GODZILLA MINUS ONE Review: Big G Is Back And Better Than Ever
In the immediate aftermath of Japan’s defeat in World War II, the country has a new terror to contend with, a monster unlike anything the world had ever seen, and there is no one to save them but themselves in Yamazaki Takashi’s Godzilla Minus One. A nation ravaged by Allied air raids, with their military being summarily dismantled, Japan is defenseless against the titan rising from the sea.
Taking place between the final days of the war in 1945 and the reconstruction period in 1947, Godzilla Minus One predates Big G lore by nearly a decade, making this new film a reboot of sorts. Shikishima Koichi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a soldier returning from the war in disgrace, but also recovering from the trauma of having encountered a monster on Odo Island, approximately 1,000 km from Tokyo. He arrives at his family’s home to find it little more than ashes, his family killed in the raids, and his reputation in tatters.
Through happenstance he meets and eventually begins living with Noriko (Hamabe Minami) and the baby girl she’d rescued from a dying woman during the war. As they begin to pull together the pieces of a life, the spectre of Shikishima’s monstrous past appears in nearby Ginza. Godzilla, a titanic monster, now much larger than its previous incarnation – thanks to a healthy diet of radiation from atomic testing in the Pacific – is on the rampage, devastating an already fragile Japanese cityscape and sending the country into a panic.
The setup for Godzilla Minus One is, admittedly, a fairly familiar one, though the execution is exceptional, making this the finest Godzilla film in a very long time. It is unlikely that there is an ongoing series of films that has been rebooted and rejuvenated as often as Toho’s Godzilla series, and this latest entry is yet another reimagining of the origin story, but with a more human and humane touch.
Over the last several decades, Godzilla films have oscillated between super serious explorations of bureaucracy/humanity, and all out monster bashin’ fun. While both certainly have their upsides, there hasn’t been a film that successfully explored the humanity within the premise in a very long time, but Godzilla Minus One hits the nail on the head. Shikishima’s story is compelling, emotionally engaging, incredibly well written and performed, and never feels out of place. Meanwhile, when Godzilla gets the opportunity to strut his stuff, the results are devastating, impressive, and dynamic.
When it comes to kaiju films, there are often lulls between the big action sequences as various governmental agencies come up with plans, or bicker and argue back and forth, which can really kill the momentum of the action. Alternately – or sometimes in the same films – there are some films were the monsters themselves are fairly stoic, lacking the kind of kinetic threat that gets the blood pumping. However, there is not a single moment in Godzilla Minus One that feels wasted. There’s no urge to fast forward to the “good stuff”, it’s all good stuff. Time spent with the human characters is time well spent, and time spent with Godzilla is thrilling and explosive. It’s a perfect mix of heart and thrilling monster action.
Though the film is a reboot set before the original film action, it wisely adheres to much of the established Big G lore, offering plenty of easter eggs for hardcore fans. That being said, it isn’t beholden to the intricacies of the mythology, making this not only a great Godzilla film, but a flat out stellar action film that is the perfect place for new fans to start. Whether you prefer the more seriously toned entries in the series, or the goofier action-forward films, Godzilla Minus One has something for everyone, and it does it all incredibly well.
With a gripping human story to tell, monster action that ranks up with the best that’s ever been done, incredible VFX, a heart pounding sound mix, and a host of wonderful performances, Godzilla Minus One is without a doubt the greatest Big G film in decades, perhaps second only to Honda Ishiro’s 1954 original.
Godzilla Minus One
- Takashi Yamazaki
- Takashi Yamazaki
- Minami Hamabe
- Ryunosuke Kamiki
- Sakura Ando