Movie Review – Shin Godzilla (2016)

Today we’re taking a look at Shin Godzilla, a 2016 Japanese film that happens to be the 31st film in the popular Godzilla monster movies.  Also known as Godzilla ResurgenceShin Godzilla is a reboot of the franchise and pits the famous lizard monster in modern-day Tokyo.

Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji HiguchiShin Godzilla features a Japanese cast full of people you’ve probably never heard of, unless Japanese films and TV shows are one of your passions.

Shin Godzilla (2016) – movie poster

Set in the present day, Shin Godzilla begins with the Japan Coast Guard discovering an abandoned yacht in Tokyo Bay.  Just as the sailors are preparing to have it towed to shore, suddenly the boat is destroyed in a huge spray of water.  The disturbance also breaks into a tunnel and begins to flood it, killing an untold number of people.  At first the disturbance is seen as just a random event, but when viral videos begin to show a massive creature moving underwater (and straight to the shore), the government officials rush to form a plan.

Ideas are exchanged and options include sitting back and doing nothing, trying to capture it alive so that it can be studied, or exterminating the creature and ending its unknown threat to the city.  Government officials downplay the threat of the creature as its believed that the creature’s legs will be unable to support the weight of its tremendous body on land.  That theory is quickly dismissed as the creature swims up a river, crawls onto land, and start squirming and smashing its way through streets and buildings.  While the creature tears a path of destruction, the government races to evacuate as many people as possible.

The danger though is just beginning.

At one point the creature crawls up the side of a building, learning to stand upright on its hind legs.  It succeeds and actually grows in size, continuing to evolve to its environment.  The bloody red monster then continues walking through parts of the city.  The government mobilizes a response with attack helicopters, but civilians get too close and the helicopters are unable to launch an attack.  The monster then walks to the shore and retreats underwater, disappearing from watchful eyes.

Now that the government has seen the creature in action, they know that they must have an emergency procedure in place should it return.  It’s noted that the creature’s path is radioactive, and that the creature itself might be powered by nuclear fission.  That poses another major problem.  If the creature is violently destroyed, will it leave behind a huge radioactive mess that’ll threaten the public?

It’s learned that Goro Maki, an anti-nuclear zoology professor, was studying mutations caused by radioactive contamination right there in Tokyo Bay.  Maki had disappeared and it was his abandoned yacht that was discovered at the beginning of the movie.  His notes were left behind, and it’s decided to name the creature Godzilla in Maki’s honor.

Some time later Godzilla emerges from the water and starts heading to downtown Tokyo.  This time the Japan Self-Defense Forces are mobilized, and they stage a combined assault against Godzilla.  Helicopters lead the assault, but they fail in damaging the creature.  Same with the fixed-wing aircraft.  The tanks and artillery seem to slow down Gozilla, but all of that weaponry really isn’t stopping or damaging him.  The U.S. military assists in the assault, and several B-2 stealth bombers drop powerful bombs on Godzilla.  Apparently the bombs only succeed in making Godzilla mad as the creature then uses its atomic rays shooting out from its mouth and dorsal fins to destroy the rest of the B-2 bombers.

Then a curious thing happens.

Godzilla used so much energy to fire its atomic rays that it has to rest and recover.  The monster stands still like a statue and enters a dormant state.  It just stands there immobile and apparently imperious to any further attack.

While Godzilla is resting, scientists theorize that the monster uses its blood and fins as a cooling system.  If they can use a coagulating agent, then it’s possible to trigger a reaction and cause Godzilla to freeze.  It’s believed that the creature will remain in its dormant state for a couple of weeks, giving the scientists time to develop enough of the coagulating agent to freeze it.  If they cannot succeed in time, then the United Nations will drop a thermonuclear bomb on the creature in an attempt to destroy it.

Scientists race against the clock and create truckloads and truckloads of the coagulating agent.  The government then sets its plan in motion just as Godzilla recovers from his dormant state and begins to move through the city again.

