Verdict: Definitely see this movie. Chances are it has already left theaters, but honestly as soon as you can, watch it. It’s not necessarily an easy watch, but it is thoroughly entertaining, and frankly educational.
Synopsis: “It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. As the government scrambles to save the citizens, a rag-tag team of volunteers cuts through a web of red tape to uncover the monster’s weakness and its mysterious ties to a foreign superpower. But time is not on their side – the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.”
This cast is massive.There are so many characters in this film it is literally bonkers. But the major character is Hiroki Hasegawa as Rando Yaguchi, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. He plays the classic “hey the problem is definitely this, and not whatever dumb thing you think it is” character. And he’s really good, playing a serious part with a lot of passion. But he’s just one part of a great ensemble. Together they all revolve around each other in what honestly feels like a real government at times; it could be a documentary.
The cinematography is very unique and engaging. I couldn’t begin to tell you why some of it is shot the way it is, but having the audience’s view be inside a stapler, or a printer, or in the document that someone is signing? It is pretty cool. The editing is also quick, constantly jumping between scenes and conversations. It has the feel of constant movement and chaos, which serves it well.
Godzilla (he? she? it? I have no idea how Godzilla self-identifies. I’m gonna go with it, since it’s a monster lizard thing) is a nostalgia ride, hearkening back to its earliest Toho days. There’s an actual guy in the suit, which is pretty cool in and of itself. But they manage to take what is essentially a giant mascot suit and make it menacing, arguably much more so than the American 2014 Godzilla. The film ups the powers, making Godzilla far more of a threat than it has ever been. This makes a lot sense, as a way to compensate for the increase in military technology of a modern day monster film.
And of course, the plot and themes, which are the real standouts of the movie. This is either a pretty typical monster fighting movie (bad stuff happens, people don’t believe the protagonist, monster shows up and kills folks, protagonist gets a group of folks together, folks stop monster through alternative means), or it is one of the most brilliant, nuanced, and deep political analyses I have seen in film.
The sheer size of the cast can be a detraction at times. There are just a ton of characters, so it’s hard to form any sort of emotional attachment to most of them. And there is so little time spent on each, it is sometimes hard to tell who is who. Which may actually be on purpose; virtually every character is given a name and title card when shown for the first time, and there must have been dozens of them. It could’ve been a way to show just how bloated and confusing it all was.
Godzilla ends up looking really cool. Like, really cool. But at the beginning, he’s this goofy monster fish looking thing that is so comical you can’t help but laugh. Again, maybe that’s the point? But it didn’t really feel like it.
Not a lot here, except for the real lack of women in the film. The little bit there is, is really fantastic. There are three major women characters, and each is very different from the next, providing what feels like real people, not just caricatures. On the downside, they never speak to each other, and the ratio of women to men is like 3 to 50, characters wise. You could chalk this up to cultural difference perhaps? Not sure what role women play in Japanese cinema generally, but using this is my only modern reference point, it could certainly be improved.