- Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe
- Takashi Yamazaki
- Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
- Release date
- December 1, 2023
Since its 1954 debut, Godzilla hasn’t just stomped through Tokyo; it’s mirrored societal fears, from nuclear dread to environmental concerns. Director Ishirō Honda and effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya birthed a monster, yes, but also an icon that’s transcended borders and decades. Godzilla Minus One peels back the layers, exploring Godzilla’s legacy with the kind of scrutiny and reverence it rightfully deserves.
Godzilla Minus One
In 1945, as America prepares to deploy an unprecedented weapon of devastation, Japanese fighter pilot Koichi Shikishima grapples with his duty as a kamikaze pilot. Unable to fulfill his mission due to inner turmoil, he falsely reports airplane damage and lands at a secluded repair base on a distant island, avoiding the impending catastrophe.
Upon returning to his decimated village, where he discovers the loss of his family and community, Shikishima is overwhelmed by guilt. However, his unexpected bond with a child and her guardian becomes the anchor that provides purpose amidst his profound shame.
When an unstoppable monster threatens to destroy everything that Shikishima and his people have rebuilt in the years after the war, he will have to face inner demons more powerful than Godzilla to win the day.
If you were lucky enough to grow up watching Honda Ishirō’s Godzilla movies with your dad, Godzilla Minus One is the full realization of the subgenre. Godzilla is ferocious and devastating without being schlocky or melodramatic. He is the manifestation of humanity’s destructive capacity unchecked, an unstoppable juggernaut wreaking havoc and washing the populous in misery and fear.
As far as the visuals go, they are effective, if not technically excellent. Godzilla’s Atomic Breath is done especially well, giving it a visceral feeling of lethal power beyond anything seen in previous iterations. However, neither Godzilla nor the other digital effects meet the quality standards most American summer blockbusters set.
Consider this: there are two types of ventriloquists: technical marvels whose lips never budge and funny ones. Both manage to pull off the illusion, but which one do you want to spend an hour watching?
The performances in Godzilla Minus One are hard to gauge. As is often the case, it’s a challenge to critique foreign films because many cultures have very different concepts of art, including performance, than those of Westerners. In Indian cinema, it’s expected for many types of films to spend a not insignificant amount of time on massive dance scenes that, to Western sensibilities, appear ridiculous and cartoonish.
While Godzilla Minus One doesn’t have anything like that, the performances of its main cast often come across as lacking an emotional presence to which many of us on this side of the ocean are accustomed. Whether that’s due to Japanese stoicism or middling performers, it’s hard to tell. That said, thanks to its superior direction, excellent score, and poignant A-story, even the weaker actors get the job done.
If Godzilla Minus One should teach Hollywood anything, it’s the level of profundity that the inclusion and respectful handling of meaningful character arcs that explore universal themes can bring to even something as simple and (let’s be honest) as ridiculous as a giant monster/disaster movie. However, they will likely learn nothing, and the next few years will be filled with mindless kaiju movies focused on the horrors of Global Warming.
Overall, Godzilla Minus One is a good time. Despite its heavy and serious tone, fans of the original material will love it from Godzilla’s first appearance (the best first appearance of the character), and when the modernized version of the classic Godzilla music kicks in, you’ll be absolutely hooked.
We are happy to mark it as Worth it.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.