Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

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manicsounds
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Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

#1 Post by manicsounds » Fri Jul 29, 2016 11:35 am

My quick thoughts on the newest Godzilla movie:

The Good:
- Godzilla's level of the destruction of Tokyo was huge in scale.
- Anno's direction was great with framing of shots and editing style.
- The music was a throwback to the original while also updated.
- Godzilla's fast evolution was an interesting addition

The Bad:
- Why were the main characters politicians? Who cares about them?
- The political talk was long and boring.
- Satomi Ishihara's English? She was supposed to have been an American? Really?
- The first incarnation of Godzilla was puzzling. At first I thought an unfinished model of Anguirus! Looked weird.

With the first teaser trailer having found footage of people running away, and the opening of the film having found footage of both officials and of civilians, it was a new and interesting Cloverfield-like multiviewpoint in a Godzilla movie, but the rest of the film was a West Wing-style borefest of politicians calculating moves and unnecessary dialogue while the most interesting characters - the civilians getting almost no screentime and the found-footage unused. With Anno's Evangalion rebuild trilogy going out of its way to confuse its non-fans, he does a good of keeping things straightforward in narrative, but almost too straightforward - no emotion, no surprises.

Overall in the world of 30 Godzilla films, this would come around 15th. It had equally good portions and equally boring. We'll just have to see how Legendary take their G films to the Kong universe next.

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kidc85
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Re: The Films of 2016

#2 Post by kidc85 » Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:49 am

Disappointing to hear. Did it feel like an Anno film?

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Re: The Films of 2016

#3 Post by manicsounds » Sat Jul 30, 2016 8:24 am

kidc85 wrote:Disappointing to hear. Did it feel like an Anno film?
Not necessarily. The characters were boring to say the least, with the prime minister having to listen to suggestions by cabinet members over and over due to updates, constant subtitle captions of character names+their position/duty, and it really didn't seem like there was a "threat". The characters were emotionless and were more concerned about doing their job and thinking about politics rather than actual violence, death, mass panic that the Tokyo civilians were going through.

The older movies - the first film had a real human level threat. With the villagers losing their homes at the start, the heartbreaking scene of the mother holding her children saying "You will be with your father again soon", and Dr. Serizawa's moral conflict.
The latter sequels may have had some uninteresting characters at points, but there was always a human element.

The film starts with some "found footage", with dashboard cams, YouTube and NicoNico clips, surveillance footage which was really a great look, but that only lasts for the first 5 minutes of so. The rest of the film - at least 3/4 of it is in cabinet briefing rooms and thinktank headquarters. If they had concentrated on the people actually out there rather than bunkered...

It left me cold, but the fight scenes were great, the cinematography and editing were fantastic, even in the "boring" cabinet scenes.

Anyone looking to see the film for nostalgia will be flat out disappointed. It's a completely different Godzilla and a completely different Godzilla movie, though the Ifukube theme music and the roar has been restored so at least there is some connection to the past.

Kotaku article and review: "Godzilla Resurgence Talks Too Much"

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Re: The Films of 2016

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:44 pm

Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence) (Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, 2016)
A very enjoyable take on Godzilla, much more successful (if just as heavy handed in some respects!) than the 2014 US version. Mostly because it presents its story of the monster attacking Tokyo as the ultimate bureaucratic nightmare, showing events almost entirely through the eyes of politicians and military generals and their cabals of advisors sitting in rooms and urgently back and forthing. Or doing walk and talks. Or looking straight into camera and demanding action from the Prime Minister, in shots from his point of view! Even amusingly in one moment a number of characters wrestling the camera away from one another to have their moment of looking into it (or rather the computer monitor that the camera is standing in for)! If you've ever wondered what the Aaron Sorkin-world version of a Godzilla film would be, this is it!

