Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, is the first of a planned trilogy of CG anime Godzilla films, written by Gen Urobochi and produced by Polygon Pictures. Here’s what I thought of this beginning installment.
The film starts with a conglomerate of every previous Godzilla movie scenario gone horribly wrong. Godzilla’s beaten all the other monsters, thwarted the conquest of two different alien races, prevented the completion of MechaGodzilla, and survived a nuclear warhead. But unlike when these things usually happen in Godzilla films, the king of destruction doesn’t just wander off into the sea when he’s finished. Planet of the Monsters’ Godzilla goes so far in its destruction of earth that humanity and the alien races trying to win over earth are forced to flee the planet completely, cast out into the stars to search for another place to call home. Awkward.
This is where our movie narrative begins, three civilizations drifting through space, having searched 20 years for another habitable planet after Godzilla noped them off the earth. Our main character, Haruo Sakaki, like any good angry anime boy, is not happy about this situation, and swears to find a way to defeat Godzilla and take back earth.
After a series of events, Haruo gets his wish. The survivors, running low on supplies and reachable planets to search, turn back home, hoping after all this time (it’s been like 20,000 years on earth, cause space travel and stuff), Godzilla is long gone and the planet is habitable again. They soon find this isn’t the case and not only is Godzilla alive and well, but its presence has altered the atmosphere, plants, and animals of earth, making it more dangerous than when they left. Banking on Haruo’s plan to defeat the kaiju king, a team is sent to the surface in a last ditch effort to end Godzilla’s reign for good.
This setup for the film is pretty solid, establishing the premise effectively and concisely, especially for a Godzilla film. The opening montage works great, and is probably my favorite animated sequence of the entire film. While Haruo fits the angsty protagonist stereotype to a T, his character is handled relatively well, and he comes across more intelligent and persistent than clueless or needlessly reckless. Events flow smoothly from one to the next and even the more sci-fi talk feels natural. It’s a solid opening third to the film.
Then we get to ground zero. Back to earth we go.
What did Godzilla do while humanity was away for 20,000 years. Apparently he lifted, a LOT. Never once did he forget to drink his protein shake in the morning.
And these were the better shots I could find.
This leads into my first major criticism of the film. It’s gray on gray on darker gray, visually bland as bland can be. Godzilla himself is often a formless blob of muscle and bumps, his movements awkward and slow, even for its own standards. Other creatures attack the crew, but are even uglier and less interesting. At least Godzilla has his signature atomic breath, which is pretty cool at times. The plan to stop it is an endless babble of jargon and is re-explained a few too many times. The conditions to fulfill it are pretty standard foray for a Godzilla take-down plan, but end up stretched across too much screen time. Although the story tries to introduce a few characters, none of them develop any real bits to them beyond fulfilling the roles they need to play. We have brazen military general, supportive priest who probably has ulterior motives, childhood friend who wants to get stronger, and the scientist. None of them are bad, but few develop in interesting ways. The action works fine, but Godzilla’s conflict with them is never REALLY threatening until the final battle, and the smaller creatures don’t leave much of a mark either.
Scattered throughout the mediocrity are a few gems that keep it alive. The first is when the landing crew discovers huge monoliths of vegetation that have grown over the remains of skyscrapers and buildings, still maintaining the form of structures long since eroded away. It’s an emotional moment for Haruo, reminding him that earth really is their home. Separate from the traditional Godzilla approach of humans-ruined-the-world-and-feel-guilty-and-even-though-we-hate-Godzilla-we-know-we-deserve-it, it’s refreshing to see this subversion of that theme, even if we do get some of the Godzilla-punished-us-because-of-our-arrogance later.
The second solid moment is when we get the only real character development in the film. It comes from the brazen military general (Leland) who wants to abandon the plan completely and flee after the first round of setbacks. Haruo is not ok with this, and gives him more than a few speeches about fighting for their home and whatnot. This finally reaches the general in a later battle where he makes a heroic stand in a decisive moment that opens the door for them to beat Godzilla in the finale.
What? They actually beat Godzilla? Well kind of. The final twist of the film bumped the the whole experience up a notch, and paved the way for the bigger conflict of the trilogy. Spoiler alert, they don’t kill Godzilla in first film of a trilogy about Godzilla. The creature they beat turns out to be more or less a smaller, younger Godzilla spawn. After defeating it, the real Godzilla rises from slumbering beneath a mountain and oh boy, is it fantastic.
Watching the actual Godzilla completely crush the hard won victory of our heroes, leaving the survivors in the depths of fear and despair tickled every happy Godzilla nerve I have. What. A. Reveal. And just like that a thoroughly OK film ended on a high note. I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store, although based on what we already know it’s pretty certain that something is MechaGodzilla.
Give me that Kaiju on Kaiju action.
One last thing to note is the music was written by Takayuki Hattori, who previously wrote the music for Godzilla 2000 (I wonder if that’s why we got the Orga cameo in the opening scenes) and Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla. It was a quality Godzilla soundtrack.
Also, before I end I really want to list all the great titles for Godzilla in the film. Because it has some fantastic ones:
-Punishing Iron Hammer for the Arrogant
-Inevitable Incarnation of Destruction
-King of Destruction
While definitely the beginning third of a story, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters manages to find a snug spot among its predecessors in the franchise, suffering from all the regular weaknesses of the series, while still introducing just enough new to make the film worth it for a die hard fan.
6/10 if you’re a Godzilla lover like me, aware of the genre’s flaws and struggles but always excited for more of the big G.
4/10 if you want literally anything else out of this film.
+Hits the normal Godzilla conflict beats, sci-fi jargon and all
+That twist ending
-Not enough interesting content to stretch over an entire film