There is no denying that the character of Godzilla, the giant kaiju monster from Japan, has had a long and celebrated lifespan franchise that spans decades and countless iteration of the iconic scaly creature. For the uninitiated, the franchise, who was originally created and conceived by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Tsuburaya, and Ishiro Honda, centers around the fictional kaiju Godzilla, a prehistoric reptilian monster awakened and power by  nuclear radiation, facing off against various adversary from human and other monster-like beings. Since the first film’s release in 1954, the Godzilla series has flourished and has been featured in a full catalogue of feature films throughout the years, expressing a variety of social commentary undertones and thematic motifs that range, with Godzilla role varying from project to project from purely destructive force to protector of humanity against other giant monsters. Altogether, the overall popularity of the films has led to the franchise expanding to other mediums and media facets, including television, music, literature, and video games. Furthermore, Godzilla has become one of the recognizable symbols in Japanese pop culture across the globe and remains a well-known icon of Japanese cinema. Now, seven years after the release of their last live-action Godzilla film (2016’s Shin Godzilla) and to honor the series for its 70th anniversary, Toho Studios and director Takashi Yamazaki release a new iteration of the classic kaiju monster with the film Godzilla Minus One. Does this movie excel and harken back to the traditional films of the series or is it just another bland “one and done” kaiju dud of a feature?


In 1945, during the final days of WWII, Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) reflects on his upcoming duties as a kamikaze pilot stationed on the Japanese island of Odo. Such finality remorse to his life is immediately cut short when Godzilla, a primordial creatures from the deep sea, arrives wiping out most of his fellow soldiers in the process before returning to the fathoms below. Finding his way back home, Koichi faces the destruction of war, with his community wiped out as well as friends and loved ones dead. From the rubble of the war’s chaos, Koichi suddenly meets Noriko Oishi (Minami Hambe), a roaming survivor caring for an infant with the pair developing a partnership that grows over the next several years, raising the child named Akiko (Sae Nagatani) together. Taking a job on a ship dedicated to the destruction of US sea mines, Koichi befriends his crewmates, including young trainee Shiro Mizushima (Yuki Yamada), former weapon engineer Kenji Noda (Hidetaka Yoshioka), and the ship’s captain Yoji Akitsu (Kuranosuke Sasaki), but their peace is disrupted by the reemergence of Godzilla, who is now grown in size and twice as powerful, laying waste to a Japanese city through his sheer size and terrifying atomic breath. In its aftermath, with governmental forces stalled and stunned by the kaiju attack and aiding for the US being blockaded, Koichi, filled with sorrow and rage, joins a military vets and community organization force, with the collective minds hatching a plan to eliminate Godzilla before the towering creature makes it to Tokyo.


I will say that the giant monster / kaiju movies are special breed of their own within the cinematic world. Yes, they can be cheesy, campy, or even harken back to the times of old “creature features” of filmmaking storytelling. Naturally, the Godzilla movies are indeed one of the primaries sources of the giant monster genre, carving out a long-running movie career that has become more iconic in popular mainstream mediums that many other endearing franchises in film history. Now, I don’t consider myself an ”aficionado” of the Godzilla series (and its extended lore), especially since there are so many out there, but I have seeing several of the older ones (can’t remember the names), so I do get the general gist of the franchise and the many monsters / struggles that giant kaiju has faced throughout the years. So, yes, I am familiar with some pieces of the series and do know about the likes of Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mecha Godzilla, and several others. The movies were cheesy and some effect shots look dated (by today’s comparison), but still retain the strong fundamentals of a saga of giant monster mayhem and human character drama. Again, I really don’t considered (or fashion myself) an expert on the Godzilla franchise, so I do know there have been other Japanese releases from the 1990s all the way to present day.

