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Godzilla Minus One

I’ve been a GODZILLA fan for a long, long time. Not an obsessive fan, not a huge fan of the recent LEGENDARY films (other than the 2014 GARETH EDWARDS movie), but a fan of the massive creature himself. I have early memories of sitting at my late Gran’s house on a Saturday afternoon – it must have been around 1980 – watching the original TOHO movies on TV, and I built up a decent collection of them on VHS, until VHS was no longer a thing and I lost them in a house move.

There’s something about the concept of GODZILLA himself, and Kaijus in general, that captivates me. The idea of a creature so huge that its every movement causes massive devastation, irrespective of its intent. I have a half-written novel in my archives – KAI – and a short story – BIG MAN – that talks about this from the perspective of the monster, because I’ve always secretly been on GODZILLA’s side. Haven’t we all?

Last November, when my wife and I finally made our long-delayed trip to Japan, I went into full-on geek mode and dragged her around Tokyo, looking for signs of the colossal beast. You can see some of the evidence below.

I’ve seen plenty of GODZILLA movies that I’ve enjoyed, but I’ve never been completely blown away by any of them. Until now. I’m very happy to report that GODZILLA MINUS ONE is every bit as good as you’ve heard.

Read more: Godzilla Minus One

Set in post-WWII Japan, GODZILLA MINUS ONE shows a country already on its knees that’s dealt a new blow when, triggered by the power of the atomic bomb, a giant creature arises from the depths of the ocean. In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the trailer.

A story without well-developed characters that you care about is little more than a concept. How many summer blockbusters have we seen over the years that have been 99% explosions and fancy effects, 1% plot and character development? It just doesn’t work. You’ve only got to work your way through most of the recent MCU and DCU movies to see that. GODZILLA MINUS ONE is, on the face of it, a straightforward story about the people of Tokyo defending their city from GODZILLA’s attacks, but because we care about the characters and their situation, it delivers a heck of an emotional punch to the gut.

The post-war setting is key to this, I think. If you read my post last December about my trip to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you’ll understand how much of an impact those visits had on me. Even now, a couple of months later, I’m still struggling to process how those two cities – and two peoples – that saw such horror and devastation, can have become the warm, beautiful, peaceful places I visited last November. It’s almost impossible to imagine the strength of character and the sheer physical effort required to have delivered such a transformation over the decades since 1945. GODZILLA MINUS ONE acknowledges this, portraying a country and people at rock bottom. Tokyo lies in ruins, and just as the population begin to regroup and rebuild, another devastating threat comes along in the massive shape of GODZILLA.

Written and directed by TAKASHI YAMAZAKI, the film is well-paced and refreshingly honest. RYUNOSUKE KAMIKI is excellent as Koichi Shikishima, a ‘failed’ Kamikaze pilot who feigned engine problems rather than complete his suicidal mission. Koichi is a tortured soul, and he’s a fascinating character who speaks volumes about the issues facing the Japanese people at the time.

I’ve no doubt my recent visit to Japan heightened the impact of the movie for me. We were there just as the film was about to be released. We walked through Ginza, where GODZILLA’s most devastating incursion takes place, and he was everywhere. But whether you’ve visited Japan or not, regardless of whether you have any interest in the social, political, and economic transformation of the nation over the years, you’ll be able to appreciate GODZILLA MINUS ONE for what it is at heart – one of the best, if not the best, massive monster movies ever. Visually stunning, emotionally powerful, and thought-provoking, it’s a remarkable film and I recommend you go see it just as soon as you can.

It’s made me want to dust off my abandoned Kaiju novel and give it another spin…

Thanks for reading.

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