Shin Godzilla

This far I’ve only ever experienced Godzilla from a Western standpoint. From a terrible 1978 Hannah Barbarea Cartoon to the 2014 film where Godzilla was always slightly off-camera to the 1998 Matthew Broderick vehicle which was so poorly handled that the original company bought the rights to the character, renamed him ‘Zilla and promptly had the proper Godzilla wipe the floor with him.

So the chance to watch the king of the monsters in his natural habitat of Japan being made by the company Toho which had produced 28 previous installments a well as two previous reboots. Which worked for me on another level.

Because, this is the first Japanese Godzilla movie to be a full reboot, meaning that it shows what would happen if Godzilla attacked for the first time in modern day, and there had been no previous records of him. Although Toho has “rebooted” Godzilla a few times each previous film acknowledged the original 1954 movie as canon and just ignored all previous sequels.

So, with my popcorn and coke in hand I settled back in my chair and….

Well, let me put it this way. Japanese films don’t have the same budget as Hollywood films. the 2014 version had a budget of roughly 160 million dollars, this… has a budget of 15. Now to put that in comparison, The Guardians had a budget of 5 million, the closest American production I can find is 10 Cloverfield Lane which was mostly set in a basement.

This is also, the only Japanese Godzilla movie in which the monster was realized completely through CGI, abandoning the traditional suitmation effects. However, according to effects supervisor Atsuki Sato, Godzilla’s skin was deliberately made to look like rubber as opposed to realistic animal skin, and his movements were performed via motion capture, adding a live performance element to the animation.

Well, that’s what they studio claims anyway, to my mind he started off as a sock puppet, then went through his Harryhausen faze before winding up looking like the sort of threat that a 1980’s disaster movie would have been proud to claim.

Seriously, at times I half expected one of the creatures googly eyes to fall off. But, as I’m always saying, a higher budget does not make for a better film. And besides, there was a lot that should have worked. As a straight reboot, the film was free to instead of tying Godzilla to nuclear weapons but to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and many critics and journalists have noted similarities to those events. As Mark Schilling from The Japan Times stated, “The original Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear devastation, most notably the then-recent Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Anno’s beast, however, is also clearly inspired by the March 11, 2011, triple disaster, with Godzilla serving as an ambulatory tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor, leaving radioactive contamination in his wake”.

Which is a good idea, and it sort of works with shots of blue-jumpsuited government spokesmen convening emergency press conferences and shots  of a stunned man quietly regarding mountains of debris, something that could have been lifted straight out of television footage of the hardest-hit regions in the north of Japan.

The film also attempts to show the, the old guard with their overly complex and corpulent bureaucratic ways were simply unable to deal with a crisis in any kind of efficient or fluid way. This is shown repeatedly in Shin Godzilla, as the high-ranking members of the cabinet, comfortable in their positions of power, use the hierarchical nature of the system they reside within to protect their own positions, at the expense of the lives of their citizens. In the end, it’s left to your standard group of geeks and nerds to save the day before the USA starts dropping nuclear bombs.

And there are lots of human characters, this is a film has 328 credited actors with maybe enough personality for 32.8 of them. Of which maybe 30 would be some variation of ‘stuffy, panicking bureaucrat.’ Even the ‘committee of heroes’ didn’t do that much to distinguish themselves  beyond one of them wearing a nice pink scarf which I was pretty sure doubled up as a tea towel whenever the washing up needed doing.

Unfortunately, the tonal shift from 80’s disaster movie to what I think is supposed to be political intrigue handles about as well as channel hopping between Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and an episode of Yes Minister. There you are, happily watching Godzilla smash up what I think are supposed to be buildings, with the orchestra going full blast and then BLAM! Office scene, no music, no natural pause in the action, just a mid-scene cut to a bunch of random middle-aged people discussing what we’ve just seen and what Godzilla is up to now instead of showing us.

And the music is weird as well. It constantly sounded like it was about to break into the Thunderbirds theme. Not that I was complaining but I was then half daydreaming about Thunderbirds 2 and 4 turning up to help whilst Thunderbird 1 blasted the living daylights out of Godzilla, in a kind of puppets vs. man in suit battle royal.

Oh, what could have been.

As is, Shin Godzilla has some good ideas- tying Godzilla to more modern threats and bringing back the political themes that used to be prevalent in the series can only be applauded as opposed to the empty western versions I’ve sat through and I’m sure someone’s enjoying it – At the 40th Japan Academy Prize, the film won seven awards out of its 11 nominations, including Picture of the Year and Director of the Year. But I was left cold and pining for a vs battle that will never be.

Trim the run-time down from 119 minutes to about 90, put a man back in the rubber monster costume, merge your story-lines together with slightly more skill and give your characters actual personalities.

As for me?

I’m just going to sit here waiting for Pacific Rim 2: Rim Harder. 

My Score: Skip It 


The Hitmans Bodyguard Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have to say it again.

The United Kingdom has severe anti-gun laws. Whilst it is not impossible to acquire a firearm in London it would take you a long time to build up the trust required to be given access to a single pistol. Getting hold of enough rifles to launch a small coup? Not going to happen. There’s a reason that London’s gangs use knives and acid instead of guns.

