American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
The title of Japanese monster movie "Shin Godzilla," an idiosyncratic take on the by-now iconic kaiju monster, can be interpreted in a few different ways: "New Godzilla," "True Godzilla" or "God Godzilla." "God Godzilla" seems most fitting since "Gojira," originally a combination of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale," is translated as "God Incarnate" by characters in the film.
"Shin Godzilla" is a reboot, making this the first time that the Japanese military—or the world at large—have ever encountered Godzilla. The American government is responsible for dumping nuclear waste that an extinct lizard feeds off of. But "Shin Godzilla," the first Japanese Godzilla film since deliriously kitschy 2004 battle royale "Godzilla: Final Wars," treats Godzilla like an act of God: He's here, and must be dealt with regardless of who made Him.
"Shin Godzilla" is, in that sense, about damage control. There are singular heroes, like Disaster Prevention bureau analyst/leader Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) and consulting biologist Ogashira (Mikako Ichikawa). But for the most part, the film's human segments are a wall of dialogue/consultation between various superintendents, supervisory committees, ministers, scientists, bureau chiefs and cabinet secretaries. Politicians scramble to take care of their end of the Godzilla situation regardless of their reasons. Some are careerists looking to get ahead, others are civil servants looking to serve the public. Writer/co-director Hideaki Anno (creator of anime cult classic "Neon Genesis Evangelion") makes it easy to tell who the real good guys are in this film and who are just ineffectual bureaucrats. But every human politician must work together to stop Godzilla regardless of their intentions or skill sets. There's no "I" in this team.
Like a quasi-Aaron Sorkin-esque civics lesson that happens to be about a giant monster, "Shin Godzilla" is about how the really good politicians are accountable for their actions, a message that American politicians should heed. And it's about adaptability, which we see when we look at the new creature design for Godzilla. The last shot of the film is an admiring shot of Godzilla's monstrous tail. He, after rapidly evolving from a belly-crawling moray-esque sea creature into the dinosaur-like creature we know and love, is in a constant state of flux. His arms grow bigger before our eyes, and he stops breathing through gills once he reaches land. Like the xenomorph in "Alien," this Godzilla, a computer-generated special effect performed by a real actor in a motion-capture suit, is referred to as "a perfect organism surpassing man." In order to stop this creature, Japan's leaders must evolve with Godzilla. This movie is a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but only indirectly. It concerns the lessons that politicians can learn from such a nuclear disaster and how they can move forward with a minimum of finger-wagging and chest-thumping.