June 19, 2024
Godzilla Minus One

What’s the tale?

In the last stages of World War II, Ryunosuke Kamiki plays Shikishima, a kamikaze pilot in GODZILLA MINUS ONE. He pretends to need repairs as he lands his jet on Odo Island. A massive monster known to the locals as “Godzilla” attacks while they are there. As he gets into his fighter to fire at the beast, Shikishima suddenly freezes. Except for mechanic Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki), who accuses Shikishima of causing the deaths, everyone is slain. Anguished by his guilt, a shame-stricken Shikishima returns to a devastated Tokyo and encounters Noriko (Minami Hamabe), a woman who has taken in and cared for an orphan named Akiko. Shikishima allows them to stay in his hovel because of his good nature. After some time, he gets employment recovering mines from the ocean floor.

He quickly makes close friends with the other members of the crew, including rookie Mizushima (Yuki Yamada), scientist Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), and captain Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki). The group repels Godzilla’s second onslaught, which comes from a much larger version of himself. Noda devises a strategy to finally vanquish the beast after it uses an atomic blast to decimate a section of Tokyo. Shikishima understands that in order to clear his conscience and serve as bait, he must take to the skies once more.

Godzilla Minus One: The film Godzilla Minus One is even more expansive than the monster in the title. This is the type of sweeping crowd-pleaser that director Takashi Yamazaki excels at making, and Toho’s 33rd Godzilla film (and the 37th overall) is a blockbuster in every way.

Even though Godzilla Minus One was made for a meager $15 million, which is less than 10% of the budget for Legendary’s previous Monsterverse film, Godzilla Vs. Kong, it looks costly, cleverly employing period settings and drone shots that whip across vast expanses of ocean. Sequences of devastation powered by kaiju also leave an impression: an IMAX screening is worthwhile only for the scene that features a massive cruiser flying across the screen like a piece of kindling.

Two years later, in the ruins of postwar Tokyo, Shikishima lives with Noriko (Minami Hamabe), a woman he met after a firebomb assault, and their adopted daughter Akiko, to whom neither of them is biologically connected but for whom they would both sacrifice their lives. When Shikishima accepts a job as a minesweeper aboard a rickety wooden boat with a familiar crew of eccentrics—Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), also known as Doc; Seiji Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki), also known as The Captain; and Shirō Mizushima (Yuki Yamada), also known as The Kid—the influence of another legendary summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, comes into play.

Through their activities, the group comes into contact with Japanese and American government secrets. It turns out that object is Godzilla, blown up to even more enormous proportions in its natural environment in the South Pacific by American nuclear testing.

An Illustrated Account of Godzilla’s History

One of Yamazaki’s improvements for the Godzilla character also reflects this theme: in this scene, the creature’s atomic breath explodes like an H-bomb upon impact, creating a mushroom cloud and a massive blast radius. The director oversees the use of visual effects that give Godzilla both tactile texture and real, animalistic weight in order to underline the creature’s regenerating abilities.

Paradoxically, the kaiju king himself is the only object in Godzilla Minus One that is smaller than normal. Shin Godzilla, Toho’s final live-action Godzilla film, debuted the largest Godzilla ever, reaching 118.5 meters tall at full height. (Since then, his anime equivalent has dwarfed him, but that’s an other tale.) The monster in question reaches a maximum height of 50 meters, matching the 1954 original, which is the closest historical counterpart to this Godzilla, if not visually. (The real design blends aspects from Legendary’s more modern iteration of the beast with those from the Heisei era of the 1980s and 1990s.)

Verdict

Godzilla: Minus One is a thrilling, visually stunning blockbuster that returns the king of monsters to his pre-World War II origins in post-World War II Japan.

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