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Seventy years after the first film Godzilla Minus One becomes the best movie in the franchise: a thrillride that sees the impressive Oscar-winning effects trumped by emotion and poignant themes.

Somewhere along the road the Godzilla franchise morphed from an allegory about post-war Japan into a generic monster mash-up. Godzilla Minus One puts the original kaiju back on track with an strikingly well-told story, set a few years before the 1954 movie.

While there are half a dozen scenes that give Godzilla plenty of room to cause massive mayhem the majority of the picture focuses on a kamikaze pilot who chickened out on a World War II mission and now desperately tries to cope with both PTSD and finding new goals in his life.

The smart mix between this intimate tale and the destructive effects of Godzilla on a Tokyo suburb results in a film that – unlike the recent American Monsterverse films – makes you care about the characters. While their journey doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, this is an engrossing story exquisitely told, which adheres closely to the original Godzilla’s profound thematic heft.

On top of that writer-director Takashi Yamazaki gets incredible mileage out of a relatively paltry visual effects budget. The action scenes in Godzilla Minus One stand hand and shoulders above the CGI mess of its Hollywood counterpart and gained the VFX team a thoroughly deserved Oscar earlier this year.

So to me it’s no surprise that Godzilla Minus One resonated so deeply with a worldwide audience. All it took were engaging characters, a clarity in storytelling and top of the line directing and special effects. I loved every minute of it.

release: 2023

director: Takashi Yamazaki

starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Yuki Yamada, Munetaka Aoki


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