Thoughts on Seeing Shin Godzilla

Posted by Jake 
I went to see Shin Godzilla earlier tonight. I'm not going to write about the movie, I'm not going to write about the new design and I'm not going to write about the not-so-thinly-veiled political commentary.

What I do want to describe is what it was like to see this movie in a theater. So I don't sound like a totally unappreciative ass, I will say that I was really happy that the distribution was robust enough that even in a small market like mine I able to go to a local theater and catch a new, subtitled Godzilla film. I know I am old, but I remember when 4th generation camcorder copies bought at some grungy comic shop were the best we could hope for.

That said though, the experience of sitting and watching Shin Godzilla in my local Cinemark was irritating at best. For reasons I can only kind of guess at, there was some kind of unspoken agreement among the audience at my show that normal rules of movie-watching politeness did not apply.

People were talking to each other. People were talking to the movie. People were providing unsolicited running commentary as if we weren't all watching the same thing. People were laughing WAY TOO HARD at stuff to which a reasonable person would give a brief "heh". One group brought a kid that was no more than 5. Maybe they didn't know it was subtitled, and that's on the theater staff for not saying "hey, that kid's not going to get anything out of this". Either way, it sucked because obviously that damn kid was yelling and squirming through the whole movie.

Sometimes I see this reaction (albeit to a lesser degree) when I go to see 'old' movies. It's as if people reason that because it's already in the collective pop culture gestalt, they don't have to keep quite and observe common courtesy.

So what is it about Godzilla that makes people think they are entitled to this kind of selfish behavior? Is it because it is "campy"? Is it because this was not a mainstream movie release? Because it was a niche market?

I am very curious to hear about others' experiences. Were you plagued by neckbeards and nerdholes who thought they were the next Tom Servo? Were you that guy?

Thank you

Thank you
I have seen it twice so far, yesterday at an Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers and today at AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, New York City, one of the rudest places on Earth. The only things I heard out of both audiences was laughter and cheering, and the occasional "oohs" and "aahs," No talk until after the movie. Maybe it's something in the water up by you.

(Alamo did have an awesome bumper before the movie showing Godzilla ripping Hedora's guts out, with captions warning that this would happen to you if you talked or used your cell during the movie.)

More about the movie later, I am still digesting it but I really loved it.
My disjointed, incomplete, mostly-bulleted review of Godzilla vs. the Politics Monster...

I don’t think I’ve watched a Japanese film that’s affected me this much since Battle Royale. I saw it two nights in a row and I am trying to figure out how I can see it a third time before it leaves theaters. Thoughts:

- As I mentioned elsewhere, I think the best serious Godzilla films are when he is presented as an allegory instead of a clearly-defined hero or villain. Anno is certainly evoking the 2011 Fukushima quake, but he goes further by asking whether Japan is capable of reexamining itself and accomplishing something greater in the face of adversity, something more than just simply surviving.

- The tone of the film effectively shifts from black comedy to stark tragedy after the first act. Like the monster itself, it mutates from something creepy and goofy into something nightmarish. Some gags do manage to persist throughout, like recurring references to “the Yaguchi plan” and Kayoko’s flippant attitude. I cracked up when she was sliding those papers across the table, a very rude thing to do in Japan.

- The pacing of the dialogue is insane, stacking and packing lines like an endless tower of LEGO bricks. I felt fortunate we sat in rows where I was able to see both rows of subtitles, although during the second viewing I understood I didn’t have to pay as much attention to the ones at the top. (Yes, Anno, we know, you love your military hardware, but I’m not sure that knowing an RGM-109C cruise missile was just launched adds anything to the storytelling.)

- Also liked the added twist that Godzilla isn’t just reintroducing a radioactive threat to Tokyo on his own, but that his presence there ensures that mankind is going to finish the job by unleashing total nuclear destruction.