Of course, my first “introduction” to Godzilla was in 1998’s Godzilla, which I know has been heavily criticized for not being true to the character and filmmaking style and ended up more of an American style and iteration. Although, I still like (and love) the scene when he first arrives in NYC. Then, of course, Legendary Pictures’s MonsterVerse, which gave a better American representation of the character of Godzilla (and the other kaiju monsters out there). 2014’s Godzilla was good and definitely had a more “cinematic” feeling of its dramatic direction and heightened focus of character interaction, but placed too much emphasis on that same notion and pushed all the giant monster action towards the third act. Now, 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is my absolute favorite release of the MonsterVerse saga, for it showcases everything I wanted to see in a Hollywood big-budgeted endeavor of the Godzilla namesake and hits a lot of the right notes with that. Yes, the characters are a bit weak, but the grand spectacle of all the classic giant monsters from the past come alive on the big screen was terrific and the action scenes were amazing. As for 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, it was fun and had its moments, but felt subpar and a bit underwhelming, especially after the more engaging previous release of King of the Monsters. I am aware of the MonsterVerse’s other projects, including Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, the upcoming 2024 follow-up to Godzilla vs. Kong, but, given the reception and viewing experience that I had with the last film, I’m a bit skeptical. That being said, I have been hearing a lot of good stuff of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters series on Apple TV+….I may have to check that out soon. Nevertheless, whether you’re a fan of the old ones or new iterations, the Godzilla franchise has endured the test of cinematic runtime and continues to fascinate many out there through its sheer pleasure giant kaiju monsters and the people that are caught in the middle of it.

Naturally, this brings me back to talking about Godzilla Minus One, a 2023 Japanese adventure kaiju film, the 37th film in the Godzilla franchise, Toho’s 33rd Godzilla film, and the fifth film in the franchise’s Reiwa era. With a lot of attention (and marketing) being placed heavily on Legendary Pictures’s MonsterVerse, which features the famous Godzilla monster in this cinematic universe, I really didn’t expect anything coming out relatively new or otherwise from a live-action Godzilla that wasn’t from Hollywood of late. As mentioned, I did know that Toho was still producing Godzilla movies, but nothing grand or having a large fanfare following beyond its fanbase. That was until I heard word that a new Godzilla movie was coming out and that it was simply titled Godzilla Minus One, a very curious name indeed. After that announcement, I didn’t hear much for quite some time until the film’s movie trailer began to appear online and (to be more honest) in theaters during the “coming attractions” preview reel. From the preview alone, it looked quite fascinating. First, the movie seems to be going back to its “roots” by focusing more on Godzilla as a savage and sizeable threat rather than an indifferent primordial creature to be seeing as a somewhat “savior” to mankind against other giant kaiju monsters.  Plus, it was being release by Toho, the minds behind one third of the Godzilla movie releases in the series as well as being entirely in Japanese rather than a big-budgeted Hollywood Studios. It goes without saying that I was definitely curious to see what this latest Godzilla movie would offer, especially how it would differ from the recent Warner Bros / Legendary Pictures’s MonsterVerse iteration, so I did decide to check out the movie during its opening weekend. And what did I think of it? Well, as a matter of fact, I was highly enjoyed it. Despite a few minor complaints about it, Godzilla Minus One is a satisfying and engaging cinematic contribution to the long line of giant kaiju series, with the film finding proper rhythm of action and character storytelling and that honors the past of for the 70th anniversary of the Godzilla franchise. It doesn’t redefine series or break any type of new ground, but reinforces its own ideas and returns them back to its cinematic roots, keeping viewers engaged (and entertained) from onset to conclusion.

Godzilla Minus One is directed by Takashi Yamazaki, whose previous directorial works include such films as The Fighter Pilot, The Great War of Archimedes, and Lupin III: The First. Having directorial projects underneath his belt as well as having a background as a visual effects supervisor on projects like Shin Godzilla and a few others, Yamazaki does seems like quite the suitable director to helm this particular film endeavor for Toho and the Godzilla brand name. To his credit, Yamazaki does an incredible job, taking the franchise back to its material roots and drawing inspiration from the older Godzilla movies. Of course, as mentioned above, Godzilla has seen many iterations over the years, so it was nice (delightful) to see the giant kaiju return back to its heyday glory days of rampaging and mayhem. Yamazaki seems to make the notion in mind throughout most of the film’s runtime by staging sequences retain scenes of genuine horror and unexpected terror whenever Godzilla appears. Unlike the recent MonsterVerse iterations, Godzilla in Minus One is a monstrous force to be reckoned with, rampaging and destroying everything in his path, with potential brutal destructive nature of having that sense of horrific dread whenever he emerges from the sea and stomps through cities. This, of course, is what many were expecting to see and Yamazaki delivers on that front in the film, cultivating sequences that are thrilling and resemble the classic giant monster movies that this franchise built.