This time around the government uses a multi-stage attack against Godzilla.  The attack begins with multiple waves of unmanned drones that fire missiles and attack the creature.  Godzilla fights back using its atomic rays, just as the government hoped.  After fighting off several waves of drones, Godzilla is weak again.  The government topples several buildings on top of Godzilla, knocking it to the ground.  Trucks rush up to the creature while it’s down and begin pumping coagulating agent into its mouth.

Only about 20% of the agent goes into Godzilla before it fights back, destroying those trucks.  The creature is clearly weakened as it gets back onto its feet.  This was planned, and the government sends unmanned trains packed with explosives straight into Godzilla’s path.  This knocks it down again, and more trucks rush forward and pump the rest of the coagulating agent into its mouth.

Godzilla ultimately climbs back to its feet.  Just as it looks like nothing will stop it, suddenly Godzilla’s skin changes and we see it freeze and become a frozen statue.  The coagulating agent worked and the nuclear airstrike is called off.  However, should Godzilla awaken again, then the United Nations will use nuclear weapons against it.

Shin Godzilla ends with a final look at the upright monster as it’s frozen in place.  As the camera zooms in on Godzilla’s tail, we can see humanoid creatures frozen as they emerge from Godzilla’s body.


Is 2016’s Shin Godzilla any good?

I wouldn’t qualify it as a great film, but it certainly was interesting at times.

One minor issue for me was that while there were English subtitles for the Japanese dialog (about 95% of the movie), the text was bright white and it was difficult to read at times, especially when it was on top of a bright background.  Because of that, I know that I missed *some* parts of the story, so my experience wasn’t 100% complete.

In this film Godzilla is the one and only monster (unless you consider mankind as a villain as it was our nuclear waste that spawned Godzilla, but that’s a debate for another day).  It’s him versus the millions of residents living in and around Tokyo, Japan.  Battling him are scientists as well as the Japanese military, a.k.a. the Japan Self-Defense Force.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen the birth or spawn of the monster in Tokyo Bay.  Obviously there was the huge spray of water in the beginning of the film, and I’m guessing that represented his “birth”, but that would mean that it was there on the seabed in the bay the entire time.  I’d like to believe that there would have been radiation spikes, seismic disturbances, or some other warning sign that a creature of that nature was so close to such a major city.

Was it just me, or was Godzilla’s tail more of like a tentacle rather than a humongous lizard’s tail?  It just seemed way too unrealistic when it was whipping back and forth in the beginning, and later when the tip of the tail shot an atomic ray as well.  And speaking of comical, how about Godzilla’s appearance when it first emerged on land?  I understand that at that phase of the young Godzilla’s life that it was basically like a salamander than the walking monster that we know and love, but that young version just looked really corny and comical at the same time.  I thought it was going to be Godzilla’s nemesis in this film until it began standing upright and quickly evolving into its final form.

When the American Godzilla film came out in 2014, our version of the monster received a lot of criticism from Japan because it looked too fat.  A lot of jokes were made because to a lot of foreigners, Americans are generally fat people as well.  I’m not going to dispute that last part.  However, I still think that the American version of Godzilla from 2014 both looked and acted a lot more realistic than the monster in 2016’s Shin Godzilla.

Anyway, as far as other issues with Shin Godzilla, it wasn’t really a surprise when the military response to Godzilla seemed pretty unrealistic and overly cautious.  The attack helicopters flew too low (just like in that abomination Godzilla film from 1998), the B-2 stealth bombers flew way too low and remained far too close to the target, and it just felt like the military response could have been much bigger.  Why not have the Navy carry out a strike as well?  With all of the American military bases over there, there could have been a much bigger combined effort with pinpoint precision.

It annoys me when movies try to look serious, even when dealing with gigantic monsters that can shoot atomic rays, but they get so sloppy at times.

Considering that this was a modern Godzilla film taking place around Tokyo, I was hoping to see more of the city and its residents, and perhaps a more high-tech approach at not only monitoring Godzilla, but stopping it as well.  The movie started out great with that approach, but it feels like they could have made it a much more surreal experience to really bring the audience into a modern and high tech city facing such a destructive force.

Shin Godzilla (2016) – movie trailer

Overall, I liked Shin Godzilla, but this could have been a much better film in the end.  It’s extremely similar to the original Gojira film from 1954, but the original film is still the best.