shin godzilla review

The Patriotic Tribute

The fourth and final film within Shin Godzilla is perhaps the most important. Beyond the political satire and the creature effects, the film is a patriotic rallying cry and a tribute to the men and women of Japan. As frustrated as Anno and Higuchi are by the ineffective government, they believe in their nation and in their people. The Japanese people can and will overcome the odds and they will do so without the help of anyone else, damn it!

This manifests in two ways. First, there’s how the film views the United States, which tries to bully its way into the whole Godzilla situation early on and continues to stay involved as things go from horrible to apocalyptic. There’s a tinge of anti-American sentiment on display, especially as the Japan Self-Defense Forces go out of their way to save civilians and spare as much of Tokyo as possible while American forces simply send over a map estimating a zone of collateral damage for their bombing runs. However, the United States aren’t the only nation to be treated in this way, as China and Russia and the United Nations in general are all portrayed as caring more about destroying Godzilla than preserving the people and livelihood of Japan.

Ultimately, Shin Godzilla is less about being anti-American and more about being pro-Japan. As the rest of the world intervenes and attempts to solve their giant monster problem for them, the Japanese characters rise to the occasion and work to save their nation on their own. This isn’t a movie about a giant monster wrecking cities, but a movie about a country proving itself in the eyes of a world that doesn’t think they can take care of themselves. Just in case this isn’t obvious, the movie frequently pauses to state this out loud, ensuring that every single person in the audience knows that this is the intended message. At its worst, Shin Godzilla is hopelessly earnest.

But that earnestness feels honest. When the shattered Japanese government does rally against Godzilla, the imagery and language deliberately echo what was seen during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Men and women clad in radiation suits that will do little to save their lives bravely march toward a radioactive threat, knowing that they are very likely heading to their doom. It’s intense and personal imagery, recalling how the original 1954 Godzilla was a howling and bitter response to the open wound that was the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shin Godzilla is ultimately more optimistic in how it ties to actual world events, but the intention is no less powerful.

Shin Godzilla is political, funny, odd, and so specific in its intentions that it could have only been made in Japan by Japanese filmmakers. It is also a Godzilla movie without much Godzilla, an unsubtle satire with no room subtlety and no memorable human characters. It is less interested in mass destruction and more interested in government process and Japan’s place on the international stage. It has a really good joke about the difference between “Godzilla” and “Gojira.” I have no idea if it’s a good movie, but I can’t wait to see it again.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Jacob Hall is the managing editor of /Film, with previous bylines all over the Internet. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, his pets, and his board game collection.