Godzilla Minus One, a film with an anti-militarist heart. The review

Godzilla has returned home. Seven years after the last Japanese live action dedicated to the king of the kaiju by Hideaki Anno and 10 times as many since the first historic film of the longest-running film saga in the world, Godzilla Minus One relaunches the franchise with a reboot that fits between tradition and a modern reinterpretation, moving the origins of the monster further back in time than anyone had ever dared and using the historical setting to construct a discussion on the future of a different and more human. In Italian cinemas, in the original language with subtitles, from 1 to 6 December for Nexo Digital.

A vintage creature

It is really difficult to explain how a monster born 70 years ago can still be so current and fascinating despite doing nothing to hide its wrinkles. Takashi Yamazaki (Space Battleship Yamato, Doraemon – The Movie, Lupine III – The First) – what of Godzilla Minus One is an authentic demiurge, screenwriter, director and head of special effects – he follows in perfect Japanese style the path traced by Anno in presenting a profoundly vintage creature, with computer graphics that simulates the stop motion animated puppet of the origins, a giant who it moves awkwardly with those hypertrophied hind legs, its protruding belly, its disproportionately small head. And he builds a soulful story around it, which at first is a little Jurassic Parkhalfway veers towards The sharkand only in the end does it embrace the stylistic features of a war film after having avoided them quite clearly for about two thirds of its duration.


Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a reluctant kamikaze, who at the end of the Second World War escapes his fate by simulating a breakdown in his aircraft and taking refuge on Odo Island, a repair center for suicide planes and – not too incidentally – land native of Godzilla. It is the perfect opportunity for an immediate and devastating appearance of the great kaiju and for the genesis in the protagonist of the trauma that he will carry with him throughout the film.


Returning, at the end of the conflict, to a Tokyo devastated by bombings, Kōichi the coward is forced to live with the shame of his rejection, haunted by nightmares, but the opportunity for redemption will present itself to him in the form of a young girl, Noriko Ōishi (Minami Amabe), accompanied by an orphaned little girl and a new job, very well paid but extremely dangerous, as a naval mine hunter. It is in this context that Kōichi will once again find himself face to face with Godzilla for a final showdown that will put the salvation of Tokyo and the future of Japan at stake.


At the center of the story there is therefore not Godzilla, there is not his destructive threat, but the journey of an unconventional hero who defeats a PTSD caused by feelings of survivor’s guilt and faces self-destructive impulses. Kōichi feels like “a person who shirked his duty” and “a person who shouldn’t be alive,” while Noriko struggles to convince him that “all those who survived the war are destined to live.” And it is only by facing that gigantic kaiju that embodies his sense of guilt, only by reconciling himself with his past, that he will be able to give meaning to his existence.


With Godzilla Minus One, Yamazaki deconstructs Japanese militarist rhetoric, destroying the epic of the samurai, seppuku and kamikaze, and instead building a pacifist and humanist manifesto. To rewrite its destiny, Japan is forced to fight a new war which – unlike the one just ended and lost – no longer has the objective of preserving the vestiges of a glorious past but of guaranteeing a future of peace and brotherhood . The words and choices of the characters reject the rhetoric of honorable death in favor of a rediscovery of the value of life: “This country has taken life into too little consideration”, says Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), a former Japanese Navy officer who drives the wooden boat on which Kōichi finds and destroys naval mines and develops the plan to defeat Godzilla; “Not having been in the war is something to be proud of,” says Yoji Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki) to Shiro “Kid” Mizushima (Yuki Yamada), a boy who experiences the fact that he is too young to have contributed to the war effort as a burden of his country.


If, with Shin GodzillaAnno had constructed a leading film with elements of political and social satire of contemporary Japanese society, Godzilla Minus One by Yamazaki is a film of pure heart that speaks courageously to a conservative country, working on the common trauma of the Second World War and the atomic bomb to try to build an alternative path towards the future. Godzilla Minus One it is a perfectly successful operation of cultural re-appropriation, a touching film, with elegant and careful photography with desaturated tones, a soundtrack capable of accompanying the narrative without ever overpowering it, and truly remarkable attention to technical and directorial aspects. A small jewel within an immortal saga.