- With the exception of a couple of awkward brief shots, I was very impressed with the quality of the CGI, establishing a “rubbery and realistic” style for the monster. When Godzilla’s second form is crawling up the canal, the wiggliness of the spines on the back gave it a “man in suit” quality that worked very well. From what I could tell, the few shots that utilized the puppet head were enhanced with some effects, but they didn’t go overboard.

- I think it’s notable that the JSDF/USAF’s modern military hardware has no effect in deterring Goji’s progress, but the final plan to deliver his chemical smoothie relies on the deployment of commuter trains and construction rigs. And none of it is possible without the tireless efforts of civilian chemical engineers and truckers. Three cheers for the common people of Japan and their vehicles!

- And three cheers for the otaku! The common people do the legwork, but the brains of the operation are Yaguchi’s crew of lovable unwashed marginalized misfits. These are Anno’s people, let’s give them their moment in the sun before they return to their parents’ basements.

- The soundtrack is fantastic, blending Godzilla, Evangelion, and original music effectively, but “Who Will Know” is the centerpiece and has been running on a loop in my head for days. The scene where Godzilla retaliates at the B-2s elevates it to the level of visual poetry by this piece, something I’ve only seen Anno accomplish through animation. (The emotion of this scene for me was marred only by the listless delivery of “It’s payback time.” Please fix this for the Special Edition, Anno-san.)

- Okay, time to complain about something. Sorry, Ms. Ishihara, your language skills did not cut it. Wish they could have found an actress with more convincing English. Also, aspects of some scenes were made unintentionally silly by the deadpan gaijin-just-pulled-out-of-a-bar delivery we’re used to in Toho films, but what can you do? (“It’s payback time,” I’m looking at you.)

- Godzilla is described as an “extremophile,” a term used for some sea creatures that have adapted to life around volcanic vents on the ocean floor. His second form (the first one we see) looks a lot like a moray eel, complete with round, unblinking eyes and needle-like teeth. Perhaps a moray was one of the first things the initial form encountered on the sea bottom? The fourth form retains those teeth and eyes but the skin looks like an undersea lava tube. Very creepy and cool.

I can understand the complaints from people that didn’t like this, it doesn’t follow the structure of the Showa or Heisei Godzilla movies, or make even slight references to them. I loved it unconditionally, though, and I put this up there with the original 1954 film and 2001’s Godzilla/Mothra/King Ghidorah movie. I’ll definitely be adding this to my digital library (legitimately) once it gets released that way.
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Roger
Maybe it's something in the water up by you.

Maybe. I have yet to hear from anyone who had the same experience I did.

A friend to whom I was complaining IRL said he was surprised that an audience who paid full price to see a subtitled Godzilla movie on a weeknight would have been that "disrespectful".

I said that I think maybe that's at the root of the problem. Thinking about it more it reminds me of the time I saw TF: The Moive at a special showing at some Botcon or another. The audience was so specific and insular that they felt it was OK to treat it like it was movie night at one of their own homes. Everyone thought their clever comments were worthy of shouting out loud for everyone to enjoy.

Thank you
As far as the film itself, I neither loved nor hated it.

There were definitely things I really liked, such as the train bombs and the I-don't remember-seeing-it-before strategy of dropping buildings on the monster. I liked the talking-head bureaucracy stuff, I thought it was an angle that monster movies hadn't gotten into enough before and in the right doses I thought it worked. The military attack scenes were good and the human characters were interesting and/or relatable enough for me.

I think the biggest thing I disliked was the Goji evolution/mutation. Maybe I'm too stuck in my old-fashioned ways, but I think having him be able to more or less shape shift into whatever form he wants/needs kind of takes something away.

I still stand by Gamera 2: Advent of Legion for best giant monster movie.

Thank you
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Jake
Everyone thought their clever comments were worthy of shouting out loud for everyone to enjoy.
If this doesn't sum up the social media age we live in, I don't know what could.

Godzilla evolving himself did add a Pokemon aspect to it, I guess.

You prefer Gamera 2 to Gamera 3? That's interesting.
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