December 7, 2023

CINEMA | 'Godzilla Minus One' Destroys Post-War Japan

"This country never changes."
Ryunosuke Kamiki Minami Hamabe Takashi Yamazaki | Godzilla Minus One | Toho
Blockbuster Japanese filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki completely refreshes the legendary kaiju monster franchise in a lean action drama focused on Tokyo's immediate aftermath of post-WWII nuclear war trauma. Set during the late 1940s, Godzilla Minus One is a total blast in its sobering throwback to the original's barebone roots.

Starring Japanese superstars Ryunosuke Kamiki and Minami Hamabe as adult orphans as a result of American air raids in the Pacific War, they come together with an abandoned infant to form a makeshift family unit struggling to overcome the intense loss and grief of World War II's mass destruction. The former, Shikishima, plays a shamed kamikaze pilot who cowardly shirks his military sacrifice of a suicidal mission before and during Godzilla's first attack on a remote island.

Godzilla, the creature himself, looks fantastically haunting and scary in a blend of its well-worn original design with a more contemporary glowing monster look. The small-scale action set mostly in the ocean and between buildings gives a thrilling sense of chaotic violence without looking corny or artificial. It's impressive how straightforwardly thrilling Yamazaki constructs the monster movie so coherently.

Cleverly titled in reference to Japanese society's post-war destruction resetting the nation back to "zero," Godzilla Minus One is centred on the people's deep-seated anxieties after surviving nuclear war and then going even further back to "minus" within the film. Its sense of resilience reckons with history on screen and wartime tensions of survivor's guilt and government frustrations.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Inverse / Verge

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