Godzilla Minus One
Godzilla has been a lot of things over its 69 years of existence: It started as a metaphor for the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima; it’s transitioned into a superhero that’s protected the planet; it’s been used as satire to demonstrate the incompetence of Japan’s government during the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami; and, of course, it’s been a brawling brute to entertain audiences around the planet.
Godzilla Minus One falls into the metaphor category of Godzilla movies. However, to say Minus One is a film about Godzilla at all, feels almost reductive. Godzilla Minus One, more than any Godzilla film before it, is about humanity and the desire to keep living despite catastrophic odds, especially after your government has abandoned you.
Don’t be mistaken, Minus One is a spectacle of special effects and Jaws-level monster cinema, but it’s bookended with the harrowing ability to capture terror and devastation. The helplessness of watching a mushroom cloud form, as you wait for the shockwave to come knowing there’s nowhere to run–this is a scene in Minus One that has been burned into my brain. It’s horrific to watch.
But in its horror, Minus One paints a will to continue living and fighting, and does so by using themes of PTSD. Protagonist Koichi Shikishima is a WWII kamikaze pilot who did not fulfill his duty to take his own life in the name of his country in a war he was forced to fight. As a result, he is shackled with guilt and shame, even damned by people around him for not fulfilling his sworn duty. Godzilla isn’t so much a representation of the bombs that ended the war, but rather the war that many of its soldiers continue to fight silently in their minds. For them, the war never ended. And in this case, Godzilla gives them the will to fight for closure.
Godzilla Minus One handles these themes with so much heart and elegance, finely balancing its action with its horror, all of which is built on the foundation of the need to keep living. It’s a masterpiece in filmmaking and storytelling. It doesn’t just stand as possibly the greatest Godzilla film ever made, but as one of the most important films this year. Minus One reminds us that the 69-year-old giant monster is still versatile and relevant, and that humanscanbe the foundation of its story, rather than a spectacle of destruction and special effects.– Kurt Indovina