I Watched Shin Godzilla and Realized I’m An Uncultured Peasant

I love a good monster movie. I don’t know what it is, but something about them just does it for me. Jurassic Park, Tremors, King Kong, Rampage, The Great Wall… Scratch that – I indiscriminately love monster movies, regardless of whether or not they’re any good. (I stand by my love of The Great Wall. It is pure nonsense and I love it both for the weird giant lizards and the absolutely batshit nature of the movie as a whole.)

This is all you need to know, really.

I’ve enjoyed the recent incarnations of the King Kong and Godzilla movies, so you can imagine that I’ve really been looking forward to the release of Godzilla vs Kong. In my anticipation, I was recently doing a search on previous Godzilla movies and found an overwhelming online sentiment that the scariest Godzilla movie to date was Shin Godzilla (2016).

Yeah, looks pretty scary tbh.

I’m an uncultured Westerner and I love trash

Before I fully delve into Shin Godzilla, I must share an embarrassing fact: I’ve only really seen the Hollywood versions of Godzilla, so I’m definitely no expert on kaiju films. For the uninitiated, like myself, “kaiju” can refer to both the genre of Japanese monster movies as well as the monsters themselves.

After settling in and watching the film, I think part of what makes Shin Godzilla the scariest of the genre is that it’s the most realistic in terms of what would likely happen if a giant, radioactive lizard monster began terrorizing one of the biggest cities in the world.

  1. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has a damn clue of what’s going on, least of all the government.
  2. Unlike Hollywood’s Godzilla, Shin Godzilla doesn’t give a shit about people and their well-being.
  3. This Godzilla is kind of disgusting.

Let’s get into it.

Shin Godzilla doesn’t mess around with any preamble – the film starts out with a disaster in the Tokyo Bay. Investigating an abandoned boat in the bay, the coastguard discovers there’s been a leak in the Aqua-line, an underwater highway connecting both sides of the bay, and a deluge of blood comes crashing down on the cars inside.

Stephanie Beatriz Nbc GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Find & Share on GIPHY

The majority of Shin Godzilla focuses on the government and its inability to act quickly enough to mitigate the damage done by the monster. We watch this through the eyes of our protagonist, Yaguchi, a young government official with political aspirations. In the ministerial meetings, government officials are debating over the cause of the leak in the Aqua-line, suggesting it may be underwater volcanic activity, a hydrothermal vent, a submarine.

Yaguchi finds a viral video of an enormous creature submerging itself in the bay, but his coworkers tell him he’s making a mockery out of a ministerial meeting. At the same time, an enormous reptilian tail emerges from the water. Seeing this on the news, they’re forced to come to grips with the possibility that Yaguchi’s creature may be real.

The creature begins forcing its way down the tiny Nomi river like a bull in a china shop, its massive body displacing the water so it flows onto the streets, yachts and sailboats rolling helplessly in its wake.

The Prime Minister makes an announcement live on TV to reassure citizens not to fear the creature coming on land. They suspect the sheer weight of the animal may be too much for its legs and lungs and would be crushed upon beaching itself. He finishes his speech saying, “There is no danger of the creature coming ashore, please set your minds at ease.” As he finishes saying this, an official approaches him whispering.

The creature has come ashore

It is at this point that we get our first good look at the monster and it’s not quite what I expected. The expression on its face is reminiscent of someone who made a really embarrassing pun and is waiting for a laugh that will never come.

“Rectum? Damn near killed ’em! …. wait, come back, I have more.”

This is not the Godzilla I’m used to seeing, and while I would absolutely shit my pants if I saw this in real life, seeing it on screen didn’t have the intended effect I think it was meant to. Its doofy, slack-jawed, bug-eyed face isn’t what I’ve come to expect when I think of Godzilla.

As the creature waggles its poorly-configured body through the city, we see the source of the blood in the water and tunnel – every few steps, the creatures releases gallons and gallons of blood from waggling gills attached to its neck. It’s quite a sight to behold. 

The government finally moves to evacuate Shinagawa as the creature lumbers through the region like the cat in Cinderella when it gets stuck in a sleeve.

Also, the creature seems… stupid? It helplessly flops around Shinagawa like a fish out of water, and somehow manages to scale its badly-proportioned body up the side of an apartment building, which then crumbles immediately under the animal’s enormous weight. This Godzilla doesn’t have an agenda, it just seems like a confused and scared animal lashing out, which ultimately makes it all the more realistic.

After crushing the apartment building, the monster stops for a moment, raises itself to its full height, and then slams itself back down onto the ground. It begins to shake violently, its body changing in a gory and bizarre display, and like Charmander into Charmeleon, it evolves into a different form that walks upright like a T-Rex.

Facing pressure from his cabinet and the American government, the Prime Minister is forced to make a decision to launch an attack and deploys helicopters to dispatch the creature. The helicopters approach and prepare to fire on the creature, but upon realizing citizens are still in close proximity to the monster and may be in danger, the attack is called off. The creature flops back down and recedes into the Tokyo Bay.

Yaguchi organizes a team of experts to examine what little information they have about the creature to see what they can learn and to make a contingency plan for the creature’s inevitable return.

The Arrival of Reinforcements

In response to the high levels of radiation in the city, the US Deputy Chief Assistant to the President and his aide have arrived to assist in the issue. The aide is the politically savvy and ambitious Kayoco Patterson, daughter of a US senator and also of Japanese descent. She meets with Yaguchi and enlists his help in locating Goro Maki, a former Japanese professor who defected to the US to work in the Department of Energy. In exchange, she offers him all the intel the Americans have on the creature.

It turns out, the boat found drifting in the bay at the beginning of the movie belonged to Goro Maki. Yaguchi gives Kayoco the files found on his boat and she gives him a file in exchange. The file’s codename is “Godzilla” and in Japanese characters, Goro Maki wrote “Gojira” on the file, a translation from his home on the fictional Odo Island meaning “god incarnate”.

They learn this whole situation was borne out of unregulated dumping of hazardous radioactive materials in the ocean that Godzilla has been feeding on. Goro Maki theorized the creature was an ancient form of marine life that fed on the radioactive waste, mutating it and developing the ability to adapt to life on land and sea.

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Godzilla, probably.

To combat the creature, they decide they must try to cool its blood down with a coagulant to immobilize it. They call it their operation the Yaguchi Plan.

Godzilla returns

An exponentially more terrifying-looking Godzilla approaches the Sagami Bay, coming ashore. It has evolved again and is now double the size it was before entering the water. As the monster approaches Tokyo, the government becomes concerned about what may happen if Godzilla attacks a nuclear facility. As the Yaguchi Plan and the coagulant are not yet ready, the Prime Minister approves an attack to stop the creature before it can approach any metropolitan areas and spread radiation.

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Machine guns and missiles make no visible impact. They make use of tank fire and begin launching rockets in an aerial assault on Godzilla as it approaches Tokyo. The rockets appear to be effective, and Godzilla begins to retreat.

A torrent of blood pours out of Godzilla as the bombs hit and we hear the iconic shriek we’ve all come to know and love.  Badly injured and infuriated, Godzilla starts to glow. Its bottom jaw splits in two sections and it exhales an inferno of both radiation and actual fire onto the city. It shoots radioactive photon lasers out of the dorsal fins in its back and truly begins to unleash hell onto the city. You could almost say that he… goes nuclear.

Csi Miami GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
I hate myself for that pun, too.

After an evening of raging and expelling radiation across Tokyo, Godzilla is totally spent and takes a wee rest. 

The next day, the country is reeling from the events of the night before. The Prime Minister is presumed dead as his helicopter was destroyed in the chaos of Godzilla’s fury. In radio and media, many are quick to compare the tragic events to the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Godzilla’s origins

This is actually a nod to why the Godzilla movies were created in the first place – as an allegory to the damage created by nuclear war and a damnation of the effects it has on the citizens who are placed in harm’s way.

Kayoco learns of another American airstrike planned against the monster, as they think it may travel to the US next. The scale of damage from the bomb will be 75 times stronger than the devastation of Hiroshima. In the order to drop a bomb on Tokyo, Kayoco has been ordered by her government to evacuate. She tearfully laments to Yaguchi that she does not want to see a third nuclear bomb dropped on her grandmother’s country.

Time Crunch

Now, Yaguchi and his team of scientists and experts are in a race against time to finish developing and producing their coagulant before the bomb strike or Godzilla wakes. They rush to organize the production and shipping of the coagulant for as soon as the following day.

With Godzilla’s evolutionary and regenerative capabilities, there is worldwide fear that when it wakes it will develop wings and create mass worldwide devastation. Given these concerns, the Japanese government are warned – if Godzilla wakes, the strike will happen immediately.

Mass evacuations are underway and Yaguchi and his team are left to unravel the meaning of a cryptic chart Maki left behind. They realize that folding the chart like origami creates a molecular chart for converting elements in Godzilla’s body to energy that can sustain it.

Godzilla’s frozen state begins to crack.

Various Japanese government officials try to convince the acting PM to put the brakes on the thermonuclear missile and let them try the Yaguchi Plan before allowing the total devastation of Tokyo. Kayoco opts not to evacuate back to the US, choosing instead to stay in Japan and help oversee the Yaguchi Plan.

They launch the Yaguchi plan. They bomb the hell out of Godzilla with drones, and after it exhausts itself shooting radioactive photons and fire at the drones from it’s mouth, dorsal fins and tail, they deploy a platoon of cranes to administer to coagulant to freeze Godzilla’s blood.

After they’ve finally administered the full dose, Godzilla rises up and freezes solid. After the success of the mission, they learn they were only within an hour of the thermonuclear missile being deployed.

So, what does it all mean?

I don’t know about every other film in the kaiju genre, but this Godzilla movie is all about Japan saving itself. They had the option of deferring to the judgment of the UN and the US and allowing them to destroy Godzilla and all of Tokyo in the process – and were prepared to do so – but they wanted to try and save it.

Tokyo was most certainly majorly devastated by Godzilla’s rampage, but it’s nothing in comparison to the damage incurred by a thermonuclear missile. Tokyo and Japan as a whole still have a chance to rebuild. Yaguchi’s friend, Akasaka remarks to him, “This country was devastated before, but it rose from the ashes. It’ll do so again.”

As the movie draws to a close, we are brought into a close-up on the stiffened Godzilla. As the camera pans along its body, we reach the end of Godzilla’s tail and see human-like skeletons, frozen in the process of emerging from the tip of its tail, implying that Godzilla’s next evolution would propagate via fragmentation to make Godzilla-humanoid creatures to populate Earth and take over.

Creepy, no?

Watching this movie illuminated the fact that I have a very limited understanding of the kaiju genre, so I definitely have some catching up to do on some of the older Godzilla movies. That being said, I still love trashy monster movies and I’m definitely going to check out Godzilla vs. Kong when it’s released.

Do you like kaiju films? Do you have any recommendations on what I should watch next or write about? Drop me a comment and let me know!

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