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Film review: Shin Godzilla – iconic monster returns for satire of Japanese political bureaucracy

Buck-passing careerists scramble to avoid the blame after Godzilla lays waste to Tokyo, but this reboot simply doesn’t give enough screen time to the atomic monster

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 4:11pm

3 stars

A darkly comic satire of Japanese political bureaucracy, Toho’s 29th entry in the Godzilla franchise may prove too talky for some, but still manages to pay loving homage to the lumbering anti-hero of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 classic.

Within its opening moments, Shin Godzilla uses a sudden attack on Tokyo by a marauding sea monster to evoke the devastating impact of 2011’s Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The film then takes aim at the bureaucratic junkyard of ageing, out-of-touch politicians desperate to pass the buck and avoid controversy. While government departments scramble to shirk responsibility for the disaster, only deputy secretary Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) seems able to organise an effective response.

Godzilla comes back to Japan, in ways fresh and familiar

Co-directed by anime veteran Hideaki Anno and Attack on Titan ’s Shinji Higuchi, Shin Godzilla boasts the largest screen incarnation of “Gojira” to-date, a creature we see evolve from bizarre fish-eyed amphibian to indestructible lizard king using a playful combination of CGI, model work and performance capture. Emitting radioactive Technicolor death rays from every conceivable orifice, Godzilla easily thwarts the Special Defence Force’s belated counter-attack, leading to an emotional quandary as Japan must request a nuclear response from the US.

Frustratingly, Shin Godzilla is yet another reboot, leading the film to fall foul of its own criticisms as superfluous characters engage in convoluted conversations about what is going on and what needs to be done. Unsurprisingly the film teases a possible sequel, and more of this new incarnation would be welcome, provided the loquacious powers-that-be yield more of their screen time to their atomic foe.

Shin Godzilla opens on August 25

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