'Godzilla Minus One' review: A brilliant monster mash on both a human and technical scale
Courtesy of Toho Studios
Will “Godzilla” ever go out of style? If his appearance in the stunning, Blockbuster level “Godzilla Minus One” is any indication, I sure hope not.
Though I’ve found enjoyment in the last few iterations of “Godzilla” (sans the horrendous 2019 sequel: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”), none had quite the impact of “Minus One,” which manages to interweave a grounded, human story in between all the chaos and destruction a $15 million dollar budget can buy. And, turns out, that’s a-lot of buildings getting smashed by a giant lizard! Director Takashi Yamazaki has crafted a wondrous addition to the “Godzilla” catalog that manages to be more than just another surface level monster mash.
Sure, Godzilla wreaks havoc in Tokyo (as he’s accomplished countless times in the past), but the way it's repurposed and set in the backdrop of WWII, just as soldiers have returned home to their families, gives it a renowned sense of emotional potency. We follow Koichi Shikishima (played by famed Japanese actor Ryunosuke Kamiki), a deserted kamikaze pilot trying to survive another day. When he finally gets back home, he’s tormented with dreams of how he couldn’t pull the trigger on an earlier encounter with the colossal-sized kaiju. Now, years later, Godzilla has resurfaced and Shikishima is changed in terms of what he’s willing to sacrifice to ensure a better future for his family.
And this iteration of Godzilla is towering. And it’s all the more remarkable “Minus One” was constructed on a shoestring budget. Granted, we don’t see the prickly creature, who can decimate an entire city by just opening its mouth, that much, but when we do, it’s nothing short of riveting. It also makes you wonder how films like “Expend4bles” have price tags well over $100 million and look like giant pieces of shit.
Yamazaki is no stranger to exploring the darker sides of the war, having dabbled with its harsh realities in several projects, and the way he infuses that narrative into a “Godzilla” picture is something of a miracle. He depicts the postwar devastation and the rubble of a city who can never seem to catch a break. When the big finale happens and everyone bands together to thwart the common enemy, that’s underscored with incredible bravado by composer Naoki Sato, it sends a chill down your back in the same manner “Dunkirk” did when average civilians came to save the day.
Of course, it does end with several cliffhangers, all but ensuring a sequel from Toho Studios is in the works. Which is fine, but when you have a “Godzilla” movie thriving at this scope and scale, it’s going to be hard for anyone to top it. Either way, all hail the king.
GODZILLA MINUS ONE is now playing in limited engagements until December 14th.