When Toho first released “Godzilla” in 1954, they caught lightning in a bottle. The movie was atmospheric, utilized astounding miniature effects, and featured an amazing soundtrack to boot. Godzilla held real-world weight, standing as an allegory for the trauma and destruction left by WWII, and the movie was all the more chilling for it.
Unfortunately, as time went by, the Godzilla franchise lost sight of what made that first movie hit so hard, often dipping into campy production. Godzilla had lost sight of the grounded nature of the first film.
Don’t get me wrong, I love just about every Godzilla film for what they are, but there was something keeping many of the movies from breaking the B-movie mold. I will note that “Shin Godzilla” and the American-produced Godzilla films are some of the best in recent memory, definitely taking steps towards the glory of the original, however “Godzilla Minus One” puts just about all of these honorable mentions to shame, especially the American releases.
With a budget that director Takashi Yamazaki recently implied skewed under the originally reported 15-million-dollar mark, “Godzilla Minus One” manages to put some of the most impressive visuals in the franchise to screen. The movie doesn’t stop there either and instead takes a far less worn path for the franchise by spending time developing its cast of human characters.
You never quite care who gets squashed or splattered in the Godzilla films of past, and “Godzilla Minus One” seems to know that. For once, you’re rooting against Godzilla’s path of destruction. The movie almost feels like it’s concocted in a lab; just when you start to get an itch for Godzilla action, he’s there, but you’re never bored when he’s not.
I’ll admit, at first, I was a little iffy on the nature of the acting style from some of the cast, but they still succeeded at making me feel for them. At the end of the day, any problems I found with this film would feel like a nitpick, and I think the movie succeeded in everything it set out to do.
Very rarely is there a movie that goes above and beyond its predecessors in such a spectacular way. For once, I can say this movie is not just a great monster film, but a great film in general. The bar has been set, and the trajectory of Godzilla has been righted.
Spotlight Score: 10/10