While the latest American remake of Godzilla was in theaters just two years ago, the original studio behind the classic monster, Toho, hasn’t made a film with its signature creation for quite some time. Shin Godzilla is the third reboot of Toho’s long-running Godzilla franchise, and the first Godzilla film by Toho since 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars. Funimation will be releasing the film in theaters October 11-18, and held a New York City premiere of Shin Godzilla as part of the festivites of New York Comic-Con.
You already know the story — a gigantic monster emerges from the deeps of Tokyo Bay and wrecks havoc on the mainland. All efforts to stop or kill the beast are futile. As the ever-evolving Godzilla rampages and the military fails to stop it, Japan assembles a team of crackpots and eccentrics — something of an Island of Misfit Toys of scientists and engineers — to discover a way to stop Godzilla before the United States and the United Nations drop a nuclear warhead on Tokyo as a last resort to stop the monster. Mostly, Shin Godzilla is about Japan coming together to confront its greatest crisis since World War II — and naturally, many references are made to the atomic bombings, Japan’s current relationship with the U.S. (signified by a headstrong U.S. Ambassador played by Satomi Ishihara), and Japan’s ability to wage war for the first time since V-J Day.
On that note, one thing you should know going into Shin Godzilla is that much of the movie is made up of scenes that don’t feature Godzilla. This is no surprise — most movies like this aren’t wall-to-wall monster action — but you should be prepared to watch sometimes-overlong scenes of Japanese politicians debating whether or not they have constitutional authorization to shoot Godzilla with a missile. In that sense, Shin Godzilla is very realistic. After all, if a monster of Godzilla proportions were to appear on this planet, there would probably be endless political chatter to figure out how to stop it. But I don’t watch movies like Shin Godzilla for realism, I watch them to see a monster doing what monsters do best.
Thankfully, the scenes with Godzilla are magnificent. The special effects in Shin Godzilla put any old “man in rubber suit” jokes to bed. This Godzilla initially appears eel-like, but it evolves into a spectacular beast that looks very much like the traditional Godzilla we all know and love. Because of that, Shin Godzilla gets the most important thing right — the King of Monsters truly earns his title here.
Unsurprisingly, Shin Godzilla is open-ended to allow for the endless sequels that will follow. While Shin Godzilla makes a strong foundation for a new franchise, Toho should ramp up the monster action in these sequels. I don’t think it’s a bold prediction to say that they probably will.