Garrett Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
Listen to our full discussion of Shin Godzilla on our podcast, I Like To Movie Movie.
A Kaiju version of In The Loop - something I never thought I'd see nor did I know I would enjoy so much.
Shin Godzilla feels like a proper, modern take on the monster that was introduced to the world in 1954 by Japanese filmmakers attempting to wrestle with the aftermath of, response to, and motivations for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While the nuclear element is still touched upon, this is more about Godzilla as a force of nature - something that cannot be controlled nor understood, and how a global society might respond to such a threat. As such, Godzilla footage is brief and infrequent in this film, though absolutely devastating and unpredictable. The bulk of the film is made up of Sorkin-esque walk-n-talks of bureaucrats having meetings upon meetings upon meetings as they attempt to come up with a response to the natural disaster that is both PR-savvy and satisfactory to all the various political interests that arise not just within their own government, but from foreign entities as well.
Are you seeing the metaphor here? Did you notice I left out what was best for the Japanese civilians in the two-pronged response to a disaster I just listed? It's not because this isn't a concern of the Japanese government, it's just that it's of a lower priority than the environmental impact of destroying such a unique creature, the scientific potential of the specimen, its overall threat level to the rest of the globe, and what will ultimately make the Japanese government look best not only to its own populace, but to the world at large. It's actually kind of an absurdist comedy when it comes to its depiction of bureaucratic process and how it fails the people of Japan.
Rather than monster battles or pure, reckless city destruction, this Godzilla film puts the political commentary of the original back in the foreground, and it's all the better for it. And the ultimate message of the film, that individuals are who really hold power and can make a difference in the world, regardless of who they're governed by, is a hopeful one that rings true to me. Especially when considered as a response to a natural disaster of some kind, where a governing body can only do so much to prepare and respond.
I really enjoyed this movie and think it's a great return to form for the Toho version of everyone's favorite over-sized-cosmic-reptilian-life-form. Even the effects, which are certainly of a modern variety, seemingly combining motion-capture with puppetry and a liberal use of cheap-looking CGI, come out feeling reminiscent of the scrappy nature of the original, which is very exciting to see work so effectively. I definitely recommend this and hope people check it out - I'd love to see this reinvigorate this side of the franchise.