Shin Godzilla [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Japan - Toho
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th April 2017).
The Film

“Shin Godzilla” 「シン・ゴジラ」 (2016)

The Japanese Coast Guard are investigating an abandoned boat floating in the middle of Tokyo Bay when an underwater explosion rocks the area, causing flooding in surrounding tunnels and panic from civilians. Parliamentary cabinet members gather in an emergency meeting to discuss and take action for the mysterious occurrence, and while receiving information updates they realize this is something extremely out of the ordinary that - a living enormous creature emerging from the sea. As the government gathers politicians, scientists, and military officials to make strategic plans on how to deal with the issue, the creature starts making moves of its own. Codenamed “Godzilla”, the creature makes it to land to wreak havoc in its seemingly indestructible form.

“Shin Godzilla” is the 29th film in the series of official Toho Godzilla films - which does not include the Hollywood 1998 or 2014 versions nor does it include the partially Americanized 1958 and 1985 films . This is also the first Japanese Godzilla film in 12 years, with the last being 2004’s “Godzilla Final Wars” - a seemingly fitting conclusion of adding every Toho kaiju into a single all-out monster battle film. Following the worldwide success of the 2014 English language reboot film, Toho announced plans of their own reboot of the series. A few months later it was stated that Hideaki Anno, creator of “Neon Genesis: Evangelion” would be the director. In addition, Shinji Higuchi who worked on the Heisei “Gamera” film series and “Evangelion” would be the special effects director, Atsuki Sato who worked on the Heisei “Gamera” and “Godzilla” series and “Evangelion” would be the visual effects supervisor… and the list goes on for a community of who’s who of the Japanese special effects film industry. With the “Evangelion” connection there was much hype from anime fans and kaiju fans, but also some negativity concerning the accessibility, since the “Evangelion” franchise had drawn in mainstream crowds due to word of mouth and visual style, but alienated many due to the abstract and slightly confusing narrative structure.

Anno and his crew were set to make a completely different Godzilla movie that had ever been seen previously, by making a film that mirrors the social mindset of Japan post 3/11, similar to how the original 1954 “Godzilla” was a metaphor for WWII 10 years prior. Previous Godzilla films always followed the aspects of the human characters and their interactions of coming together to survive and possibly to stop the monster attacking. Whether they were civilians, scientists, politicians, military officials, the relationships at the core was what held the narrative together - and sometimes they were cheesy and silly, but got the work done. For Anno’s reboot, the idea of following the survival aspects of the civilians were completely thrown out and rather the strategic operations of the politicians were placed at the center, discussing options and tactics while scrambling to find correct information and informing the public on the matters. With a cast of 328 speaking roles in the film, to say the screen is crowded is an understatement. The film is filled with a who’s who in the acting world from film actors, television actors, stage actors, and even comedians. With the large amount of actors involved with speaking lines that are nearly mechanical in delivery due to the technical nature of their talks, it makes things very rigid and serious rather than the more playful nature of the older films mostly aimed at children (sans a few such as the 1954 film’s more serious tone). The cold rigidness of the dialogue and characters are what either make or break the film for audiences. Almost every scene is calculated in speech with very little in terms of emotion or characterization. There are a few that their own isms to the scenes but for the most part the technical jargon, step by step analysis, and orders given are flat out bland and machine like rapid fire dialogue. Apparently there were some subplots involving a romantic angle and also family interaction in the original draft but they were completely removed from the final script. What this causes is a lack of “humanity” in the reason to stop Godzilla and instead becomes a purely democratic decision. The political figures are not thinking of their family or friends but instead about how this will affect the economy and international relations. There is a single shot of one of the members looking at his smartphone screen which has a picture of most likely his family but it lasts for a single second and only happens once. While this could be a very subtle hint at “heart” into the matter, this really does not make up for the rest of the supposedly politically heartless souls running the country. Maybe this is a response to the Japanese government’s handling of the 3-11 earthquake and how 6 years later there are still misplaced people living in refugee centers with government doing little to restore. If that is the case, well done. For characters with heart and soul, there’s nothing.

