Godzilla Minus One review: "A gargantuan and resonant epic"

 Godzilla Minus One.
Godzilla Minus One.
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Separate from – and superior to – the MonsterVerse film series and its assorted TV spin-offs (Skull Island, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters), the 30th live-action Godzilla film to be made in Japan is more or less a prequel to the Ishirō Honda classic that started everything back in 1954.

Set in the aftermath of WW2, as the country struggles to rebuild itself, Minus One is a thunderous portrait of an archipelago under attack in which Godzilla itself represents nothing so much as a colossal case of collective PTSD.

But for ex-kamikaze pilot Koichi (Ryunosuke Kamiki), the Big G is also something else: a chance to atone for the wartime actions that resulted in a host of his compatriots dying in his stead.

So when the giant lizard appears out of the ocean and starts heading for the mainland, he makes the decision to join a small band of maritime heroes whose race to halt the beast echoes the tension-fuelled urgency of Captain Brody and co’s fight against the shark in Jaws.

A spectacular central set piece sees ’Zilla remorselessly laying waste to a coastal city like a scaly wrecking ball, both paving the way for and upping the stakes of a second, climactic face-off on the high seas.

The difference between Minus One and recent US takes on the titular beast can be found in the emotional resonance the confrontation acquires. Here, the true villain of the piece is a bone-deep national trauma that needs to be reckoned with before any healing can begin.

Godzilla Minus One is in US cinemas on December 1 and in UK cinemas on December 15. For more upcoming movies, check out our guide to 2023 movie release dates.