Persecution of the Masses.
What’s the Story?
One day creatures rose from beneath the surface of the Earth to terrorise humanity. Out of all of these only one inspired true dread and drove humanity to the very edge of extinction, the monster they came to call Godzilla. Even with the aide of two arriving alien species it wasn’t enough to halt Godzilla’s destructive path, forcing what was left of the human race to flee into space. Now, over two decades later, humanity once more faces a grave nightmare. Food rations are running out and with no potential habitable planets to claim as their own, they may just have to return to their abandoned former home. For Haruo this is perfect. He lost everything to Godzilla and blames the creature alone for humanity’s current pitiable state. He’s spent the past two years planning and might just have something that can bring down the King of Monsters, but when has killing Godzilla ever been easy?
In 2017 I was excited to hear that we were getting an animated trilogy of Godzilla films. To me it just made sense, as much as I love the majority of the live-action films, regardless of whether it’s a guy in a rubber suit or not, I can’t help but imagine all that animation could accomplish for the giant atomic-breathed reptile. I mean I can’t be the only one who fondly remembers the cartoon series based on the 1998 film (the film itself has no right to call itself Godzilla in any shape or form, but the cartoon was good). Then the reviews started coming in and they were not good for this film or its sequels and, I know, take other people’s opinions with a pinch of salt. I should have watched the film and made up my own mind, but between the never-ending glut of seasonal shows to keep up with and everything else I try to do in my free time, this film just got pushed further and further down the list. Now though I’ve finally given myself the kick up the butt I needed and sat down and watched the film. So what did I think?
Honestly, I kinda enjoyed it. It’s flawed certainly and very obviously the start of a trilogy so the ending foregoes any sort of real conclusion and instead gives way to set up for the sequel, which can be annoying. I get what put so many people off about this film, but what fascinates me is the world it builds up around itself. I’m a sucker for sci-fi on my best day, so you give me spaceships, mecha and giant monsters and you pretty much have me sold from the start. I like the way it takes concepts we’ve seen in previous Godzilla films and meshes them together in a unique way. Take the alien allies for instances, there are plenty of Godzilla films where aliens show up claiming to be friends, only to then reveal ulterior motives and be swatted away once they try to take on Godzilla himself. This time the aliens are actually here to help, at least that’s how it appears for the majority of movie one, I have my doubts about one of them. They give Earth more advanced technology to combat Godzilla and then help built spaceships when it’s clear there’s no way to win. I could have watched an entire movie about that and been happy.
That’s not the film we got though and I admit I might just be more enamoured with the concepts the film is presenting than the actual meat of the story. Take humanity’s time in space, the talk of rations running out and the older generation volunteering for a desperate mission paint a really dark picture and I wish we got to explore that more, but it’s mostly glossed over. Even the talk about the council forcing those older members on to the mission is quickly brushed aside once we get back to Earth. Maybe this story would have been better served as a series, giving more room to develop these characters and the settings, paint a really vivid picture. As it is the film is mostly technical jargon and action scenes that, while the animation is fit for purpose, it doesn’t wow me (that being said I really don’t like the texture they put on Godzilla, it’s just not very pleasing to look at).
That brings me to what was probably the nail in the coffin for this film for a lot of people, and that’s the main character of Haruo. I get what they were trying to do with the character, his anger is perfectly understandable and seeing it focussed on Godzilla also makes a lot of sense. Heck, one of the main characters of King of the Monsters (my favourite of the recent Godzilla films) was passionately anti-Godzilla. The thing is though is that character went on an arc, Haruo doesn’t. This is the first third of a trilogy so I expect him to change at some point, but so far it’s just unpleasant to spend so much time with someone who’s just angry all the time. It’s not as if any of the other characters get any sort of development, they barely get introduced to us. Imagine Eren from Attack on Titan, but instead of constantly having his ideals challenged and his ego knocked down a peg, Haruo gets built up and he is the one true saviour of us all. I could put up with him for one film, but I have no idea what my reaction is going to be like for the sequel, I guess we’ll see.
In the end, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters, is a film that is enjoyable but nothing more. It has a lot of flaws, some of them stemming from the fact that this is the start of a trilogy and there’s some missing resolution. Even putting that aside the film has some pretty glaring flaws, like the unpleasant main character, the lack of development for, well, anyone in the cast and a fairly straightforward story that ignores some meaty potential. There are some great ideas in this script and I wish they got more time to be explored, but I guess we’ll see how the sequels handle things now that the set ups out of the way.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.