In a crazy turn of events, a Godzilla movie might be one of the year’s biggest surprises. Shikishima, a failed kamikaze pilot grapples with his indecision in battle. He has an encounter with the mythical Godzilla when his plane is marooned. Some time later, he returns to a disgraced Japan where he takes in a woman and child as his guilt continues. But when Godzilla returns to mainland Japan, Shikishima must battle his personal demons and work together with Japan’s citizens in order to deter the beast for good.
Godzilla has always been a monster franchise that I’ve enjoyed to a certain degree. Certain adaptations are better than others, but in general he’s been a formidable foe. His presentation in “Minus One” may be the most menacing he’s ever been on the big screen. I love that the direction was leaning into his menacing side, where destruction and horror is the name of the game. After all, most people came to see a monster movie, right? Godzilla’s design is also impressive. His rough, leathery texture adds to the intimidation factor. Not to mention the angry look he touts throughout the film. When he winds up and the blue scales begin to rise, I braced for the release of his atomic breath. It did not disappoint! The king of the monsters is in top form here.
In contrast to recent Godzilla films, this is a surprisingly strong story. Our main character has a lot he is dealing with. PTSD, national pride, government corruption, nuclear war, and moving on from trauma are all addressed throughout the story. I would have enjoyed the story had Godzilla not been involved at all (but it’s better with him). That’s what has been missing lately, a strong central conflict that is rewarding and emotionally investing. Viewers will be happy with the blend of monster mayhem and thought-provoking ideas.
The film was allegedly produced on a budged of 15 million US dollars, which compared to many modern blockbusters is unheard of. What the filmmakers were able to produce on such a small budget is shocking. Most of the effects (especially surrounding Godzilla) are seamless, making the audience feel as if every footstep is shaking the ground beneath their feet. Hopefully future blockbusters borrow some of the tactics utilized in “Minus One”. Sometimes a big budget doesn’t define a film, but rather a determined group of filmmakers crafting a strong story is all that is needed.
“Minus One” does a lot right, but I don’t think it is the sweeping masterpiece that word of mouth may indicate. Some logic gaps are the main criticisms I’ll point in its direction. A clunky aspect of the story that didn’t make much sense was how Shikishima took in a random woman off the street with a child that wasn’t even hers. I could see the filmmakers wanting us to view Japan in a state of distress, so people coming together and sharing kindness might make sense. Or Shikishima saw this woman as an outlet to overcome his grief. Those are plausible explanations and help with his development, but I still didn’t buy the way the relationship was set up considering it became a partnership and romance.
There is also something that happens to Oishi (the woman Shikishima takes in) during Godzilla’s rampage that defies any sort of logic. It made for a touching conclusion by the film’s end, but even for a monster movie I found the resolution with her character highly implausible. This may be a petty criticism, but I thought Godzilla’s legs were too fat! Outside of his excellent design, this aspect could have been better. Someone should have told him to skip the mashed potatoes and gravy before his nuclear awakening, ha!
“Godzilla Minus One” manages to achieve a lot. The strong story and intimidating presence from Godzilla kept me locked in the entire time. There is a personal journey with our main character that elevates this monster movie above a mindless action flick. The impact of World War II creates a strong central premise, where unity among a fractured nation comes first to protect their homeland. A few improvements could have made this a truly special film, but it was certainly better than I expected. Excited to see what comes next from Godzilla!