Part-Time Review: Godzilla Minus One (2023)


Godzilla Minus One stands out as a franchise highlight from a cinematic landscape littered with failed and middling monster mash films. Set in the waning days of World War II in Japan, the entire film is saturated with the physical and spiritual effects a culture of brought to the country and its people. I don’t want to get into plot specifics here since that’s part of the joy of the film, but the creators find a fantastic central character that embodies the trauma of death the country had to walk through.
I love how Godzilla himself takes a backseat in this film. Godzilla isn’t the popular cult figure here meant to bring an audience to applause, but the horrific embodiment of the demons the Japanese people had to battle post-WWII. Godzilla is a remorseless killer that is seemingly unstoppable. The film often felt closer to something like Jaws than the monster mash movies I’d become used to – and that’s a good thing. The disaster sequences take a back seat to the personal drama, but when the sequences happen, they deliver on the scale and horror in a powerful way. I love how Godzilla’s heat ray here is presented so brutally that there’s no chance the audience is meant to cheer. This was such a needed corrective to the character!

The third act plan to take Godzilla down is a bit kooky on paper, but the presentation here grounds it into something very believable. While I don’t think all the elements are perfectly executed, the filmmakers delivered on the most important aspect: finding a way to satisfyingly weave the central character’s physical and spiritual breakthrough right into the climax of the third act. Their decision actually surprised me in the moment and looking back felt like the most obvious conclusion that I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it coming. Even if you’re not into this franchise or monster mash films, this is one of those whose personal story pulls you in so well that it transcends its genre trappings. Give this one a view.