Also, if your trying to get from the UK to Amsterdam in a very short time frame, maybe taking an 9 hour ferry ride isn’t the best idea? Even if you are getting a lift with a bunch of singing nuns.

But, if I started applying logic to this film then it’s going to fall apart completely. Because this film is a blast from start to finish, it’s a live action cartoon not meant to be taken seriously in any way shape or form. Could I sit here and pick hole after hole after hole in it?

Yes, yes I could. But why would I want to?

After months of CGI filled ‘blockbusters’ it’s so refreshing to see a film with actual stunts, actual explosions and a complete knowledge of the fact that it is what it is.

The plots very, very simple.   Ryan Reynolds has to get Samuel L. Jackson to the Hague so he can put Gary Oldman in prison for appearing in Robocop. But Oldman has unlimited access to people who flunked out of Stormtrooper academy for failing their marksmanship tests.

Well, either that or our two main characters are so indestructible that the bullets are hitting them and their just patching up faster than the human eye can see. Because after about 20 minutes I figured out that there was absolutely no danger in any of the fight scenes and from then on whilst I enjoyed the film it did get a slight downgrade.

Call me old fashioned but I like my heroes to have a chance of being killed when their being shot at by a million bullets. Because after a while it an start to get a little bit tedious. And the run-time could do with 15 minutes being chopped off as towards the end I was starting to feel slightly bludgeoned.

But Reynolds and Jackson have amazing chemistry and some of the best scenes are just them, sitting in a car throwing barbs at each other. And I wished that they were longer as they represented a chance for the headache I was starting to develop to start going away.

I would also like to recommend for a knighthood whichever genius decided to hire Salma Hayek for her role which is little more than a glorified cameo where she either sits in a cell hurling some very creative and funny abuse at anyone unlucky enough to wander into her eye-line or wrecking stuff up in a low-rent bar.

And  Élodie Yung is there as well. She gets a nice participation trophy as well as another thank you from me for giving me a break from the relentless action.

Look, this film is not some deep think piece on the human condition, it’s Shoot ‘Em Up blended with The Nice Guys and The Blues Brothers. The films plot twists  which it thinks are so amazing and unforeseen could all be predicted in the first ten minutes. But I mustn’t fall into the trap of over-intellectualising. This is just instantly disposable, artistically worthless, expertly crafted trash, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Just don’t take your mum, this film has Tarantino levels of swearing.

My Score- See It 

Alien Covenant Review

“I’m really excited, I love the Alien franchise as much as you love Mad Max Fury Road & Dredd.” Wittered my scriptgremlin from underneath his rock. And, as I looked at him, his little face full of hope and expectation, I wondered what exactly he was basing this delusion on.

Because lets face facts, the last good Alien film was released in 1986. That’s 31 years ago! Since then we’ve had to deal with Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem  and Prometheus. I seriously hope he wasn’t talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines. But maybe he was talking about the creatures numerous appearances in graphical novels? I mean wow has the xenomorphs gotten around in its life. As well as taking on the Predator, The Alien has taken on Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Tarzan, Buffy, Archie, Star Trek: The Next Generation AND of course, my own beloved Judge Dredd.

None of these are regarded as classics and almost non of them are regarded as cannon within their own universes.

But hey, every 111 million dollar film directed by man who gave us 2010’s Robin Hood deserves to be looked at as it’s own entity. It’s own, mediocre, unsure of what it want’s to be so it winds up being a hybrid of Alien and Aliens.

I mean it, you’ve got your people answering a distress call and winding up dealing with the Xenomorph on a planet which is hopefully the birthplace of wherever the always superb Michael Fassbenders accent calls home, and then finish up the film back on board their spaceship which i’m pretty sure the people from Space 1999 would like back at some point.

And as this is an Alien film, allow me to introduce out not-Ripley for the evening- the mono-named Daniel’s, portrayed by Fantastic Beasts star Katherine Waterston who for me seemed less like a woman finding her inner steel so that she could defeat one of the most deadly animals in the universe, than  a head girl trying to decide whether or not to tell the head teacher that someone keeps disliking her Instagram posts.

Your going to spot every twist from a mile away and resent every scene that doesn’t have Fassbender in. I mean everyone else is fine, but there’s no memorable lines or characters in the entire thing. Even my notes only refer to them as ‘redshirt’ ‘redshirt in hat’ and ‘cowardly redhsirt.’

It had some tense moments and some points where I was squirming in my seat and yes, the music was very impressive and unsettling and it did fly past fairly quickly and inoffensively but this could have been a much better film if there had been better and less dialogue, not telegraphed their plot twists in advance, had a lot more Fassbender and a lot less everybody else and realized that the xenomorph is supposed to be a practical effect that you don’t really see allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and not a CGI creation. Especially not when the budget is running low.

It’s defiantly not the worst film I’m going to see this summer, but it’s certainly not the best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-watch a 31 year old Vietnam metaphor.

My Score- If Nothing Else