critical, movie about the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima disaster. On the level of making it a movie depicting the absurdity of the bureaucracy within the government, and it’s sometimes tenuous relationship with the U.S., the movie succeeds.

But as a Godzilla movie, it’s terrible.

Godzilla is nothing but a step-in for the Fukushima disaster and it shows. As stated in my bullet points, Godzilla has no motivation and no personality; a first for this franchise. Godzilla has always been treated as a character within his movies. But that is not the case here. It is clear, to me, that Anno and Higuchi really didn’t want to necessarily tell a Godzilla story. If that was the case, I would’ve preferred that they had substituted Godzilla with, either, a completely new kaiju or used some sort of natural disaster to illustrate their points.

The movie would’ve also been a little bit better served had it been shorter. The movie runs around two hours and much of that runtime is devoted to hammering over the audiences head about the ridiculousness of too much bureaucracy and how career politicians help make some of those matter worse–especially in times of crisis.

However, a shorter runtime, while help with some of the pacing and structure of the story, I don’t believe could’ve helped this movie enough. Really, the script needed to be overhauled.

To try and liven things up a bit, there were some things I did enjoy about the movie…

I do like Godzilla’s design, minus the end of his tail. It’s a design very reminiscent of what Honda, Tanaka, and Tsuburaya were wanting to do with Godzilla in the original Gojira.

Godzilla’s use of his fiery breath, then the laser (something else I didn’t care for) was impressive. In fact, the whole movie is beautiful to look at. This was the first time Toho didn’t use suitimation for a Godzilla movie and the effects are amazing! Yes, in some brief moments the effects take a small step back, but I didn’t find them detracting from the better effects sequences.

To wrap things up, Shin Godzilla is not a Godzilla movie. It’s a commentary on the Japanese government’s terrible response to Fukushima with Godzilla used as a stand-in. As a result, the Godzilla character is soulless. There is little suspense within the film and the characters aren’t developed. If the movie didn’t use Godzilla, I might be able to recommend the movie. But as a movie that was sold as a Godzilla movie, I can’t recommend it, because it’s a terrible Godzilla movie. The worst in the franchise, I believe.

And that is incredibly disappointing.

Kent is a lifelong fan of Godzilla, daikaiju, and other weird creatures. His love of Godzilla was initially stemmed from his love of dinosaurs. Kent thoroughly enjoys helping to put together the DKN podcasts to share his love of this genre. In his spare time, Kent enjoys spending time with his wife, drawing, writing, reading (he's also a huge comics fan), and watching sporting events.
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