Children of the Atom

Godzilla Minus One is most definitely worth watching. I have no nostalgia or any particular like for the million Godzilla films in existence and I still enjoyed it.

The takeaway is that it’s a really great alternate history period piece about a giant monster attacking Japan in 1954. I especially liked that as a period piece, it shows all the historical stuff that you wouldn’t see in a contemporary movie since it would assume that the audience already knows about it – i.e., people living in shacks built on the ruins of their houses, demobilized soldiers trying to find work, the overwhelming presence of the war suffusing everything in postwar society, etc. Basically we see what it looks like when an empire is destroyed.

The biggest criticism I have is political. The movie shows the aftermath of the war, but it doesn’t show what Japan did to bring the war in the first place. The war is presented like a natural disaster that befell the suffering nation. And the final plan to defeat Godzilla involves the Japanese version of the clean Wehrmacht myth (the idea that certain parts of the military were honourable even if their leaders weren’t). See, the stalwart and upright (demobilized) soldiers along with scientists and business leaders from private industry get together to devise clever strategies to defeat an existential threat, which if you think about it rather sounds like how fascism works in the first place. Really puts kind of a bad taste in my mouth.

I know, I sound just like in my review of 13 Sentinels. I suppose Japan has yet to fully grapple with its wartime legacy, but been so long that it’s almost just historical trivia now. I suppose once the children of the imperialist generation finally die out or get assassinated then we’ll get a more sober understanding of what Japan did in its media. But if you can compartmentalize your reaction to how this Godzilla movie treats Japanese fascism, then you’ll discover a quite well-made film.

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