Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki

In postwar Japan, Godzilla brings new devastation to an already scorched landscape. With no military intervention or government help in sight, the survivors must join together in the face of despair and fight back against an unrelenting horror.

Godzilla Minus One takes the idea of Godzilla seriously, if rather melodramatically. The film suggests, without any irony-pilled insincerity, that Godzilla is both a physical manifestation of the trauma arising from the actions of Imperial Japan during WW2 as well as a retaliation by Nature for the regime's genocidal and environmental crimes. As well as being a completely real, 800-foot-high nuclear lizard, of course.

By the third act, I couldn't help but notice that the 'war guilt' plot inadvertently gives the film license to indulge in quite a bit martial iconography from Japan in the 1940s without any of the troubling politics. Of course, by destroying Godzilla, our protagonists can exorcise their feelings about the war (the 'found family' of Koichi, Noriko and their adopted orphan daughter construe a non-nuclear family — get it?), but the contradiction inherent in that this can only be achieved through more firepower is not fully interrogated. "We're here as private citizens" is essential given Article 9 of Japan's post-war constitution, but that doesn't quite work when former Admirals somehow have access to a couple of battlecruisers. Indeed, the film has rather a narrow view on what might need atoning for during the Second World War: a casual viewer might very easily assume that Japan had only been fighting the United States during this period and that it only was the use of kamikaze pilots during that engagement which was unethical, and, moreover, that the Second Sino-Japanese War, its alliance with Nazi Germany and all of its other actions elsewhere in the Pacific didn't happen at all. The film also implies, very quickly, that it was the United States that awoke the monster from the deep, not Japan.

That was not all surprising, however, and neither was (spoiler alert!) the installation of the ejector seat in the plane. Ultimately, this is not really my genre, but I must admit the 'Dunkirk' of tugboats at the end surprised me with a bit of a chuckle.