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Godzilla Minus One Review: The 2nd Best Godzilla Film in 70 years

Godzilla Minus One is a return to roots for the Godzilla franchise.
Promotional+material+for+Godzilla+Minus+One
Toho Website
Promotional material for Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla Minus One is a 2023 Japanese Kaiju film written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki. It is Produced/ distributed by Toho Studios and Robot Communications. It serves as the 37th film in the Godzilla franchise and Toho’s 33rd Godzilla film. Also serving as Godzilla’s 70th-anniversary film.

Godzilla Minus One is very much a return to roots for the Godzilla franchise. Admittedly the Godzilla franchise has had many different incarnations of the character over the years, with many different meanings behind the character, ranging from “friend of all children,” to “angry spirits that died in World War 2 seeking vengeance.” However, Godzilla Minus One goes back to the series’ origin and chooses to make Godzilla an allegory for the horrors of war and man’s ignorance, similar to the original.

Probably the most unique aspect of this movie is the fact that it’s a period piece that takes place in 1944-1947. This massively increases the effectiveness of the movie messaging surrounding the horrors of war, government untrustworthiness, and of course the atomic bomb itself. It works so well to have the film take place right after the dropping of Little Boy and Fattman because it makes the horror of war, the horror of the atomic bomb, and the government’s lackluster response to these situations much more prevalent in all the main characters’ minds, thus leading to superior messaging.

The title of the film “Godzilla Minus One,” may seem a bit random, but the film’s title is meant to convey the fact that Japan is very much in a horrible state, after the dropping of the atomic bombs, and are taken down another level by an additional tragedy, in this case Godzilla.

My favorite thing about this movie though is easily its horror aspects. Many may not know this but the original Godzilla movie from 1954 was a horror movie. While a few other Godzilla movies like Godzilla GMK (2004) and Shin Godzilla (2016) can effectively show off horror aspects, they’ve never really been able to fully replicate the horror of the original.

However, Godzilla Minus One is the first movie since the original to effectively replicate the horror of the original. This massively works to the film’s advantage, from Godzilla’s new intimidating design to how the movie specifically shows people getting crushed, falling to their deaths, and even being eaten by Godzilla heavily enforces an atmosphere of dread in the film.

Godzilla Minus One is an excellent film with horrifying destruction scenes, jarring emotional scenes, and a dreadful oppressive atmosphere that permeates most of the film.
A struggle that Godzilla movies almost always have is a lack of interesting human characters to balance out the monster scenes, often feeling like a mandatory inclusion to deal with until the monster comes back on screen.

However, once again Godzilla Minus One does not suffer from these issues and presents some of the most interesting and endearing characters seen across the entire franchise.
The film’s main character, Kōichi Shikishima serves as the series’ best protagonist since Dr. Serizawa from the original film.

This movie also offers a unique and interesting family dynamic that’s not often seen in movies with its protagonist Kōichi. Kōichi serves as an ex-kamikaze pilot who is too scared to carry out his job and suffers immense PTSD and guilt throughout the film regarding this guilt and the war in general. But when Kōichi comes back to Japan he finds his old home in ashes with his family long dead. He then discovers a homeless girl with a baby that is not hers takes care of them and lets them live with him in the ruins of his home. Throughout the film building a real family dynamic with them in a believable and well-executed manner.

Interestingly though comparatively to many movies were released this year with massive budgets such as “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (375$ million budget) and “The Marvels” (275$ million budget). Godzilla Minus One finesses modern Hollywood Films not only by being an objectively far superior film when compared to these two examples (both in terms of messaging and effects) but also by only costing a fraction of them with Godzilla Minus One’s budget being only 15$ million.

While many are quick to call this Godzilla’s best film in the series, I do not entirely agree. While I do believe that Godzilla has not been presented in such an excellent manner in a long time, I do think that the original film Godzilla (from 1954), is still a better film than Minus One.

This is only due to my one criticism of the movie, that being even though it’s far more intense than your average Hollywood or Godzilla film, I still think that its presentation of brutality was a bit censored. While still a good few notches above most films in terms of brutality, it never really hit the sheer desolate horror that was present in the original film. I just feel as if there should’ve been more carnage shown in the aftermath of Godzilla’s attacks like showing radiation burnt victims. This also applies to Godzilla’s attacks like showing crying mothers holding their children as they are about to be crushed. Both examples were included in the original film and in doing so truly lent to the movie’s more dreadful and hopeless atmosphere.

While the last thing I want is a 1-1 recreation of the original film, I do believe including these examples and upping the brutality of the film (giving it an R rating instead of a PG-13) would have massively helped with the film’s similarities but different messaging.
Although Minus One took inspiration from Shin Godzilla’s(2016) story approach Yamazki swapped the focus from politicians to civilians which massively works to the film’s advantage to have it become more relatable to audiences.

Yamazki also took inspiration from 2001 film Godzilla GMK. This can be seen in everything from Godzilla’s atomic breath to the after-credit scene is the same as GMK’s(2001). Although the director still values the original film, he flawlessly writes engaging human characters that tie into the monster story.

“I guess on a subconscious level, I didn’t realize how much I was influenced by GMK. When I look back, I do see that GMK’s(2001) influence is sprinkled in there,” Takashi Yamazaki said in an interview with CinemaBlend.

Godzilla Minus One has surprisingly more optimistic messaging to it, that being “with proper effort and time, you can heal past wounds” and “people will rise and do what needs to be done when the government won’t.”

Yamazki was directly inspired by the recent government mistrust regarding COVID-19 to relate to modern audiences. This was done similarly to how the original movie used the atomic bomb to empower its messaging.

Overall, despite a minor lack of brutality, Godzilla Minus One is easily a 10/10 film. With the best human character cast in the franchise by a long shot, the second-best protagonist in the franchise (behind Dr. Serizawa from the original film), and perhaps the most horrifying depiction of Godzilla in the series, this film doesn’t have much of anything going against it. This film will horrify you, it’ll make you cry, and it will leave you changed by the end of it, like any truly great film should. In fact, of all the films released this year, I genuinely believe Godzilla Minus One to be the best among them and I truly hope that it wins Best Picture at the Oscars this year because it really does deserve it.

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About the Contributor
KEEGAN CUNNINGHAM, Entertainment and Trends Editor
Hello everyone I am Junior Keegan Cunningham and this is my 3rd year of CJAM and my 6th year of Journalism all starting back at John Hopkins Middle School. Journalism has been my favorite subject for quite some time now and I am very happy to finally be the entertainment editor this year!I love everything movies, shows and games and can’t wait to see what great entertainment stories are going to come out of Lakewood this year.
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  • N

    NevetsDec 25, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    “Fat Man” was the given nickname of the plutonium atomic device; not “Fattman”.

    Reply
  • B

    BlondieDec 20, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
    • I

      Ismael RodriguezDec 23, 2023 at 11:05 pm

      Two and still counting and yet it won’t make it past three!

      Reply