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Shin Godzilla - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Shin Gojira

Japan 2016

Action, Drama

Hideaki Anno
Shinji Higuchi

Hiroki Hasegawa
Yutaka Takenouchi
Satomi Ishihara
Ren Osugi
Akira Emoto
Kengo Kora

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Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla - Film Screenshot 1

aka Godzilla Resurgence

Story: Mysterious damage to the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line Tunnel causes water to leak into the tunnel, which alarms the government. When the sea then also starts to foam in the bay right next to it, the government wonders if a volcano could be the cause. While people are still asking themselves what is happening, a gigantic creature suddenly emerges from the masses of water. So, the Prime Minister of Japan is consulting with his cabinet on what to do next. Numerous biologists are questioned about the creature's identity, but no one seems to have an answer. When they agree that the creature would unlikely be able to leave the sea, they are immediately proven wrong. The creature goes on shore and stomps everything in its way. While it initially moves on four legs, it eventually mutates and is able walk on two. A crisis team is formed under the leadership of Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa), and the best scientists are supposed to track down the creature's origins and its weaknesses. It soon becomes apparent that the creature is immune to conventional weapons, and the USA steps in promising its support. They send the ambitious Kayako (Satomi Ishihara) as a representative, and she doesn't come empty-handed either as she provides important information. Such as the fact, that the creature is called "Godzilla" and that the mysterious records of a well-known scientist could be the key to success in stopping it.

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Shin Godzilla - Film Screenshot 4

Review: My main points of criticism of most Godzilla movies are the insignificant stories and the flat characters, which don't allow you to get anything out of the movie emotionally. The latter proves to be a big problem here again, because the multitude of characters with which you are confronted, including numerous displays of names and functions of the people within the government, serves no other purpose than to make the movie seem more epic in terms of content and to give more weight to the political decisions. All in all, you will be surprised at how much attention is paid to the debates going on in the background, the many political pitfalls that have to be considered, and the consultations by experts, etc. This means for long stretches of time Godzilla itself is often degraded to a supporting character. However, the various characters all just appear in their respective functions. They simply lack character traits or any kind of personality that would make "Shin Godzilla" less bland. So, anyone expecting a gigantic action spectacle will be disappointed.

Shin Godzilla - Film Screenshot 5

It is already noticeable at the beginning that the movie has a slight documentary-like style. You get the impression that you are rushing into the meeting rooms with the cameraman, consulting experts or helplessly watching the destruction caused by Godzilla. All this is also underlined by a few interesting camera angles. For instance, the camera is pushed through the room on an office chair or unusual angles create the impression that typical cinematic aesthetics were deliberately ignored. This works quite well and gives the movie something refreshing. Above all, the many conversations are also quite interesting at times, and you can't help but acknowledge the fact that the story gets a little more depth this way. The political skirmish, especially with the US, shifts the focus to disaster management and leads to some morally difficult situations that need decisions to be made. But that's exactly where the movie could have shown a little more courage. If "Shin Godzilla" feels so much like a political thriller, then it should also be brave enough to ask the really difficult questions.

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In the end, the movie stays too much on the surface, which is a massive problem, especially when it comes to the characters. The only one who somehow stands out from the rest is Hiroki Hasegawa ("Before We Vanish") as Yaguchi, and that's only because the script puts him in the foreground. Nevertheless, this is not really logically motivated. And with him, too, you always have to check twice to make sure that he is really the one of the many suits who is trying to move the plot forward. A bit more annoying is the ambassador from the USA, played by Satomi Ishihara ("Monsterz"), who has ambitions to become president of the United States. This part of the story seems kind of cheap. She is supposed to bring a little pep into the movie, but it often seems as if Satomi Ishihara simply didn't have a clue how to flesh out her character, which inevitably turns her into a cliché. It's incredibly difficult to stay tuned because none of the characters manage to draw us in. And so, we usually drag our way from one crisis meeting to the next without anyone's fate really touching us.

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As mentioned before, Godzilla itself appears quite rarely. Since this is the first time it was created entirely with the help of CGI, you might think that the trashy aesthetic would get lost, but that's not the case. You may or may not like that, but at least when the creature first appeared, I thought I was watching an actor in a cheap plastic suit. The special effects aren't always convincing, only from time to time, when cars get thrown through the air or entire skyscrapers collapse, you get what you hoped for. There is one scene in particular that turned out great. And seeing Godzilla standing in Tokyo at night also has something visually stunning. The finale is also quite satisfying, even though there would have been more potential. As already mentioned, this time more than ever before Godzilla is more of a natural disaster that has to be overcome. Therefore, the creature is repeatedly marginalized in favor of discussions about the economic consequences of certain decisions, etc. So, if you are looking for a big spectacle, you will only get it very sparingly here.

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I had clearly hoped for more from "Shin Godzilla". The approach of looking at the creature's appearance from a political perspective is very interesting, but the flatly written characters often make everything seem a bit long-winded and bland. At the beginning, we even get a little subtle humor, for instance when a scene jumps to the end of a long session by using a text board, but later this humor is dropped. Quite often, the camera work is also refreshingly different, and directors Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi (the latter is also responsible for "Shin Ultraman") clearly bring something original to the flick. The movie simply lacks soul and characters with whom you can sympathize and who manage to warm us up to the story, so that the political decisions could actually mean something to us. Unfortunately, this ultimately leaves us with a Godzilla flick that has a bit more depth than other movies in the series but turns out too long-winded and contains too little Godzilla.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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