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  • Writer's pictureCurtis Mcilvaine

Symbolism in Godzilla Minus One

When I saw minus one, I was impressed with the general quality of the film. In terms of film-making, this is probably among the top 3 of the series. Although personally, I was left wanting when it came to the portrayal of Godzilla himself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to this portrayal that I like, his aggression, sheer malevolence, and un-mutated form were all appreciated. Although I found his design somewhat awkward, I can’t help but notice his massive feet in relation to his body, and the spikes aren’t to my liking really.

But more than that, I have been thinking on his role in the film. I feel that this film was not “about” him, it was about the pilot, and him finding his will to live after abandoning his duty to die. Which again, is not meant as a criticism, just an observation.

This leads me to the allegory. Godzilla has always had heavy allegorical elements. It’s part of why he’s lasted so long as a character, because his meaning can be adapted with the era. In the original film he is the unceasing destruction of the atom bomb, later becoming a force of change and adaptation.

More recently in Shin Godzilla, he is a direct representation of the Fukushima disaster. Where despite the horror of the events and the sluggish response of the bureaucratic government, the film ends on a hopeful note; showing that the world is capable of changing and working together.

Minus One does not have such a direct, real world, allegory. In fact I would say his role in this film could’ve been done by other monsters just as effectively. In much the same way that I say “joker” did not have to be about the DC character, and could have just been about a man going insane.

This is minor to me as this could be applied to several films in this series. But is there an allegory here? Nuclear weapons? Maybe but that’s not really a major part of this film. There’s one scene where you get some shots of nuclear test footage and godzilla getting burned, but I don’t think nuclear power is much of an element in this films message. It is almost an afterthought.

More so I think the allegory is just the theme of the film. That being guilt, holding on to the memories of war, and the ghosts of those left dead by the main characters inaction.

In which case this Godzilla is perhaps most similar to the incarnation in GMK, “Godzilla, Morhra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack”, where Godzilla is the anger and vengeance of the dead. A collection of spirits, those killed by Japan in the war, angry that the modern people have forgotten them.

Although in GMK, this is very much spelled out, it’s the focus of the film. Here there is no such spiritual element, at least not one directly shown to the audience.

I would argue that is the difference that I am noticing. Godzilla is not the first and foremost focus of the film, even with a more notable screen time, I feel his presence is diminished somewhat by this. Godzilla is not the “main character” so to speak. He is an event. Which is proper for Godzilla, often being equated to a natural disaster. But this event is portrayed as very personal for the main character, and not shown as a worldwide event to the same degree as other films in this series.

Maybe a more accessible comparison would be the 2014 legendary film. Which, while criticized for the lack of monster screen time, I would argue Godzilla is what that film was about, what it was building up to.

The same goes for shin Godzilla, and weirdly enough this is a point of praise for the anime trilogy on Netflix, where the goal of the characters is 100% focused on Godzilla.

I’ll note that I’m not intending this as criticism. As I stated in the beginning I think this is among the top 3 of this series in terms of quality. I’m just trying to put my feelings into words about this film. It just struck me that despite his aggression and personality in this movie, he never seemed as impressive to me as other versions of the character. And as I’ve described, I think it goes beyond just the design, and stems into how the film isnt specifically focused on Godzilla. It’s more so a story of letting go of ghosts and guilt, and learning to value life after experiencing the worst it has to offer.

So the TLDR would be- By focusing in on the main human character and his struggles with his perceived failure, Godzilla Minus One becomes a very personal and character driven story. But in doing so, I felt Godzilla seemed less important to the overall film

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