Of course, the movie isn’t all mayhem and destruction, with Yamazaki taking Minus One back to its older films and harkening back to a proper balance of monster action and character drama of which the series is known for. Minus One certainly achieves that balance wonderfully as Yamazaki, who pulls double duty on the project as both director and writer for Minus One, creates a narrative that gives life to many of the characters and how they play a part in the narrative. Yes, some are a bit conventional and presented with “broad strokes”, but it’s enough to make them quite compelling, especially seeing through the eyes of Koichi Shikishima and the various people that he meets along the way. In truth, Yamazaki does a terrific job in balancing those particular two aspects throughout the feature and keeps the film’s integrity and engagement endearing through the stories of its characters rather than turn the movie into an obvious grand spectacle…..something that the MonsterVerse usually aim to do and struggle with its characters.

Perhaps one big interesting aspect (at least to me) in Minus One is the film’s backdrop setting / time period and how it plays a part in the feature’s narrative. Of course, while most Godzilla films utilize the modern / current time period of the film’s creation, Yamazaki decides to take the narrative back to its historical roots by exploring a story of Godzilla (and the humans) during the post WWII, with the nation of Japan desperately trying to recover from the aftermath of the war, only to be besiege once again by a new monstrous threat. To still, a nation crawling out of the ashes and trying to rebuild what was lost from military air raids and other machinations of war and to see it now facing a kaiju level event showcases the true horror of reality and desperate attempts of survival (from both fronts), which is where the films’ namesake (i.e. Minus One) is supposedly derive from. Plus, it’s interesting to see both US and Russia won’t get involved in Godzilla’s attacks, with the movie giving an explanation for it. It’s a bit of side point, but it’s interesting that the film acknowledges it. Thus, while the nature of the feature is focused on Godzilla and the human characters that fight / survive against him, Yamazaki never sacrifices the historical background integrity, with Minus One playing to the strengths of the setting beautifully.

Of course, Yamazaki’s greatest strength also resides in the actual namesake of the feature….Godzilla. Yes, while he’s more of a bad guy (antagonist) in this iteration, there is no denying the fact that Minus One excels in the big guy’s overall look and design that Yamazaki and his team imagined the towering creature to be presented as such. His overall look pays tribute to the original Godzilla, with his movement and body frame work (mostly) and even his face are all derived from classic rubber suit that started it all, which will surely delight longtime fans of the series. Of course, modern day CGI wizardry and visual effects help in aiding such a monster creation by adding some graphic textures, which certainly give him more of scarier and monstrous appearance that say what the MonsterVerse did. He’s colossal and frightening and that’s what many will remember from the older films, which is a nice callback touch to the fans and to the franchise. And (of course) when the movie’s action gets going, seeing such a towering behemoth move and interact with the tiny world around him is a treat to watch. Thus, regardless of what think of this movie, there is no denying that Godzilla himself looks incredibly detailed that blends callbacks nods to the source material and layering it modern day CGI magic. All in all, great job from Yamazaki and the entire visual effects team.

