Original TItle: シン・ゴジラ
English Title: Shin Godzilla
Rating: 6 out of 7 Samurai
Some could say I’m not the best person to talk about Shin Godzilla, as it fits into the overall Godzilla genre because Shin Godzilla is the only Godzilla movie I’ve ever bothered to watch (four Godzillas in one sentence!). On the other hand, I think I’m better qualified because this is a different kind of Godzilla movie and I don’t have the baggage of the ones before it coloring my opinion. Shin Godzilla is unusual because there’s not THAT much Godzilla and there’s a lot more talking than is in previous incarnations.
The talking that we see is all of the people in the Japanese government that have to deal with the giant monster destroying Tokyo. So much of the movie takes in conference rooms and offices, that it begins to feel a bit like a really messed up episode of the Japanese West Wing, except we get to see how the decisions made affect the giant monster stomping through Tokyo, and not Martin Sheen’s approval rating. The movie focuses on one mid-level bureaucrat who from the beginning knows that the problem is bigger than the government wants to admit, and who ends up leading a ragtag group of outside-the-box thinkers who have to figure what to do with the monster stepping all over their city.
It’s particularly interesting once the movie gets to how the international community deals with what is happening in Japan. Other countries want to help, but their help has a price, and it’s always more than a country going through hell is able to pay. The US, predictably, wants to vaporize everything, and then to help clean up the mess. Without giving away the ending it is rightfully their own Japanese ingenuity that ultimately saves the day.
It’s also important to think of this movie in context, and it’s a context that western audiences (myself included) may not fully grasp. Japan is a country that has dealt with more nuclear disasters than any other, the original Godzilla movies were a response to the atomic bombs that destroyed two of Japan’s cities at the end of WWII and this movie is a reaction to the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster and the Japanese government’s bureaucratic response to it. Taking that into account while watching, adds a layer to the movie that most outside of Japan could easily miss.
It’s understandable that people who just wanted to see a giant monster wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting city, and the heroes whose only job is to destroy that monster would be disappointed by turning Godzilla into a bit of a political drama. However, if like me you’ve never bothered to watch one of these movies because the idea of big dinosaur smashing stuff seems super dull, this is the Godzilla movie for you. It’s much more interesting to see a realistic portrayal of how a government would deal with an unimaginable crisis, than dudes shooting missiles at a CGI monster.
Subs & Dubs: There are a few different versions Shin Godzilla out there, both with subtitles and dubbed voices
Where to watch: Both versions are available for digital rental on Amazon or wherever you rent movies.