Everything that makes Godzilla Minus One worth the watch

Godzilla Minus One - ©2023 Toho Studios
Godzilla Minus One - ©2023 Toho Studios /

Godzilla Minus One is getting rave reviews not just from kaiju fans but fans of film in general. What happened to make everyone fall in love? Lets look.

There were a lot of things that happened in Godzilla Minus One that we haven’t really seen done this well in a kaiju film before. Let’s break down what all happened in the film to take something on its 70th anniversary and make it feel so fresh and new.

In this article, we will be going into great detail about almost everything that happens in the film. It’s recommended you see the movie first because…


Right out the gate, you know you’re in for something different when you start watching Godzilla Minus One. Despite being a kaiju film, the movie focuses very heavily on a single human, and, honestly, nothing has ever truly made me fear Godzilla like this.

You don’t get a lot of Godzilla at the beginning of this film though. It’s a special treat. The amusement park at the end of the long family road trip sort of thing. Instead, the film starts off with the main character, Kōichi Shikishima, abandoning his post as a Japanese kamikaze pilot (this film takes place around the end of WW2) and landing on an island for repairs to his plane.

We get to know Kōichi. He’s a remarkably emotional man who was desperate to search for a reason to keep living and got it at the worst possible time from his parents shortly before he left on a suicide mission.

This right here is something we don’t get a lot of in these films. It’s always tough confident people or serious technobabble-filled scientists. Instead, we are given one of the most emotional characters I’ve ever seen in recent film history and watch as, slowly, Godzilla peels elements of Kōichi’s life it’s a banana peel.

The first moment this happens is when Godzilla shows up on the island and kills pretty much all the mechanics leaving only Kōichi and one heavily injured mechanic who decides to blame Kōichi for everyone’s death.

We hop forward in time to Kōichi’s homecoming where he returns to his hometown which was absolutely decimated in American bombing runs, a side of Japan we don’t get to see a lot of in films and is absolutely jarring when portrayed this effectively. Upon finding out his parents died and his childhood home is destroyed, Kōichi moves into the wreckage and starts trying to make his way.

Over time he runs into Noriko Ōishi, a woman who’s parents were also killed. With Noriko is a baby, Akiko who was found abandoned in the street. They take little time forcing their way into Kōichi’s life and they slowly become a family unit. What’s interesting is that this sequence and part of the film is massive. It goes so long you almost forget that you’re watching a kaiju film and are only reminded by Kōichi’s occasional Godzilla-related nightmare. And honestly, this is fine because these scenes are so well done that I became absolutely invested in the lives of Kōichi and his neighbors. I wanted them to succeed and do well despite remembering what the movie is about.

Eventually, Kōichi gets a job serving on a rickety old boat alongside three other men. It’s a government job in which they must go out and destroy the thousands of mines that were left in the waters by both Japan and America. This is a real job people had to do and, honestly, watching them do it is something I never realized happened and it’s incredibly interesting.

The explosions of these mines, however, reverberate in the water in a way that draws the title star to the shoreline and chaos ensues. In one particular job run, Kōichi and his three shipmates are the only boat that returns after Godzilla drags the other boat into the depths below.

Kōichi’s three shipmates are, honestly, the three archetypes I want from every film like this. You have the ship’s captain, Yōji Akitsu, who is a confident man who can go from funny and father-like to serious and militant in a heartbeat. He’s an anti-government badass you almost want as a dad. You have Shirō Mizushima, who is a rookie nicknamed “Kid”, who is adorable naive, and knew to the world of adulting. And then you have my personal favorite, Kenji Noda, who is a formal Naval Weapons Designer and is such a wonderful character. He’s everything you want from a goofball scientist while being a very realistic character.

Godzilla Minus One. Image courtesy Toho International, Inc.
Godzilla Minus One. Image courtesy Toho International, Inc. /

The four of them go on to be the only people who’ve encountered Godzilla and lived, and, because of this, they’re not allowed to tell anyone after a Government gag order to keep Godzilla a secret, but also get sent out after him as a distraction to slow Godzilla down until a massive battle cruiser shows up. Though, really quickly it’s discovered that Godzilla is a wee bit more powerful than they expected. Especially when you see what is easily the most impressive version of Godzilla’s atomic blast that I’ve ever seen. Luckily there is no full clip of exactly how powerful it is on YouTube yet but don’t try to spoil it, when I saw this in the theater the crowd went from excitement as the beam charged to complete and utter silence as the aftermath of the blast was revealed.

Time moves on and Noriko gets a job in the quickly rebuilt nearby city and, of course, because it is just raining pure misery on Kōichi, guess where the next Godzilla attack happens. Kōichi runs to the city and makes it to her just in time for her to give her life to save him, adding yet another person to the list of people he can blame himself for the deaths of.

