GODZILLA MINUS ONE REVIEW: A Brutal and Moving Kaiju Masterpiece

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Dan Morris,Brandy Brown
| December 1, 2023
hello world!


In all my years as a Godzilla fan, I have only seen two Toho Godzilla films in theaters. Five if you include the Legendary films. This is due to the fact that these films typically do not get theatrical releases, which is a shame because it is the best way to experience one. You will never forget hearing Godzilla’s roar as you watch it on the big screen! Now I have finally seen a third Toho film, and that was Godzilla Minus One, in IMAX, no less. Giddy as a child, I waited with my Godzilla-converted family to see my favorite giant monster appear on screen and do big roar and stomp. What I got was one of the most brutal, epic, and well-written Godzilla films ever made. 

Oh My Godzilla

Godzilla Minus One Movie Poster, Godzilla roaring over smashed ruins
He’s Back! And badder then ever!

Let’s start with the main event, the big man himself. This version of Godzilla seems to take influence from across the canon. You can find little nuggets of how he came to be from other films in the series. The beauty of Minus One, though, is that it’s all delivered at a refreshingly fast pace. Director Takashi Yamazaki respects the viewer’s intelligence and allows for subtle context to explain what Godzilla is and how he came to be without blasting you in the face with a heat ray of exposition.

As a long-time fan, this is now one of my favorite iterations of the giant radioactive lizard. He’s gorgeous! And it’s entirely CGI! No man in a suit this time. It has some of the best visual effects of any of the Toho films, hell, even for Hollywood. Square-Enix may have had a hand in that, as I saw them in the credits. The design heavily respects the 1954 Godzilla, adds some elements from the 80s/90s or Heisei era, and just a dash of Shin Godzilla to make him extra menacing. His iconic roar is as intense, if not more so than ever, as it emulates the deep guttural sounds from the 1954 Goji and even the 1955 Godzilla Raids Again version, which was deeper and ominous. To really round out this new Godzilla and make him unique, he is fast! Mind you, not Zilla fast, but pretty quick compared to traditional Toho standards. His speed adds to the brutality of this film as it allows for more shocking and jarring turns in the action. There are some serious butt-pucker moments as you find yourself preparing for the worst. The score swells with tension, and you realize your fists are clenched. After one of these scenes, I checked my pulse and felt my heart racing.

Godzilla swimming after a boat with a man on a mounted machine gun
Must Go Faster

Like most main Godzilla films, the titular monster is a force of nature driven by his id. He just does whatever he wants cause why not? He’s a very big kid in a china shop, or whatever that metaphor is. Godzilla, in this sense, is very much an animal. A very destructive animal, but one all the same. Most of his behavior is reactionary and or predatory, like a shark or a T-rex. The vast majority of destruction comes from defensive actions after the silly humans freak out and attack. To their shock and awe, Godzilla’s retaliations are very, very violent. *Gulp*, which leads us to his Heat Ray. Godzilla’s Heat Ray in Minus One is, by far, one of the most powerful and destructive iterations of the big guy’s signature move. Building up energy for the blast takes time and causes the spikes on his back to pop out, swelling with light. He then takes a deep breath, and violently, all the spikes compress in unison as he hurls the bright blue light from his mouth. The ending result creates an atomic bomb-level explosion at the point of impact, decimating a large area around the blast epicenter. The trade-off for this much power comes at a cost, as Godzilla can only release the blast so often, and it takes time before he can perform another.

Godzilla is truly menacing and terrifying in Minus One. No one feels safe, and everyone desperately clings to life against an overwhelming foe. You can feel their struggle and fear for your own safety in such a surreal way that it makes other films pale in comparison. It is the pinnacle of kaiju filmmaking and sets a new standard for what this genre can achieve.

Godzilla’s Dorsal spikes glowing with energy, charging up for an attack
The last thing you see before the end!

Tora Tora, Oh God, What is that?

Like all Godzilla films, the story is anchored by human characters and narrative. Minus One follows a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, Koichi Shikishima, played by Ryunosuke Kamiki, shortly after the end of World War II. Without giving away too much, the opening sequence is one of the most brutal and direct encounters that any human character has ever had with Godzilla. In a nod to the original film’s Oda Island, Shikishima lands on the military repair outpost on “Oda Island” for repairs. Later that evening, an alarm sounds as the small staff of personnel scramble to find the cause; they are greeted by a large dinosaur-like creature. Things go horribly wrong, and all but two perish in the end. It’s by far one of the most shocking scenes in a Godzilla film.

