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Friday, December 1, 2023

‘Godzilla Minus One’ Review -Toho’s Latest Raises the Bar for Godzilla Movies and Kaiju Cinema

Godzilla Minus One is a blessing to Toho’s kaiju franchise and a towering accomplishment for the entire kaiju subgenre. Director and writer Takashi Yamazaki respects the balance between monster mashes and human perspectives, unlike our blockbuster domestic efforts, which oftentimes lean toward larger-than-life action thrills (although Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is off to an inspiring start). After thirty-plus films and nearly seventy years, Toho confidently delivers one of their best Godzilla movies to date. Other franchises can’t sustain momentum over a measly trilogy, where Toho’s city-smashing icon shows no signs of retreating to depths unknown.

Yamazaki injects the worldwide anxiety and government unreliability he felt during the height of COVID-19 outbreaks into a Godzilla film about post-WWII Japan. Kamikaze pilot Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) barely escapes his first encounter with Godzilla during active duty, after faking mechanical issues that ground his plane safely. Shikishima returns home racked by survivor’s guilt to find Tokyo’s now a rubble heap, and over the next two years, attempts to rebuild a life with Noriko Ōishi (Minami Hamabe) and an orphaned child — then Godzilla strikes again. Japan has depleted resources, Godzilla now spews “heat blast” powers thanks to the United States’ Bikini Atoll weapons tests, and a wounded country must rely on the resilience of its citizens to survive the reptilian behemoth who seeks to destroy.

Shirogumi Inc. provides smashing visual effects under Yamazaki’s supervision (with direction from Kiyoko Shibuya), delivering a Godzilla that looks spectacular on screen. From the pre-mutation version with shades of Jurassic Park models to the atomic evolution that pulsates glacier blue, can extend its scales, and imposes a dominant kaiju stance (even with those teeny T-Rex arms compared to its gargantuan size). Computer animation does Godzilla justice, tweaking Toho’s trademark Godzilla look with added ferocity, whether swimming under ocean waves or toppling skyscrapers with tailwhips. Without proper visual effects, any Godzilla movie topples — but with magnificent Godzilla effects, you lay a foundation with knockout potential.

Under the scaly skin of Godzilla Minus One is a story about the ungovernable, mass resistance, and the salvation that is communal togetherness. Godzilla is in pure berserker mode as he tears through Japanese architecture and hurls battleships like bathtub toys, but the story isn’t shrouded in bleakness. For all of Yamazaki’s commentary on how post-war Japan was abandoned with the ongoing US/Russian conflict, or how little Japan valued the lives of its soldiers, an earnest upheaval of camaraderie becomes the film’s most important attribute. Yamazaki openly projects national and global fears for all to see, yet there’s also a swelling sensation of pridefulness as Shikishima joins leftover ranks — who’ve already survived one war — to risk their lives on their own terms this time.

In the same beautifully shot scene, we can feel the terror Godzilla strikes and the feats humanity can achieve when working in harmony. Not only Shikishima, but others like former weapons engineer Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka) or ex-Air Service mechanic Sōsaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) face the harsh reality of protecting Japan despite their homeland’s past transgressions. Godzilla movies are punctuated by highlights of the massive monster laying waste to bustling metropolitan hubs — especially when blasting its icy energy rays — but it’s humankind’s response that completes the picture. Shin Godzilla boasts the same evenhanded storytelling, whereas Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong can feel like a slighter rumble in urban jungles. Godzilla Minus One juggles everything, grappling with the immense formidability of both physical and existential Godzilla crises without ignoring all the smashy-crashy we all love so much.

Godzilla Minus One review movie

Using Godzilla, Yamazaki finds a way to relate 1940s Japanese unease to contemporary paranoias. He showcases how genre films can shoulder storytelling far more profound than the average read on “Big Monster Bash ‘Em Movies.” Noda’s master plan to defeat Godzilla isn’t about artillery shells but hail-mary logic applied to illogical circumstances. Shikishima’s guilt complex is a product of toxic nationalism that leads to heartbreaking moments about what horrible things citizens are asked to do by their ruling governments. Yamazaki strands his characters amidst shattered Tokyo homes with little to nothing, all collateral damage way before kaiju attacks. These subplots make Godzilla Minus One so compelling, because Toho so astutely understands that Godzilla movies are just as much about the people as they are the creature.

Godzilla Minus One is a brilliant addition to Godzilla’s canon that shines thanks to Yamazaki’s two-pronged approach. Godzilla’s action sequences are sprawling and devastating by the handful, capturing the megamonster’s miles-high imposition that makes us feel like ants underfoot. Then there’s the human element of it all, dressed in obliterated period aesthetics that remind of frightening times at the dawn of the nuclear age not unlike wholesome ’50s horror films where Pleasantville towns must defeat a common foe (The Blob, for example). Godzilla Minus One is about finding a way to thrive in impossible times as much as it is kaiju entertainment, and with that approach, Yamazaki raises the bar for future Godzilla iterations.

4.5 skulls out of 5

The post ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Review -Toho’s Latest Raises the Bar for Godzilla Movies and Kaiju Cinema appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



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