Well having seen it three times now and debating about it long enough on Facebook to almost become embarrassing, I think I can fairly assess Shin Godzilla now, here, at length.
I kind of wish I hadn't spoiled it as much as I did with the clips that were leaking. For once. I didn't want to immediately say "aw yeah, I loved it!" on the first viewing, but it definitely sat with me, and after the second viewing, I wanted to see it again right away (which I did, the very next day). I enjoyed every minute of it, it is beautiful, and is finally the most accurate and pointed "what if Godzilla appeared in real life?" scenario.
I loved all of Godzilla's weirdness. I loved the tail thing. When I first heard of it, it drove my imagination absolutely wild. I actually liked the "absorption" theory, but the movie makes it pretty obvious that he was preparing for his next stage of evolution.
I'm on the fence now as to whether I would want to see a sequel picking up from this, as the cold realization of "oh man, we just dodged a massive bullet" is a great way to end the movie and leave you in dread awe of Godzilla. But I am dying to get teased even more about his nature, origins, and Dr. Maki.
I loved all the "human scenes" and no, I'm not just saying it because of kaiju eiga Stockholm Syndrome. There was lots of good stuff there. The satire was surprisingly biting, the physiology of Godzilla was legitimately fascinating, the politics were elegantly handled, and the characters played off each other wonderfully. I loved Yaguchi's rag-tag team and wished I could have gotten to know more of them, especially the other female members of the team, which we see in the background. Considering there are all of three female characters in this movie, but that's Japan.
I was pretty pleased with Ann Patterson (although a friend thought she came off as a shallow character) merely because she and Yaguchi kept it professional, had an air of camaraderie, and never once did it really feel like they played up her sexiness in an inappropriate way. I loved the moment when she and Yaguchi clap hands right before the big battle.
Oh, yeah, and Yaguchi is the man.
Godzilla himself, and the SFX, I was pretty pleased with. I'll be honest, I really do miss and yearn for more Taguchi-style, all in-camera effects. The CG is surprisingly great in some spots and kinda bad in others. The tanks were amazingly convincing. The crane trucks, not so much.
There are two shots of Godzilla where I am still unsure if they are CG or the puppet. While the other shots are more obviously CG, they do still work. Japan has finally done a convincing all-CG Godzilla. They may have done it by the skin of their teeth and with a lot of help (much like Japan itself in this movie, lol), but it worked. Hats off to them.
Still, even though the scenes of destruction, I get less out of seeing heavily-composited elements pieced together (clever as they might be) and really only get a boner for the controlled chaos of a whole set undergoing destruction, in-camera. Godzilla 2000 is probably the last time I was rolling over with joy at the amount of destruction going on in-frame. As far as Godzilla goes, anyway. Ultraman X and Orb have definitely scratched that itch. So yeah... give Kiyotaka Taguchi a shot in the future! Obviously we are going to get more Higuchi effects for round 2, with or without Anno, and I really hope he can give the giant puppet another shot. If he doesn't bother, I won't be upset. I was pretty happy with Shin's look.
So overall... I have no idea yet where I'd rank it within the series, but it's definitely top ten material. Maaaybe not top five (I'd have to look at my personal top five and really think if I now prefer Shin to any of those), but as far as a general rating goes, four out of fives stars, solid. Best and most interesting, thoughtful, and meaningful entry since GMK.
Things of note:
while the protesters echo from the streets above. It was a cool moment, established a bit of new world-building, and showed how hard the characters were working, and was just generally comfy. I wish there were more moments like it.
is probably my favorite Godzilla-related scene, and is very eerie despite being in broad daylight.
when Yaguchi says "Godzilla has reached his fourth form," followed by the shot of Godzilla making the "everything is pain and I am its king" pose: this pleases me to no end.
"Vishnu takes on his multi-armed form, and says, "RAAAAAHHHOOO!!!'"