Godzilla Minus One Masters the Kaiju Genre
When I saw the reception to Takashi Yamazaki’s Godzilla Minus One was so overwhelming that it extended its stay in American cinemas, I knew I had to check the film out. Despite a lack of knowledge on the genre, what I did know was that many of my friends were fans of Godzilla films, namely Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Shin Godzilla film in 2016. So, when the opportunity arose to check out the new film in theaters with them, I accepted, and can confirm that from that day forward I’ve become a massive fan of the Godzilla films. It’s that good.
Godzilla Minus One is a combination of genres I haven’t heard before. Obviously it’s a kaiju film, Godzilla’s name is right there in the title, but the film also leans heavily into the war genre and nails the mental and emotional toil that comes with it. The main protagonist Kōichi lives a life full of unending trauma, torture, and tragedy that he eventually feels personally tied in with the titular Godzilla. The film is largely comprised of preparation for the monster’s attack, intercut with lower-scale attacks he makes prior to surfacing on the main islands of Japan. It’s gripping the whole way through due to the horrors of war Kōichi faces early on. The audience wants him to succeed, because they’ve already seen what failure has done to him.
The effects in the film feel so real and consequential, with both digital and practical effects meshing together in a way that refuses to break immersion. It’s hard to tell at times which is which, instead letting the actions of Godzilla speak for themselves as a team of dedicated veterans and engineers plan a counterattack. I’ve seen films these past few years in theaters with hundreds of millions of dollars poured into their budget only for their visual effects to come out unpolished and unreliable. Godzilla Minus One has an alleged budget of less than $15 million, and yet its gorgeous effects put even the highs of most modern Marvel releases to shame.
As mentioned at the beginning, Godzilla Minus One has recently extended its stay in theaters due to its immense success in the West, alongside another Japanese film The Boy and the Heron. Our review of the latter is linked here, and I highly encourage you to see both while you can. They’re both unforgettable theater experiences in their own right.
Godzilla Minus One is now playing in theaters worldwide.