By Sam Tucker
As someone with ADHD who grew up in the 90’s, it was safe to say that I had my moments of fads and extreme hyperfocus when it came to media I consumed. First with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then to Batman (which to be fair I’m still VERY fixated with), onto Ghostbusters and so-on. What I didn’t remember until I talked to my partner after the screening of Godzilla Minus One Minus Color (more on that later) was that I absoLUTELY had a Godzilla phase, probably right around the time the super Nintendo came out: the video game, comic books, and action figures all flew off the shelves (and I still have the big lizard to this day!). However, I remember that one of the MAJOR disappointments at the time were all of the original black and white films from Japan – much less action and adventure and more metaphors for the dangers of nuclear weapons. While they didn’t hold the interest at the time, I do recognize now that they have a place in the Godzilla Legacy.
What is more of a disappointment is that Godzilla Minus One didn’t exist during this phase of hyperfixation. It’s a true return to form, and one of the most ambitious projects that Toho Co. (the original creators of Godzilla and producers of 32 of his films!) had come up with in its long run of his Godzilla filmography. Not to get too far in the weeds, but they do have a distribution deal with Legendary Pictures which prevents them from releasing a Godzilla film the same year as the Western company, and even more interesting is that they had a budget under 10% of what Godzilla vs. Kong had. This becomes somewhat ironic as this movie has WAY more of an emotional and physical punch than any of the other modern ‘Zilla films have.
The movie’s plot follows a surviving Japanese pilot from WW2 as he tries to survive in the ruins of Tokyo and battle the demons he’s still fighting from the war. Suffice to say our big scaly boy (who is a noted CHONK here) has other plans in store for him and his little friends, so as one would expect disaster, destruction, and desperation occurs. What was most surprising is how efficiently and effortlessly the tonal shifts come in this movie: it goes from an outright horror film in the first act to a sort of dystopian survival in the second and finally to the large scale kaiju movie the series is most known for in the third act.
As mentioned earlier, I have only seen the black and white version so I can’t speak to the main colorized one, but they absolutely nailed the feel of those old movies for a modern audience. It’s still very much a metaphor and arguably spends more time with our human characters than Godzilla, however it does not skimp on the destruction and cool factor that comes with this sort of film. Sure he looks kind of goofy with his giant grin, big eyes, and tucked in t-rex arms, yet he still carries a terrifying menace that can’t be denied. And I do believe this to be intentional on the film-makers part, perhaps a modern personification of what they perceived when they were also children with their eyes glued to the man in the monster suit?
And unlike some of the other B&W re-releases I’ve seen (specifically The Walking Dead and Logan), this looks like it was shot in that grayscale. The parts of the movie take place mostly at night and you can really see the blacks pop on the screen. Afterwards we bumped into another patron and she reminded me that there was actually a color version that had been released, and if she hadn’t mentioned it I would have likely thought the version we saw came first!
So as always, head over to the IPH, turn your phone off, and enjoy a nice beverage while you see a version of kaiju straight from the source!