There are a few characters that stand out from the rest such as Hiroki Hasegawa as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yaguchi - the level headed decision maker rather than the expected Prime Minister, Mikako Ichikawa as the super-serious Ogashira, Shinya Tsukamoto as the pink scarfed scientist Hazama, Issei Takahashi as the sometimes paranoid and quirky Yasuda, and of course Satomi Ishihara as the bitchy half-Japanese politician’s daughter Kayoko Patterson. To say “memorable” it does not necessarily mean “good”. Most of the casting decisions were adequate to excellent, but Ishihara’s performance was one that takes all the seriousness away with the odd choice of having a non-native English speaker to play a person that is supposedly “American” by birth. Her character would randomly go from Japanese to English, but the English is at many points unintelligible - perfect grammar and slang but a tongue that cannot match the fluency. Why they chose to cast her in the part rather than a native English/Japanese speaker who is half Japanese is a mystery considering that Toho was thinking in terms of international sales. Ishihara is a very popular actress and model in Japan so having a face and name to the project was good for Japanese publicity but making things suddenly placed out of disbelief rather than the realistic tone the film was going for. The slight bitchiness of the Patterson character does come as some relief from the stoic qualities of the many other scenes, but somehow does not fit well with the other characters and her subplot of being a politician’s daughter with ambition to be an American president in the future seems both far-fetched and unnecessary. But then again considering the current US administration it’s clear that a large vocabulary is not exactly necessary to get into office but aggressiveness does, and that is what Patterson has.

But do a lot of filmgoers watch a Godzilla film to enjoy the human interaction scenes? Of course the main star of the event is the title character and its presence is what audiences are expecting most. With a tradition of Godzilla being a man inside a suit, kyogen stage actor Mansai Nomura performed the part of “Shin Godzilla” - not in the traditional suit but rather by motion capture and later animated. The most shocking moment of the film comes early on when the audience is first exposed to the monster - shocking because it looks nothing like Godzilla but a cross between the stegosaurus-like Anguirus from “Godzilla Raids Again” and the googly-eyed turkey like creature in “The Giant Claw”. It is one of the most absurdly weird creatures to be in a Godzilla film, and many had thought it was going to be Godzilla’s “enemy” but that turned out to be completely false - as this crawling wide-eyed monster is in fact Godzilla before transformation. As the film progresses, Godzilla evolves and grows, turning more menacing and eventually to its upright position audiences know. There are some differences in appearance from previous films, with Godzilla looking slightly more “radioactive” with glowing red seen within cracks in the skin, and the eyes become smaller and less life-like, almost as if Godzilla was a zombie risen from the dead. It still moves fairly slowly and destroys without prejudice as it always has, but the later destructive elements especially with the trademark Godzilla beam goes one step further to show that there are a few more surprises to the monster than the previous incarnations. The design is excellent and sets it apart from the other films, just as the title suggests - “Shin Godzilla”. “Shin” can have multiple meanings and the way it is written in Japanese makes it ambiguous. “Shin” can mean any of the following: “New” (新), “Truth” (真), “God” (神), or the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “Sin”, and the production team has confirmed that it could mean any of them or all of them, with the audience deciding for themselves. Even with the fully CGI rendering of the monster, it still looks absolutely impressive in comparison to other CGI monsters around, and incredible considering the smaller budget of the film compared to the Hollywood counterpart.

