“Godzilla Minus One”: A Monstrous Success

Emotional. Stimulating. Meaningful.

Those three words describe but cannot fully capture the beauty of the film, “Godzilla Minus One,” released as a celebration of the Godzilla franchise’s 70th anniversary.

From the adaptation of the original Godzilla story, to the acting which evokes true feelings, to the sound and graphics team using art to absorb the audience into the story, and to the gripping message bringing the science-fiction story into a perspective of reality, the movie succeeds in multiple ways.

The film takes place in 1945 during the final days of World War II. Unlike the original 1954 “Godzilla,” it doesn’t take long for the movie to get right into the action after setting the scene. Immediately, the visual effects crew shines with their mastery of proportions in Godzilla’s towering presence, with each step wreaking havoc. The CGI by Michael Arias and CG by Masaki Takahasi, visual effects supervised by Takashi Yamazaki and Kiyoko Shibuya, as well as all of the artists and animators, display their talent here. However, they surpass even this display of skill with each scene as Godzilla’s magnanimous presence becomes even more powerful throughout the movie’s progression.

Along the lines of visual effects, Masahiro Ishiyama’s intricate and well-thought-out coloring defined the purpose of needing a version of this film in color.

Just as important as the visuals were the sound and music. The music department succeeded in using the soundtrack to bring the audience into the moment the characters were facing themselves. Akira Ifukube’s iconic “Godzilla” theme was repurposed, and it continues to beautifully portray the thrilling dangerous nature of the “prehistoric dinosaur-turned-monster.” Listening to the entire movie’s soundtrack posted on YouTube while writing this review made it feel as though I was absorbed right back into Shikishima’s town.

Kōichi Shikishima, played by Ryunoskue Kamiki, displays the difficult role of a fearful Kamikaze fighter pilot navigating obstacles of harsh criticism and tremendous guilt. He carries the main role with genuineness, expressing his pain visibly and allowing a sense of vulnerability to ring throughout the audience.

Norio Oishi, played by Minami Hamabe, matches Kamiki’s acting as his partner who does her best to offer a reassuring caring heart to a troubled soldier. Moreover, the Shinsei Maru crew, brought together to remove mines in the ocean, had distinct personalities that were notable throughout the movie. Yuki Yamada as a young crewman, Hidetaka Yoshioka as a retired Naval engineer, and Kuranosuke Sasaki as the ship’s captain provided a source of lightheartedness and humor.

Along with the movie’s successful art and acting, the film also sends a serious message. Godzilla portrays the U.S. in the way it reaps destruction, but then leaves it for the affected country to fix and survive without much help. Godzilla is not aware of the destruction or pain it causes, yet the country’s people are forced to adapt and live through the suffering. The film sends a powerful message by showing the afflicted perspective and the consequences of a government’s action—or inaction, as in the case of the Japanese government—can cause. As said in the film, “We can’t rely on the U.S. or Japan government.”

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning how this film kept elements of the 1954 Godzilla while combining other popular film inspirations with Yamazaki’s own outlook. For instance, “Minus One” repurposes scenes from Takeo Murata and Ishirô Honda’s original story of a train being eaten, the power in Godzilla’s tail, and rooftop journalists confronting the monster. The facial appearance of the monster itself has a clear similarity to the original modeling. Yamazaki, however, gave the film a much more dynamic nature by showing Godzilla throughout the whole movie and creating a cinematic build-up to its blinding radioactive breathing.

Yamazaki also included King Kong- and Jaws-inspired scenes by having Godzilla trample through a city and speedily swimming through waters to catch its prey. Even with the repurposing and inspirational scenes, Yamakazi leaves room to include his own creativity in changing the personal plots of the characters as well as creating a theme of the importance of living.

All in all, this movie was nothing short of a success. The legacy of Godzilla remains just as powerful, if not even more, through this film. It’s a movie worth watching and feeling for the entirety of its two hours and four minutes. And when you do watch it, make sure to stay till the very end of the credits for a little surprise…