Godzilla Minus One Is the Perfect Oppenheimer Double Feature


Summary

  • Oppenheimer and Godzilla Minus One have similarities in their focus on historical figures linked to nuclear bombs and the effects of guilt and grief.
  • Although they are not sequels, watching these films together provides insight into World War II from both American and Japanese perspectives.
  • Both films strike a balance between arthouse cinema and blockbuster entertainment, offering a spectacle with deep meaning.


In a world obsessed with franchises, multiverses, crossovers, and spinoffs, it’s become increasingly commonplace for audiences to draw comparisons between two films and denote them as prequels and sequels. For films as glaringly dissimilar as Christopher Nolan’s monumental Oppenheimer (2023) and Takashi Yamazaki’s towering Godzilla Minus One (2023), their similarities and differences create a unique blend of artistic pursuit, genre subversion, and historical context. Both feature gigantic historical figures linked to the nuclear atom bomb. Both convey the crippling effects of a deeply entrenched national guilt and grief. Both come at a time when the consequences of war continue to echo throughout political spheres and talking head discussions.

Oppenheimer and Godzilla Minus One are the furthest from being sequels. However, they may be the same story written in different fonts, where their historical relations and thematic similarities present a potential opportunity to position them as a double feature. If you have five hours to spare on your weekend, watching these two films in pairing might enhance one’s understanding of World War II, both from the American and Japanese perspectives, and critique the battle in the Pacific.

Although this comes with obvious political underpinnings, comparing these two titles highlights a striking similarity in artistic pursuit, where both directors aim to meet in the middle of art and entertainment. These two films dance between the lines of arthouse cinema and blockbuster movie, a spectacle big enough for the largest IMAX screens and a story with enough insight to inspire thoughtful conversation on the meaning of life.


Oppenheimer Is an American Tragedy

Oppenheimer

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Cast
Cillian Murphy , Matt Damon , Robert Downey Jr. , Emily Blunt , Florence Pugh , Gary Oldman , Josh Hartnett , Jack Quaid , Kenneth Branagh , Rami Malek , Alex Wolff , Matthew Modine

Esteemed director Christopher Nolan has long been familiar with crafting thoughtful blockbusters and arthouse spectacles. His films frequently revolve around narrative novelty, usually as temporal hijinks or cinematic magic tricks. His films often dissect troubled men of intellect, struggling against the morality of their actions and the corruption of the world around them. And his films, quite notably, are huge box office successes, with many of his titles eclipsing the billion mark.

Rarely does a filmmaker of such magnitude venture into the biopic genre, a film category that has garnered a misshapen reputation with the proliferation of music star biopics. 2023 has seen somewhat of a genre comeback, with Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, the fellow A24 film The Iron Claw, and the anticipated Adam Driver-led Ferrari. This renewed sense of arthouse biopic has refreshed the genre with a more thoughtful approach to its historical character pieces. Nolan’s Oppenheimer accomplishes the impossible, fusing the director’s cinematic tendencies with a biographical epic worthy of IMAX proportions.

Played by the brilliant Cillian Murphy, J. Robert Oppenheimer was always the perfect historical figure for the Nolan cinematic universe. As a real-life American antihero, a man of intellect grappling with his morality and guilt, Oppenheimer stands in the lineage of Bruce Wayne and Dominick Cobb. He confronts the disastrous effects technology can have on society and suffers from his own internal battle with grief. He’s thwarted by a political ambush and cornered against a multitude of opposition. Like Prometheus, Dr. Manhattan, or Batman, J. Robert Oppenheimer has grown to become a monumental tragic figure, a harrowing character who issues a warning of caution regarding the dangers of unregulated technological advancement.

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Despite Nolan’s achievements in biopic engineering, Oppenheimer has invariably been criticized for its one-sided perspective. It casts Oppenheimer’s guilt as a symptom of being a god above the clouds and sidesteps any direct confrontation with the moral misgivings of bombing the Japanese. Fortunately, the year saw another blockbuster movie that perfectly complements Oppenheimer’s inherent shortcomings.

Godzilla Minus One Is a Japanese Horror Story

Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla Minus One

Release Date
December 1, 2023

Director
Takashi Yamazaki

Cast
Ryûnosuke Kamiki , Takayuki Yamada , Sakura Andou

In America, the threat of nuclear dystopia has been etched into modern mythology, the looming devastation merely a secondhand backlash from its own destructive habits. For writer/director Takashi Yamazaki, a similar message echoes throughout his newest release, Godzilla Minus One. The character and origin of Godzilla have historically been an allegory for the threat of nuclear war and the United States at large, but Godzilla Minus One takes it a step further by setting the narrative in the years following the end of the war, nearly a decade before Godzilla (1954) was originally released. It’s a film markedly different from most blockbusters released this year, mostly from its artistic attempts to say something meaningful.

The film acts as somewhat of a historical revision, where the Japanese characters find reconciliation with their ruthless savagery and disregard for humanity. As they embark on their battle with the reptilian beast, they emphasize their renewed priority of preserving life. It’s a newer approach to the Godzilla lore; historically, defeating Godzilla required a great deal of sacrifice, usually calling on the protagonist to fly a plane into the giant monster. Godzilla Minus One, like Nolan’s Oppenheimer, confronts national guilt surrounding the events of World War II, metaphorically processing the grief of violence and destruction.

However, as Ryunosuke Kamiki’s Kōichi Shikishima pulls on his eject lever, so does Godzilla Minus One seemingly escape and evade any genuine sense of moral reconciliation. Japan committed some of the worst atrocities in human history during their unspeakable tirade throughout the Asian Pacific, as their disregard for human life certainly went beyond the principles of kamikaze pilots. As Oppenheimer asks us to examine the narratives missing from the story, so does this film necessitate who or what context has been erased from this retelling of history. Like Nolan’s historical biopic, Godzilla Minus One positions its national guilt under the guise of victimhood and fails to address the most heinous allegations.

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Will Oppenheimer’s Japanese Release Be Controversial?

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Pairing Oppenheimer and Godzilla Minus One won’t bring narrative satisfaction; it may not even compare to the bewilderment of the Barbenheimer phenomenon. But viewing these two films side by side will certainly highlight the unspoken dialogue between Nolan’s historical biopic and Yamazaki’s Godzilla renewal.

Godzilla Minus One is currently playing in theaters.

Rent Oppenheimer on iTunes



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