Godzilla Minus One - coming to US theaters on December 1 2023

Studio Toho just dropped a teaser for the next live-action Godzilla movie, which is rebooting the series again, with this film set right after the end of WWII.

I was hoping for a sequel to Shin Godzilla, but it looks like this is a more traditional King of the Monsters. The brief glimpse we get at him in the trailer is impressive - not as alien and terrifying as Shin Godzilla, but still definitely a menace. No word on whether the US release is going to be subtitled (as the previous one was for its theatrical run) or dubbed (like its home release), but I’m hoping for the former. Definitely looking forward to this one.

I wonder if he’ll have a monster foe or is it Godzilla vs the Allies.

As an outsider, it seems a bit grim to take such a difficult time and make a horror entertainment out of it. I suppose 77 years might be enough time to have smoothed the rough edges off of those memories; I hope so. But I would be interested to read the Japanese average public’s reaction to the movie.

Now, if they wanted to be more topical, they could base it on current events, with the unfortunate release of radioactive water from Fukushima. But that would probably be considered “too soon.”

But isn’t that what Godzilla has always been? He was awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation, and was conceived a metaphor for nuclear weapons.

That was more or less what Shin Godzilla was - a satire of the government’s response to Fukushima, and it worked really well IMO.

Shin Godzilla is truly excellent. A savage excoriation of bureaucratic inertia and government incompetence.

Also, it’s generally overlooked because of what the Kaiju genre became over time and is now perceived as, especially in the West, but the first Godzilla is far from a silly monster flick — it’s a howl of existential despair from a defeated country struggling to reinvent its own self-identity. Not every Godzilla movie since then has used the monsters as a lens for political and cultural critique, but many do.

So this new movie’s angle is hardly unprecedented and it will be interesting to see what they’re up to.

It’s always seemed odd to me that postwar Japan would have needed a metaphor for the horrors of nuclear war… You’d think that having been the target of the real thing would be enough.

Monster flicks precede the atomic bomb, but the 1950s brought us the first “monsdter as metaphor for atomic weaponry”

The original Gojira was, by I. Honda’s own admission, his country’s response to Harryhausen’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) – the first 1950s monster movie and the first “atomic menace” monster movie. It’s the URi-1950s monster flick, creating the tropes that would be associated with the genre – giant beast, awakened or created by atomic experimentation or testing,inexorably approaching the City, wreaking havoc, can’t be stopped by conventional weapons. Opposed by the Handsome Young Scientist and his romantic Female Scientist/assistant (and, sometimes, the eccentric Old Professor). They discover its one weakness, and the have only One Shot to kill the creature.

You could argue that, since this was the first appearance of these tropes, they weren’t cliches. Certainly they went out of their way to make them novel. The Beast couldn’t be destroyed not because it was absurdly invulnerable, but because it was infected with a prehistoric disease, and spreading its blood all over the city by wounding it or – worse, blasting it to bits – would only spread the contagion all over. The Creature was heading for the city – whereas most animals, even large ones, avoid large concentrrations of peopled – because it was, salmon-like, heading for its old breeding grounds.

TBf20kF was just as much a metaphor for atomic weaponry as Godzilla was, just not so obviously. It was broken out of the ice that surrounded it by atomic testing in the Arctic. And, in a neat bookend, atomic technology got rid of it. The disease contamination was “atomic cauterized” by them shooting a radioactive lance into the wound, getting rid of the disease and killing the creature simultaneously. It’s almost an anticipation of the 1957 Disney short “Our Friend the Atom”, where the atomic genie, depicted as brought about by nuclear weapons, is shown to b capable of beneficial results like curing diseases.

Inoshiro Honda reportedly wanted to use stop=-motion animation for Gojira, but lacked both money and time. So they used miniature models (I’ve seen pictures of them. I’m pretty sure the Godzilla seen “over the mountain” was one such puppet-model) and a “man in a suit”. But the action was slowed down on film and shown largely in the dark, making it somber, ponderous, and believable. The monster was, again, awakened by atomic testing (the opening scenes with the fishing boast being attacked by a great light from the sea are very clearly inspired by the case of the Fukuryu Maru ("Lucky Dragon}, which was caught in the fallout from the Castle Bravo test of the hydrogen bomb). Its destruction of the city by mechanical destruction and heat recalls the effects of the atomic blast (and its skin resembles keloid scars of burn victims), and the scenes of city-wide destruction look like the scenes from war-torn cities or of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Heck, in the original Japanese version they explicitly compare it to those atom-bombed cities.
In the Japanese film, though, we don’t get a demonstration of the benefiucial efects of radiation and atomic studies – we get the example of a Japanese scientist who created a “Doomsday weapon” in the form of Serizawa’s “Oxygen Destroyer”, and uses it to destroy Godzilla. But he first burns all his notes, and commits suicide in using the weapon rather than let the technology loose on the world. The message is clear – if Japan had built the atomic bomb, they wouldn’t have used it.

