After stopping the Godzilla franchise in 2004 Toho Studios gave the big guy a break for a few years. They then licensed him out to Legendary Pictures who started a new American Godzilla franchise that started in 2014. When that movie was a success Toho decided to relaunch the series in Japan again. They brought in acclaimed director Hideaki Anno (creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion) to write and co-direct the new movie. In 2016 Shin Godzilla hit screens and presented a very different take on the legendary monster.
The movie draws its inspiration from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Japanese Coast Guard investigate an abandoned boat only to be attacked by a huge wave and a creature. News reports later show a giant tail swimming closer to shore. The prime minister of Japan assures people that the sea creature can’t come on shore. It has gills and no limbs. Despite this the creature swims into canals and into Japan and eventually makes land where the creature evolves legs and lungs.
It causes tons of destruction and death and then returns to the sea. The Japanese government tries to figure what to do next. International pressure is bad. With several countries demanding what they want Japan to do. An American liaison informs them that the creature was the result of radioactive contamination and that the U.S. did try and cover it up.
Later the creature, now named Godzilla appears and mutates further, now standing up with arms now too. The Japan Self-Defense Forces attack Godzilla but fail and when the Japanese government tries to evacuate from a building near Godzilla the creature destroys the helicopter, killing most of the top branch of the government.
Another fallout from the attack is the radiation poisoning that Godzilla leaves behind, causing sickness and death. The U.N. agrees to use nuclear weapons on Godzilla but Japan doesn’t want another nuclear bomb going off in their country. They are already dealing with enough radiation from Godzilla. A group comes up with a plan to freeze Godzilla but time is running short and the U.S. really wants to drop a bomb.
A large chunk of the movie and the action is following several bureaucrats as they try to decide how to defeat Godzilla and save their people and their country but also dealing with other countries trying to tell them what to do and other politicians worrying about the cost the disasters have on the country’s economy and stock market. It’s an interesting take on the giant monster attack movie and it works. There’s frustration and hopelessness as no matter what they try to do it’s ineffective against the might of Godzilla.
Godzilla himself is all CGI this time out, like the American versions but this version is made to look and act like a person in a suit. I actually thought it was in some scenes. Shin Godzilla was a huge hit in Japan and even won the 40th Japan Academy Prize (Japanese Oscars) for Best Picture and Best Director. A sequel is planned but because of the contract with Legendary Pictures they can’t make one until after 2020. In the meantime there is a trilogy of animated movies planned the first is supposed to be out this year on Netflix here. Hopefully they’ll just as good as Shin Godzilla.