It’s widely thought that Godzilla, the giant monster who rose from the sea in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film, was a manifestation of Japan’s postwar trauma; an allegory for nuclear weapons, perhaps, after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or an avatar of a vengeful and destructive U.S.A.
Since then the giant lizard has taken many forms, some kindlier than others. But its historical link to Japan’s darkest days has perhaps never been clearer than in Godzilla Minus One, the new live-action Japanese Godzilla movie from Toho, which will be released in U.S. theaters on Dec. 1.
The latest trailer for the movie makes that explicit. Godzilla Minus One is set in the late 1940s, and the creature is shown attacking a country that’s already been brought to its knees by defeat in World War II. Explaining the film’s title in a press release, Toho put it in stark terms: “After the war, Japan’s economic state has been reduced to zero. Godzilla appears and plunges the country into a negative state.”
If that wasn’t freighted with enough postwar misery, the trailer cuts from Godzilla-created carnage to shots of nuclear explosions, the bodies of dead soldiers, a woman shouting “You’re a disgrace!” at a man in uniform, and one character saying “That monster will never forgive us.”
If Shin Godzilla was a satire of Japanese politics that sought to reframe Godzilla in the light of the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, then Godzilla Minus One is putting the big green guy right back in his original frame of reference. But it seems both movies share a desire to restore some of the monster’s elemental scariness to him.
Godzilla Minus One is written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki and will be Toho’s 33rd Godzilla film, and the first in live action since Shin Godzilla. The company’s deal with Legendary Pictures, which makes the American “Monsterverse” Godzilla films, forbids it from releasing a live-action film in the same year as Legendary, which released entries in 2019 and 2021. The good news is that Toho is therefore incentivized to give Minus One a swift release this year in the U.S., before Legendary unleashes Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire in 2024.
And if that’s not enough Godzilla-adjacent action for you, remember that Apple TV Plus’ Monsterverse spinoff series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters debuts in November.