Shin Godzilla (Review)

March of Godzilla Godman

Shin Godzilla

aka シン・ゴジラ aka Godzilla Resurgence
Shin Godzilla
Written by Hideaki Anno
Directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

New facial cleanses have gotten out of control!

Godzilla was on one of his occasional breaks after his Final War while the US developed their own Godzilla franchise. But after that monster hit, Godzilla reawoke in Japan to return with a spiritual successor to the original Gojira that is also one of the most successful films in Japan. Godzilla is back as a force of nature, the appearance and response directly referencing the Japanese Fukushima earthquake/nuclear disaster. Much of the film is spent in a West Wing style series of high level government meetings, in which entrenched minsters and officials do little of consequence in order to avoid looking bad if their actions don’t have the desired effect. While that sounds like it could be terrible, it’s actually really good, the scenes are cut quickly and innovatively to keep things moving briskly along while still giving you the feeling that the characters were in long unproductive meetings.

Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi were given free reign to tell their story, the pair having collaborated on Evangelion, with Anno subsequently directing cult live action films such as Cutie Honey and Higuchi doing effects work on the Gamera trilogy and directing the Attack on Titan features. Their strong pedigree promised that we would get something unique and entertaining, and the pair delivered with a strong entry.

The effects are a bit mixed, the final form of Godzilla is well done, but the earlier forms look goofy and some effects with them seem more rushed. While most of the music is new, there is some nice Akira Ifukube put in at the right time, with tanks driving around and blasting away that helped made the scene come together, you won’t care that everything is now CG instead of models and a guy in a suit. It really is modern mixed with the past, besides the retro tank fight, we have unmanned drones attacking Big G at one point, and the final sequence has a bunch of industrial and civilian vehicles that make up the heart of Japan’s economic might being used to save Japan.
Shin Godzilla
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13 Assassins (Review)

13 Assassins

aka Jusan-nin no shikaku aka 十三人の刺客

Directed by Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike can make any type of film imaginable. He loves cinema, he loves to work, and his output is legendary. Miike crosses genres like they’re T’s, smearing the lines and creating unique works. His pattern of excesses give his films a tone that cannot be matched by other directors, even as the tones differ based on which excesses he is exercising for the film. From family-friendly fare to ultra-violent yakuza film, Miike puts his heart into everything he does. He pushes limits, test boundaries, and kicks butt.

Due to Miike’s initial popularity in cult movie circles in the West due to movies like Ichi The Killer, Audition, Fudoh, and Dead or Alive, people naturally assumed that he only made ridiculously violent films. I’m sure watching The Great Yokai War, Zebraman, or Yatterman blew their minds to smithereens. 13 Assassins has returned Miike to notice in the international scene, but again it is for a film that features a lot of violence. Most of the violence waits until the end of the film, and instead we go through samurai life, political drama, honor, and journey and preparation. I could say that I was one of those people who like to watch samurai films and am totally into the whole samurai code blah blah blah thing, but I actually don’t like samurai films (nor other period dramas known as jidaigeki.) Frankly, I don’t really care to watch stodgy guys sit around worrying about their honor for 90 minutes until a brief swordfight happens. This probably makes me a bad nerd and bad movie reviewer, but, whatever. I’ve avoided other recent samurai films, and only saw this one as Miike is attached to it. Miike manages to keep things interesting better than I hoped, preventing what could have been a dry and slow buildup with good characterization, planning, and the fallout when things don’t go according to plan and you end up wandering around the woods. There are even supernatural elements hinted throughout the film, the more you pay attention the more you realize where they are.

13 Assassins is a remake of 1963’s Jusan-nin no shikaku (The Thirteen Assassins), a film many (including myself) haven’t seen. In fact, my favorite part of the reviews for this is everyone bringing up Seven Samurai (including this review) while hardly anyone mentions the original version of 13 Assassins. It actually took a while to find a good site comparing the two films, and from what I can see Miike follows the original’s story fairly faithfully, but brings it down to a more human level.

Shimada Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) – The leader of the group. A war weary, former decorated Shogun’s Samurai who is hired to carry out the mission. probably best known in the West before this for roles in Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel
Kurnaga Saheita (Hiroki Matsukata) – A veteren samurai who is second in command. He brings in many of his students to the group. Hiroki Matsukata starred in The Magic Serpent
Shimada Shinrokuro (Takayuki Yamada) – Shinzaemon’s nephew, who has lost his way as a samurai, but joins up to redeem himself and his honor. Takayuki Yamada was in Battle League Horumo
Kiga Koyata (Iseya Yusuke) – A wild hunter who guides the samurai when they get lost in the forest and joins as the 13th assassin. His character is awesome, but I liked Sahara Heizo (Arata Furuta) better. Obviously referencing Kikuchiyo from Seven Samurai, here are hints throughout the film as to what Kiga actually is, including his beloved Upashi being seen eating raw meat, and his fate in the final battle.
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (Goro Inagaki) – This cruel heir to the Shogun’s throne rapes and kills at will, and no one stands in his way because of his power. So a plot is hatched to save the people and honor.
Hanbei Kitou (Masachika Ichimura) – Lord Naritsugu’s chief guard and samurai, who is also a rival of Shimada Shinzaemon. It is painfully obvious that Hanbei Kitou is dead meat. In fact, the same character dies in the original as well.

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