Oscar-winning blockbuster gets surprise Netflix release

Oscar-winning blockbuster gets surprise Netflix release
  • PublishedJune 3, 2024

Surprise! Godzilla Minus One is now streaming on Netflix.

The Oscar-winning Japanese film (it won Best Visual Effects at this year’s ceremony) from Toho Studios had not yet had a streaming release date and there had only been talks of it landing on Prime Video in Japan.

The new instalment of the massively popular Godzilla franchise is set in post-war Japan, where the giant monster presents a new set of problems for an already struggling country.

Godzilla Minus One debuted with a 100 per cent Rotten Tomatoes score and remains at an impressive 98 per cent, which is rare.

The hit film also became the all-time highest-grossing Japanese-language film in North America after making over $US50 million at the US box office by January.

Godzilla Minus One became the highest-grossing Japanese-language film of all time in North America.

Producer Minami Ichikawa told fans in November that there will likely be a future instalment at some point, but he doesn’t want to rush the creative process.

“We established a dedicated ‘Godzilla Room’ division at Toho in 2019. We’re collectively considering the future of the Godzilla character,” he told Japanese GQ at the time. “We’ve had things like animated Godzilla films in the past, so we’re brainstorming new avenues to expand the Godzilla universe, including publications, merchandise, and collaboration products.”

“However, I don’t feel the need to rush the next instalment of a live-action film,” he added. “Good films are all about quality. We want great ideas, an excellent script, a talented director, and the right cast to work on it carefully. Godzilla deserves to have that level of intentionality.”

Godzilla wreaks havoc on Tokyo in the epic film.

Godzilla wreaks havoc on Tokyo in the epic film.

The Godzilla Minus One verdict: “A classic”

Godzilla Minus One finds significant thematic and dramatic traction in the collective trauma of the Japanese citizenry, who are wounded and reeling on multiple levels after being on the losing end of a conflict that was even more awful and destructive than arguably any war, ever. Now feel free to turn up some subtext about the cruelty and madness of Japan’s dictatorial leadership, which ordered its own soldiers to commit suicide, or in the OG Godzilla themes about atom-bomb anxieties – it’s all here in the screenplay, which is deep and rich, and sublimely balances human empathy and anti-war sentiment with the silly spectacles of giant-monsters-go-stomp movies. It’s a major achievement.

The filmmakers accept their Oscars for Best Visual Effects at this year’s Academy Awards. Picture: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

The filmmakers accept their Oscars for Best Visual Effects at this year’s Academy Awards. Picture: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

Case in point: The American and Japanese governments don’t engage their militaries to battle Godzilla, citing tension with Russia. So the onus is on civilians to defeat the beast, which is as logical as it is ridiculous. And writer/director Takashi Yamazaki makes the most of this development, with WWII veterans reluctant to risk themselves yet again, but coming together in the service of the greater good to execute a So Crazy It Just Might Work plan, which, not to give too much away, is essentially hey let’s give Godzilla a major case of the bends.

Like I said, sublime and silly – and original, at the same time paying homage to the 1954 film, where scientists innovated beyond bullets and bombs and came up with the infamous Oxygen Destroyer. That’s one of a few different levels on which Minus One is a smart variation on themes established by the original classic.

The film “looks tremendous” despite a budget much smaller than most Hollywood blockbusters.

The film “looks tremendous” despite a budget much smaller than most Hollywood blockbusters.

In macro, the film is a case of Yamazaki doing the absolute most with very little. It looks tremendous, whether it deploys CGI, practical effects or – in solidarity with the old movies – miniatures.

The screenplay integrates political and scientific threads into its story of human perseverance and redemption, backdropped by one of the more poignant existential symbols in cinema history, which just so happens to be a towering dinocreature that spews atomic laser-puke.

Can you say there are points where the plot is contrived? Yes, but if you actually say it, you’re a heartless galoot; the plight of lead character Koichi and his damaged-but-not-broken quasi-family is deep and meaningful, rooted in classic Japanese melodrama (and when Koichi finally ruminates on his mental state and admits, “My war isn’t over yet,” our hearts shatter). Yamazaki makes many seemingly disparate elements fit together seamlessly.Godzilla Minus One is an action movie, a post-war drama, a monster epic, a character study – and a likely classic.


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