SINCE 1998’S REMAKE, the primary question regarding any new Godzilla movie concerns its authenticity: Are we gonna get the real Godzilla? The question’s almost meaningless, considering the creature’s myriad interpretations over the past 60-plus years, but people really want reassurance they won’t be wasting time on an overlong, unsatisfying, kitschy sci-fi mess—which is, of course, what real Godzilla movies often are.
So yes, Virginia: Japanese studio Toho’s latest reboot, Shin Godzilla (which can be translated as “True Godzilla”) is a real Godzilla movie.
It’s real talky, like most of Godzilla’s filmography: These films are almost never pure orgies of rubber-clad stuntmen powerbombing each other through pressboard skyscrapers. Shin Godzilla has less in common with the works of Ishiro Honda (the 1954 original) or even Gareth Edwards (2014’s American attempt) as it does Armando Iannucci—it frequently feels like a flat episode of Parks & Recreation, but with an atomic monster instigating bureaucratic freakouts instead of Li’l Sebastian.
It’s real allegorical: Shin Godzilla isn’t really about a monster trashing Tokyo as it evolves like a malignant Pokémon. Godzilla is the means by which the movie examines Japan’s national temperament, tested by overbearing America forcing its will upon them. Already responsible for covering up Godzilla’s existence in the first place, the US makes it worse by bombing him, and naturally tries to clean up that mess by simply using bigger bombs, regardless what that means for those who have to actually, you know, live there.
It's real silly: Not due to its action sequences—of which there are less than in Edwards' film—but due to its awkward whipping between low-key satire and painful earnestness, attempting to evoke real awe and wonder when it's not commenting on governmental ineptitude. Ironically, this real Godzilla movie doesn’t have a real guy in a suit! The monster is mostly motion capture, but even virulent anti-CGI snobs won't find much to whine about.
Ultimately, enjoying Shin Godzilla will depend on how adept you are at tolerating tons of mediocre blah-blah in exchange for brief bouts of juicy monster goodness. Which, I’ve been told, is how real Godzilla fans tend to do it.