If you were looking for longest running film franchise of all time you would be forgiven if you went with James Bond or even the Universal Monsters films but in your heart you know that one of the best is clearly Godzilla. From his first film in 1954 to multiple US attempts and reboots (although we do like the Monarch show on Apple TV) it would be hard not to say the most pure is the original Japanese and now the King has returned again with Godzilla Minus One.
If you have never seen one of the original Japanese films then you are missing out on a lot of Godzilla lore which has been more condensed into a fast food style meal for the Legacy Pictures and even the 1998 film by Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. In the Japnese films Godzilla can steer from villain to hero with his early appearances being more the destructive comprehendible force of nature than the later films and adaptions. Where the 1956 Godzilla: King of Monsters may have been defeated by the heroic JSDF (Japanese Défense Forces) when he fought King Ghidorah the 3 headed dragon he was considered a hero as Ghidorah posed a greater thread to humanity.
Godzilla Minus One takes Godzilla all he way back to new origins, set mostly in a post World War Two Japan, Godzilla is first spotted by kamikaze pilot and main protagonist Kōichi Shikishima who landed on a small island to get plane repairs. During that repair the island was attacked by a dinosaur like creature (Godzilla, but only 3-4 stories tall) who went on a rampage and killed everyone but the pilot and lead engineer.
After surviving the encounter he returned to Japan (as a failed kamikaze pilot which was not well thought of) he took in a young woman and a child who had lost their homes and families during the war. Supporting this new family Kōichi took on a job clearing unexploded sea mines when news spread of a creature near the US nuclear weapons testing resembling the island attack but many many times larger.
While we might have jumped a little deeper here there is not a lot you need to know going into this film as it is set as the first encounter anyone has had with Godzilla who is very much more a destructive force than the nature’s balance that the US films portray. Where the US Godzilla was the size of a building and had atomic breath that could do some damage, Minus One Godzilla looks down on buildings and has has atomic breath like an atom bomb which he will use to destroy anything in his path (and some things not in his path).
From a look and feel this film is very much a continuation of the original Japanese films with the special effects being somewhere between the goofy rubber suit of the OG Godzilla’s with a touch of modern special effects to blend it to be more believable. Godzilla however much like the early films is not the central focus on the film but rather the people in a post-WW2 Japan rebuilding while also trying to defeat an unstoppable creature.
So should you go see it? Originally we did not have a review for this because it was a limited run but both in Australia and the US Godzilla Minus One has managed to pull a reverse Morbius and extend it’s cinematic run due to demand in cinemas. If you do love some Godzilla and know part of his charm is his early films + not deterred from the film being subtitled – then this is possibly one of the best Godzilla films you will have seen in the last decade.
Godzilla Minus One, is still in cinemas (but selected sessions) across Australia now