This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2016.

Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara

Directors: Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Release Date: October 11, 2016

If you are in the mood for some giant reptile action but are a little wary of subtitles, it may be time to conquer your fears. Because if you waiting for the good ol’ U.S. of A. to get Godzilla right, it might be a while. The latest attempt barely even featured the title lizard and killed off its only interesting human character in the first ten minutes. Meanwhile, the franchise keeps stomping along in its native Japan, and the 31st entry, Shin Godzilla, is set for a limited Stateside release October 11-18.

Shin Godzilla wastes no time in setting the danger loose on Tokyo. A frenetically edited opening sequence of roadside carnage, government officials deliberating, and blood pouring into a tunnel paves the way for the big guy’s first appearance about 15 minutes in, and … it’s kind of disappointing. However, it eventually becomes clear that that is kind of the point, as Godzilla’s monstrousness starts out (relatively) silly but gradually grows more imposing. There is no such luck keeping up that go-for-broke pace indefinitely, but there is fun to be had beyond the destruction.

There are three main draws to Shin Godzilla: the aforementioned fast pace of Godzilla’s initial attack, the dark humor, and the (perhaps meta?) examination of political relations between Japan and the United States. The second and third points are tied up with each other: there is a defeatist tinge to much of the jokes in which the officials and scientists despair that so much is beyond their control. That also applies to their ally across the Pacific, which is a frequent source of frustration for forcing policy decisions upon them. These moments are too unmoored from any real situation to work as specific satire, but that lack of a clear analogue allows for a mythic quality that keeps these monster stories afloat as they are told over and over again.

Shin Godzilla is Recommended If You Like: Godzilla movies that actually feature Godzilla, a random joke about soggy noodles, and Japan-U.S. relations

Grade: 3 out of 5 Nuclear Fission Reactions