I can see how people looking for monster action might feel a bit frustrated by all of the scenes of people sitting in rooms and talking! But I thought it worked quite well especially in a context of a post earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown world (where such allusions, and the fallout from them, feel a bit more appropriately used here than the more offhand allusions in the 2014 film). I remember being particularly struck during the real life events by the one news report that noted just how big of an event the earthquake was by describing that the chandelier in the Prime Minister's office started gently swaying (whilst coastal regions were engulfed by a tidal wave, and a nuclear power plant melted down). Well, in this film the chandeliers do a bit more than sway!

The film is sort of doing a homage to the original 1954 film, in the way that its quite a slow burn for the longest time and less about the monster than the societal response to its rampage. But there's a lot of other things in there too: Hideaki Anno seems to have brought a lot of Neon Genesis Evangelion touches, from the way Godzilla mutates through different forms that force a reassessment of tactics (including a potential flying one, that's only barely averted), to how lots of the scenes of people arguing in rooms or intently watching monitors have been framed and blocked to take on a certain anime staging sensibility. Plus there's the instantly recognisable "Decisive Battle" track from Evangelion in the film, underscoring the ragtag 'renegade' (whilst still being part of the government, naturally!) band of investigators trying to come up with the right plan to stop Godzilla in the face of Prime Ministerial weakness and the US President wanting to take the easy way out by dropping another atomic bomb on the country!

Which will incidentally cover up any US involvement in toxic nuclear waste dumping (that's the different ecological slant here compared to the 1954 film, less atom bomb testing and more toxic radioactive waste dumping on coral reefs. But its still implied to be the US's fault!) and let the US government keep all of the samples from the creature for study! There's a pretty blatant suspicion of US motives, and annoyance at continued US involvement in Japanese affairs 70 years on from World War II (it did make me think, and this includes everything going on with the continued state of Cold War in the Korean peninsula recently too, that there is a sense that the US in this region hasn't really moved on from the initial presence in Asia to a kind of relationship more fitting to the 21st century. "Post-war never ends" is one of the more memorable lines in the film). Though its still a friendly kind of suspicion, the kind that comes from not knowing whether the 'bigger brother' that has taken you under their wing has your best interests at heart, or won't hesitate to sacrifice you if they need to! And there's a fun subplot involving the young Japanese-American lady doing behind the scenes deals involving bilateral information sharing arrangements, who apparently harbours ambitions to become US President by age 40! Move over Hillary, there's a new contender in town!

(But thankfully, in a hilarious development, the French are around to do an apparently characteristic last minute behind the scenes stalling tactic in the UN to prevent the atomic bomb being dropped according to schedule!)

Another seeming Neon Genesis Evangelion influence is that there's also a barrage of subtitles from the very beginning describing every single character's name and rank, as well as introducing every location, no matter how briefly seen, in great detail. It is really impossible to keep up with all of those titles flashing by for a second or two before the next one turns up (and it seems more to create a sense in the viewer of being overwhelmed by authority and rank, and so on - all of these people being thrown for a loop by the appearance of a monster wrecking the capital city!), but I found that motif became extremely moving in the big 'firestorm' attack sequence where brief shots of different areas of the city that have never been seen before appear with a location title and then immediately get engulfed in radioactive flame! Maybe it was unintentional, but I thought that made the whole usage of dry descriptive titles pay off in a great way.

There's a bit of Independence Day in the film too, especially in that big attack scene in the middle of the film, which quite impressively seems to pay homage to the first alien attack scene in the Roland Emmerich film (including people fleeing underground and a number of members of the government getting obliterated in their helicopter!), and on that note I kind of love that the big Independence Day-style jingoistic call to arms speech is instead here a heartfelt begging of the staff to work as hard as they possibly can at their conference room meetings about the dire situation!

