In Japanese, the word “shin” can be translated as “new” – appropriate, considering Shin Godzilla is technically a soft reboot for Toho’s 50-year franchise – but it can also mean “pure” or “true”. One could argue that the studio is throwing a gauntlet at the feet of Warner Bros.’ ongoing MonsterVerse; declaring that there’s only one real King of the Monsters.
Godzilla was born from post-war Japan’s fear of the atom bomb, and Shin Godzilla similarly bears the hallmarks of the recent past. Scenes of terrified townsfolk running from wreckage and floodwater are taken wholesale from the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami, which itself sparked a modern nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
The film’s satirical opening act is its strongest. Shots of unfolding mayhem and carnage are interspersed with endless meetings and farcical bureaucracy, like a particularly surreal episode of The Thick of It. Unfortunately, things get weaker once humanity starts to fight back. The tone veers wildly between messages of international cooperation (a la Pacific Rim) and slightly uncomfortable nationalism, and without a central protagonist to build them around the dialogue-heavy scenes can start to drag.
Still, when it’s time for Godzilla to do his thing he puts on one hell of a show. His new design (and the way he evolves throughout the film) breathes new life into the character, and there’s something wonderful about seeing millions of dollars spent on creating a monster that still looks like a guy in a cheesy rubber suit.
Shin Godzilla is an odd duck of a film; one that Western audiences may have a hard time connecting with. The human characters fall flat, and the undeniably dodgy special effects will put many off, but it’s an entertaining slice of B-movie nonsense that recalls the earliest days of the iconic franchise.
CAST: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara
DIRECTORS: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
WRITER: Hideaki Anno
SYNOPSIS: Japan is plunged into chaos by the appearance of a giant monster…