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‘Godzilla Minus One’ is an undeniable plus

Marcus Falcão / THE GATEPOST

By Owen Glancy

Asst. Arts & Features Editor

For the last 20 years, “Godzilla” has been in a weird place. Legendary Studio’s acquisition of the rights to make American “Godzilla” films has thrust the iconic monster into the Hollywood limelight. However, it simultaneously has put a damper on his Japanese origins.

Ever since “Godzilla: Final Wars” was released in 2004, we only got one traditional Japanese “Godzilla” film in 2016’s “Shin Godzilla,” which was so divisive and different that many see it as the complete opposite of “traditional.”

So needless to say, fans have been eagerly awaiting Godzilla’s glorious return to form. And that’s exactly what “Godzilla Minus One” is.

This is the first time in the “Godzilla” franchise in which the human characters are just as likable as the central monster. The plot details kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima and his repeated encounters with Godzilla as he attempts to navigate life in post-war Japan.

Right off the bat, we feel for Shikishima. His refusal to go through with his orders as a kamikaze pilot and his initial encounter with Godzilla make us immediately sympathize with him. In his attempt to escape the war, he ended up running into an entirely new kind of horror, as well as unintentionally inflicting it upon those he ran to.

And this haunts him throughout the rest of the film. Every time it seems he makes a step toward overcoming his trauma, another gut-wrenching thing happens to him, sending him back to step one.

The film is far more tense and terrifying than one would expect from this franchise. Not since the 1954 original has the series’ depiction of the aftermath of losing the worst war in human history felt so devastating.

Everything from the masterful score to the impossibly attentive set design makes these refugee camps and crumbling cities feel so desolate and real. Seeing Shikishima’s home burning before his eyes as his neighbor chastises him for not following through on his kamikaze duties, somehow implying that this is all his fault, is truly harrowing.

It’s in scenes like this where the film finds many of its best moments. It truly succeeds in being both a tribute to the “Godzilla” franchise as well as a poignant lesson in the dangers of nuclear weaponry and the plight of post-war Japan.

Shikishima is not the only highlight, as the cast of characters that surround him are all equally memorable. Minami Hamabe delivers an excellent performance as Noriko Oishi, a street urchin taking care of an abandoned baby who Shikishima allows to stay in his home.

The two form a bond as the film progresses, making you genuinely believe in this budding romance. Adding this element and doing it so well makes the heinous acts of destruction Godzilla commits all the more frightening and real.

To the disappointment of many, Godzilla only has one real destruction scene in the film around halfway through when he attacks the Ginza district of Tokyo. However, the pure carnage, tension, and impressive special effects this scene brings to the table more than makes up for the lack of further destruction.

By the end of the scene, I was on the edge of my seat with my jaw hanging open in disbelief as Shikishima screams in anger at the monster towering over the newly destroyed city.

The film has only one major issue to make note of, and that is the ending. While I won’t say specifics as to not spoil it for anyone, it definitely feels like a cop-out. For the majority of the film to be so depressing and realistic for a “Godzilla” movie, only for it to end on such an overly sappy and unrealistic note left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Godzilla Minus One” is an impressive film on nearly all accounts. The special effects blend practical and digital so well that you don’t even notice the difference, the performances are all so memorable and charming that it forces you to care about every character, and the score is so brilliant that I’ve had it on loop ever since I saw the film.

Whether or not you’re a fan of “Godzilla,” this is a must-see and a strong contender for the best entry in this legendary franchise.

Rating: A

The King of the Monsters is back


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