Wednesday, October 12, 2016
SHIN GODZILLA (2016) MOVIE REVIEW
Shin Godzilla (2016) d. Hideaki Anno (Japan)
As a longtime G-fan, this was a difficult one to clock. From the outset, there is much to admire, with echoes of the 1954 original reverberating loud and long throughout both in tone and plot. Then, following an electrifying mid-film attack sequence that leaves jaws agape and minds blown, the entire film deflates, descending into a boggy series of human contemplations and conversations. (Similar to the original, only with fewer engaging or empathetic characters.) Certainly, there are potent topics broached within the sci-fi monster-on-the-loose context, topics that deserve our time and attention (nukes, global warming, global politics, and legacies both personal and political). However, I argue, not at the expense of satisfying audience expectations and this audience came to see a Godzilla movie.
It’s an unfortunate bait-and-switch; the opening 30-40 minutes are bursting at the seams with steadily mounting creature action and marvelously rendered disaster sequences, perfectly balanced with amusingly heightened boardroom antics of Japan’s confused and conflicted leaders. Sadly, it all comes to a sludgy crawl halfway through, never to regain its fevered momentum. What starts off thrilling and fiery turns preachy and high-minded, with only viewer goodwill left to carry the day to the closing credits.
Like the 2014 Legendary effort, the Big G is a supporting – and thinly drawn – character in his own movie, and while there are memorable showcase moments, in the end, there just aren’t enough of them. (In the former, there were the two astounding “ending moves” while battling his MUTO challengers. Here, it’s a gasoline-vomiting inferno that culminates in the stunning, if unexplained, revelation of the monster’s iconic atomic breath.)
It also bears commenting that this marks the first time in a Toho production where His Epicness is not realized via a physical man in a physical suit stomping physical miniatures to rubble (motion capture technology was utilized instead). Though the CG is handled capably enough, the monster designs (evolving from amphibian quadruped to bipedal reptile) never quite inspire awe and occasionally evoke unintentional laughter. While I refuse to play the purist card, there is an undeniable charm and wonder lost to the siren call of progress – the Millennium series (1999-2004) married its digital and physical elements nimbly enough, and I had hoped that tradition would continue here.
In short, Shin Godzilla is decidedly mixed bag, one that I would likely only watch again with one finger firmly riding the “chapter select” button.