Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Shin Godzilla (2016)

There are few characters that are ubiquitous.  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know who Dracula was.  When Robin Hood: Men in Tights made a reference to King Kong, it was safe to assume most people had heard of the name.  Godzilla is definitely up there in that pantheon of characters.  The fact that we would refer to an extremely belligerent woman on her wedding day as bridezilla would speak to that.

Shin Godzilla is the most recent of a long line of movies about the giant lizard.  (This is the 31st Godzilla film with only two not being released by Toho.)  It takes place in modern times, beginning with the Japanese Coast Guard investigating an abandoned yacht.  After a minute or two, something destroys the yacht and parts of the surrounding bay are affected.

Of all the people that know of this, only Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi thinks it may be a living creature.  Everyone else dismisses it.  That is until Yaguchi is proven correct.  So, a group of experts is assembled to deal with the creature.  Only the tail is seen, but it’s assumed that the creature is too large to come on land.  Right after the Prime Minister assures the public of this, we get our first glimpse of Godzilla in all his glory.

Godzilla immediately starts leaving a trail of destruction.  That isn’t even the least of the public’s concern.  There are large amounts of radioactivity wherever Godzilla goes.  There’s a pretty good chance that he’s powered by nuclear fission.  The U.S. government sends an envoy, Kayoko Anne Patterson.  She shares information that a zoology professor had been studying radioactive contamination and the resulting mutations; he predicted the appearance of a creature like Godzilla, but the U.S. government kept it from getting out.  The yacht at the beginning of the movie belonged to the professor.

It doesn’t take long for Godzilla to reappear, having increased in size.  Initial attacks on the creature prove useless.  After some damage is caused, Godzilla responds with a laser beam that emanates from his mouth.  This leaves even more radiation.

It’s eventually discovered that Godzilla has a cooling system that may be his downfall.  If they can get a serum manufactured, they might be able to stop Godzilla.  They’re up against a clock, though, as the UN wants to use a thermonuclear weapon on Godzilla.  Patterson is able to use her connections to buy enough time to develop and deploy the serum, which works.

Originally, the character had been a response to nuclear weapons.  Here, it’s more of a commentary on the Fukushima reactor’s failure.  Godzilla is the result of feeding on nuclear waste.  He has no specific ill will towards anyone.  He simply causes damage and leaves without regard for the surrounding area.  Most of the movie is about people dealing with the results, but there is also talk of politics and diplomacy.  One character is thrust into a leadership position, although he talks about whether or not he wants it.

On that note, Satomi Ishihara plays Kayoko Anne Patterson.  It’s said that she has ambitions to be president.  I’m not the first to point out that she has a heavy accent when speaking English.  The three requirements set forth for the presidency in the Constitution are that you have to be at least 35 years old, have resided in the United States for 14 of those years and that you be a natural-born citizen.  Having an accent wouldn’t preclude her from being president.  However, it’s never stated what her upbringing was.  It’s possible that she was born in the United States, but grew up overseas.

One thing my brother and I noted while watching the movie was that Godzilla initially looked sort of cartoonish at first, especially in the eyes.  The animation eventually improved as Godzilla went through various stages of development.  I don’t know if this was meant to reference earlier attempts at portraying Godzilla.  I haven’t seen any of the other Godzilla movies recently, so it’s difficult for me to tell.

I’ve never been a big fan of monster movies.  I’ve tended to avoid King Kong and the like, so it’s hard for me to compare this to similar movies.  It was at least enjoyable, mostly because it focused on stopping Godzilla rather than the destruction.  I’m not sure it would be appropriate for most children.  Godzilla can be pretty scary.  (You can probably find stills online to judge how scary this Godzilla might be for your children.)  There are also certain issues that will probably go over their heads.  I’d say it’s safe for teenagers and above.

IMDb page

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