Naturally, this brings up the film’s action and yes…Minus One delivers on that front. Of course, there is no denying that there could’ve been more (more on that below), but for what Yamazaki staged and what is the visual effects team was able to capture is nothing short than brilliant. The movie definitely invokes that classic giant monster aesthetics throughout, where an impossible task / mission is hatched to take down such a gargantuan threat. In truth, the way that the humans decide to deal with Godzilla during the latter half is actually really cool and doesn’t cheapen or distract from the action set pieces that accompany those sequences. I mean, the final 30 minutes of the Minus One is thrilling and exciting at the same time. Plus, as I mentioned above, Yamazaki doesn’t shy away from making the action scenes intense and brutal. There’s really no blood or gory stuff visible seeing, but the sheer terror, panic, and utter chaotic destructiveness of Godzilla’s presence / attacks are both awe-inspiring and terrifying to behold. Yet, that seems to be Yamazaki’s intention and definitely benefits the feature’s action scenes.

For its presentation, Minus One is actually really good and definitely keeps the up the appearance of what Yamazaki wants to convey within its film’s narrative time placement and storytelling setting. Of course, with the post WWII era of Japan playing in the backdrop of the feature, the movie’s setting and various locations look quite impressive and life-like. Well, impressive isn’t the right word, but rather impressive in the sense of its detailed of realism. Yes, the film’s background aesthetics and other locale nuances definitely have that Japanese feeling and / or appeal to the mid-1940s of the region, but also in the layout of production, with rubble buildings blown out by war air-raids, destructive wreckage of cityscapes from Godzilla’s attacks, or even rustic worn-down ships. There’s a sense of grittiness to the feature as well as realism, which helps ground the setting and makes the movie’s world believable….even though a giant monster is the main antagonist. Thus, the film’s “behind the scenes” team (i.e. production, set decorations, costume designer, and entire art direction team) should be highly praised for bringing such a world to life. Plus, I do forgot to mention that Minus One’s production budget was only $15 million, which including all practical and visual effects, is quite a remarkable feat.  As mentioned, the film’s visual effects are top notched and deliver some truly awe-inspiring moments that both excite and haunt several scenes. I mean…all the atomic breath scenes are truly….wow! Nothing really looks like that Yamazaki and his team “cut corners” and smartly utilized their budget to the film’s advantage, with Minus One carrying the mantra that not all theatrical features need to be big-budget endeavors to be moving and entertaining at the same time.

Additionally, the film’s cinematography work by Kozo Shibasaki was solid across the board, providing some sweeping camera angles to showcase the true height and scale of Godzilla himself (some creative shots up and down shots of him) as well as encapsulating some great cinematic scenes that are rendered beautifully.  Also, I do have to mention that the sound design for the movie is incredible. The sound of Godzilla’s roar, his heavy footsteps, the sound of buildings crumbling….everything about the sound editing / mixing (couldn’t find the names responsible on this project) in Minus One was fantastic and truly did capture the “sounds” of a Godzilla movie in way that audiophiles will certainly enjoy. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Noaki Sato, delivers some moving piece, with the composition hitting all the right notes of softer character dialogue driven moments, big dramatic bombastic, and sheer terror of suspense. Plus, hearing the classic Godzilla theme throughout the movie was terrific to hear and definitely brought that classic feeling of a “giant monster movie” to the forefront.

