You might be wondering, why we need another Godzilla film in the style of the original from 1954. In the case of Godzilla Minus One, it takes the original concept of a massive Kaiju attacking Tokyo in the shadow of the atomic bomb and brings it forward to modern audiences. This isn’t a strict remake by any means. It’s just taking that concept and adding a new story to it.
Godzilla Minus One places far more of a focus on the human element. I’d go as far as to say if there wasn’t Godzilla in this movie, it would still be a powerful look into post-war Japan. The film has one of the best ensemble casts of the year, with Ryunosuke Kamiki as Koichi, a disgraced pilot who has an encounter with Godzilla that haunts him for the rest of his life. It also stars Minami Hamabe as Noriko, a girl who runs into Koichi and becomes involved with his life as they both take care of an orphaned girl, Akiko. It also stars Sakura Ando, Yuki Yamada, Munetaka Aoki, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Yuya Endo, and Kisuke Iida. Godzilla Minus One is written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki.
Right from the get-go, Godzilla Minus One doesn’t mess around with either subject matter or Godzilla being absolutely terrifying. It delves into themes of national pride, deserting, and what it means to be a soldier during wartime. The Godzilla at the beginning of the film isn’t even the fully grown version. They’re still kind of dinosaur-looking and not nearly as large. Even then, this is easily the scariest Godzilla has been in a long time.
A New Wrinkle For A Classic Monster
Godzilla Minus One really works as both a monster movie and a movie to inspire hope for humanity. The looming threat of Godzilla coming to destroy Tokyo is met by the men who fought in the war. Governmental factors like tensions between the US and the Soviet Union mean that Japan is on its own in the fight. Godzilla is the most formidable and destructive they’ve ever been, with atomic fire breath and regeneration. Anything that gets thrown at them, they shake off, making for a truly terrifying antagonist.
On the other side, we have Koichi, who is about as tortured and vulnerable a protagonist as they come. He’s tortured by the decisions he’s made in the past regarding his service and his “cowardice” in the face of Godzilla at the beginning of the movie. All of the decisions he makes up until the climax of the film are because of his mental and physical wounds. Ryunosuke Kamiki plays Koichi masterfully, filling him with humanity.
The ensemble cast is also excellent, providing some of the most triumphant and hopeful moments of the film, especially when it seems like all is lost after Godzilla destroys a part of Japan in the middle of the film. Of course, Godzilla is magnificent and horrifying. When they’re smashing buildings, blowing away tanks with atomic breath, or just being menacing, this is some of the best work animators have done on the famous monster.
Hopeful Above All Else
It would be easy for Godzilla Minus One to slip into despair and just give us a classic monster movie with Godzilla destroying Tokyo once again. Instead, it doubles down on hope across multiple generations of people. The third act of the film makes you think it’s going to go one way and instead flips the script twice. Normally this would bewilder and possibly confuse audiences; but the entire movie is about saving future generations and sparing as many lives as possible. Something that the Japanese military didn’t care about doing in World War II. The fact that it’s all veterans of that war going up against insurmountable odds to save everyone else makes it all the more poignant.
Godzilla going back to the natural killing machine is a nice change of pace as well. It’s about time we see the personification of the atomic bomb and nature getting angry again. Overall, Godzilla Minus One is among the best Godzilla films ever. It would work just as well if it was just another random Kaiju because of the human element. The cast here is absolutely on their game, with everyone working well off one another.
The last thing about the film that is so surprising is how stunning it looks for such a small budget. Normally, I don’t really care to talk about how much a movie costs; but here, it’s insane to think that this movie was made for $15 million. It looks just as good if not better than almost every big-budget blockbuster out there. So it just shows that if you have a great script, an excellent ensemble cast, and people who know and love the property, you can get a stunning film.
In a time filled with so much despair and division; a movie like Godzilla Minus One is what we all need. Godzilla Minus One releases in theaters on December 1st.
For more Reviews, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.