Review: Godzilla Minus One

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Title: Godzilla Minus One
MPA Rating: PG-13
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Sakura Ota
Runtime: 2 hrs 4 mins

What It Is: The citizens of Japan are already devastated by the war, and they do the best they can to get by in the post war period. Unfortunately, war is not over for Kiochi Shikishima (Kamiki Ryunosuke), a failed kamikaze pilot who struggles to find redemption for the deaths of innocent men after they were massacred by a giant prehistoric monster known as Godzilla. To make things worse, the monster has returned to wreak havoc on Tokyo. So, Kiochi, along with a three man crew, work together to stop this giant beast from destroying more of their homeland.

What We Think: Godzilla Minus One is hands down the best Godzilla movie in ages. In many ways, it’s even better than the 1954 original classic and this is coming from someone who’s not a huge fan of this franchise. Japan understands what makes Godzilla work more than our American counterparts. For one, the monster itself is never overexplained, like in the 2014 reboot, nor is the creature presented with any sympathy like in King of The Monsters (2019). Instead, the film returns to basics by showing the monster as a cold ruthless monster born from atomic weaponry caused by the US. The film works as a thrilling monster movie as well as an emotionally chilling cautionary tale about the horrors of war as well as the consequences that can arise from post-war guilt. What separates this film from the US versions and even the original film is that the characters this time around are fully fleshed out individuals with their own flaws and personalities. The human drama is captivating throughout and at times, I forgot about Godzilla because I was so invested in the characters. Kiochi’s arc is pretty satisfying, and the final scene with him is emotionally heartwarming. I also love that the movie found humanity in a kamikaze pilot instead of reverting to negative portrayals of kamikaze pilots. I’m not saying a kamikaze is a positive thing, but a majority of period pieces portray kamikaze pilots as selfish killing machines and nothing more. It was refreshing to see a nuanced and subversive take on this tired trope, especially in a monster movie, no less. Going back to the monster, the prehistoric creature is at its most terrifying. The destruction scenes are thrillingly exhilarating and viscerally brutal all at once. The movie doesn’t shy away from the horrific terror the giant beast can cause, and you really do see the massive toll it takes on the townspeople. The film utilizes Godzilla at the right amount, and when the creature hits, you damn well feel it, and much of that is thanks to excellent sound design. The monster itself also looks fantastic; you would never guess a film like this cost under $15 million. The film is well paced; not a minute of screen time is wasted, and it features one of the best third act climaxes I’ve seen all year. As soon as the main theme finally played, I felt my heart warm in my chest. This is one of the very few monster films that actually makes you think. Hollywood should take note of that.

Our Grade: A, I didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did. This is the same similar sentiment I had with Barbie and TMNT: Mutant Mayhem during the summer. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no fan of this franchise, but this film might’ve made me into one. At the very end, the movie does hint a possible sequel. Does it need one? Not really, but I’m curious how the storyline will continue. I doubt a sequel will be as good as this one, but I could be wrong.

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