And this might just be me, but there felt like a bit of an association with the final shot of Urotsukidoji in those wide shots of Godzilla destroying the centre of Tokyo! It might just be because this Godzilla film plays more like a horror film than any recent entry has, especially in the moment where the power to the city is knocked out and the night scene is lit mostly by the red glow coming from inside Godzilla itself. Godzilla is properly nightmarish looking in this film, especially in its first water based form with its goofy fixed rictus grin and habit of spraying blood from its gills all over the city (perhaps another homage to the Evangelion 'Angels'), and then with its expandable jaw that acts like a laser cannon later on. Something about the way the monster is being filmed also adds to the disturbing aspect too, maybe that it feels too fantastically monstrous in the context of such an otherwise mundane world all around it. It feels truly alien and out of place in this film, in a good way!

No tower block (or commuter train) is safe from being pressed into sacrificial service for the greater good here (can vehicles and buildings be said to have carried out a kamikaze attack?). If its not the monster knocking a building over, its the humans! I like that the main bureaucrat character we follow, who sort of seems destined to become the new Prime Minister (after a snap election once everything is back to normal of course!), ends up in the final scene watching the plan play out from the roof of a building, ordering the different phases of the operation like a general! I had the image of the double watching over the big battle scene in Kagemusha come strongly to mind during this sequence, and I suppose it makes sense as they're both about presence of the leader (in this case the political representative) as a figurehead being an important motivator for their troops, rather than them actually doing any physical actions to help out!

I thought this was a lot of fun. Its presented very dry on the surface, but there are enough moments involving endless, interchangeable meetings to suggest the film has a wry sense of humour about all of the bureaucracy! And it was great to see Shinya Tsukamoto turn up as the older, scruffier biologist character who helps with all of the breakthroughs about the monster's behaviour patterns and lifecycle (I kind of want him, the 'computer nerd' lady with the ever present laptop and brusque demeanour, the main charismatic politician character and the Japanese-American lady with her extensive web of contacts to all get together for a CSI: Japan-type series at some point!).

Probably the funniest moment was when they have to do the inevitable "what's the monster called? Gojira but the Americans call him Godzilla" moment, and someone goes to the internet to see if there's anything on there about the origin of this weird "Godzilla" name. And they find one result. A single, solitary web result about Godzilla! Which obviously means that this all takes place in a different universe from ours, where a Google search for Godzilla returns 46,800,000 hits!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Aug 29, 2017 3:15 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: The Films of 2016

#5 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:08 pm

If it means anything, my Japanese co-worker described the film foremost as "very funny", so I think it's wry sense of humor and satirical overtones were very much on purpose.

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Re: The Films of 2016

#6 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Aug 26, 2017 3:54 am

Certainly as a regular train commuter the idea that the authorities would send dozens of passenger trains loaded with bombs barrelling at the monster (literally sending strings of carriages flying at it due to the force of the explosions!) struck a chord. I could see the authorities feeling that public transport finally had some use, once all of those annoying passengers were out of the way and the tracks used as a payload delivery system! (Its going to take a lot of urgent rail works to get everything back in working order for Monday's commute though!)

Imagine The Thick of It, but with a giant monster raging outside! Or Preisdent Bartlett in the West Wing looking concerned in the Oval office whilst every so often a giant foot crashes by in the background! "We simply must do something before there's any major damage", as another five blocks of houses get destroyed in one swing of a tail. (There's a great "Chinese Whispers" moment when a request has to get officially filtered through at least five different people to be made to the Prime Minister, including between two people sat right next to each other within his earshot!)

There's another very funny moment during the last section of the US being extremely enthusiastic about the plan to nuke Tokyo, when one character forlornly says "they told me they'd do the same if it was New York". It cuts away, but the scoffing "Yeah, right!" response to that is strongly implied there! But the whole film paints an interesting picture of the current Japanese attitude towards the United States, wary and wanting some autonomy but of course grateful for the massive firepower help too. It might be even harsher these days when "President Ross" would have to have taken on some Trump characteristics!

