Principal Cast : Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara, Kengo Kora, Ren Osugi, Akira Emoto, Kimiko Yo, Jun Kunimura, Mikako Ichikawa, Pierre Taki, Takumi Saito.
Synopsis: Japan is plunged into chaos upon the appearance of a giant monster.
I had high hopes for Shin Godzilla. It came with plenty of buzz, high recommendations from the online film community and a rip-roaring trailer that made it look like a bonkers, bananas destructo-fest, and who among us doesn’t love them? Well, Shin Godzilla is enormously disappointing, with a leaden, ineffective screenplay diminishing the efforts of the cast and workhorse visual effects department so significantly it would be an understatement to suggest this film deserves a negative score. The opening twenty minutes of the film come with barely a glimpse of the titular monster, spending instead the whole time in a series of increasingly befuddling, banal and annoying ministerial meetings as the Japanese authorities attempt to grapple with a strange creature’s destruction visited upon the denizens of suburban Tokyo.
Shin Godzilla is the first in Japanese film studio Toho’s latest reboot of the kaiju franchise – a franchise entirely unlinked to the big-budget Hollywood endeavours that have also included Kong – and while at the time of writing Godzilla Minus One has just usurped Shin Godzilla as the most successful Japanese-produced Godzilla film, I’m left in little doubt that the charm and lower-budget nature of this film might play well to local audiences, to the wider Western viewership this will leave a lot to be desired. Shin Godzilla sees a nascent mutant-form Godzilla breach the shoreline of Japan’s Tokyo Bay, scuttle through the city causing destruction and chaos in its wake, before expending all its radioactive energy and freezing for days, weeks, months at a time. Meanwhile, a collection of governmental adjuncts, in particular Hiroki Hasegawa’s intelligent but overlooked Rando, and the beautiful Satomi Ishihara as the world’s weirdest US Government attache, try to negotiate the UN response to Godzilla’s emergence before the world decides to drop a nuke on top of Tokyo. At this point, the film all but stops for a brief callback to the Hiroshima bombing, something Japanese audiences likely still react to but for almost everyone else seems a touch on-the-nose for a modern monster movie like this. The fact that Godzilla’s origins are rooted in Japans’ fear of nuclear holocaust has become lost over time, but Shin Godzilla attempts (poorly) to redirect this aspect of the franchise, to its credit.
The film is simply a series of Men In Conference Room sequences that tell, rather than show, the viewer what’s going on. The lack of on-screen Godzilla until it’s far too late is a critical issue for the film’s modern take, and the few dozen decent effects directors Shinji Higuchi and Hideako Anno throw at the screen, while excellent in most respects, lack the impact of the American big-money spends of the last decade or so. Replacing destruction with character development is a solid idea, in theory, it’s just that here the execution is so glacial and goofy, the film lost me entirely. None of the characters were particularly interesting to me, the complexity of Japanese political manoeuvring went over my head, and the hilarious fact that Godzilla just stops mid-stride, rooted to the spot, like some giant frozen hairless mammoth from the Ice Age, after he blasts out his laser breath, is too incongruous to make much sense. And if you thought the filmmakers would at least try to make it all a bit of fun, I’m here to report that they attempted to do just that. But the bananas pacing, onslaught of secondary and tertiary characters to try and work out who’s who, and tell-don’t-show exposition all falls horribly flat. Even the unsubtle jabs at America’s foreign policy decisions can’t rustle up much interest.
Shin Godzilla was, for me at least, a massive disappointment. Bonkers sci-fi ideas and some really nice visual effects sequences (as well as some really poor ones, it must be said) can’t elevate this talky, nonsensical Godzilla entry one iota. Painfully slow despite moving at a jaunty pace, the enormously dull scenes of people all in rooms talking to each other about Godzilla upend the potential for this to be at least a shambolic but defiantly exciting mid-budget affair. It isn’t: Shin Godzilla is boring, lacking in thrills, and entirely un-entertaining. Skip it.