Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla ★★★½

Hooptober VIII, Ch. 38

Not well-versed in the comprehensive lore of Japanese "Godzilla" filmdom - saw a bunch when I was a kid, re-watched the first two a couple years ago, finally saw '85's "The Return of Godzilla" this past spring, but I couldn't recite the state that the franchise was in when "Shin" came out in 2016. So without coherent context, let me just say that this was pretty entertaining, better than most of the "Godzilla"s America has been making since 1998, with special effects much improved from the old days. For some reason I thought Japan was still doing the deliberately cheesy body suit stuff, but this movie seems interested in a somewhat more sophisticated look. And when it does look goofy, i.e. early on as a baby with googly eyes - it's still weirdly entrancing. The reddened maw was a nice touch, too. Not crazy about the new body parts that can shoot blue energy (expelling it by mouth like a dragon seemed perfectly fine before) but at least they're trying new things.

With the extensive bureaucracy perspective utilizing hundreds of speaking parts, I was reminded a little of "World War Z", the book not the movie. A classic genre film event and potential global catastrophe refracted anecdotally through way smaller human interest subplots. Even with jackhammering themes - verbatim dialogue includes "Man is more frightening than Gojira" and "He came from nuclear waste" - a movie-length behind-the-scenes "West Wing"-style discussion of all the rules and regulations of government planning is a novel way to experience a Godzilla attack, and a pure Godzilla attack too (no extra monsters or "he's back, yet again!", this is a complete reboot that takes us back to a time when no one has ever seen or heard of the monster before, which is another welcome clearing of the franchise's history browser).

Plus it climaxes with an impressively ambitious coordinated counter-strike, one that features unmanned kamikaze train bombs which for some reason just sounded like the coolest thing when they brought it up. Proof that there are still plenty of different ways to tell a "Godzilla" story or any overworked sci-fi/horror/any genre fixture, exciting techniques to establish scale and inspiration to be found in returning to the basics.

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