Speaking of the American influence, as noted by manicsounds above, as well as Independence Day there also feels like a bit of influence from Cloverfield in there too in the early scenes of shaky-cam footage of people running for cover into subway tunnels and the like! I'll have to go back to the 2014 Godzilla to remember exactly what it was about the use of the media there that rubbed me the wrong way (I think it was that all of the news reports we see are all in for the troops, at least until the final turn into supporting Godzilla against the Mutons! The news in that film doesn't question anything its told, just reports the current situation without any context or investigation implied. I mean even the 1998 Godzilla film had an intrepid reporter trying to uncover a conspiracy!), but the background use of the media in Shin Godzilla works really well. Lots of scenes of news reporters disseminating the 'official line' on the monster (such as its name), but also lots of social media comments and uploaded videos to video sharing sites, which is the outside source of information that even our government advisor hero tunes into!
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Re: Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:42 am

manicsounds wrote:Satomi Ishihara's English? She was supposed to have been an American? Really?
Yes, that is a bit of an issue, with someone who is obviously more comfortable speaking Japanese having to portray a character brought up in the US with English as their first language and able to be casually fluent in both languages. Unfortunately it doesn't really come across that convincingly, but I guess it was easy enough to overlook the few times it appears as a major plot point. Though the character may need to brush up on the orating skills before challenging Hillary for the presidency!

It is also probably worth noting here that both the co-director Shinji Higuchi and Satomi Ishihara were both previously involved with the two live action Attack On Titan films (Higuchi also directed a 2008 remake of The Hidden Fortress). I haven't had the chance to see them as yet, though I hear the films were not too well received in comparison to the ongoing anime series, but its interesting to see both of them getting added into the mix of this Godzilla film.

By the way reading the Kotaku article that manicsounds posted earlier, where they say: "It’s obsessive and very Anno, but creates what feels like a revolving door. Here’s a character and his/her job, here’s another character and his/her job, and so on. But what about the characters we’ve been following? Are their families okay? They all seem to be these isolated stock characters who are taking the reality of a giant monster destroying Tokyo rather well." did remind me to mention that this is also probably not the film to go to if you want one of those kinds of intricate Irwin Allen-type disaster movies where you follow a number of disparate but well defined groups of characters going through a crisis and get to guess which of them come out of it alive or not. For better or worse this film is much more straightforwardly following the political 'elite', and even out of them you only really need to note the three or four important front of stage characters out of the mass of generals and advisors!

Of course the main disappointment with this film is that there are no tiny twin alien women from outer space anywhere to be found! Maybe they're saving that for any potential sequel, when Mothra appears! But, as a Godzilla lore novice, I do have a big question about the final shot of the film:
SpoilerShow
where the camera pans up over the monster's frozen tail, which shows it to be made up of individual monsters. Is this just a homage to something like the Cloverfield monster, shedding smaller monsters from it? (With maybe an implication that maybe one dropped off of Godzilla before it got frozen) Or Anno's approach to Godzilla as being a continually fast mutating monster? Is it just meant to be a general set up for a sequel? Or is this actually referencing a part of Godzilla lore? Is it the set up for something like a "Son of Godzilla" film? Its an interesting, though inconclusive shot.

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Re: Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

#8 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:25 am

I was hoping that he would weigh in for a take on the film: Matt McMuscles (I think that's his pen name?) of the Super Best Friends channel has done a fun animated review of Shin Godzilla that gets into how it might play from a fan perspective ("Do it, you bastard!"). Its also interesting to hear from the video that inevitably there were lots of extra features on the Japanese Blu-ray that never got ported across to the US Funimation Blu-ray. Maybe if/when the film comes out in the UK translating some of those extra features would make for a good selling point?

The film also got a positive review from Tony Rayns in the latest Sight & Sound, who noted that apparently most of the 'renegade' band of scientists solving the problem are played by indie filmmakers - not just Shinya Tsukamoto but also Kazuo Hara (The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On), Isshin Inudo (Josee, The Tiger and The Fish, the 2009 remake of Zero Focus), Akira Ogata (Boy's Choir, Walking With A Friend), "et al" are in there!

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