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‘Godzilla Minus One’: A Gargantuan Success

More than just monster mayhem.
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(Courtesy of Toho Co., LTD)

 

Despite being one of the most well-known characters in film history, it seems like most Americans haven’t seen many Godzilla films, especially the ones produced and distributed by Toho Studios. While the Hollywood interpretation of the monster that began with Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 “Godzilla” has seen some success with an ongoing franchise set to have a new release next April, it’s never garnered the huge fanbase the character has overseas in the country it originated from. With some savvy marketing, Japan’s latest Godzilla installment titled “Godzilla Minus One” has gathered some excitement in the U.S.. Possibly, this is the film that will create new interest in the Japanese version of the franchise.

Taking place after the end of WWII, kamikaze pilot Koichi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) returns home, haunted by the images he has seen and sick with grief. For a short time, Koichi finds solace in a found family until the atomic bomb brings Godzilla back from the depths of the ocean. Set on terrorizing Japan, Koichi must find a way to defeat Godzilla and avenge his fallen comrades while protecting his new home.

A Human Story

“Godzilla Minus One” is the strongest in its simplicity. It forgoes long complex spouts of exposition in exchange for a very human story with high stakes. While Godzilla is a constantly looming threat, at the center of this film is the tale of a soldier learning to forgive himself for his past failures. Having a layered protagonist gives the audience something to hold onto as the movie escalates into massive monster warfare.

Kamiki is surrounded by a cast of conventional archetypes that are nothing new, but lovable nonetheless. This allows Godzilla to be the terrifying titan of chaos he was originally designed as. When the human cast is in the presence of the behemoth kaiju, audiences will actually fear for their lives.

In comparison, the American version of Godzilla has been treated more as an anti-hero. He usually fights a monster “eviler” than himself. These films also always feature human characters who are supposed to be likable just because they have a family but lack any depth or complexity. “Minus One” is refreshing, as it lets Godzilla be the main villain of his film and understands that human characters need to have struggles outside of the monster.

Convincing World

“Minus One” is wonderfully unique in its effects. Godzilla rarely looks “real,” but he is always convincing. The creature’s details are not only incredible but the way he is shot and sounds makes a genuine threat. Even with the knowledge that the thing on the screen is completely fake, the terror is real. It also helps that other than some of the action set pieces, everything is filmed on real sets that look lived-in. When our heroes are facing Godzilla on a dinky wooden boat, the physical set they are on combined with the menace of the monster makes for a truly immersive and intense experience. 

While all the Godzilla films out of Hollywood have had their entertaining aspects, “Godzilla Minus One” blasts them out of the water by being more than just monster mayhem. Though the movie has plenty of that, it’s elevated by a heartfelt story which is equally if not more engaging than the title character. Pair this with a truly sinister interpretation of the amphibian icon and you have one of the best blockbusters of the year.

 

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@grahamcool8

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About the Contributor
Graham Jones, Arts Writer, News For U Producer
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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    Jimmy BuccinoFeb 21, 2024 at 9:36 am

    Okay big guy.

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