Anime Corner: Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle Review

The Terror of Mechagodzilla…I guess.

What’s the Story?

After defeating Godzilla, Captain Haruo and the last remnants of humanity thought they’d finally secured themselves a future. That was when the one, true Godzilla rose from the ground and brought devastation down on the humans and their allies. Some survived, thanks to the help of a mysterious indigenous species, potentially humanity’s descendants, but what does that change? They may have defeated one Godzilla, but is there any real hope of taking down the true King of Monsters? During the last days of humanity’s time on Earth a project was under way to create a monster capable of taking down Godzilla, but the project was destroyed before it could be completed, or was it? Finding the remains of ‘Mechagodzilla’, humanity and its allies may have found its last hope, or is this just another nightmare?

The Review:

The more I think about this trilogy of Godzilla films, the more I come to realise that they’re really best watched one immediately after the other. I’m watching them only days apart as I write these reviews, but when I imagine having to wait months and months between each film, it’s little wonder they got such a negative reaction at their release. I know I’d have a lot more ire for this film if I’d spent all that time waiting to see this. Not that this film is terrible, in fact I think it’s an improvement over the first film in a lot of regards, even if I’ve just as much to pick apart, but there’s something I need to get out of the way first.

For all the times that it is mentioned in this film, Mechagodzilla never once appears. Yes, I know, the living metal city is technically Mechagodzilla, but I don’t care how many time the script says it or tries to justify it, that is not Mechagodzilla. When you say Mechagodzilla to me I get a very specific image in my mind, a giant mechanical dinosaur very much like a mechanical Godzilla (hence it’s name!). If that’s not what you’re going to give me in your movie then don’t try and sell it to me as that! I’m usually fine with re-imaginings or an author’s new interpretation on an old idea, but there comes a point where you change an idea so much it ceases to be that original idea. Then it’s just something entirely new with a familiar name slapped on it to make it more palatable and that irks me. If you’re going to come up with something new then just call it something new! Don’t trade on my nostalgia.

Okay, rant over. Putting my frustrations about Mechagodzilla to one side, I do think think this film is an improvement over ‘Planet of Monsters’, even if only slightly. The middle act of a story is often the hardest to get right, it’s the point where the story decompresses to give everyone, characters and audience alive, a chance to breath and mull things over. That’s really what helps this film, I said in my last review (HERE) that this trilogy should have been a series and this film just confirms that for me. Without the immediate drive of plotting to take down Godzilla, the characters are allowed a chance to explore the world around them and even develop in some cases. Haruo goes from a walking ball of pent up anger to a real leader, feeling the weigh of his responsibilities and the lives he’s lost, as well as beginning to question himself. The ending of the film is a very clear choice between the anger he’s carried around for so long, and his other obligations and feelings. If I cared about the character more this would probably be a dramatic highlight.

That’s the real problem this film faces. Even though it’s now developing some of its characters and spending more time to fill out the details of its world, everything is still fairly one note. Take our alien allies for instance. The Exif still have an air of mystery about them, but for the most part they’re just offering up vague religious speeches about the nature of species, monsters and pre-destination. I need something a bit more substantive before I can fully invest in them, though I still don’t trust Metphies.

Then there’s the Bilusaludo, who admittedly offer an interesting philosophy in opposition to the Exif and humans. Originally I thought they were just generic technologically-advanced warriors, but in this film we discover that they hold technology to such a high regard that they’re all for abandoning their weak bodies and becoming one with their machines. I applaud the film for having an alien species think so differently to the human counterparts, but the film never spends any time exploring this, heck we don’t even learn about it until just before the final battle of the film. Is it too much to ask to have two characters sit down and talk about this stuff, maybe explain how the Bilusaludo came to this viewpoint. Then again it falls into the typical sci-fi trap of giving an alien species one unique thing and only one unique things. There’s no dissenters among the Bilusaludo? No rival philosophy or opposing factions? Because we humans clearly only have one way of thinking about the nature of life, right? Again, I really do enjoy this world and the concepts its bringing into play, I just wish it devoted more time to exploring those concepts.

The Verdict:

In the end, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle is an improvement over Planet of the Monsters, even if it’s still yet to blow me away. There’s more time devoted to exploring this future Earth and the characters we were introduced to in the first film. There are some great ideas here and some impressive action, though I’m still not the biggest fan of the animation. Haruo grows from being just a walking ball of rage to a believable leader, and we do learn some more about our alien allies, but it’s not enough to make this film truly great. Here’s hoping the final film can stick the landing.

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.

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