Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s SHIN GODZILLA
A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
SHIN GODZILLA is not your father’s Godzilla movie.
When I first saw the glittering Toho logo at the beginning of this 2016 movie I was momentarily thrilled and transported back to my childhood and my love of crazy Japanese sci-fi movies like Ishirō Honda's THE MYSTERIANS that I saw at my dad’s movie theater.
But Shin Godzilla is not my father’s -- or your father’s—Godzilla movie. Instead, it’s a deadly serious and downright frightening modern-day horror/disaster movie which at times extends into political and bureaucratic satire.
The story itself is straightforward: monster emerges from water, monster stomps Tokyo, and an international alliance resists.
Much death and destruction result as Godzilla morphs and displays deadly new powers of destruction. What makes this a movie to be taken seriously is the focus on the Japanese governments ponderous and not always successful decision-making process. Many initial meetings occur where actions are discussed and hashed over relentlessly. These interminable meetings are dominated by men dressed in suits. Very few women—with some key exceptions—are involved at these levels.
But progress finally is made and plans developed for the Japanese to lead an international response with U.S., French, and U.N. support. The complex multilevel response involves drones, bullet trains and railcars filled with explosives, and biological agents.
The incredibly violent battle scenes do not disappoint as Godzilla is attacked. Massive urban destruction results as Godzilla’s awful heat rays wipe American B-2 bombers from the sky and effortlessly slice through skyscrapers and office buildings.
It’s impossible to watch this movie without being reminded of the real disasters that Japan has faced in the past including the massive 2011 earthquake (18,000+ dead) and Fukushima incident.
When disasters happen, how do we respond? While Shin Godzilla illustrates initial bureaucratic wrangling in the face of massive destruction, we are also seeing an illustration of the perils of disaster response by a country that is fiercely independent and realizes it can’t go it alone.
Shin Godzilla ends up being an argument for international coordination for planning how we all respond to natural -- and unnatural — disasters. That’s a message that many people and governments around the world continue to resist.
Movie review copyright © 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald