Godzilla Minus One Poster

Godzilla Minus One (2023) Review

It’s no secret that the monster Godzilla has been created out of the societal subconscious of Japan’s post-WWII trauma. It’s fair to revisit that idea, along with wartime psychological horrors, with the title Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki, The Great War of Archimedes, Lupin III: The First). Naturally, Godzilla embraces a return to his roots in Japan, just like Shin Godzilla (2016).

The buzz around the eponymous kaiju in Godzilla Minus One has been incredible. With limited release in theatres this holiday season, I jumped at the chance to see it. I was not disappointed. Yamazaki, also a visual effects supervisor for Shin Godzilla, has saliently paid homage to previous Godzilla movies and carved out a niche for himself with Godzilla Minus One. The succinct storytelling make the post-war themes of devastating loss that Japan has lived through that much more heartbreaking. By the end of the harrowing story, you really feel as though you know these characters, who have been through so much together.

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Godzilla Minus One takes place in post-war Japan. The film opens with kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima (played by Hayao Mayazaki favourite Kamiki Ryunosuke Of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) landing his plane on the repair station island Odo in the Japanese archipelago. There, he meets the head mechanic Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, The Roundup: No Way Out), who insinuates that Shikishima could be a deserter upon completing the check of his plane.

The twitchy Shikishima sits shell-shocked until nightfall, staring at the shore. Then Godzilla rumbles out of the water, wrecking havoc upon everything. Tachibana encourages Shikishima to use his plane’s gun, and Shikishima at first appears to obey, and then at the last moment, fails to fire on the dinosaur-like creature terrorizing the island. When he comes to, the monster has escaped, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind.

Yamazaki takes the time to set up a very moving post-war period piece to carry the story between Godzilla fight scenes. Shikishima befriends a woman, Noriko (Minami Hamabe, Ajin: Demi-Human, Shin Kamen Rider) and an infant baby, Aikiko, rescued by Noriko. Still, all the while, he remains haunted and broken, more by Godzilla than by the war itself, it seems. He becomes a minesweeper, befriending three men who believe they can take down the big scaly monster.

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Despite the attention given to the post-war story, the movie’s pace never slogs. Viewers who need more Godzilla screen time will crave a different movie. Others will appreciate Godzilla as a real, true monster that much more, with his laying waste and destruction to everything that much more sinister. To say nothing of how much profit Godzilla Minus One had at the box office-substantial, given its limited release-the special effects are nothing short of spectacular, as well as sound production.

When Godzilla is onscreen, he never disappoints. It’s a true return to form for the franchise and the character. Godzilla Minus One is a stark reminder that Japan will always have the final word on Godzilla, having created the character. If you skipped the other Godzilla movies made in the last ten years, don’t sleep on Godzilla Minus One-it’s got plenty to say for itself.

Toho International has released Godzilla Minus One in theatres across North America, where it’s become the biggest grossing Japanese film of all time. You can check their Facebook page for news of Blu-ray and Digital releases.

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