Very Japanese in the way the Legendary pictures movies are not. People may claim that Godzilla is hardly in those other movies but this movie is mainly meetings. The director’s experience on Neon Genesis Evangelion comes through as the monster is dealt with as if it is a natural disaster and then a military threat with combined arms tactics used.
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.
Based on the folk story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter we see a simple bamboo cutter finding a tiny girl inside a bamboo stalk, who turns into a baby once he hands her over to his wife. The baby is no ordinary baby and seems to be growing at an extraordinary rate, leading her friends to call her Lil’ Bamboo while her adopted father calls her Princess.
After finding a bamboo stalk full of gold and one full of fine kimonos, the father decides that his princess should live in the city and take her place amongst nobility. His daughter is not so sure, but goes along with it any way.
Fitting in with the Japanese nobility at the time isn’t easy, but the princess tries her best and even ends up with five suitors. As she wants them to prove their love, she asks each of them to bring her something that is impossible and they leave disappointed. Things do not turn out as expected as three years later they return claiming to having done the impossible and now even the Emperor of Japan is interested in her.
This film is quite extraordinary. From the “other” director at Studio Ghibli , Isao Takahata, I can see why it took so long to finish. In the documentary Kingdom of Dreams and Madness they were worried it was never going to be finished as the director seemed like he did not want to finish it. I can see why you would not want to finish it as if you could keep working on your best work forever you would want to do that.
More than any of the other Studio Ghibli films, you can tell this film is all hand drawn as the style starts off all sketchy and broken up during the scenes in the country and gets more refined as the characters move into the world of the nobility.
At times it does go back to being sketchy and strange when emotion is being shown. Some of the characters have funny shaped heads even though most of them are meant to be human, but it just gives them more character.
There is a lot of emotion in the movie with the woodcutter prone to blowing up and also crying. I should have expected as much from the director after seeing Grave of Fireflies.
It does not really explain why the Princess came to be where she was or how she manages suddenly to have super powers but these things do fit with the story.
I would recommend this film if you are a fan of this director or folk stories as it is a great example of a good story told well.
Movies about making a movie are so cliché now that you may as well make them out as joke from the start, which is what this film does and is not even trying to hide the fact that the entire film is a meta joke in the infinite mirror sense. It is also quite a savage backhander to the type of film makers who talk more than they make movies with the Fuck Bombers being all talk and so little action that ten years pass and they still have not made a movie despite filming every day.
The Yakuza in the movie are the standard stock characters with Muto (Jun Kunimura) in his tacky threads, Michiko (Fumi Nikaidô) his wild daughter and the rival Yakuza leader Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi). The look on Ikegami’s face when he finally gets to meet Michiko after obsessing about her all those years is priceless.
I am being a bit light on with the plot as that is half the fun with the movie as you don’t know what it is going to do next. There is a point in the film where they decide to drop any suspension of disbelief and heads and limbs start flying and the film crew suddenly has machine guns that they use to gun down the Yakuza while filming the dolly shots.
Michiko is a terror and the broken glass kiss is one of the more intense things in the movie. I had to watch that part of the film through my fingers.
Deranged carnage has been one description of this movie, well yes, but it knows why it is doing it and it has a lot of heart. It is not like Tokyo Gore Police that was all gore and no plot, you are actually engaged with these characters and want to see how it turns out.
If you are a fan of Yakuza action movies or appreciate films that question the medium I would recommend this film. Some people may wonder what the hell is going on and are probably best to watch something else that is more straight forward.