People need you to like the same things they do. I think this is mostly because it makes them feel better about themselves; your approval validates them. Me, I long ago stopped giving a fuck what other people think of me. If I did, I’d be a reclusive alcoholic who cried himself to sleep every night, instead of an outgoing, fun-loving guy who loves to drink and cries himself to sleep every night. I don’t care if people like what I do, but I sure as hell care if they like me. And I keep a list of everyone who doesn’t, in a series of notebooks, that fills two bookshelves.
I’m a big boy, big enough to know when to wear adult diapers and big enough to validate my own self worth. The only time I ever care what other people think is when there aren’t enough of us to sustain something I love. An example is Bloody Mary flavor Four Loko. More people should have liked that classy shit as much as I did. Then it would still be made and I’d start every day the healthy way, with 468 milligrams of caffeine, instead of the deadly way I do now. Fun fact for those like me who have tried to make an equivalent at home: Four Loko Bloody Mary did not contain melted down lead sinkers; it just tasted like it did.
Oftentimes, people assume others either share their tastes, or will once they’re exposed to them. This is true of the assholes who tell you “Every American must see…” the movie they love. They’re so damn into themselves that they think everyone else will believe and love exactly what they do.
I love Godzilla, more than any child I might ever have and probably less than my dog. Yet, I won’t tell you every American should see Shin Godzilla, the latest Toho Japanese monster movie. The title means Godzilla: Resurgence because this is a reboot of sorts, a new origin story for the King of the Monsters, my only friend in grade school. No matter how many kids and teachers picked on me, Godzilla was always waiting at home on Channel 9, ready to do battle with smog monsters, mechanized doppelgangers and, one time, something whose head was a giant knife.
I won’t tell every American to see Shin Godzilla because this thing is mostly for the nerds, the guys who show up at the theater in Japanese market Godzilla T-shirts, and who talk Toho minutiae in line at the snack bar. If you didn’t already like the King of the Monsters, or were on the fence about him, this isn’t going to convert you.
I saw it at a fancy-ass art house with microbrews in the snack bar. The kind of place that shows a Maya Angelou documentary trailer before Godzilla because there's a huge crossover between those audiences. I had to buy tickets in advance because the place only screened it once a day. This meant a house packed with pro-Godzilla men.
Pro-Godzilla men are anti-deodorant men. They were also determined to love this movie long before it starts. Its very existence, and a theater full of like-minded, overweight, bearded guys in fedoras validated their existence. They fucking loved this movie. Me, not so much.
I like Godzilla movies. I love Godzilla 2000. This one, though, isn’t nearly as fun. It has moments, but they get buried under an avalanche of talking and subtitles covering tedious plot details, and satire spelled out to the nth degree. It's all unnecessary to get us to where monsters beat the shit out of buildings and other monsters. The movie shows us 70% conference rooms, 20% workstations, and 10% monster.
Forget that Godzilla has been saving Japan’s ass from aliens for sixty years now. In Shin Godzilla he’s a new creature who emerges from the ocean and causes confusion and chaos, and he is not a friend. At first, he is a small, big-eyed baby Godzilla, with gills and flipper arms who flops his way out of the harbor and up a river, smashing boats, bridges and riverwalks. That part of the movie is as fucking awesome as it sounds.
The government is paralyzed with indecision. The movie features bureaucrats having meetings about whether to have meetings, and then to decide what they will say at press conferences. This is mildly amusing, although, like much of this movie, the joke goes on too long, and is diluted by the onslaught of talking.
Godzilla mutates quickly. He grows, sheds his gills, develops arms and new weapons. The Japanese decide to destroy him and, as usual, fail. The battle scenes, though, play out like a fat man having routine sex with his wife. Every time Godzilla is bombarded with bullets and bombs, he just grunts, ejaculates a few photons, and then rolls over and falls asleep.
While Godzilla naps, there’s a shitload more talking. It felt like an hour straight in the middle of the movie while Godzilla rested. Some of it featured a Japanese woman as the daughter of an American senator, some acting by white people stiffer than a kid’s socks at the end of summer camp. (I assume there was a disconnect between them and Japanese director Hideaki Anno.) Too many scientists talking too much about molecules.
It’s all hard to follow because there are often unrelated subtitles on the top and bottom of the screen, with Japanese subtitles printed beneath them.
The other nations of the world don’t trust Japan to deal with its Godzilla problem. The only solution the Americans can think of is to nuke Japan... again. It’s a pretty funny gag, and it leaves the Japanese to come up with their own solution before the Americans can act. That is, basically, to freeze him from the inside.
This plan has some cool moments, such as a ton of cranes sneaking up on the napping monster and inserting their arms into his mouth so they can pump him full of chemicals. But where Godzilla should then wake up and go ape shit, the movie sort of whimpers. There is no massive battle, there is no unrelenting destruction. Godzilla goes down without much of a fight.
There are other problems with Shin Godzilla. First is that Toho has gone digital and mostly gotten rid of the awesome models being crushed by a dude in a rubber suit. This would be okay if the digital effects weren’t so antiseptic and mediocre. To me, a lot of the fun of the old move was imaging it being shot on a set somewhere, and a guy taking off the Godzilla mask when the director yelled “Cut!” I’m not as amused by the thought of a bunch of guys working in front of computers. Another is that this movie is hermetically sealed inside a bureaucratic bubble. Other than a few scenes of people running in the streets, Shin Godzilla never tells us how the public reacts or its impact on them. Sure, buildings are destroyed, but where is the story’s angle through the eyes of a child?
I’ll give Shin Godzilla Three Fingers, but leave it to you to adjust that number depending on your own tolerance for the King of the Monsters. I don’t care if you like it, and with a movie like this, you probably shouldn’t care whether I did either.