'Godzilla Minus One' review: How Japan trumped Hollywood 2

'Godzilla Minus One' review: How Japan trumped Hollywood

Now streaming on Netflix, 'Godzilla Minus One' was released on Godzilla's 70th anniversary of existence as a film franchise which began in 1954.
Fred Hawson | Jun 04 2024


In the final days of World War II in 1945, kamikaze pilot KĊichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) pretended that his jet plane was damaged and landed it on the airfield on Odo island for "repairs." That night, the camp was attacked by a violent dinosaur-like creature which natives called Godzilla. Engineer Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) asked him to use his jet's 20mm gun to shoot the monster down, but Shikishima hesitated. Most of the men there died.

When Shikishima returned to Tokyo, he met a young woman Noriko (Minami Hamabe), and the two of them lived together to raise an orphan Akiko (Sae Nagatani) together. Shikishima accepted a job to clear American magnetic mines deployed in the sea on a wooden boat called Shinsei Maru, and met new friends, weapons designer Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), boat captain Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki) and young crewman Mizushima (Yuki Yamada).

The story of this new prequel film brings viewers back to a sensitive period in world history, showing how World War II had affected the common people in Japan. The threat of Godzilla came at a time when Japan was at its most vulnerable and desperate -- dealing with the socio-political aftermath of a war they lost, having their entire weapons arsenal decommissioned, and unable to get international assistance that they needed in this crisis.

Then, there was also the personal story of our protagonist, as only the Japanese can tell them. Shikishima was a flawed man, haunted by the guilt of being a coward and a failure. He was unable to bring himself to marry Noriko, the woman he loved, because his internal war was not over yet. We see how traumatic circumstances finally brought to fore the hero in him, of course, with help from his friends.

This film was released on Godzilla's 70th anniversary of existence as a film franchise which began in 1954. This is the 37th film about the monster, the 33rd by Toho Studios.  There is a big difference watching a Godzilla film made by the Japanese, with their particularly un-Hollywood-like visual effects that give a more organic feel. That major set piece showing Godzilla's destruction of Ginza was the centerpiece. Its unprecedented Oscar won for these visual effects was truly deserved.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."