GORE IN THE STORE
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GODZILLA MINUS ONE ****
Directed by Takashi Yamazaki.
Starring Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Godzilla.
Science-Fiction, Japan, 124 minutes, cert 12A.
Released in cinemas in the UK by All The Anime 15th December 2023.
One year shy of his 70th anniversary, Godzilla returns to the big screen yet again in this impressive entry that places the titular monster on course to raze post-war Tokyo to the ground once more with only a plucky band of citizens trying to bring a stop to this gigantic force of destruction. Relocating Godzilla to this particular moment of time is a canny move, both in rebooting the series and also taking the post-war societal upheaval of Japan to examine notions of survivors’ guilt and patriotic duty alongside the always present after effects of the nuclear bomb (thanks Oppenheimer!)
We follow disgraced kamikaze pilot Shikishima, a man trying to rebuild his life after the war and sharing the view of everyone else that he was a coward, helping contribute to Japan’s failure in the war. His shame, however, hides the fact that in the dying days of the war, he encountered a giant creature on a remote island that the locals refer to as Godzilla, an encounter which has left just as much of an effect on the carnage he has already witnessed. Rebuilding his life in the years afterwards, Shikishima is horrified to discover that Godzilla is on the rampage again and heading straight to Tokyo and everything that Shikishima now holds dear.
Godzilla films have always relied on spectacle first and human characterisation a distant second. Even Hideaki Anno’s and Shinji Higuchi’s excellent SHIN GODZILLA had the film's protagonists withholding full-blooded characterisation behind a civic sense of bureaucracy that gave that film such an interesting matter-of-fact look at how present-day Japan would deal with encountering such a creature as Godzilla. Here, writer and director Takashi Yamazaki presents a cast of fully-rounded characters led by Ryunosuke Kamiki’s compelling performance of the guilt-ridden Shikishima.
But of course, you watch a Godzilla film to watch the big man himself in action, and GODZILLA MINUS ONE certainly does not disappoint in that regard. Yamazaki stages the destructive action in swift kinetic bursts that cast Godzilla as a terrifying force of nature that holds no regard for human life whatsoever. On a budget said to only approach fifteen million dollars, a fraction of what the far less impressive and campy American franchise entries cost, Yamazaki makes the scenes of spectacle count and linger long in the viewer's memory. While superhero cinema implodes at the box office, GODZILLA MINUS ONE is the most impressive piece of blockbuster-driven cinema this year, smartly combining heartfelt emotion with its awe-inspiring spectacle.
Yamazaki has cited JAWS as one of the inspirations behind this, and it is all too easy to see. However, the film still manages to stand on its own gigantic, clawed feet, striding out in an exciting new direction for cinema's greatest monster. It effortlessly marries new elements with more familiar ones, a big grin will no doubt spread along the faces of long time fans when one music cue strikes up whilst they may find themselves surprised at the sheer force of destruction of that always thrilling heat ray. One of the smartest, most entertaining and exciting entries in the franchise yet, this is a film that more than deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible and will have you wanting more once the enticing final shot fades to black.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans