I wouldn’t be surprised if such an announcement causes mild discomfort, disbelief, or attempts at justification like: “And maybe this Kickman only watches brain-dead movement activists.” So let’s deal with the expectations regarding the show. “Godzilla Minus One” is not your typical action movie. He’s not a comforting popcorn eater. It’s not a classic American blockbuster (because it’s Japanese!) where gleeful destruction is the most important thing. Wait a minute…so what is this all about?
Back to the roots
Over several decades, we’ve become accustomed to the relatively warm image of Godzilla. Although he may have destroyed a city or two in battles with other giant monsters, robots and aliens, he is generally viewed as the hero of the day. This is somewhat inconsistent with the original depiction of this mutant lizard. In his first film in 1954, he was a force of nature bent on destroying humans rather than protecting them. “Minus One” returns to this idea and shifts the focus from a silly brawl to a more human story. And the brilliant nuclear hole does this brilliantly.
We meet Koichi Shikishima as a suicide pilot who, at the end of World War II, reports damage to his helicopter to avoid a suicide mission. He stops at Odo Island, which is soon visited by Godzilla, which is relatively small at the moment. The monster’s visit ends tragically, and the shock will accompany the boy for a long time. After the war, Shikishima returns to his native Tokyo, where fate will connect him with little Noriko and the orphan girl Akiko. The coming years will be spent trying to create a future for themselves in a world still haunted by images of troubled times.
Godzilla minus one
And life is going well for them. Until Godzilla changed after the nuclear weapons tests, he decided to remind everyone that the feeling of safety is just an illusion. Heroes and heroines will struggle, on the one hand, with a seemingly indestructible mutant monster, and on the other hand, with their own nightmares. However, I don’t want it to seem like we’re dealing with a cloying psychodrama. Because while it’s hard not to shed tears during the show, Minus One also packs a punch. And what kind!
Great chaos in the Ginza area
Without a doubt, Takashi Yamazaki’s new film has given us the scariest version of Godzilla ever. It’s not just about the appearance itself – on that front the kaiju look cool too (those moving plates on its back!) – but mainly about the scale and consequences of the destruction they wreak. When the giant lizard finally arrives in Tokyo, you can feel this inevitability, intensifying with every building that crumbles to dust. Step by step, the newly rebuilt city turns into a pile of stones. The way it is presented – from the tremendous sound, to the flawless editing and camera work, to the powerful special effects – creates an exciting and suspenseful spectacle.
especially The scene where Godzilla uses his “classic” attack (no spoilers, but fans will definitely know what I’m referring to) is truly amazing.. A lot of this is due to the aforementioned sound design, which plays a major role in building atmosphere (no pun intended). It’s not just the sound effects themselves, but also their editing and thoughtful use of silence. Because it is in this silence that the horror that the kaiju bring to the inhabitants of the capital of Nippon resonates loudest. The scope and emotional heaviness of the devastation is also perfectly underscored by Naoki Sato’s sparse but well-suited musical setting.
Godzilla minus one
I also mentioned special effects and you should definitely pause on that for a moment. As for the budget work (barely US$15 million after converting from yen), the whole thing is very good. It’s true that the lighting and animation sometimes reveal a sloppy artificiality, but apart from that it’s hard to fault anything. The special effects work where they’re supposed to work. It serves the narrative and matches the atmosphere of the film. Godzilla himself also looks decent, looking somewhat like a cross between the classic “rubber-rubber” and the newer, more predatory versions known from, say, the animated films. It may move slowly and somewhat clumsily, but it can instantly flatten a skyscraper with a flick of its tail or crush a group of fleeing people under its claws. And in the water… oh, in the water you better not mess with him, because there he feels like a fish in… well, water.
King of monster kings
Overall, the portrayal of Godzilla in this film is very interesting. He is not assigned a character, as in recent American productions, he has no special intelligence, and no one attempts to “understand” the monster. Because that’s the titular monster – a wild beast you can’t argue with. A destructive force of nature that seems impossible to stop. It is also a metaphor for war – brutal, senseless, and escalating. Greater than the individual.
Godzilla minus one
Godzilla also reflects what comes after the war. It is a festering wound from very difficult times, a rot that must be removed to begin the healing process. However, despite its physical appearance, it is a wound not only on the body, but also – or rather primarily – on the heart. Because what stuns the characters in “Minus One” turns out to be not an impersonal vision of some generalized disaster, but a specific fear of losing loved ones or their new, difficult-to-rebuild place in the world. If someone had told me the day before the show that this was how I would describe a mutant pseudo-dinosaur that fires a nuclear bomb from its mouth, I would have laughed out loud. Here you are.
A roar of delight
The first film in the King of the Monsters series was an allegory of the use of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Godzilla Minus One,” though it may be viewed that way, touches on something more. Shikishima – who represents an entire generation here – struggles with threats to his future and the future of his loved ones, as well as with his own courage, pride, and sense of self-worth. His war will not end until the man leaves his past sins behind him and finds a new purpose. Just like millions of people who went through the same thing he did. But the film’s tear-jerking closing scene shows that there is hope in all this. She is not the mother of fools. This is what makes people choose life. The opposite of war.
At the same time, no one imposes these “deep” topics on us or hits us over the head with the obvious. This isn’t Hollywood Oscar bait, made for an audience that needs to be told what to feel. It’s a well-written, well-acted, well-thought-out film that treats the audience like grown-ups. At the same time, it is a lot of fun, because despite the strong dramatic plot, it is still an entertaining film at its core. It is simply filmed in a way that, in addition to having fun, we can smuggle in some unobtrusive thoughts about the role of trauma in our lives. We don’t have to survive the war to get our Godzilla.
“Godzilla Minus One” is on one hand an entertaining film, and on the other hand a beautiful story about hoping for a better tomorrow and overcoming trauma. When necessary, he presses you into the chair to bring tears to your eyes. Cinema was born for such works.
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