There’s not much I really didn’t care for in the movie as it was definitely what I was expecting and then some. That being said, Minus One doesn’t walk away from being completely unscathed from criticism, with a few very minor problematic points. How so? Well, for starters, one problem is that the film itself isn’t really breaking any type of “new ground” or going off into “new territory” when telling this latest offering of a giant monster flick. If you’ve seeing a few Godzilla movies (both old and new) one can easily summarize what will happen and how it comes by the trajectory….to a certain degree. That’s not to say the story Yamazaki isn’t compelling or heightened by touches of dramatic poise or human emotion, but it can be slightly predictable in how certain events do play out and how scenes are ultimately navigated. Again, if you’ve seeing one giant monster movie, the formula of their storytelling is quite clear. Thus, it goes without saying there is a, more or less, predictable undertone in how things play in the film’s narrative, which (again) doesn’t deter an engaging and gripping story from unfolding. Again, just a minor complaint. Perhaps my other criticism with the movie is (of course) the action, which I did love in it (as mentioned above), but I felt like there could’ve been more to it. As stated, the Godzilla movies have always strived to strike a balance between giant kaiju / monster action and human character-based drama within their presentation, which (for the most part) is sort of the “bread and butter” of these productions. Minus One has some terrific action scenes that excite and terrify the chaos (as previously stated), but you (as the viewer) are left wanting more. This is where I think the Hollywood “MonsterVerse” Godzilla features shine slightly better, providing more of a grand spectacle of giant monster mayhem that definitely give that “big, bang, boom” feeling. On the flip side, however, is that, with maybe the exception of 2014’s Godzilla, the human characters (and their dramas) are bland and lackluster.  I do understand that Minus One is to have more of a “traditional” feeling and not so much on the Hollywood-esque blockbuster stylings that the MonsterVerse has. That being said, the action scenes definitely could’ve been expanded upon and / or showcased a bit more in a few new scenes. More rampaging in the city, more Godzilla attacks on the populace of Japan, extended scenes of destruction, or even some more aftermath fallout from such chaos. There’s definitely a potential for more and wish that Yamazaki could’ve easily expanded upon those moments. However (and again), that’s just a minor complaint of mine. Lastly, I think that were are a few times where some character dialogue driven moments / scenes could’ve been expanded upon to give a much more well-rounded impact to some dynamics within their exchanges. Not a whole lot, but two or three

The cast in Minus One is relatively small, but highly effective in the film’s structure, which is heightened by the acting talent involved on the project. While some characters definitely have the stigma of “stock-like” and / or stereotypical for the genre, the talent behind makes these “theatrically bold” characters resonate more fondly (and better represented) than what many of the MonsterVerse individuals were able to cultivate. Leading the charge in the movie is actor Ryunosuke Kamiki, who plays the feature’s central protagonist character Koichi Shikishima, a former kamikaze pilot who first witness the might of Godzilla’s attacks years ago and gets entangled with the giant creature’s reappearance. Known for his roles in Suzume, Your Name, and Spirted Away, Kamiki has carved out a solid acting career, providing his vocals on animated projects as well as appearing on-screen as various characters. His contribution in Minus One is (of course) the latter and all for the better of it, with Kamiki portraying the life and struggles of Koichi with integrity and determination. He never misses a beat and gives character enough life to make him endearing and compelling. In truth, the character arc for Koichi Shikishima works well with the film’s story, wrestling with being a disgraced kamikaze pilot as well as haunted by nightmare his first encounter with Godzilla and the sudden situation he finds himself in with his make-shift family and new Godzilla attack. The trajectory narrative path for the character might be slightly cliched (and how it builds to a point), but Kamiki shows a very grounded performance that provides plenty of “humanity” within a lead role, which (again) is engaging to watch and easily to root for from beginning to end.

Behind him, actress Minami Hamabe (The Promised Neverland and Let Me Eat Your Pancreas) gives a sincere performance as Noriko Oishi, a wandering survivor of the war and who becomes Koichi’s partner as they raise a child together. Hamabe certainly brings enough “warmth” to the feature and gives a proper balance to Koichi’s life as well as showcasing an interesting “development” in the pair living together. The only flaw in her character I felt was that the script could’ve easily expanded upon some background past aspects in Noriko. Still, Hamabe did a great job in the role as well as sharing a good screen time / chemistry with Kamiki are paired together, which (in turn) helps buy into the relationship that Koichi and her. As a sidenote, young actress Sae Nagatani (Shinso wa mimi no naka) gives a good (yet small) character role as Akkio, Koichi and Noriko adopted child. Another important character that plays a part of Koichi’s character is the character of Sosaku Tachibana, a former Navy Air Service worker and who is played by actor Munetaka Aoki (Fence and Hokusai). While more of a side characters in the movie, Aoki does make for an interesting character in his performance of Tachibana and gives the right “gumption” to play the grizzled man so grit to Koichi’s plight of regret and fear.

