Staying Alive

Godzilla is just gonna smash stuff. Every time. No matter what humans do. Award winning actors & big name directors can headline a story where elite military forces wield the most advanced tech on Earth, but none of that will matter. The franchise requires that the big lizard will prevail. There is always entertaining spectacle, but (for me) there’s little emotional engagement, because humans are merely gnats buzzing around the feet of The Big G. And so, I prepared for the inevitable cocktail of uninvolving mayhem as the lights went down before the latest Godzilla flick.

Godzilla Minus One

However, GODZILLA: MINUS ONE gripped me from the very beginning and didn’t let me go. I was amazed by this. I’d always felt that the sheer futility of any human action in a Godzilla film was the reason that these films would always have little involvement, despite all their spectacle. However, this film defeats those dramatic problems by flying straight into the eye of the storm. The implacable force of Godzilla is flipped, in a judo-throw by writer/director TAKASHI YAMAZAKI, to tell a moving story about human frailty.

After a cataclysmic war, the protagonist (movingly played by RYUNOSUKE KAMIKI) deals with the shame of being a kamikaze pilot who came home. To a Japan utterly firebombed into ashes by Bomber Command. Much of the plot deals with remorse, survivor’s guilt, and people forgiving others & themselves. With loved ones all dead, new families form when complete strangers become attached to each other. Every character is trying to pick up the pieces, and all their stories are affecting. 

In this Godzilla film, the human story is the A-story, and Godzilla is actually the B-story, and that’s why it works so well. Here, Godzilla is just a force of nature. Like the earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons that frequently bash the Japanese archipelago. The A-story is about humans making sense of life after cataclysm, just as the Japanese people have done countless times over the centuries. The frailty of human life is the very point of this story, which seems to ask – are frailty, failure and futility the same thing? 

In fact, this could be a moving film about finding meaning amongst the ruins, even without any Godzilla at all. Adding in a rampaging radioactive monster heightens the drama & stakes when these new human connections have been made. Godzilla is the ultimate unstoppable chaos agent, and in the right hands, the perfect vehicle for telling a story about finding meaning after loss, tragedy & defeat. Staying alive by accident, or even cowardice, isn’t a disgrace if something meaningful is done with the life that remains. 

I often squirm when a movie is over 2 hours, but GODZILLA: MINUS ONE didn’t feel bloated at all. Every scene and each performance strengthened the whole. It both looked & felt like a blockbuster epic, but apparently cost less than 15 million dollars. It was very impressive indeed.

5 Nuclear Dorsal Spikes!

10 thoughts on “Staying Alive”

    • I’ve enjoyed a Godzilla movie or two in my time but never FELT as much as with this one. Thanks for commenting, Derek. I know that YOU are a Kaiju Gourmand!

  1. I never thought I would cry during a Godzilla movie. I absolutely broke down! Fantastic writing, acting, directing. For them to tackle the heavy issues and address a giant all destroying demon successfully is an incredible feat to me. Loved it! I also love all of your posts here, Jamie! You so super rock.

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  2. We absolutely loved it! Saw it in Manhattan with Jack in a virtually sold out theater! “Staying alive by accident, or even cowardice, isn’t a disgrace if something meaningful is done with the life that remains.” EXACTLY!!!

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