A failed kamikaze pilot, one furious radioactive lizard and a Japan devastated by war collide in Takashi Yamazaki’s unashamedly redemptive action thriller
Ever since he first lumbered on to the big screen in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original film, Godzilla has been more than just a monster. The city-crunching prehistoric mega-reptile has been cast as a metaphor for the nuclear threat, American military might and environmental abuses. He also represents a seemingly boundless franchise opportunity, having appeared in almost 40 films, of wildly varying quality. Of all these, the terrific Godzilla Minus One is one of the very best. Written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki (best known for sci-fi horror films Parasyte: Parts 1 and 2 and the comedy drama Always: Sunset on Third Street), this thunderously entertaining prequel, set in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the second world war, takes the king of monsters back to his roots.
In this version, Godzilla takes on a fresh metaphorical significance. Here, he symbolises the national anguish, trauma, guilt and grief of the country’s postwar period. His shape, with its squat rump, chunky thighs and a head that seems to be all jaws and no brains, is immediately recognisable. But this version of Godzilla looks as though he was created from the still-smouldering wreckage of Japan’s shattered cities. There are angry embers visible through the gaps between his scales; his jagged dorsal plates look like the broken spines of bombed-out buildings. He is destruction and devastation, pain and shame made flesh.