This week I had the opportunity to watch 2016's Shin Godzilla. While I won't give away any key plot points, this review will have some minor spoilers.
Do you remember everyone's biggest complaint about 2014's Godzilla? Not enough actual Godzilla. I'd say this movie is an improvement over that. The film immediately kicks off with something crazy happening in the bay, and we start getting glimpses of the monster. It doesn't take long before Godzilla gets to land and we get our first glimpse (more on that later).
There are definitely stretches of this movie that have a lot of dialogue and no action. But when we do see the monster, there's not a lot of quick shots and tiny peeks. We get full on Godzilla right on the screen.
Shin Godzilla definitely takes a page from the original Godzilla movies with the social commentary. It's not at all subtle about the fact that government red tape can slow things down and lead to indecision. There's even a scene where one of the characters even says that they have to hold a meeting for everything including to hold a press conference. As the movie progresses and the Japanese government finally takes military action against the monster, there is a moment when the front line soldier has a question and it goes through 3 or 4 people, including two people right next to each other at the same table, before reaching the Prime Minister. Once he gives his answer, it has to go back through the same chain, leading to even more delay.
Now getting back to the actual Godzilla that we see in this movie. The creature we initially see is goofy at best. But in a lot of ways that makes it more realistic. How many times have we watched the Discovery Channel and seen some weird undersea creature that looks like a Jim Henson creation? That's what the designers have captured in this movie. As a side note, I really want to post a picture of this initial Godzilla, but I don't want to ruin the feeling I got when I watched this movie.
As the movie progresses, so does Godzilla. He evolves right in front of the camera at one point, then evolves again after returning to the sea, giving us the more prototypical Godzilla we are all used to. I liked this element of the film. The danger kept changing, and drove home the point that the government rules did not allow them to act quickly.
I want to be sure to include a paragraph about the atomic breath. In 2014's Godzilla, the atomic breath was one of the best moments when he blasted Muto right down the throat. Let's revisit that moment.
In Shin Godzilla the atomic breath and it's evolution is great. At one point all I could think was "Godzilla is fucking shit up." Which is exactly what was happening, as the atomic breath evolved things took a serious turn south for the military. If nothing else, you need to see these scenes.
Finally, let's get to the practical effects. If it wasn't for the technology we see (phones, computers, etc) you would never know this movie was made in 2016. There appears to be a lot of puppetry used, which is brilliant. This gives the feel of an old-school Godzilla movie. The CGI is largely weak, but again it works great for what this movie is.
Overall, I'm giving this movie a B. If nothing else, there are some great scenes you need to see, but it's worth your time to sit down for two hours and watch this. And even though it's subtitled, it's OK to get a little distracted. If you miss a little of the dialogue, there is enough context to catch what's going on. (Related: How we Grade Movies)