The attack on the town of Ginza is absolutely stunning. Instead of doing what most kaiju films do, showing massive sweeping views looking down on Godzilla, we see things from a human perspective. Many of the shots are purposely kept at about six feet up from the ground letting you understand the power of Godzilla’s attacks. A particular scene in which Godzilla’s tail whips through a building shows the individual spikes hitting the building like teeth from a chainsaw showing the people below with pieces of masonry about the size of fridges. It’s not your traditional one-and-done attacks, it showcases just how much damage this causes realistically and it conveys this absolute feeling of hopelessness as these people living in rubble essentially have the rubble attack them.

Eventually, the people of Tokyo get absolutely tired of this and decide to do something. Because of the treaty signed at the end of WW2, their attack ships were de-weaponized, and because of US and Russian tensions, no country would come to their aid. It comes down to the people with absolutely nothing left and what happens is one of the most realistic and clever plans to take out an invincible, regenerating beast I’ve ever seen.

Essentially coming up with a way to rapidly dunk Godzilla to the floor of an ocean trench and then rapidly bring him back up allowing the pressure of the very ocean itself to kick Godzilla’s giant ass. And with the help of one daring and heartmoving action at the end of it all, seemingly goes off perfectly with Godzilla getting the top half of his head blown off and Godzilla crumbling to pieces that fall into the ocean.

Kōichi, now a war hero, is reunited with his adopted daughter Akiko and then receives a letter that Noriko was found alive! He rushes to his side where he breaks down sobbing and hugs her which, normally would be sweet if not for the fact that we the viewers (and no one else) notice that there is a black creeping sickness rapidly growing up Noriko’s neck that forms something that looks like one of Godzilla’s plates. Ruh-roh.

Meanwhile, we cut back to the chunks of Godzilla floating down in the ocean as they suddenly tremble and slowly start to regenerate. Cue the credits. On the next page though, we talk about why all these aspects matter.

Godzilla Minus One. Image courtesy Toho International, Inc.
Godzilla Minus One. Image courtesy Toho International, Inc. /

Godzilla Minus One brings less action but leaves a greater impact

If you had told me that the secret to making a great Godzilla movie is “less action and less kaiju” I would never have believed you but here we are.

Godzilla Minus One spends the lion’s share of its time focusing on the life of Kōichi instead of Godzilla matters in a big way. This is heavily due to the fact that every single actor in this film is exceptional. And I mean all of them.

There were scenes where an extra would chime in and I wanted to know about their character because they were so realistic. This movie feels like real people living real lives. You root for them, you care for them, and you want all of them to succeed. At no point do they cheapen it by giving you some nasty character for you to feel bad about. There are so many people that get killed by Godzilla in this movie and not once will you feel like those people deserved it.

And with Kōichi you just want good for him despite the fact that Godzilla is almost seemingly hell-bent to make sure he gets nothing. You want him to rebuild his home, you want him to form a relationship, and you want the best for his adopted daughter Akiko (who is the most adorable child actor ever). And because of how much you start to care for him, you genuinely fear for him. You can see it in the final trailer for the movie, the difference between the initial trailers that showcased Godzilla, compare that to this and look at the human elements explored.

This leads to Godzilla being actually terrifying for once. He’s not destroying empty fake buildings. He’s destroying people’s lives. When Godzilla takes down a massive attack ship, the camera doesn’t show Godzilla with a little boat in his mouth, it showcases the crew of the ship, scared with no idea what to do and just struggling to not fall off into the sea below.

In a scene in which a news crew on the roof of a building trying to cover Godzilla’s path through town realizes their building is falling over, the camera doesn’t stay on Godzilla, it stays on the crew as they try to scramble upwards in futility as if they will be able to save themselves from the Earth itself as it rushes up to meet them. This version of Godzilla is the type of “inevitable” that Thanos played in the MCU. To have Godzilla attack fills you with hopelessness and dread.

Going back to what I said on the previous page about Godzilla’s new atomic blast. The feeling in the theater when it fired was so strong. There was that feeling of excitement when Godzilla’s spikes started glowing and rising. There was that feeling of awe and scattered laughs as the massive beam fired for the first time. And then when the final step of the beam happened, and you saw what it caused, I remember the audience just being silent as, collectively, we understood the level of devastation that was dropped on these poor people. It was the first time in a long time a movie made me audibly go, “Oh no”.

There have been many Godzilla films in the last 70 years, and while many of them go to great lengths to explain what Godzilla is and what he can do, there has NEVER been a movie where you actually feel what he is capable of. Godzilla was well-designed and terrifying. A force of nature that was as easy to contend with as it would be to punch a tornado away from your family.

The words I have to describe this film are things that even as a Godzilla fan I never thought I’d use to review a kaiju film. It was inspiring. It was moving. Honestly, it was a masterpiece. Godzilla Minus One is the first time I wouldn’t just recommend this movie to other kaiju fans, I’d recommend this to absolutely anyone. It’s amazing.

Next. Godzilla Minus One is the Godzilla movie we needed. dark