There are plenty of issues with the world of cinema in 2016. But it is hard not to be a little optimistic when a new Toho Godzilla flick gets a good cinematic run, joining the western Godzilla franchise that Gareth Edwards kicked off a couple of years back. Personally I could handle two Godzilla series running parallel for years to come.
Shin Godzilla (2016) is the first Toho Godzilla film since Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). The film is a reboot, taking place in a modern day Japan that has never faced the beast before. Especially early on, this is a manic film. The opening 15 minutes is a cacophony of dialogue, characters, places and meaningless government taskforces. Although impossible to follow, this sets up what is at the heart of the human plot elements – a deep dive into the bureaucratic and ministerial response to a disaster. The monster arrives early, looking far from how I expected it to, but clearly evoking Godzillas past. Coming so fast on the heels of the relatively popular and well received American incarnation, there was a fear that Shin Godzilla could lack that distinctive Toho identity. The appearance of the main attraction is one of many pieces of evidence that prove we shouldn’t have been concerned, and that Toho have no interest in changing how they have always brought the character to life. Whilst the vibe of the monster is similar to what the company has given us previously, the evolving nature of the character is a great asset. The monster evolves as the film progresses, giving a different visual look, different powers and representing a different challenge to its human combatants. So whilst the film only features one monster, it essentially functions as a few different ones. Also nicely done in the plot is how the action escalates. The first extended military engagement is a highlight, the cool progression of weaponry brought to bear on the creature who happily saunters through it all. However the film does have too many stretches where Godzilla is dormant, which sucks a fair bit of the life out of the film.
If there is one moment that you will know for sure if Shin Godzilla is for you, it is the first appearance of the monster. Bug eyed, low to the ground and reminiscent of film monsters many years past, it is quite a unique thing to see in a 2016 cinema. My jaw swung open and I immediately fell in love with what this film was doing. But I could understand people rapidly assessing what they had gotten themselves in for as they copped a look at that. The monster is reminiscent of the rest of the film, both stylistically and thematically. Many elements of the film, the characterisation and destruction, share a schlocky, delightful throwback vibe to them. The mo-cap/CGI rendering of the monster mimics the man in the rubber suit vibe of films past, rather than the slick sheen of American iterations. Understandably given the ongoing horrors of Fukushima, nuclear concerns are situated at the heart of the film thematically. Complementing that focus are issues around laboured governmental decision making and the impact that has on making already dire situations even worse. Questionable international relations are also evoked as the USA decides, more or less unilaterally, to nuke Tokyo. The film is situated intelligently in the 20th century history of Japanese militarism. You can feel the weight of decisions made to take up arms and engage the might of the armed forces, the pall of WWII hanging over them. And of course the most important takeaway, as with all Godzilla films, is that “man is more frightening than Gojira”.
Verdict: Shin Godzilla is a proud throwback, not concerned with delivering a similar experience to what Edwards and co brought to screens. This is a film that will delight fans of the earlier Toho fans, and may also garner new ones with the astute social commentary complementing the schlock. Pint of Kilkenny
Here we go with Worth Watching for May, a month that saw another pretty heavy focus on docos, though I mixed in a little body building to go with the political ones. Aside from that there were new release blockbusters ranging from the flawed yet ace to the utterly abysmal, plus a dash of European blandness. As always, share your thoughts with me in the comments section below on these ones.
- The Corporation (2003), Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott – A great history lesson on the corporation and what that can tell us about what they have become. Rights fought long and hard for have been increasingly wound back for individuals and granted to corporations. It is hard to go wrong with great talking heads like Zinn, Chomsky and Michael Moore. We are gradually waking up to the practical and real effects of allowing corporate power to continue unchecked, but less and less is being done about it. Scary. “There ought to be a principle higher than making money.” A statement that should be so obvious, but in this age of the corporation it isn’t. A world where rainwater can be privatised is not a world I am fond of.