What also sets the film apart from the other films in the franchise is the cinematography and editing. Anno’s background is mostly in animation though he has had taps into directing live action films as well. Certain scenes are fast paced and edited in rapid succession with precise framing of the image on still shots like a comic book. Other scenes are handheld shots following characters around in long takes. There are also steadycam shots hovering around the characters. Depending on the scene, the visual language changes and it always keeps the viewers attached, not knowing what to expect and how to expect it. In addition, Anno loves to place text on the screen - and lots of it. There are captions on who’s who, locations, explanatory text, and for scenes not spoken in Japanese, additional subtitles. The world of “Evangelion” shares the similar style, and for many it will be a fascinating yet very text-heavy ride. In addition, the score composed by Shiro Sagisu is absolutely gorgeous with its menacing tone and energetic cues, and also having music cues from the older films spliced in made great nostalgia. Though a slight negative comment on this: The film takes place in a world where the 1954 “Godzilla” did not happen. All other films in the Godzilla franchise make it clear that Godzilla was a presence known by everyone in Japan due to the events in the original film (although they disregard almost every other sequel for some reason!). In “Shin Godzilla”, since there never was a “Godzilla” that attacked Japan in the past, why were there vintage cues in vintage recording? It seemed like a cash-in for audiences rather than for the film itself.

“Shin Godzilla” opened in Japan on July 29th 2016 after a heavy marketing campaign that lasted for months. Critics were mostly positive though there were some divisive comments. Praise was given to the direction and the tone of the film, but there were some negativity towards the human characters not really being “characters” but almost mechanical. Regardless, it was a massive financial success with ¥8.25 billion (about US$80 million) in ticket sales in Japan alone, becoming the highest grossing live-action Japanese film of the year. With the 3-11 earthquake fresh in the minds of the Japanese public, there was a great deal of attention to the detailed look at the government process following a disaster with both positive and negative reactions. Positive as to how government works in a crisis that civilians cannot experience, and some negativity towards how cold-hearted and calculated the politicians are - thinking about “the country” rather than lives. The Japanese Academy Awards nominated it for 11 prizes, eventually walking away with an amazing 7 wins including Best Director and Best Picture.

It’s been secured that Toho will in fact continue the “Godzilla” film series following “Shin Godzilla”, but also interesting is that Legendary Pictures’ own “Godzilla” film will have its own sequel in 2018. So this will be a rare case of two franchises of the same origin moving in parallel motion simultaneously. Will this mean one day the Japanese “Godzilla” will meet the Hollywood “Godzilla”? Only time will tell…

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can play back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Toho presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Easily said the transfer is flawless. Colors are beautifully rendered in both bright light and in dark scenes, visuals are pin sharp, and the only portion with “damage” is the opening Toho logo that was recreated to have a vintage feel. There really is nothing to fault here.

The film’s runtime on the disc is 119:50

Audio

Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 3.1
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo

There are two soundtrack options available: the original theatrical 3.1 audio track and a downmixed 2.0 audio track. A very unusual choice of 3.1, the center speaker is reserved for dialogue while the left and right speakers are used for remaining music and effects throughout. Even without surround channels, the audio is very effective and most will not even notice that the surround channels are completely silent. Even though the soundtrack is listed as “Japanese” there are portions in English and German in the film.

There are Japanese subtitles burned-in for non-English portions and captions and optional Japanese HoH subtitles for the film. There are no English subtitles for the film so the Japanese release is not English-friendly.

Extras

There are multiple editions of “Shin Godzilla” available on Blu-ray: The 2-disc standard edition, 3-disc special edition, and a 4-disc special edition which also includes a UHD Blu-ray 4K disc. The following extras are for the 2-disc edition.

