A Japanese kamikaze pilot lands on a remote island base during World War II. He hasn't gotten lost and his claims of mechanical failure are false. He fled, unwilling to face death.

That night, a monster attacks, a thing from a nightmare that will only grow worse.

When Godzilla first skreeonked onto the screen in 1954, he was scary. Even in the U.S. re-edit, you couldn't mistake his unstoppable, radioactive-fire-breathing rampage for what it was: Japan had transformed the war and the atomic bomb into a wrathful god. The franchise soon thereafter mutated into TV wrestling by guys in rubber dinosaur costumes, popcorn for the kids.

Takashi Yamazaki's 2023 film brings the beast back to his most cruel source. Our kamikaze, Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) returns to a devastated homeland and tries to build a life. He works as a minesweeper. He forms a family with a war-orphaned woman (Minami Hamabe) and an abandoned baby. When Godzilla returns, he joins the effort. Due to Cold War considerations, no other nation will help. MacArthur permits recommissioned Japanese planes and ships to be used, thus explaining why Japan has a functional military to use-- alone.

ゴジラ-1.0 has a slower pace and smaller budget than recent Godzilla films, but it has credible characters. Those helpless people on the train? In this version, they matter.

It isn't perfect. It runs longer than necessary and the conclusion requires us to accept some far-fetched plot developments, even in a film about a giant radioactive dragon. Squint at it, however, and it serves as an origin for any of the Godzilla series, including the recent American-made blockbusters. It also represents a dark, fresh start for future Toho productions. What we have is either the best Godzilla film since the first-- or the best ever.

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