- Generation Iron (2013), Vlad Yudin – A brief history of Mr Olympia makes way for a focus on the 2012 tournament. Some of it seems a little scripted and Mickey Rourke, whilst great on the voiceover, is occasionally hard to hear. But the film nails the craft, sweat, tears and science that go into a pretty unique sport. There is no ‘caaahming’ moment here, but it is still worth checking out if you have even a passing interest.
- How to Make Money Selling Drugs (2012), Matthew Cooke – A stylishly done, mock ‘how-to’ guide to doing what the title states. Working its way up through the levels of the drug trade, the cautionary aspect to the film comes from just how frightening the scene is. Mainly concerned with the nature of selling, but does briefly touch on the failed War on Drugs. Well worth a look.
- Godzilla (2014), Gareth Edwards – Some script issues stop it from being the great Godzilla film I was hoping for. But it’s still a very good one. You can see Edwards’ touch all over this, which is a good thing. And the monster itself looks absolutely stunning, better than I could have ever imagined. I thought some of the nuclear allegories were really well handled in the film too. Like so many have mentioned though, this film could use a whole lot more Godzilla. But I’m looking forward to a sequel where we will hopefully see more (and more of the awesome fighting sequences too).
Not Worth Watching:
- Transcendence (2014), Wally Pfister – Terrible. Has a fantastic start and a smattering of interesting ideas. But never threatens to be anything other than utter cliché. First half is blighted by silly villains, but by the second you’ll be wishing they would come back. Incredible how many great performers this film wastes – Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Rooney Mara. Only Paul Bettany comes out of it looking good. It’s not their fault though. It’s the tepid script that has no idea what kind of film this wants to be that kills it.
- Barbara (2012), Christian Petzold – Pre fall of wall Germany is such a dense, rich setting for a film, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this. It starts in a totally uninvigorating manner and never gets going, partly because you don’t invest in the romantic relationship(s) supposedly at the core of the film. All it really succeeds in doing is being simultaneously arthouse and cliché. It’s exceedingly slow paced with a clunky script, meaning that the dashes of worthiness, such as the lead performance, are buried.
- Bad Neighbours (2014), Nicholas Stoller – There are plenty of reasonably funny moments, but overall this is just another below average comedy. Risqué comedies just don’t know how to push boundaries these days. Can we please stop using rape as something risqué. It’s not boundary pushing its just offensive. There are some ok performances from Rose Byrne, Dave Franco and Zac Efron. But overall there is nothing really worth bothering with here.
If you only have time to watch one The Corporation
Avoid at all costs Transcendence
I rarely feature multiple trailers for the same film in this segment. Actually I think that Godzilla (2014) is a first there. I liked the teaser, which I looked at here, but I utterly love this full length effort.
For starters it is just so badass. We get to see a bunch of action, Cranston, Kick Ass and FREAKIN GODZILLA. But I also think this is one of the better examples of how to really do a great trailer of recent times. There are not spoilers for the entire narrative as is so common. But at the same time, the trailer manages to hit the viewer with some wonderful little plot points, such as the bit about the Pacific nuclear tests. Bring on this film basically. With the director and this trailer, I could not be more excited for it. You guys psyched too?
Also, anyone else notice that the sound effect at the start of this is exactly the same as the ones that were in the Pacific Rim (2013) trailers? I got two words for you: crossover film. That would be mind numbingly sweet.
Just a reminder, it may be a quiet couple of weeks on the site. I have a fair few day job (lame) and sporting commitments coming up. I have also had the first episode of the Beer Movie Podcast recorded for weeks and still not gotten around to editing it, so need to get on that.
As a massive fan of Monsters (2010), I think that if anyone is capable of making a decent Godzilla film in this day and age, it is director Gareth Edwards. When you think about it, the story is not an easy one to transfer to a contemporary sensibility. But here is hoping this is a really great big scary monster flick. I like this trailer, even though there is a fair bit of shared ground with the latest Captain America effort. It doesn’t ruin anything and gets me excited for the scope that Edwards is going to bring to the screen. Godzilla is definitely one of my most anticipated films for next year.