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Home > Godzilla Minus One (2023): A Review

Godzilla Minus One (2023): A Review

Godzilla Minus One shows a nation still recovering from World War II, only to face off against an unimaginable foe. Godzilla roars.

A Desperate Fight Against An Unstoppable Force

Godzilla Minus One is the latest Toho installment of the Godzilla series and the 37th film in the entire franchise. Released initially on November 1st in Japan, the film premiered internationally in the U.S. on December 1st. Taking the story in a different direction from other films like Shin Godzilla and the Monsterverse, The story is set in the 1940s at the point when Japan was recovering from the effects of World War II. Godzilla, a mythical monster from one of Japan’s islands, emerged shortly after the end of the war, and his rampage brought the nation back to a worse state than before, driving some of the most persistent civilians to unite against him.

Post-War Japan Faces The Unprecedented Threat Of Godzilla

The movie is a healthy balance between the spectacle and action popular in Kaiju films and the period drama of the post-war setting. For the first time in a Godzilla film, the story is not set in the 50s or afterward, making Godzilla Minus One currently the earliest time period set in the series. Japan in the 50s was very different attitude-wise and perspective-wise to the fresh post-war period. This means that the story can weigh in on the allegories of the original Gojira (1954) on a much more personal and effective level. The stakes are much higher, and the bleakness of the story events makes any attack from Godzilla feel like a hopeless situation. 

Godzilla Minus One gives an insight into a period of Japanese history rarely shown or discussed, with the exception of the animated Ghibli film Grave of the Fireflies and the Kurosawa films of the time period like One Wonderful Sunday and Those Who Make Tomorrow. While not shying away from the tear-jerking circumstances of Japan, the movie also shows defiant courage and united perseverance as civilians and war veterans band together to protect the future of Japan against Godzilla.

Bringing the Characters And Godzilla To Life In Post-War Japan

Our main ensemble of human characters consists of a band of mine disposal sailors along with a former kamikaze pilot, Koichi Shikishima, and his adopted family, Noriko, Sumiko, and Akiko. The main focus of the human story is Koichi’s struggles with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and his tried attempts to reacclimate to Japan during the recovery years. He witnessed the first emergence of Godzilla and has been present in nearly every major event of Godzilla’s attacks, further beckoning him to action against the monster.

This Godzilla is the most wrathful and menacing version of the character since the original 1954 film and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.

'Godzilla Minus One' shows a nation recovering from the devastation of World War II, only to have to fight the terror of Godzilla. Worried woman looks out a window to see Godzilla coming toward her.

While the Monsterverse Godzilla and Toho’s Shin Godzilla were both massive, imposing figures that were both a force of nature and a power against other creatures, this Godzilla is a much more personal and monstrous presence, being much more violently aggressive towards humans and destructive as a result. Godzilla is also 50.1 meters tall, much smaller than the previous iterations of the character, but that makes the destruction and action feel much more intense and personal. The devastation of Godzilla and his intentional carnage make him one of the darkest and most terrifying incarnations of the kaiju since the original film.

Modernizing The Traditional Kaiju Setup

Godzilla Minus One is a modernized retelling of the original 1954 Gojira, set in a different period of history but still capturing the initial setting and conflict of that film. In many ways, it brings Godzilla to the initial roots of its nature and also scales things back to telling a simple yet compelling story of struggle and resolution. The modernization of the classic kaiju formula comes with the usage of CGI and how well it implements elements of the miniature techniques used in Showa and Heisei Tokusatsu films. Godzilla and the large-scale environment around him are clearly CGI, but the scaling and framing of many of the shots are reminiscent of the old-style man in a suit stomping miniature buildings set up. 

This film was made on a $15 million budget, and despite that, the visuals are incredible. Almost no expense with the effects was spared, and even the most difficult aspects, such as the water effects for the ships and crumbling buildings, blend seamlessly. There are so many shots in the film that feel like there are also practical effects in play with how detailed every scale and scar Godzilla has and the broken rubble of the buildings he tramples. Such an impressive effort, despite the low budget, puts many Hollywood films with over $100-$200 million to shame.

Final Rating

Godzilla Minus One is a return to form for Japan’s most iconic star. While not trying anything new with Godzilla like in Shin Godzilla or the recent animated iterations, Toho instead stuck with the old formula and gave the classic Tokusatsu presentation and allegorical themes a new coat of paint. For fans of the license, this is a wonderful addition to the enduring franchise. Even audiences that are unfamiliar with Godzilla will find something to love in this bleak film about how a defeated nation battles adversity in its journey to heal from devastation. Godzilla is at his scariest and most impactful in this movie, driving viewers to be invested in the human characters and their efforts to survive this monster disaster. 

Godzilla Minus One is a must-watch while it’s still in theaters this week.

'Godzilla Minus One' shows a country still recovering from World War II only to face the terror of Godzilla. Godzilla forces destruction on the city.

Godzilla Minus One (2023): Official TOHO Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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An enthusiast of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I loved reading about the stories and worlds of video games and movies and writing on a multitude of subjects, from lists to reviews.
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Elke Simmons' writing portfolio includes contributions to The Laredo Morning Times, Walt Disney World Eyes and Ears, Extinction Rebellion (XR) News/Blog, and Dead Talk News.