VenerableMonster’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been wanting to watch this movie since it was first announced. I pre-ordered it as soon as it was available. I received my copy. I put it on the shelf until now.
I've been out of the movie and reviewing loop for awhile, but I think there's no better film for me to get back into it with than this one. This film was highly anticipated for me, but as with most things, being forced to wait can sometimes push it out of mind or allow that anticipation to cool. But enough about that, let's talk about Shin Godzilla (or Shin Gojira if you want to be proper about it). The below review will have some light thematic spoilers regarding the political commentary of the film. If you want a fully blind watch, I suggest you hold off on reading this for now. Additionally, I write my reviews as I watch. While I try to structure it as a proper review, there can be some odd flow issues in the prose, please forgive my laziness. I'm also probably drunk.
First thing I noticed right off the bat was the quality of how it was shot. The second thing I noticed was how it delves right into the political side of the story. I'd heard from the beginning that the movie featured a lot of political commentary on Japan. And it becomes apparent fast that it will be a large part of the story. What we get as this story begins is lots of cabinet meetings and the like. They're all beautifully shot, taken with a soft tan overtone. And content-wise, I hope you're into them, because this movie is more about this political monstrosity than the kaiju monstrosity.
In addition to the political commentary, we get a homage to the original Gojira film with the kaiju's origin, but given a bit of a modern twist to add additional commentary on the nuclear energy industry.
So, while you have these beautifully shot cabinet meetings, you also have our corresponding monster scenes. The only things that stuck out here visually were some of the use of computer generated animation. They aren't terrible, but they aren't the best. Call it hit and miss. Thankfully, we do get a proper balance that favors the physical monster as well. We get some evolving designs as well, that work great. We got a lot more interesting stuff going on with our Godzilla appearance than we typically get. They continue to fit in amazing one off shots throughout the film as well. One of my favourites was a shot of a roof with Godzilla in the background. He takes a step, and all the roof tiles jump and are shaken loose. Really interesting and innovative.
For as serious as the one of this movie is, there were a few gags that made me laugh as well. Visually, we have a few shot gags, setup for contrast, like the scientists versus the politicians early on in the film. Additionally, we have a cycle of recurring "gags" in the story where everytime the older politicians deny something is possible and ignore the young politicians, five minutes later, they are proven wrong. I'm not convinced they're intended to be comedic, but some of the double takes made me chuckle. That's not to say that's the political commentary, I think it's more the amount of red tape that needs to be dealt with at every step. They even directly comment on all the meetings required throughout the movie. It's pretty interesting to see it evolve and progress when the kaiju is first revealed. On a side note to the political discussion, I did find the section dealing with the rules regarding the SDF as well as the US' security treaty with Japan to be particularly interesting. While we certainly don't expect actual kaiju to attack Japan, seeing how the rules govern how the SDF can function in this situation is an interesting take. And of course, there's the commentary throughout the film of the growing influence and control by the US itself. I can't say that I'm well versed in our current arrangement of treaties, but even seeing how Japan can view it from a pop-culture perspective would give one a moment's pause for thought.
Sound-wise, for the first twenty minutes or so, I can't say I noticed any music, then suddenly I noticed choral and strings. It really works well that they held off for the first bit to really let it build to some intense moments. They continue to use music sparingly, but the use of classic Gojira music is a really nice touch. As far as sound design goes, these moments mostly standout during the kaiju scenes, of course. The rumbles of destruction, the iconic roar of our monster, all are well executed.
Also, no matter how many times Godzilla evolves, he still has tiny t-rex arms.