Godzilla Minus One

This Japanese sort-of prequel to the original Godzilla delivers jaw-dropping set pieces and characters you care about between the carnage

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 11 Dec 2023
  • Godzilla Minus One
Film title: Godzilla Minus One
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Yuki Yamada, Munetaka Aoki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Sakura Ando, Kuranosuke Sasaki
Release date: 15 Dec
Certificate: 12A

With the franchise’s 70th anniversary imminent, Japanese studio Toho goes back to the beginning with their latest Godzilla film. Or rather, before the beginning. Sort of. You can view Godzilla Minus One as an alternate genesis for the iconic monster, as interpreting it as a definite prequel to the original – something barely alluded to in the text – can negate this new film’s tension. That said, the strength of the craft ensures it’s still an enthralling visual and dramatic ride, regardless of any nagging thoughts about how the film can possibly have a satisfying conclusion in its own right.

The very first Godzilla film was set around the same time as its 1954 release, with the sea creature symbolising Japan’s overriding fears concerning the aftermath of the war and nuclear attacks. Godzilla Minus One takes these same ideas but places them in an even bleaker context. Starting in World War II’s final days and taking place across the following two years (as Japan rebuilds from the ruins), this thrilling film charts the green giant’s journey from being slightly bigger than a T-Rex – terrorising people on a beach – to city-conquering behemoth, thanks to evolutionary enhancement via 1946’s Operation Crossroads.

Writing, directing, and leading the film’s visual effects team, Takashi Yamazaki delivers impressive, legitimately scary set pieces. And crucially, the time spent with the genuinely appealing human ensemble in between attacks is truly compelling; exploring post-war trauma, community-led resistance to government disinformation, and trying to salvage peaceful prospects within the most disastrous circumstances.

Released 15 Dec by Anime Limited; certificate 12A