The legendary kaiju franchise is rebooted for its 70th anniversary with Gozilla Minus One. In the dying days of World War II, kamikaze pilot Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) feigns technical issues and lands on Odo Island for repairs. However, the island is attacked by large dinosaur-like creatures described by the locals as “Godzilla,” with Shikishima and the lead mechanic Sōsaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) being the only survivors, with the latter chastizing Kōichi for his cowardly behaviour.
After the end of the war, Kōichi returns home to Tokyo and suffers from major post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt. Kōichi takes a job as a minesweeper aboard the Shinsei Maru, crewed by Captain Yōji Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki), Kenji “Doc” Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), and Shirō “Kid” Mizushima (Yuki Yamada), as a way to support Noriko Ōishi (Minami Hamabe) and her adopted daughter Akiko. However, soon Godzilla, mutated by the United States' nuclear tests, resurfaces and makes its way to Tokyo.
Godzilla Minus One Synopsis
Godzilla Minus One is written and directed by visual effects artist and filmmaker Takashi Yamazaki and 33rd film in the franchise produced by Japan's legendary Toho studio. The film is the first live-action Godzilla film to be produced by Toho since 2016's Shin Godzilla, as the studio had an agreement with Legendary Pictures in the United States for their “MonsterVerse” that includes 2014's Godzilla, 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 2021's Godzilla vs Kong, and next year's Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.
Released to coincide with the next year's 70th anniversary of the original Godzilla from 1954, Godzilla Minus One is a reboot that returns to the post-World War II setting in Japan in the late 1940s. The central protagonist of Kōichi Shikishima is dealing with the trauma of being a kamikaze pilot during the war, who was unable to go ahead with “dying with honour” for his country. This results in Kōichi being shamed by his neighbour Sumiko Ōta (Sakura Ando) upon his return, since the US bombings of Tokyo resulted in the death of many, including Kōichi's parents. When Godzilla resurfaces and attacks Tokyo, Kōichi realizes that his personal war will not be over until he brings down the beast.
My Thoughts on Godzilla Minus One
In many ways, Godzilla Minus One is a back-to-basics film in the franchise, which includes a plot that is quite reminiscent of that of the 1954 original. This includes a focus predominantly on the human protagonists, with Godzilla only surfacing for a handful of destruction set-pieces. Gone are the days of the kaiju being depicted by someone in a rubber suit, with Godzilla now being impressively rendered digitally, with a look that rivals Godzilla's depiction in the American films by Legendary Pictures.
Probably the biggest takeaway from Godzilla Minus One is how it features probably the most vicious and deadly depiction of the kaiju. In the film's opening attack on Odo Island, Godzilla is seen stomping on and biting the poor victims. Later on, during an attack on the Tokyo district of Ginza, Godzilla unleashes its blue atomic heat ray, which hits with the force of a nuclear bomb.
While Godzilla Minus One does feature the level of destruction expected from a Godzilla film, there is also a major human element to the story. The film's last stand is performed by naval veterans, who are going out to fight, despite still feeling the effects of World War II. Then there is the arch of the protagonist Kōichi Shikishima, whose fight against Godzilla becomes deeply personal, down to the point where he recruits fellow Odo Island survivor Sōsaku Tachibana to help him prepare for the final battle.
Whether it's the official Toho releases or the Americanized films from Legendary Pictures, Godzilla has proven itself to be one of the all-time great monster franchises. With its back-to-basics story, Godzilla Minus One ends up being a fitting homecoming to mark the franchise's 70th anniversary.