The Japanese film that’s 2023’s best blockbuster

Hollywood has its own often rocky relation to Godzilla, of course. The 1998 Godzilla with Matthew Broderick was so derided it stands at a pathetic 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. The current Monsterverse franchise, which puts Godzilla and King Kong in the same movies, has done better with critics and audiences. The fourth instalment, Godzilla vs Kong (2021), is considered the best, and was a commercial hit even considering the way that Covid limited the box office. But that franchise is starting to echo Marvel’s overwrought more-is-more approach. In its current Monsterverse television series on Apple TV+, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, John Goodman plays the same character he did in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, and who even remembers that?

Godzilla Minus One doesn’t even have non-stop action. What’s there is big and suitably monstrous, with Godzilla swinging trains and cars in his mouth in homage to the original 1954 movie. But Kōichi’s burden of guilt drives this film. In the rubble of his Tokyo neighbourhood, he takes in a young woman and an orphaned little girl she has saved, but refuses to admit that he loves this makeshift family. There is melodrama here, but there is also reality underneath it all. Yamazaki recently told Vulture that he deliberately simplified the plot, avoiding any monster-on-monster battles, a la Godzilla vs Kong. “The kaiju [monsters] can battle, but the human story needs to be there,” he said. Hollywood isn’t exactly known for its human heart, but (no offense, Loki, Thor and pals) the studios might want to pay attention to this reanimated Godzilla.

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