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‘Godzilla Minus One’ is a Smashing Success

Movie Review
photo Toho Studios
For this iteration of Godzilla, the team attempted to create the most terrifying version of the monster yet.

Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐

The king of monsters, Godzilla, returns for its 37th big screen rampage in 2023’s “Godzilla Minus One,” celebrating the series’ 70th anniversary.

Following the commercial success of 2021’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and the lukewarm performance of the kaiju’s last solo outing, 2019’s “Godzilla: King of Monsters,” Toho Studios returns to create the first in–house live-action film since “Shin Godzilla” in 2016.

Taking place in postwar Japan, Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a former kamikaze pilot, along with Sosaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) on Odo Island. They run into Godzilla on the island, and Shikishima freezes in fear trying to ward it off with his gun. This slip-up takes the lives of all of the soldiers on Odo Island except Shikishima and Tachibana, with Tachibana blaming Shikishima for the deaths of the crew.

The theatrical poster of “Godzilla Minus One” in the United States. (Toho Studios)

Memories of Godzilla’s attack haunt Shikishima, as he readjusts to life back home. He meets Noriko Oishi (Minami Hamabe), and the child she has to take care of, Akiko. They live together and Shikishima eventually gets a job as a minesweeper along with Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), Yoji Akitsu ( Kuranosuke Sasaki) and Shiro Mizushima (Yuki Yamada).

Their job leads them face-to-face with Godzilla, and now the monster is making a course for Tokyo. The men take it upon themselves to find a way to take on the menace, especially since the Japanese government is not taking action in fear that news of Godzilla will cause mass panic.

Godzilla appears for around a little under half of the film’s two-hour duration, but this doesn’t hinder the movie at all. The scenes it does appear in are a treat, with each instilling fear and suspense, but also excitement with every stomp and roar.

Godzilla’s design for this movie is one of the best in the series when comparing all of the kaiju’s iterations side-by-side. The team behind the film attempted to create the most terrifying iteration of Godzilla yet, and it shows when seen in action.

It isn’t a good Godzilla movie if human characters don’t play a meaningful role in the story. The human characters take center stage in this movie, and the acting is phenomenal and captivating.

Shikishima’s character arc from being a lone soldier to becoming someone with a family to care about is heartwarming, if not out of place for Godzilla.

The supporting characters, too, are also interesting to follow, and none of them feel like an afterthought in the story. Characters that don’t seem relevant at some point in the story, such as Tachibana or Noriko, become important for the plot, or leave an emotional mark on the film.

Naoki Sato was brought on to score the film’s original soundtrack, and it’s truly cinematic and fitting for the kaiju. The orchestral soundtrack invokes a terrifying and bone-chilling feeling, but not all songs are supposed to strike fear into the audience: songs such as “Godzilla-1.0 Hope,” “Godzilla 1.0-Honor” and “Godzilla-1.0 Elegy” bring an uplifting sound to an otherwise menacing movie soundtrack.

The movie tackles a profound theme in particular that pertains to the setting of postwar Japan. The idea that life was seen as so meaningless in Japanese culture at that time, was something that Noda wanted to challenge as the civilians were plotting to fight against Godzilla. Noda wanted a war to end in no casualties for the soldiers involved.

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the filming and the direction of the movie, leading to many script rewrites over the course of three years. Filming wrapping up in the summer of 2022, and the movie entered post production in November of that year.

The film eventually released on Nov. 3, 2023 in Japan, and then Dec. 1, 2023 in the United States. The Japanese release date is a homage to the original Godzilla’s release date in Japan falling on Nov. 3, 1954, and the day has since been proclaimed as Godzilla Day.

To conclude, “Godzilla Minus One” is a film that requires very little prior knowledge about the previous movies to enjoy it, as I have. It’s not too much action, but it’s not too much bickering among characters. And the characters tell a wonderful story, with Godzilla at the center, uniting the cast. It’s an all-around solid movie that will keep you invested to the very end.

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About the Contributor
Soumik Dey
Soumik Dey, Reporter
Soumik Dey is a sophomore and a reporter for the PacerNYC. He enjoys playing badminton, spending time with his friends, and free writing in his spare time. When he's not at school, he likes to travel around the city and try new food with friends and family.

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