15 February 2024

Godzilla Minus One: genius writing and incredible special effects, all with a fraction of a Hollywood budget

| Jarryd Rowley
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Godzilla Minus One movie poster

Godzilla Minus One is the newest film by legendary Japanese studio Toho Studios. Photo: Toho Studios.

Godzilla has been a staple of Japanese and American cinema for 70 years.

In that time, there have been 33 films released by Toho Studios in Japan and five by Tri Star and Legendary Productions in the US.

Godzilla Minus One is the latest released by the Japanese studio, and while I haven’t seen most of its other 32 films, I have seen all five of the American films.

Honestly, I can say Toho Studios’ most recent outing is by far the most engaging and emotional I’ve seen from the infamous giant lizard.

Set in Tokyo just after World War II, the new film focuses on Koichi Shikishima, a Kamizaze pilot who abandoned his post in the final days of the conflict.

After landing on an island to sit out the remainder of the war, Shikishima learns of a local fairytale about a mysterious creature that has been circling Japan.

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Shikishima soon realises it is far from a fairytale, and that the threat of Godzilla is real and heading straight for the recovering cities of Japan.

Shikishima is the heart of this film. His struggles of wanting to live his life, mixed with the public shame he receives for abandoning his post during the war, set him in the direction of Godzilla.

It’s very uncommon for human characters to be as interesting as they are here in a movie about the most famous monster in cinema. However, the setting of the film (1945-47) combined with the allegories of atomic devastation in the form of Godzilla means that the characters’ actions and motivations are less about fighting a giant lizard and more about the dealing with aftermath of the bloodiest war in history.

It really is genius writing.

A major point American film studios need to make a note of is this film’s budget. This film looks incredible for the most part.

A stand-out moment of special effects is Godzilla’s first visit to Tokyo. The destruction looks incredible and in a lot of ways better than some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters this year (I’m looking at you, Flash and Transformers).

So when I saw that this film was made for less than $15 million, I was floored.

To put it into perspective, The most recent American Godzilla film, Godzilla vs Kong, came in over $200 million.

It paints current blockbusters in a bad light. Worse films are getting more money and still look and sound awful. It’s a credit to the innovation of Toho Studios and I wouldn’t be shocked if studios study the development of this film in the future.

While for a majority of this film, the story is serious, there are some moments of cheese. Personally, I don’t see this as a hindrance to the film but as a way to honour past films while organically delivering some light-hearted comedy.

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I do think it is worth pointing out though, as unless you are familiar with Toho Studio’s previous works, it can be a bit jarring. The moment I’m referring to involves a particular scientist character, he’s like the Stan Lee of this world.

Ultimately, Godzilla Minus One is the best monster movie I’ve seen. Taking the infamous Kaiju back to its World War II origins provides a surprisingly fresh take on a 70-year-old franchise.

The human characters are the best they’ve ever been and I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two by the time the credits were rolling.

Watching International Films is a really accessible way to learn about another country’s culture and Godzilla Minus One encapsulates Japan brilliantly. This film is one of the must-watches of 2023.

Godzilla Minus One is currently showing at Canberra cinemas.

Original Article published by Jarryd Rowley on Riotact.

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