The first part of this review contains mostly common information about the film along with a brief SPOILER-FREE synopsis, my opinions and a couple new images. If you don't want any spoilers, there is a big SPOILER WARNING below my initial review. You were warned :)
I just returned home from watching Shin-Gojira (Godzilla Resurgence) at my local cinema here in Tokyo. My wife and kids joined me, although I was a bit hesitant to bring my kids at first due to the fact that the trailers for the film looked fairly dark and knowing the writer/director Hideaki Anno's previous work on not-so-child-friendly projects like Neon Genesis Evangelion and his previous collaborative effort with co-director Shinji Higuchi on the terrifying short film Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo. But my kids absolutely love Godzilla, especially my 4 year old son Lyoto, so I had no choice... right?
Unfortunately, maybe I should have waited a few years before showing him the film...
Shin-Gojira definitely proved to be a film not made for young children. The majority of the movie focuses on various members of the Japanese government as they struggle to grasp and deal with the impending threat of Godzilla. Most scenes take place in government offices with the Prime Minister of Japan present while dozens of government and disaster management officials rattle off information and suggestions. Several scientists are also brought in to give more insight on the creature. Each scene is filled with an exhausting amount of political, scientific and technical dialogue that even my Japanese wife couldn't follow entirely, definitely a bore-fest for most children. However, most of the actors were extremely engaging and delivered very honest performances all around. There was one Japanese female character who spoke English in many of her scenes, but her lengthy lines were nearly unintelligible at times and a bit annoying. The director should have given her less English parts and focused on her delivery of them. Other than that, I think all of the actors did a tremendous job.
Now for the meat and potatoes. Godzilla himself.
A lot of people have criticized Godzilla's new look in this film after seeing the trailers, mainly his undersized skeleton-like arms, but I have really enjoyed this re-design from the get go. Godzilla looks as haunting as ever and being so damned tall, the tallest that Godzilla has ever appeared on screen, there really isn't much within arms length at that height for him to grab onto anyway. Actually, there is a damned good reason for his arms to be so short, but I will save that for the spoilers below the end of this review.
Also, let me make it clear that Godzilla is the villain of this film. He simply does not give a damn about the human population, well at least until humans start trying to take him down.
My favorite part of the entire movie was Godzilla's rampage from Kamakura beach into central Tokyo, the first part of which was featured heavily in the trailers. Eventually the sequence moves into sometime after sundown and that's when some of the most badass stuff I've ever witnessed in a Godzilla movie occurs. Again, as much as I want to talk about it in detail, you'll have to scroll down below this review to my spoilers section, complete with new images from the film, if you want to find out. I will say that the sequence is beautifully shot and contains some truly awesome special effects.
Speaking of the special effects, I was surprised to learn that a large majority of the shots of Godzilla in this film were purely digital or at least heavily enhanced, utilizing motion capture techniques over the traditional man-in-suit style. I am aware that several practical effects were used, but after watching a very short making-of segment on television a couple nights ago and then seeing the entire film, it is very clear that Shinji Higuchi, the special effects director, decided to go 90% digital when it came to most shots containing Godzilla. The vast majority of these digital shots look amazing, especially by Japanese film standards (which are more than often sub-par), in both harsh daylight and during the night sequence. There were a few digital shots that looked awkward or incomplete, but when compared to the digital sequences from the Godzilla films released between 1999-2004, even the off-looking CG shots looked somewhat better. They could have been improved, but I'm assuming time and budget got in the way of perfecting those particular shots.
Overall, this is an awesome Godzilla film. It's mood and story recall Godzilla's origin while injecting a lot of the national tension in Japan during the Fukushima disaster. Nothing will ever replace the original 1954 classic, but Shin-Gojira manages to pull a lot of new and interesting ideas into one of the longest, if not the longest, running movie franchises of all time, making it fresh again for old fans and new. It's a wonderful return to form but at the same time something very different that will most likely divide opinions among fans. Director Hideaki Anno definitely brought a lot of his trademark Evangelion visual style and audio cues into the film which should excite fans of his previous work.
Shin-Gojira will be making it's international theatrical debut later this year under the title, Godzilla Resurgence and Shin-Godzilla in the USA. So if you live near a cinema that will be screening it, I strongly recommend checking it out on the biggest screen possible.
Also, check out the extremely wicked translucent red with gold glitter theater exclusive Shin-Gojira sofubi toy I grabbed today after the movie was over. Hot as sh*t!
[ SPOILERS & NEW IMAGES BELOW ]
#1) Godzilla starts the film as a giant armless eel-like creature that eventually stands upright and grows arms...
|Godzilla's 1st form, writhing armless onto the streets from Tokyo Bay.|
|Godzilla's 2nd form, standing erect with very tiny arms (not pictured), giant eyes and shorter than his final form.|
#2) Godzilla has new special powers...
|Godzilla can breath two variations of his atomic breath, one looks like fire, the other is like an ultraviolet ray. |
Also if you look closely at his lower jaw, it actually separates when using those attacks.
|Not only can Godzilla breath ultraviolet rays from his mouth, he can also shoot them out of his tail...|
|... and his back...|
... I could also spoil the ending, but I hate when people do that - so piss off :)
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