Yamazaki's Godzilla

Yamazaki’s Godzilla

A Formula for Success

1.26.2024 (Updated 1.26.2024)

Congratulations Director Takashi Yamazaki and the entire cast, crew and staff of Godzilla Minus One on your Academy Award (Oscar) Nomination for Best Visual Effects and twelve nominations from the 47th Japan Academy Film Prize. In 70 years of Godzilla movie history, there has not been a more critically-acclaimed and decorated film. Prior to its release, most fans didn’t know what Godzilla to expect in Minus One. We have our ideas of what we thought made a good Godzilla movie. We go back-and-forth about the right balance of Godzilla screen time and what is the right use of human characters. These debates are over. Director’s Yamazaki’s Godzilla has shown us the stuff that makes a great Godzilla movie. What makes Minus One great? And how did Yamazaki do it? As a novice movie critic and fan let me offer my answer.

Godzilla Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects

Godzilla Minus One Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects

Yamazaki did not betray Godzilla roots, essence and meaning. He focused upon a human story that arises out of real world circumstances. Out of that situation Godzilla arises embodying all that’s wrong in their world. He embraced and did not deviate from the original story of Godzilla with all its meaning and significance. Yamazaki’s Godzilla is a monster known by legend, transformed by a dangerous human invention, turned a vengeful god. Godzilla is one of many victims of the atomic and hydrogen bomb explosions. But unlike the human victims, Godzilla seeks revenge pouring out his wrath upon all who stand in his way. This Godzilla is cut from the same cloth as the first.

Films by Takashi Yamazaki

Yamazaki’s story wove together his experiences, skills, strengths and interests in his previous work. He did what he did best but better than ever. What had been important to Yamazaki is up front in Minus One that picks up where ALWAYS Sunset on Third Street (2005, 2007), The Eternal Zero (2013) and The Great War of Archimedes (2019) left off. These films are a-must-see for Godzilla fans. The making of his Godzilla (Godzilla The Ride or Godzilla Minus One) is being worked out in the mind of Ryunosuke Chagawa played by Hidetaka Yoshioka (and Kenji Noda in Minus One), in the opening moments of part 2 of ALWAYS.

Interview of Director Yamazaki (Source: [Godzilla-1.0] This would not be possible in Hollywood !?)

Yamazaki’s story is terse and tight, focusing on the essentials for telling the story of the characters, their situation and their fight for survival in postwar Japan and Godzilla. The editing removed all excess and unnecessary. Yamazaki, Godzilla and the world converged in a perfect storm of success after the king of the monster’s seven year hiatus.

Yamazaki used CGI where it was required, helpful and most impactful. He didn’t indulge in CGI in such a way that moviegoers lost their sense of awe for Godzilla. Godzilla’s appearance on screen was never too long and too short but just right. Every scene in which Godzilla appeared was an experience. Audiences were made to wait. And the wait was well worth it. Yamazaki first employed CGI to create Godzilla in ALWAYS Sunset on Third Street (Part 2). Godzilla was well integrated into the human story and likewise in Minus One. His appearance and story was not detached and did not feel forced. As in ALWAYS, Eternal Zero and The Great War, he used CGI to create the world of post-war Japan. The use of CGI never distracts but rather enhances the story.

Godzilla appears in Ginza.

It is not a miracle that Toho has released two successive Godzilla films, Shin Godzilla (2016) and Godzilla Minus One (2023). Both reveal a successful formula for making a great Godzilla film. The success of this new standalone film does not betray, distort, nor conceal the meaning of the first Godzilla. Godzilla’s origin is a sacred story that finds success in ways like all other great human stories. Yamazaki’s Godzilla is not a parody of the later Showa era films. This Godzilla has broad appeal across all movie audiences because it is part of the story of human despair and struggle. Monster rampaging through cities and battling against each other is the stuff of our childhood. The success of Minus One is not because it is entertaining, but rather audiences are gripped by the human story which Godzilla shares. There were no frivolous and meaningless Toho monsters from the Showa era to the Reiwa era. They are used to tell us something about ourselves and the mess of the world we have made. Yamazaki’s Godzilla continues this legacy. The director teaches us important lessons about owning our mistakes, restoring and making families out of disaster, having hope in the face of despair, and making personal sacrifices for the betterment of the lives of others. Yamazaki gave us the Godzilla we didn’t know that we wanted and he gave us the Godzilla that we needed. That is a successful Godzilla.

Hero photo source: geinou-zensyuutyuu and otocoto