2016 brought us the second in a new era of Godzilla films, Shin Godzilla. Directed by Hideaki Anno, the movie is strikingly mindful, as well as professional - perhaps unexpected, knowing Godzilla's past.
Shin stands as an indirect follow-up to 2014's Godzilla, which rebooted the series with a large-scale Hollywood flair. Godzilla focused heavily on action and the marvel of the beasts themselves, packed full of more 'modern' concepts and audience-pleasing popcorn moments (the kiss of death, anyone?).
True to name ("Shin" translating to true, or new), Shin Godzilla prides itself in a totally alternate approach; unpolishing Godzilla from a high-budget spectacle of a creature, to the horror he encapsulates as a concept.
Shin is a thinly-veiled remake of the original Godzilla film, Gojira. Antiquated story elements such as the Serizawa love triangle are dropped, as the focus is almost entirely shined upon the political tensions Gojira occasionally nodded to in a select few scenes. A standout in the 32 film long series, Shin is perhaps the most "real" a Godzilla film has managed to feel; and yet, conversely, makes no attempt to simplify the subject matter.
A key element of the film is that, despite it's grounded setting of a 2010-era world, there is no restraint in the beast's depiction, nor is he downplayed to feel perhaps more 'accessible' to the sound-minded audiences of today. He isn't vaguely heroic, nor likeable; he is a monster. He's altogether implausible. He's distorted beyond belief. He is 'false' - capable of abilities laughable when applied to his animal kingdom equivalents - and rightly so.
The focus of the movie itself is that Godzilla symbolises the inescapably overpowering force of a disaster; a tsunami, an earthquake. He is able to transcend expectations, able to repeatedly and unpredictably 'fight back'; a living, breathing hell, and a titan stood next to humanity.
The story itself is hard to divulge without instead discussing the impact of the tale itself, as the film is dripping with applicability. The style of storytelling is very unique, following an almost real-time structure. Through repetition as well as a sort of wry parodic tone, we follow a league of scrambling bureaucratic heads trying their damndest to handle the spiralling anomaly before them - repeatedly growing too wound in their own unnecessary technicalities and formalities to actually make any impact on the events of the disaster whatsoever. Ultimately, Godzilla is only stopped when this mess of policy is quite literally destroyed, leaving only a notably nationalist, young-minded and willing group of "fringe" politicians to cut away the fat of their government and take matters into their own hands.
It's not hard to read into the very socially conscious plot; there are a number of clever directorial choices made to enhance the droning, repetitive sense of professionalism in this government, particularly in the use of snappy dialogue and fast-paced cuts.
Characters aren't exactly a key element of the film, interestingly enough; they really only fill a role in the system Shin criticizes. There's really no reason to give these 'pawns' further depth than their profession - a clever choice, as well as a fairly risky one, writing-wise. We have our handful of leads, but they are no moreso important than the other key players who engage in the various political schemes and plans tossed about. It's an interesting draw away from the character-driven writing that makes up the vast majority of movies today. However, this does lead to some mostly inevitable drags in certain portions. There is constant is there - as, ultimately, everything in the film seems to serve at least an ulterior purpose - but the fact stands.
talk between characters, and though things never grow pointless, things can become a bit grey. I'm not sure I'd remove or simplify what boredom
There are some select moments through the movie that feel somehow 'off'; music cues sometimes feel tonally incorrect, or end abruptly, some actors feel perhaps too pretty for their role, so on. These issues certainly are not majorly impactful, though they do exist.
On a different note, the effects of the movie are surprisingly good; although a bit glossy on Godzilla's earlier forms, and perhaps jittery concerning the more fast movements made here and there, the monster generally looks very convincing - especially for a fully CG model. Many scenes in the grand finale look stunningly real, as though puppets and models were used. Though certainly not quite beating Godzilla (2014)'s stunning sequences, Shin does come close - especially with the ultimate destruction sequence, which I consider one of if not the best attack scene in Godzilla's long history. On the note of Godzilla himself, the fanservice in the form of visual references to Gojira, as well as the return of classic SFX and music was very pleasing.
Shin Godzilla is the "true" Godzilla. It's the closest we've seen to a horrific, impossible cartoon of a monster attacking our world; not in the collateral, psychologically impactful sense, but instead in that it would cause a massive bout of hysteria we cannot foresee. It's an excellent modern-day parallel piece, as well as a clever observance.