A Godzilla that will haunt your dreams

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY


Di­rected by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi Star­ring Hiroki Hasegawa, Yu­taka Take­nouchi, Satomi Ishi­hara Cert 12A, lim­ited re­lease, 120mins

Dear Hollywood, this is how you make a melon-farm­ing kaiju movie. A prime min­is­ter re­as­sures the pub­lic dur­ing an emer­gency broad­cast: “We don’t ex­pect it to come on land. We be­lieve it would be crushed to death un­der its own weight. I re­peat: there is no dan­ger of the crea­ture com­ing ashore.”

The tit­u­lar mon­ster is “an an­cient species of marine life” that has fed on US-dumped nu­clear waste. “That coun­try foists some crazy things on us,” sniffs one Ja­panese of­fi­cial. It didn’t get the memo. Var­i­ous of­fi­cials and ex­perts run through cor­ri­dors, hold emer­gency meet­ings, and dis­cuss res­cue op­tions for cit­i­zens and (of course) the mar­kets.

In com­mon with Christo­pher Nolan’s Dunkirk, this is en­tirely ex­pe­ri­en­tial ac­tion cin­ema. There are no lengthy, un­nec­es­sary char­ac­ter in­tro­duc­tions. The clos­est we get to back­story comes deep into the cri­sis, when the deputy chief cabi­net sec­re­tary (Hiroki Hasegawa) as­sem­bles a team of “lone wolves, nerds, trou­ble­mak­ers, out­casts, aca­demic heretics, and gen­eral pains-in-the-bu­reau­cracy”.

Can this makeshift re­sponse unit hold out against the Amer­i­cans, as rep­re­sented

Mon­ster pre­dic­tiom... “We don’t ex­pect it to come on land.”

by a special en­voy (Satomi Ishi­hara), and their de­mands for a tac­ti­cal nu­clear strike?

Just to add to the panic, the mon­ster con­tin­u­ously evolves, thanks to a com­bi­na­tion of CGI, an­i­ma­tron­ics and minia­tures. The tac­tile re­sults make for a pleas­ing al­ter­na­tive to re­cent en­tirely pix­e­lated US vari­ants.


Ishiro Honda’s orig­i­nal 1954 film Godzilla was rooted in sec­ond World War and atomic anx­i­ety. Shin Godzilla – win­ner of pic­ture of the year and di­rec­tor of the year at the 40th Ja­panese Acad­emy Awards – takes its cues from the Fukushima Dai­ichi nu­clear dis­as­ter, and the 2011 To­hoku earth­quake and tsunami.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials ap­pear in pub­lic wear­ing the blue jump­suits that be­came syn­ony­mous with Yukio Edano, Ja­pan’s chief gov­ern­ment spokesman dur­ing the earth­quake-tsunami. Like Edano, the film’s co­terie of first re­spon­ders forgo sleep, food, and (in some cases) hy­giene to work around the clock.

Co-di­rec­tors Hideaki Anno (the Evan­ge­lion fran­chise) and Shinji Higuchi ( At­tack on

Ti­tan), move fast and fu­ri­ously, with a semi-docu-style that can oc­ca­sion­ally re­sem­ble found footage. Real-time (ish) brief­ings al­low the au­di­ence to keep pace. Shiro Sag­isu’s re­mark­able mu­sic remixes his own com­po­si­tions from Neon

Ge­n­e­sis Evan­ge­lion and Akira Ifukube’s older Godzilla scores to ap­pro­pri­ately chaotic ef­fect.

Thirty-one films and 63 years later, the mon­ster has sel­dom looked bet­ter. The fi­nal shot will haunt your dreams.

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