Shin Godzilla review: Heavyweight monster mash packs punch

Japan’s iconic giant lizard is back, and badder than ever, in this fast-moving reboot

Ashore thing: Shin Godzilla

Film Title: Shin Godzilla

Director: Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 120 min

Thu, Aug 10, 2017, 08:00

   

Dear Hollywood, this is how you make a melon-farming kaiju movie.

A prime minister reassures the public during an emergency broadcast: “We don’t expect it to come on land. We believe it would be crushed to death under its own weight. I repeat: there is no danger of the creature coming ashore.”

The titular monster is “an ancient species of marine life” that has fed on US-dumped nuclear waste. “That country foists some crazy things on us,” sniffs one Japanese official. It didn’t get the memo. Various officials and experts run through corridors, hold emergency meetings, and discuss rescue options for citizens and (of course) the markets.

 In common with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, this is entirely experiential action cinema. There are no lengthy, unnecessary character introductions. The closest we get to backstory comes deep into the crisis, when the deputy chief cabinet secretary (Hiroki Hasegawa) assembles a team of “lone wolves, nerds, troublemakers, outcasts, academic heretics, and general pains-in-the-bureaucracy”.

 Can this makeshift response unit hold out against the Americans, as represented by a special envoy (Satomi Ishihara), and their demands for a tactical nuclear strike?

Just to add to the panic, the monster continuously evolves, thanks to a combination of CGI, animatronics and miniatures. The tactile results make for a pleasing alternative to recent entirely pixelated US variants.

Atomic anxiety

Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 film Godzilla was rooted in second World War and atomic anxiety. Shin Godzilla – winner of picture of the year and director of the year at the 40th Japanese Academy Awards – takes its cues from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Government officials appear in public wearing the blue jumpsuits that became synonymous with Yukio Edano, Japan’s chief government spokesman during the earthquake-tsunami. Like Edano, the film’s coterie of first responders forgo sleep, food, and (in some cases) hygiene to work around the clock.

Co-directors Hideaki Anno (the Evangelion franchise) and Shinji Higuchi (Attack on Titan), move fast and furiously, with a semi-docu-style that can occasionally resemble found footage. Real-time (ish) briefings allow the audience to keep pace. Shiro Sagisu’s remarkable music remixes his own compositions from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Akira Ifukube’s older Godzilla scores to appropriately chaotic effect.  

Thirty-one films and 63 years later, the monster has seldom looked better. The final shot will haunt your dreams.