Godzilla’s feet walking through a ruined city
Prepare to Crumble! Reference to Godzilla 2000 Complete

This begins Shikishima’s horrifying journey of trauma as he deals with PTSD and Survivor’s Guilt after he returns home to Tokyo to find his parents dead and his house destroyed by air raids. This guy just can’t catch a break. Like most Godzilla films, Minus One presents a geo-political viewpoint, this time focusing on the lives of the general public of Japan after the war. This is very much an aspect that American audiences do not often see and where Minus One shines as a character-driven narrative. In most Godzilla films, the human element is very weak and serves mostly to move the story along in the film. Most of the time, the Toho films have very silly and straight-up ridiculous elements to the plot. I was very pleased that Godzilla Minus One managed to avoid this trope of the genre, keeping the overall package grounded in a relatively realistic way. This movie works on many layers and is much more than just a monster movie. If you were to remove Godzilla from this film and replace him with a military threat, Minus One would be a damned good World War II epic. There is an overarching message in the film about the importance of life and how the Japanese government took it for granted with the use of suicide bombers and Kamikaze tactics. Those trying to survive after the war question why they fought and died and need to continue dying to deal with a new threat. A film has never made me reflect so deeply on what it must have been like for the survivors of the war in Japan. For the first time in the franchise, you will actually care about the human characters and hope for their survival against Godzilla’s fury.

A man with a bandage on his head looking intensely off screen.
This guy just can’t catch a break

A Godzilla Newbies Take

Brandy Brown – Couch Soup editor and Godzilla Newb had some thoughts to share from her perspective on the film.

What can I say about Godzilla Minus One that others haven’t said? Probably not much. This is perhaps one of my absolute favorite Godzilla films, and living with a massive Godzilla fan, I can say I’ve probably seen most. This Godzilla was brutal and honestly a bit scary, but his animal instincts were on point. He seems like any other curious animal until people panic and attack him, and then he goes ALL IN. People got crunched. I found myself saying “Holy FUCK!” so many times throughout this movie. In hindsight, taking our six-year-old who loves Godzilla probably wasn’t the best idea as she curled up in my lap for the last bit of the movie bawling. Oops. Sorry kid. We’ll pay for therapy later. 

Godzilla Roaring to the sky with a singed face
God of Destruction, Raar!

The narrative is that he was created by American nuclear testing in Bikini Atoll. Honestly, who knows what was made that we don’t know about (okay, putting my tin foil hat away)? The human characters in this film were so well done. I laughed, and I cried. This movie left me emotionally drained, and not in a bad way. These people stood against the government that told them to sacrifice themselves for their country and said NO, we want to LIVE for our country and our families. It was so amazing. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it all over again. Do yourself a favor. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

I love everything about this movie and share Brandy’s sentiment; go see it! If you are more familiar with the Legendary films and don’t want to read subtitles, you may not find it as engaging, but this is by far the best-looking and well-done Godzilla film to come out of Japan. The story is moving, the action is intense, and I hope to Godzilla they make more of these.

I give Godzilla MInus One a 10/10

I had a theory that Minus One was a remake or reboot of the original 1954 film, but it is so much more, and I am beyond thrilled with the result. Not only is this now a favorite Godzilla film of mine, but it is also one of my favorite films of all time, and I honestly feel it should be hailed as one of the best movies of 2023. I could go on and on about what makes this movie great, but I’m being given the cut signal, and there is an ominous cane hanging over my head!

Did you watch Godzilla Minus One? Do you agree with Dan, or do you feel differently? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Need more Kaiju goodness? Listen to our weekly breakdown podcast of the Apple+ show Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, The Monarch Files.

Badass Photo Dump

  • Godzilla Minus One Movie Poster, Godzilla roaring over smashed ruins
  • Godzilla’s feet walking through a ruined city
  • A man with a bandage on his head looking intensely off screen.
  • Godzilla swimming after a boat with a man on a mounted machine gun
  • Godzilla’s Dorsal spikes glowing with energy, charging up for an attack
  • Godzilla Roaring to the sky with a singed face

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