More noise than signal

Shin Godzilla

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

This, of course, being the follow-up to the highly successful Thigh Godzilla.

Following on from on the surprising commercial and critical success of Gareth Edward’s boring Godzilla reboot from a few years back, Toho, Japanese originators of the films from back in the rubber suit era, presumably decided the time is ripe for their own reboot of the franchise, dormant in its home nation since 2004’s now-incorrectly named Godzilla: Final Wars.

This very much goes back to the roots of the story, with the baffled leaders of Japan scrambling for a plan on how to deal with this huge dino-beast that’s come up from the depths of the sea and started wandering around Tokyo, flattening buildings willy nilly. Young firebrand Rando Yaguchi is tasked with assembling a team to work out a measured response after Godzilla’s first incursion, while the rest of the government and military concentrate on the more traditional “evacuate and bombard” plans, because as it’s a reboot, they do not have the rich history of this not working in the slightest to draw from.

After a brief reprieve, Godzilla returns and it’s revealed that it’s giving off a radioactive signature, and can mutate at will thanks to its nuclear waste dump-based origins. Conventional weaponry, of course, does not work in the slightest, bouncing off our skyscraping reptilian friend, thus, it’s up to Yaguchi’s team to stop Godzilla before the U.N. goes ahead with it’s backup plan, Operation Nuke Tokyo.

In time past I’ve idly wondered what the prefix “Shin” meant in Japanese, so it’s nice to find out it means “Bureaucratic Red Tape Meetings Hampering Response To”. Godzilla may be the poster star, but the great bulk of the film is based around a team of scientists theorising about the nature of the beast, and teams of generally reasonable, surprisingly enough, politicians trying to facilitate a response within the bounds of a law framework not entirely set up to deal with Kaiju.

These last points give us a window to say that this film is therefore a response to the Fukushima meltdown in the same way as the original was a response to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, in as much as a giant stompy laser monster can be described as a response to anything. Let’s not pretend this is a work of great social commentary, eh?

No, it’s a monster movie, and so how good is the monster? Eh. Well, it gets better, I should say. Godzilla’s first form. a googly-eyed, floppy mess is downright laughable, but once it “evolves” into the classic Godzilla form it’s a big more acceptable. It’s still beholden to the past, though, giving us a CG creation that looks and moves a great deal like a bloke in suit, which on paper seems like the worst of both worlds.

And in practice,I suppose it is, but it’s still somehow charming? I’m not altogether sure I can defend it on any rational level, but I guess there’s enough goodwill left over from the classic early Toho Godzilla films to nostalgia over the cracks in this reboot? That’s despite it often coming across like a Megashark film that takes itself very seriously.

However, I’m not exactly sure who the audience is for this. Fans of the earlier Toho series, before it succumbed to excess, will no-doubt welcome this, and there’s more schlock fun to be had here than in Gareth Edwards’ film, but if you’re new to the main Japanese wing of the franchise, it may well be a bit too… trite, maybe? to land with an audience.

Question Mark out of Five.