Like Tarzan and King Kong, Godzilla has been reinvented so many times since the release of the original 1954 version, the monster has become somewhat of an American icon. It was nice to see a story that originated from Japan that was not “Americanized,” retold from the perspective of Japanese people. This version reminds me very much of the 1956 version (TransWorld Releasing Corporation and Embassy Pictures released Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, a heavily re-edited “Americanized” version of the original film with additional footage featuring Raymond Burr). As writer/director, Hideaki Anno stays very true to the story I remember (I haven’t seen the movie for many years) with some well-placed, modernized touches.
The monster has changed. Godzilla is not just some large, fire breathing, lizard/dinosaur hybrid. Godzilla is a nuclear phenomenon that adapts to whatever environment he is in, and is constantly morphing into something new and different. He is large, and aggressive, and full of fire and lasers. I must say though, this movie is not about the CGI at all. This is not some slick, Hollywood version of this monster or this story – and the lack of “slick” is purposefully done. It is a Japanese retelling and the ways in which the monster morphs are exciting to watch from scene to scene. Even the progression of what the monster looks like seems to take us from 1954 to the current day, as Godzilla morphs into this modern day terror.
Japan has changed. The giant monster mimics an underwater volcano and destroys the infrastructure of an entire shoreline city which includes marinas, highways, bridges and many large buildings – and it threatens to cut a swath of destruction through all of Japan if given the opportunity. The greatest concern is Godzilla reaching and destroying Tokyo, Japan’s capital and most populous city. Skyscrapers become a liability when they are falling down all around you, or so one could imagine. You might have a 9/11 flashback during some scenes.
Culturally, there is a blend of men and women in positions of power – more women than were featured in the original version, for certain. Women are even shown being as tough and ambitious as their male counterparts – and being respected.
Technology has changed. We now have the ability to communicate and coordinate with citizens, other governments, scientists, military experts and others around the world to solve problems during a national disaster almost immediately. If only we would use our powers for good, we could get a lot done in the world… Godzilla poses a threat to everyone, so there is a collaborative, world-wide effort to stop him. Scientific and technological advances also help to find Godzilla’s strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to stop the monster before he morphs again and develops more strength and skill.
This entire movie shows respect for the original by acknowledging it was a great film. It acknowledges this fact by basically leaving the original alone. Telling the story as if to say, “But if this happened today, here is what would be different.” And every note of change that has occurred between 1954 and now is touched upon. 2016 Godzilla doesn’t rely on special effects and CGI too heavily, but rather, it relies on the story of the people who have to deal with this creature and their reactions. It relies on the suspense of the time restrictions placed on the scientists, military and government officials to figure out how to stop this creature. The effects and CGI that are used are not over the top. They are arguably subtle as some people may even find them underwhelming, but they fit the landscape of this movie perfectly.
There really aren’t many scenes featuring Godzilla here since the crux of the story really doesn’t center on the action. So if you’re looking for a bunch of CGI work, death, destruction, explosions, etc., you won’t find it here. When Godzilla shows up it is always interesting (mostly because you don’t know what he will look like next), but this movie focuses more on the drama of the politics and the many moving parts behind national disasters and figuring out how to best handle them. Who is in charge? When should we have a press conference? What should we make public? How do we avoid making a panic? Who is authorized to make decisions? How long do we take to mobilize and take action? When do we accept help from outside sources? How do we come up with Plan B? With whom should we collaborate? What is in the best interest of the people? What is in the best interest of the world? How will the funds raised for disaster relief be allocated? Etc., etc., etc. There is much dialogue and Shin Godzilla is subtitled since the movie is in Japanese. So if that’s not for you, keep it pushing.
Shin Godzilla earned 9 bloops out of 10. It’s a great movie worth seeing if you’re into Godzilla, classic Godzilla, foreign films, political films or drama. This is a thoughtful and respectful remake. It is innovative in that it modernizes the original while remaining true to the original and to itself. It doesn’t do too much to stray from the original, but does just enough to stand apart and on its own.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing/reviewing next…
Too many to name. I’ll be at the movies all weekend!
Sorry to Bother You
Avengers: Infinity War
You Were Never Really Here
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
The Florida Project
Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World
The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro