The Japanese kaiju film Godzilla Minus One (Gojira Mainasu Wan) took the Oscar for best visual effects from Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, however, it surpasses most American action films not so much in special effects as in its ability to combine fantastic spectacle with the realism of historical and personal drama. It is quite obvious that ideologically and aesthetically, Godzilla Minus One brought the franchise of the huge lizard back to the very beginning: to the 1954 film. And it is equally obvious that the authors were also inspired by… Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

Title Gojira Mainasu Wan
Genre science fiction, drama, adventure, horror, kaiju, disaster movie, historical, war
Director Takashi Yamazaki
Starring Kamiki Ryunosuke, Hamabe Minami, Yuki Yamada, Munetaka Aoki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Ando Sakura, Kuranosuke Sasaki and others
Studios Toho
Timing 2 hours 5 minutes
Year 2023
Website IMDb

The words “minus one” added to the title mean that it is a prequel, i.e. a backstory. While the post-war anti-war Godzilla of 1954 reflected on the terrible devastation of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this terrible destruction was personified by the monster breathing radioactive fire, Godzilla Minus One goes directly back to World War II and the first years after it ended.

«Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

The plot centers on a kamikaze pilot who, in the last days of the war, not wanting to die for nothing (because it is clear that Japan has already lost), lies about an allegedly broken plane and fails to complete the mission. Later, he will reproach himself not only for that cowardice, but also for the second one, when an unknown monster attacked him and the engineers from the water, and he, with his hands on his machine gun, was numb and unable to fire.

Кадр з фільму «Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

Interestingly, after the prologue about the protagonist’s unheroicism, Godzilla disappears from the frame and the plot for a long time and only returns in full at the climax and finale, unlike American films where, if it’s a monster, it’s on the forefront for the entire two hours.

Кадр з фільму «Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

The kamikaze pilot’s encounter with Godzilla in the preface is a metaphor for his confrontation with the colossal ugly horror of war, before which he froze and allowed the creature (war) to trample on and devour his comrades. But after that encounter, when he returned to his bombed-out native Tokyo, where he had neither home nor parents, the confused hero suddenly received a chance from fate to start over with a random stranger and a strange baby. It seemed that the happiness of creating a new family on the ruins and living in peace, forgetting yesterday’s horrors, had just sailed into his hands. But the kamikaze, who never fulfilled his kamikaze mission, continues to wage an internal war with himself, despite the fact that the external war is over.

Кадр з фільму «Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

It is worth remembering that Japan was the aggressor and attacker in World War II. And the Japanese themselves remember this very well. Therefore, unlike the Americans, who have turned the original allegorical meaning of this image upside down with several recent Gojilla films (turning the deadly monster into a cute animal and even an ancient god fighting on the side of humans against real threats), the Japanese cannot afford to distort the idea of 1954, at least out of respect for the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and all victims of war in general). So while Hollywood movie makers are increasingly turning the brand into a popcorn entertainment and CGI attraction with no realism and no human drama, just a flailing computer graphics, the Japanese are returning the franchise to its original and surprisingly important anti-war narrative.

Кадр з фільму «Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

That’s why Godzilla Minus One has so many visual allusions to Spielberg’s Jaws. After all, the cult horror about a giant man-eating shark was released in the year of the end of the Vietnam War, in which the Americans suffered no less defeat and no less deaths than the Japanese did. It is no coincidence that the man-eating shark, which begins to devour the crowd on the 4th of July (US Independence Day), was also a personification of total blind merciless destruction, and the bitten off legs and arms, especially back in 1975, could not but be associated with it, could not but be associated with limbs severed in war (it is no coincidence that there was an old, stern fisherman character, a World War II veteran, who recalled how, due to the bombing of a warship, he found himself with the rest of the soldiers in the middle of a burning sea: The first ones burned, the second ones drowned, and the third ones were eaten by sharks).

Кадр з фільму «Ґодзілла мінус один»
Still from the movie Godzilla Minus One

Takashi Yamazaki, the director and screenwriter of Godzilla Minus One, reminds us that Godzilla is not a living being to be treated humanely (and certainly not a god to be worshipped… except as a god of war, so to worship him is to worship bloodshed, destruction, and devastation). Godzilla is not an animal, but a metaphorical image that is the quintessence of the human desire to break, destroy, kill, and destroy; it is a mirror of our self-destruction, a personification of the nuclear apocalypse. “If a small child who can only draw men, the sun, and animals were to draw a nuclear war, he would draw Godzilla, who flattens everything around him to the ground and breathes hellish ‘sun’ rays,” Yamazaki seems to be telling us. So this beast definitely does not need to be tamed and fed.