Both movies play on people’s insecurities and fears and on current events. Americans were definitely insecure when TBf20kF came out in 1953, by which time the Russians has exploded three atomic bombs. The US no longer had a monopoly on the technology, and it had people spooked. Japan was not only the only nation to suffer atomic attacks, it was also the first to suffer the effects of the hydrogen bomb, indirectly. The crew of the fishing boat Fukuryu Maru was caught in the fallouyt of the blast and its crew suffered the effects of radiation sickness. One died of pneumonia aggravated by the condition. But, unbelievably, their contaminated catch of fish was sold and distributed in Japan. When people found out, they panicked. Fish were tested with geiger counters. There’s film footage of people dumping fish into pits for burial. Fish is a huge part of the Japanese diet. For a US parallel – recall how freaked out hamburger-eating Americans were when Mad cow disease popped up in the US twenty years ago.

It’s not that odd to fimnd movies reflecting current knowledge anbd fears. In fact, it’s the normal case. When Cloverfield came out, the monster’s effect, with crumbling buildings producing clouds of smoke, reflected the experience when the World Trade Center collapsed in Manhattan in 2001, just seven years before…

One of the coolest Toho origin stories resulted from the Hiroshima a-bomb. The living heart of Frankenstein’s monster was smuggled out of defeated Nazi Germany and was being experimented on in a lab in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. Frankenstein vs. Baragon was released in Japan on the 20th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack.

I knew about it from Famous Monsters of Filmland – when it was released in the US the title was *Frankenstein Conquers the World

The movie had a sequel – War of the Gargantuas, which was obviously a sequel, but most people didn’t know what it was a sequel of (especially when it shows up on TV, where the first film rarely seems to get shown these days). The sequel features Russ Tamblyn (Riff, leader of the Jets in the 1961 West Side Story)

It is a little odd because I haven’t noticed a lot of contrition in Japan for their WWII actions. If this was a reminder to themselves about disturbing a sleeping giant it doesn’t seem very clear, although perhaps the original was more clear about this subject in Japanese. Maybe 10 years or so after the war it was supposed to be a reminder to themselves not to follow the path of the US and the rest of the world into a nuclear future.

ETA: Now I see a lot more from @CalMeacham on the subject, have to read that and maybe edit.

This would be a very interesting question.

Yes, and one may doubt it. In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver has a conversation with an official in Brobdingnag (the land of giant people). Europe was technologically ahead of Brobdingnag, and Gulliver described the use of gunpowder and its effect on European history. The Brobdingnagian, hearing of the awful results, says that, if Brobdingnag had invented gunpowder, they would never have used it.

To this, Isaac Asimov responded (in a footnote to the annotated edition that he wrote the annotations for) “Talk is cheap!” , and said that, if the Brobdingnagians found themselves in a situation where they were in dire straits, but gunpowder offered a way out, he had no doubt that they’d use the gunpowder.

Suppose the Japanese had been close, and the US had bombed somewhere nearby as a warning, and the Japanese make that last leap to completion after it goes off. Do they use it then?

I don’t think there is much active contrition. It’s more that the average person doesn’t like to dwell on that era lest they have uncomfortable thoughts. It’s hard for a foreigner to parse, but it seems like the Japanese generally believe that Japan paid such a high price for their involvement in the war that they have already atoned for any “incidental” war crimes that might have been committed by individuals who are, anyway, long since dead. In current dramas depicting that period, none of the sympathetic characters are ever in favor of the war, but they are afraid to speak out against it.

Good question. Who knows? But even if they had been close, there’s a big gap between even a sucesful test and a successful device, and the US had at least one more set to go.

I believe that John Hersey pointed out in his book Hiroshima that the Japanese scientists were aware of developments, and had a good idea of what had gone into the Hiroshima bomb within hours of the event. But that’s a very long way from building one.

Here’s some info on the Japanese atomic bomb research duting WWII

Japanese Atomic Bomb Project - Nuclear Museum.

What does the “Minus One” mean in the title?

From the press release it sounds like if Japan is reduced by the war to zero; then an attack by Godzilla puts the nation at “minus one”.

“The worst despair in the series’ history strikes Japan!
After the war, Japan has been reduced to zero.
Godzilla appears and plunges the country into a negative state.
The most desperate situation in the history of Japan.
Who? And how?
Will Japan stand up to it?”

My first thought from the title was that it was a prequel. I’ve seen series that have books numbered 1, 2, 3, etc., which then had prequels numbered 0 and -1.

There’s a full trailer now.