Of all the supporting characters, none makes a lasting impression on the film than the character of Kenji Noda, a former weapon engineer and who befriends Koichi while working on Shinsei Maru’s boat vessel, who is played by actor Hidetaka Yoshioka (Fukushima 50 and The Hidden Blade). Yoshioka gets a lot of attention and focus during the second half of the feature and definitely makes his presence known, with Noda having a few amusing lines and becomes integral to forming a plan to take Godzilla down. Overall, great job Yoshioka for making Mr. Noda compelling. Other characters on-board that Shinsei Maru boat, includes actor Kuranosuke Sasaki (Aircraft Carrier Ibuki and Mission Impossible: Samurai) as ship’s captain Yoji Akitsu and actor Yuki Yamada (Shoplifters and Pending Train) as a young trainee on-board Shiro Mizushima. Both Sasaki and Yamada give good supporting roles in the movie and have a few moments in the spotlight together as a seasoned older man and a young hopeful who wants to make a difference. Cliched? Yes, but it works for the movie and that’s what matters.

The rest of the cast, including actress Sakura Ando (Shoplifters and Love Exposure) as Shikishima’s neighbor Sumiko Ota, actor Miou Tanaka (First Penguin! and Megalo Box) as the captain of the destroyer Yukikaze Tatsuo Hotta, actor Yuya Endo (Sugarless and The Fighter Pilot) as soldier Tadayuki Saito, and actor Kisuke Iida (Returner and The Fighter Pilot) as Akio Itagaki, fill out the rest of the remaining players as minor supportive characters in the film. Most of these roles are limited, but a few have some moments in the spotlight and are all performed quite well by the talents who play them.


While coming out of the rubble and destruction of WWII, Japan comes under siege from a new enemy, whose devastating size and power risks to destroy all, as a disgraced kamikaze (and a band of other characters) confront this towering, colossal monster in the movie Godzilla Minus One. Director Takashi Yamazaki’s latest film takes the Godzilla franchise back to its cinematic genesis, scaling back the lizard’s motifs of recent endeavors and producing a very traditional tale of character based drama against giant monster mayhem. While the formulaic nature of it all can be a bit too easily to plot and some elements could’ve been expanded upon for further detailed (more action scenes and a few character driven moments), but a great majority of the feature is held up and elevated to reign supreme against recent endeavors of portraying Godzilla, with special key components thanks to Yamazaki’s direction, a meaningful (and balanced) script, genuine fantastic action scenes, several thematic tones / messages, a solid presentation, terrific visuals, a great score, and compelling human characters. Personally, I really liked this movie….and I wasn’t expecting to. As I mentioned, some parts were a bit predictable and the project could’ve benefited from a bit more action, but the rest of the feature was fantastic and really harkened back to the classic Godzilla movies of yesteryear, yet still spoke to a modern medium of today’s viewers with its themes and visuals. I definitely think it was a great iteration of Godzilla himself and brought “the big guy” to its cinematic roots of chaos and terror, while also engaging characters that you really do care about. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is a “highly recommended”, especially for longtime fans of the franchise as well as newcomers who are looking for a more traditional Godzilla film as an alternative taste against the more “blockbuster” Hollywood version from the MonsterVerse. My big question….with the success of this movie in Japan and a lot of “word of mouth” coming from viewers in the US as well as film critics…..will Minus One get a sequel? The conclusion does leave the door open for a possible return of Godzilla, so it would be interesting to see a new feature bloom from the fruits / labor of this production. What would it be called? Godzilla Minus Two? Godzilla Zero? Godzilla? Just a curious thought for a title. But I, for one, would love to see a sequel endeavor on the same caliber level as this picture. Regardless if one materializes or not, Godzilla Minus One is a celebratory triumph of a film that takes the giant lizard back to his roots and brings the classic feeling of kaiju action that is juxtapose the human character storytelling. In short, the film is a rousing return to form of old and is truly a kaiju monster masterpiece.

4.5 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)


Released On: December 1st, 2023
Reviewed On: December 4th, 2023

Godzilla Minus One  is 125 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for creature action and violence

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.