Bureau 42 Movie Review – Godzilla Minus One (2023)

The first Godzilla movie to take home an Oscar (VFX, in case you were curious,) Godzilla Minus One gives us a prequel of sorts.  Focusing on what Toho studios has always done better than its American licensee: showing us the human side of the story rather than a giant monster wreaking havoc.

[Note: After the cut there are spoilers.  If you want a spoiler free review to decide if its work seeking out and reading subtitles:  Yes, it’s great, well worth it.]

Cast and Crew

Written and Directed by Takashi Yamazaki

Minami Hamabe as Noriko Oishi
Ryunosuke Kamiki as Koichi Shikishima
Sakura Andô as Sumiko Ota
Rikako Miura as Minami Hamabe’s stand-in
Munetaka Aoki as Sosaku Tachibana
Yuki Yamada as Shiro Mizushima
Kuranosuke Sasaki as Seiji Akitsu
Hidetaka Yoshioka as Kenji Noda
Takato Yonemoto
Michael Arias as American Serviceman
Yûya Endô as Tadamasa Saito
Sae Nagatani as Akiko

Premise

Post war Japan is at its lowest point when a new crisis emerges in the form of a giant monster, baptized in the horrific power of the atomic bomb. (From IMDB)

High Point

The movie focuses on the human side of the story.  This is the tale of a man with some severe PTSD, both from WWII and a giant monster, and his redemptive arc that happens to play out along side an atomic powered force of nature as it wanders near (and into) his life.

Low Point1

The reveal of a Nori’s survival felt tacked on to give the movie the happiest of ending.  It already had a surprise happy ending with the ejector seat, so Nori felt a bit too much.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Giant Monster attacks Japan.  This story was done so many times there is no way it can be called it original.  Even telling the story of a war survivor dealing with the war has been done.  We do get a better look at just how Godzilla works, which is why it gets a second point.

Effects: 6/6 This won the Oscar for best Visual Effects, and it deserved it.

Acting: 4/6 The movie was in Japanese, forcing viewers who only speak English to get the movie through subtitles.  The emotional portrayal felt a bit over-the-top, though this could be how the Japanese culture reacts, contrasted with a more subdued style of American movies.  (That is to say, your mileage may vary.)

Emotional Response: 6/6 The movie hooks the audience.  The terror, the sorrow, the feelings of loss from the devastation, all register to draw you into the post-war setting.

Story: 5/6 This is a story of Koichi, not of a giant lizard, and the story is a relatable one.

Production: 6/6 The only complaint would be that the movie is not easily available in the United States.

Overall: 6/6 This wasn’t just the best Godzilla movie in a while, this was a well made movie even without Godzilla.

In total, Godzilla Minus One (2023) receive 35/42

1I did warn you about spoilers.

3 replies on “Bureau 42 Movie Review – Godzilla Minus One (2023)”

  1. Hmm…. thought I’d posted some version of my review back in February, but I guess I didn’t. We agree on most key points. Me, from elsewhere, for comparison purposes:

    A Japanese kamikaze pilot lands on a remote island base during World War II. He hasn’t gotten lost and his claims of mechanical failure are false. He fled, unwilling to face death.

    That night, a monster attacks, a thing from a nightmare that will only grow worse.

    When Godzilla first skreeonked onto the screen in 1954, he was scary. Even in the U.S. re-edit, you couldn’t mistake his unstoppable, radioactive-fire-breathing rampage for what it was: Japan had transformed the war and the atomic bomb into a wrathful god. The franchise soon thereafter mutated into TV wrestling by guys in rubber dinosaur costumes, popcorn for the kids.

    Takashi Yamazaki’s 2023 film brings the beast back to his most cruel source. Our kamikaze, Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) returns to a devastated homeland and tries to build a life. He works as a minesweeper. He forms a family with a war-orphaned woman (Minami Hamabe) and an abandoned baby. When Godzilla returns, he joins the effort. Due to Cold War considerations, no other nation will help. MacArthur permits recommissioned Japanese planes and ships to be used, thus explaining why Japan has a functional military to use– alone.

    ゴジラ-1.0 has a slower pace and smaller budget than recent Godzilla films, but it has credible characters. Those helpless people on the train? In this version, they matter.

    It isn’t perfect. It runs longer than necessary and the conclusion requires us to accept some far-fetched plot developments, even in a film about a giant radioactive dragon. Squint at it, however, and it serves as an origin for any of the Godzilla series, including the recent American-made blockbusters. It also represents a dark, fresh start for future Toho productions. What we have is either the best Godzilla film since the first– or the best ever.

    • They obviously left it in a way they can make more, but I am not sure I’d want them to do that. I can’t imagine a story that would follow this without taking the whole thing into “TV wrestling by guys in rubber dinosaur costumes” territory.

      • I guess we’ll see. At present, I see it as similar to one of those “Secret Origins” type of comics that get published after decades of tortured continuity. Viewers can decide which earlier films form a part of their head-canon, or just enjoy this film on its own merits and not worry about it.

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