Directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Hideki Akasaka, Satomi Ishihara, Ren Ohsugi, Akira Emoto, Satomi Ishihara, Kengo Kôra, Mikako Ichikawa
Yes, Godzilla has returned. No, it is not like any other Godzilla movie up until now. After producing Final Wars for Godzilla’s 50th anniversary Toho decided to rest the franchise for 10 years and even destroyed some sets to ensure this.
This movie can be considered Toho’s reboot of their franchise and marks the beginning of a new era of movies from the studio with a separate continuity to the Showa, Heisei and Millennium series. Even more confusing the recent US remake is also separate and is going to continue off on its own storyline.
How this movie is different is that it mainly concentrates on Godzilla as if it is a natural disaster being managed by various Japanese government agencies so you see everything from their point of view as they react to it and manage disaster recovery and trying to counteract the monster.
There are a lot of different ministers introduced, but the closest to main characters would be Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) a junior advisor who ends up leading the anti-Godzilla taskforce and sassy US ambassador Kayoko Ann Patterson (Satomi Ishihara). In any other movie there would be a love story between the two but it is barely even considered here.
While there are a lot of meetings in the movie you at least get to see Godzilla earlier than the 2014 movie. He looks nothing like you would remember but to give away what it looks like when you first see the monster would ruin the surprise. It sure does look goofy looking.
Goofy-looking or not upon coming ashore the monster leaves a trail of destruction and causes many deaths, there is an attempt made to attack the monster, but it has to be stopped at the last minute due to civilians. The monster then returns to the sea.
The USA ends up getting involved but many in the Japanese government do not think they have their best interests at heart and the sassy Japanese ambassador has trouble getting her point across with the government officials. The leader of the ant-Godzilla taskforce is a lot more receptive to her and they end up working together.
There is a lot of planning and meetings and these culminate when Godzilla reappears having grown in size and the self-defence force tries to stop it from advancing on Tokyo and fails. Not like they did not try as they attack it with three waves of forces including helicopters, tanks and jets. In the movie they use footage of real vehicles for the scenes which is great along with the models for when some of them get wrecked.
The USA sends over its B2 bombers which seem to be doing well at first, but Godzilla evolves and destroys them easily with powers that it had not had before and are new even in the history of the Godzilla movies. Having used up its reserves it goes into hibernation leaving Tokyo in a sea of flames and many thousands of people dead.
Leaning on the UN council the USA it is going to make a nuclear strike when Godzilla starts moving again. Most of the Japanese government is understandably upset at this but agrees to start evacuating Tokyo. Yaguchi disagrees and wants to try his team’s plan of making a blood coagulant to try and freeze Godzilla. At this point it is a race against time for the teams’ plan to be carried out before Tokyo is destroyed for good. I am not going to reveal which plan succeeds or fails as that is half the fun.
This is not a movie for those people who complain “when are they going to get to the fireworks factory” you have to have a high tolerance of people in meetings and a lot of ancillary characters being introduced and discarded.
I did like the anti-Godzilla task force as Yaguchi himself says they are a bunch of “freaks and rejects” and he wants people with strong opinions and who have no qualms of expressing them. The group ends up working so hard that the cleaning staff feels sorry for them and brings them food and the other staff start complaining that Yaguchi smells.
The senior government ministers are a bunch of senior Japanese actors who I mostly did not recognise apart from Jun Kunimura as Chief of Staff who was recently in the Korean movie the Wailing. The older actors did have a lot of gravitas especially the Prime Minister Ren Ohsugi.
The monster effects seemed to be a combination of suit work and CGI and you could not really tell the difference between the two as they were so well integrated. I did like seeing actual models be destroyed like in the old days and there was some clever use of infrastructure with trains being used as weapons in one sequence.
The original music for the series also makes a cameo during some scenes, but if you want to hear the full tunes wait for the end credits where they play in full.
While the Neon Genesis Evangelion fans will soon be online posting comparisons in shots and so forth, there are quite a few here. In the NGE TV show the EVA units could only operate for five minutes due to their internal battery and the rest of the episode was spent building up to it. The same is the case here. The evolving state of Godzilla does remind me of the Angels in some ways as they were different each time as they changed after each one was defeated.
The previous short by the two directors the Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo is the direct predecessor to this movie and well worth watching.
While there was space left in the resolution of the movie for sequels it may not be by the same directors or even with the same set of characters. It was great to see Godzilla back in Japan but if you prefer more action in your Godzilla movies then I would recommend an earlier film in the series.