The Godzilla franchise is nearly 70 years old, with 37 different installments. But, thankfully, there comes a movie like Godzilla Minus One that keeps the franchise fresh, making its future exciting. Godzilla Minus One was written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki (Always: Sunset on Third Street, Parasyte). It is set in post-war Japan and follows a kamikaze pilot named Kōichi Shikishima, played by Ryunosuke Kamiki (Your Name, Summer Wars). The film also stars Minami Hamabe (Shin Kamen Rider, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas) as Noriko Ōishi and Hidetaka Yoshioka (Always: Sunset on Third Street, Rhapsody in August) as Kenji Noda.
The pic begins with Kōichi flying to Odo Island at the end of the war, claiming that his plane was experiencing issues. A hub for mechanics, they soon discover that nothing is wrong with his plane and that he left his post out of fear. Soon after, the island is attacked by the legendary Godzilla, and all are killed except for Kōichi and one of the mechanics, Sōsaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki). He had an opportunity to fire at Godzilla with the gun mounted on his plane, but he chose not to.
Spectacle With Substance
There are so many moments of humanity in Godzilla Minus One. We don’t sit through any boring subplots with the humans while we give Godzilla a few minutes to catch up. Instead, we see Kōichi come back to a ruined home with no friends and family, only to find one of his own. He meets Noriko, who has an orphaned baby. The child’s parents were assumingly killed in the air raids, but Noriko’s trying her best to keep it healthy and sheltered. So, Kōichi, Noriko, and the baby become a makeshift family, with the help of his neighbor Sumiko (Sakura Ando).
But, for a large part of the film, Kōichi is reserved toward both Noriko and the child. His survivor’s guilt plagues him to the point where he doesn’t want to attach himself to his newfound family. After a while, he gets a job as a gunner on a boat designed to destroy leftover mines from the war. The crew members Shirō (Yuki Yamada), Yōji (Kuranosuke Sasaki), and Kenji bring in a much-needed levity to break up the bleakness of the first act.
At its core, Minus One is a Godzilla movie, not a movie about Godzilla. The creature is not treated like a character, but rather as a force of nature that destroys everything in its path. This is how the film moves away from being an action-packed blockbuster, even though it does have some expressively explosive moments. Instead, it’s a story about a pilot’s survivor’s guilt, and Japan building itself back up after World War II. The horror comes in when Godzilla decimates the city, revitalizing the feelings of dread that the citizens felt after the air raids.
Godzilla Looks Better Than Ever
Godzilla Minus One is gorgeous. The visual effects for Godzilla and whatever destruction it causes are impeccable. Without spoiling the specifics, there are some underwater shots of the king of the monsters that are brilliant as well, perfectly capturing what’s happening to Godzilla at that time. With that being said, the design of Godzilla makes it look a little goofy. It’s only evident in the wide shots, whenever its face is in the shot. This isn’t a negative or a positive, it doesn’t really detract or add anything to the movie, it can just be a little amusing.
All the performances are solid, which is why the humanity of the movie plays as well as it does. The story of the movie is interesting, and the pacing is good, but not great. There are large parts of the movie where Godzilla is not featured, and while Minus One does a great job trying to sustain the audience’s attention, there are some scenes toward the end that make the 125-minute runtime feel a little bloated. But, it does have a near-perfect ending, that not only directly sets up a sequel, but also ends the movie on a note of satisfaction.
The sound design and score are both incredible, with the score intensifying Godzilla’s destruction. The effects and sound design come together to create some brilliant sequences involving Godzilla’s atomic breath. This is without a doubt, one of the best Godzilla movies ever made, honoring how terrifying the creature should be. Any Godzilla fan or Kaiju fan should go see this movie on the biggest screen possible. If you’re not a fan of Godzilla movies, you should still see this in theaters on December 1, 2023, because it might turn you into one.