A fantastic Godzilla film, very much drawing from the 1954 original in that there’s little focus on franchise-building or riffing off the Godzilla series and monster movie traditions for their own sake, but instead weaving a science-fiction tale that uses Godzilla to comment on actual real-world events and mentalities. Here, Godzilla and his attacks aren’t a representation of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in World War II, but instead a parallel to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters that hit Japan.
More than anything else, the film felt like political satire to me. Characters are subtitled with their job positions in a sight gag that eventually extends to a bureaucratic character having a title so long and tedious that it spills over the allotted space and takes two successions of subtitled text to articulate. Eventually, the many scenes of endless red tape and slow-moving politics move from humorous to unsettling, as the body count piles up and little is being done because of the slow-moving politics.
Eventually, the various characters, organisations and committees co-ordinate well enough to mount a well-organised attack on Godzilla. It’s interesting how the film portrays teamwork as the ideal, in a way very contrary to the more western idea of the lone hero, or martyr figure saving the day. At times, the film spills so nakedly into pro-Japan sentiment that there’s a bit of disconnect in the same way I get whenever American films go full “USA! USA!”, but for the most part, the directors keep a deft hand on the political elements.
The music, direction, and editing are all highly enjoyable. The direction and editing in particular are extremely kinetic and fast-moving; the political scenes that make up the bulk of the movie rarely feel dull, as the snappy editing keeps things in motion.
Like the 1954 classic that started it all, “Shin Godzilla” uses Godzilla in more of a science-fiction way than an outright monster-movie way, using him as a source of social commentary. And, also like the 1954 classic, “Shin Godzilla” is very successful at it. I give it three and half Cabinet meetings, and a coagulant.