W.B. at the movies: Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla

A giant sea creature is burrowing up a crowded urban river, tossing boats aside like confetti and generally killing and maiming everyone in its path.

The government calls a meeting. And there, everyone considers forming a committee, which will build a coalition, which will discuss creating a task force that will develop a report. All along, interchangeable faces earnestly debate the options regarding what should be done. And when the time comes to act or die, no one can make a decision.

Meanwhile, the big monster just keeps on a-coming.

These hilarious scenes, played deadpan by dozens of serious actors gathered around identical-looking tables in identical-looking rooms, make the 2016 Japanese film Shin Godzilla – released on Blu-Ray, DVD, etc. this week – a sheer delight for everyone skeptical of government’s ability to actually solve any problem.

It’s as if they believe they can consign Godzilla to Death by Committee. Meanwhile, the future of Tokyo and Japan itself is at risk, both from the unidentified creature and, eventually, a U.S.-led United Nations coalition that thinks the best thing to do is drop a nuclear bomb on the thing and go home.

The fate of the nation, and probably the world, is in the hands of the one task force that manages to be effective, “a crack team of lone wolves, nerds, troublemakers, outcasts, academic heretics and general pains-in-the-bureaucracy.”

It’s a spot-on satire that balances the always-outlandish notion of a 300-foot dinosaur-like creature threatening humanity with a dose of reality in the form of an oversized and impotent bureaucracy. Drawing us into a suspension of disbelief, the monster at first looks like a familiar man-in-a-rubber-suit Japanese monster rampaging clumsily through miniaturized sets (although these miniature cities are far more realistic than the ones we encountered in the 1950s and 60s), but ominously evolves into an imposing CGI creature that you can believe can level a city.

By the way, this story is a complete reboot. Everyone acts as though they’ve never seen anything remotely resembling this creature, as if the 28 previous Godzilla movies produced by Toho never happened.

That helps to intensify the impact of the battles between humans and kaiju, which are breathtaking. This Godzilla is truly powerful, truly unstoppable, truly terrifying. You find yourself believing that not even the American nuke, being imposed against the will of the only nation ever to be nuked, will divert this thing from its destructive path.

And you find yourself rooting for the rag-tag team that is racing the clock to develop a way to stop the beast that avoids destroying Japan’s largest city as “collateral damage.”

Like its 2014 American counterpart, Shin Godzilla restores the King of the Monsters to his rightful place among the real terrors of filmdom. The title is best translated “Godzilla Resurgence,” and that it is. That it is.

P.S. The Toho logo, the sound of thunderous footsteps, and the Godzilla roar at the beginning of the film reminded me of the Lucasfilms logo and the light-blue 1970s-font “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” that opens every Star Wars saga film. It gave me the same thrill of anticipation, and I imagined a theater full of fans squealing with delight.

P.P.S. And the soundtrack score is just brilliant! It often refers to the musical themes that have flowed through the Godzilla films over the years since the very first one in 1954. During the montage that illustrated the fever-pitch efforts to avoid the U.S. nuclear bomb option, the music is clearly a thinly disguised variation of “American Woman, stay away from me …” Perfect!