DISC ONE

Teaser 1 (0:33)
Trailer 1 (1:33)
Trailer 2 (1:33)
Trailer 3 (1:33)

DISC ONE includes the film itself plus four trailers. The four trailers presented here were the most played promos, and they are excellent. The teaser features handheld footage of people running away from something, with no footage of Godzilla whatsoever. The first and third trailers include footage with the fantastic orchestral/choral score where Godzilla is shown in full along with the faces of the many actors. The second trailer is the only one with actual dialogue, but for some reason the silent ones are really the most effective. The trailers are chaptered individually with no "play all" option.
The teaser and first two trailers have optional 3.1 or 2.0 audio options while the third trailer only has a 2.0 audio track.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 2.40:1, Music/Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 3.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with no subtitles

DISC TWO

Promotional Clips (27:04)
- Super Teaser
- Teaser 1
- Toho Cinemas Special Interlude Footage 1
- Toho Cinemas Special Interlude Footage 2
- Teaser 2
- Teaser 2 IMAX+etc. ver.
- Trailer 1
- Trailer 1 IMAX ver.
- Trailer 1 IMAX+etc. ver.
- Kawasaki Frontale Collaboration Video
- FC Tokyo Collaboration Video
- Teaser 3
- Teaser 3 Toho Cinemas ver.
- Trailer 2
- Trailer 2 Toho Cinemas ver.
- Toho Cinemas Cinemileage Video
- Toho Cinemas Signage Video
- 2 TV Spot Teasers 0:30 Pre-release
- 2 TV Spot Teasers 0:15 Pre-release
- TV Spot Single Take 0:15 Pre-release
- 3 TV Spot Teasers (0:30) Pre-release
- TV Spot Action (0:15) Pre-release
- TV Spot Action (0:12) Pre-release
- TV Spot Action (0:10) Pre-release
- Trailer 3
- Toho Cinemas MEGA Popcorn Ad
- 2 TV Spot Teasers (0:15) Post-release
- TV Spot Single Take (0:15) Post-release
- 3 TV Spot Teasers (0:30) Post-release
- TV Spot Action (0:15) Post-release
- TV Spot Action (0:12) Post-release
- TV Spot Action (0:10) Post-release
- TV Spot Event (0:15) Post-release
- TV Spot Action (#1) (0:15) Post-release
- TV Spot Event (#1) (0:15) Post-release
- TV Spot Social Impact (0:30) Post-release
- Audience Vocal Screening and Explanation Video
- Teaser 2 Blu-ray & DVD ver.
- Trailer 1 Blu-ray & DVD ver.

If four trailers on the first disc were not enough, how about having them all? Every Japanese trailer and TV spot is collected here and it is a chore since many of them look almost identical in content. There are a few interesting ones with some behind the scenes footage and interviews but most of them are retreads of the same scenes and music over and over again. It’s unfortunate there are no international trailers here. All the trailers are within a single title. Each trailer can be selected from the menu, but once it finishes the next one will play.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1 and 2.40:1, in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with some burned-in Japanese HoH subtitles

Event Footage (112:44)
- "Shin Godzilla Jet" Showcase Event
- Completion Press Conference
- World Premiere Red Carpet Ceremony
- Post Release Event in Osaka
- First Day Stage Greeting
- Audience Vocal Screening
- Female Exclusive Viewing Conference
- All Around Japan! Audience Vocal Screening

How was the film promoted in addition to trailers? There was a “Shin Godzilla” airplane, press conferences, and appearances by the cast and crew in select cinemas. As interesting as some of these were, the most frustrating part was that nothing new can be learned about the movie as they barely talk about the behind the scenes process. All the footage is within a single title. Each section can be selected from the menu, but once it finishes the next one will play.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with some burned-in Japanese HoH subtitles

That’s all there is to the second disc. If you want behind the scenes extras, you have to shell out the more expensive edition instead and that is a major shame. There are no significant extras such as commentaries or interviews on the standard edition. It’s a disappointing disc in the extras department on this one. There is a lot of content but very little in terms of substance.

Overall

“Shin Godzilla” is equally a great experience and a dull experience. It’s a masterfully directed piece but an utter chore to get through the overlong dialogue through characters that seemingly have no heart and soul. As a reboot it took challenges by making a serious film for the current times and it will be interesting to see where the direction goes. The Toho standard edition has a flawless transfer but has very disappointing extras that really give nothing to the behind-the-scenes aspect.

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: D Overall: C+

 


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