Review: Godzilla Minus One
Postwar Japan. From Zero To Minus.
This is a quick review of the newly released film Godzilla Minus One. Keep in mind this is but one of the many movies I watch every year, and that whatever initial grade I come up for this film could change for better or worse with time. To better keep up to date with both my thoughts on other movies and if my feelings on this film changed, follow me on Letterboxd.
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Via Letterboxd: In postwar Japan, a new terror rises. Will the devastated people be able to survive…let alone fight back?
Before you read this review I think one should be fully aware of the fact that I am an unapologetic Godzilla simp. Its my all-time favorite franchise, my all-time favorite fictional character, and growing up on Showa-era replays on TV while at my grandma’s its what made me into movies in the first place.
I am very up front about the fact that any review from me for a Godzilla film should be taken with the grain of salt that almost all of the films featuring the iconic monster are A-tier, Best of the Year movies for me. Even the much maligned 1998 American film is a fun B+ popcorn flick for me. Though there are a few I actually outright dislike (Looking at you Godzilla: Final Wars). So granted it’ll be easy to dismiss this review as hyperbole from a Godzilla super fan; but where I basically have to throw my hands up in the air and admit the silliness of the Monsterverse films are just “my cup of tea”, I am actually being somewhat objective when I praise this as potentially the best Godzilla film ever made alongside the 1954 original and 2016’s Shin Godzilla.
Its probably fitting that in the same year Christopher Nolan gave us Oppenheimer and its dark realities of the fire given us to destroy ourselves, we also get Takashi Yamazaki’s Godzilla Minus One and the reality of what the only people to know what it means to have such a destructive weapon used against them have to live with. Granted Godzilla is a fictional threat compared to the very real possible nightmare Oppenheimer has going through his mind when that particular film ends, but at his core when he’s not saving the world Godzilla is a metaphor for the nuclear holocaust that the world could unleash on itself.
This feels like a complete reboot and remake attempt of the original while keeping things fresh with new characters. Those new characters coming with their own arcs that feature a kamikaze pilot who survived the war (Koichi played by Ryunosuke Kamiki) and a woman who finds an orphaned baby to take care of and which Koichi takes into his home (Noriko played by Minami Hamabe). Japan is left on their own to deal with Godzilla in the same way they will always be alone in knowing what its like to be victims to the atom bomb. This does set the stage for some melodrama that might be a bit much for some but I was invested enough to care about how things played out for these human characters.
But of course the movie is a Godzilla film and this might be the scariest and most intimidating the king of the monsters has ever been. We’ve gotten used to watching him as mankind’s protector in the latest Hollywood films, but this film (Like Shin Godzilla in 2016) is a reminder what a nightmarish threat he can be to mankind as well. Every time the legendary monster shows up you’re fearing for human lives. I found myself on the edge of my seat and damn-near terrorized during one scene in which he swims towards our protagonist ready to strike at a boat he’s on. The damage he leaves behind gives one a sense of completely hopelessness, and the final confrontation with the creature is very reminiscent of Jaws as we watch man try to overcome nature. A thrilling sequence that truly capstones the kaiju’s screen time with a glorious conclusion that unsurprisingly leaves room for future films from a would-be new continuity for Godzilla fans to follow.
Look I can admit I have major biases here, but Godzilla Minus One is like watching the original 1954 film and Shin Godzilla mixed with Jaws and the melodrama of some of the best animes that touch on trauma from war. This is a great companion piece alongside Oppenheimer for my absolute favorite film of the year and I think its an S-tier movie subjectively, but honestly would argue its an A-tier film objectively.
Come next year we’ll see the king of the monsters back to being part of a “turn your brain off” popcorn flick, but for now we should appreciate when he gets to play a darker role that goes back to his original central role as a warning to mankind.