Reviewby Callum May,
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
If this is your first time experiencing Godzilla, turn back now. This is not a film for the uninitiated. Whilst other recent attempts to reboot the series, such as the American Godzilla in 2014 and the most recent Godzilla: Resurgence, reintroduce the creature each time, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters already assumes that you know how destructive and immortal it really is. Seeing the creature in the distance should immediately trigger the thought: “Oh, no. It's going to use its atomic breath!”
Instead, the film becomes a story about revenge and regaining hope in a hopeless situation. Godzilla has already won. Every worst case scenario that threatens the previous films have all come to fruition. The US government hit New York with a desperate nuclear strike, other fearsome monsters appeared to ravish the world and even MechaGodzilla failed to be activated after its first appearance in a film in 15 years.
Therefore, humanity have escaped Earth and lead a desperate search for a new planet that can sustain life. In response to 20 years of failure, they now return to an Earth 20,000 years older and face off against Godzilla once again. Much of Planet of the Monsters works like other Godzilla franchise films in that it features an elaborate plan to slay the beast whilst human conflicts interrupt. The former is a thrill to watch with the new science fiction setting, but the more human moments within the film are often let down by most of the screen-time being taken up by the least likeable character.
Hotheads like protagonist Haruo Sakaki are a regularity when it comes to anime as a whole, but there were few times when I wasn't wishing they'd left him on the ship. Godzilla is best described as an unstoppable force of nature and often the product of a human mistake. So Haruo's desire for revenge and shouting “You bastard!” to a giant lizard feels like it robs the conflict of any depth. It's like swearing at spoiled milk for making you sick. In a way, it is the enemy, but it can neither understand your threats nor did it have any responsibility in your decision to drink it.
Haruo's not stupid, he's just angry. But this begins to feel grating in the second half as the camera continues to give him so much time to shout instead of giving us chances to find out more about likable and earnest characters like Yuko, the female lead. We get few glimpses of various side characters' motivations, but it's always presented very briefly just before they go out to commit an act of altruism. It's important to know that this is only the first film within Polygon Pictures' Godzilla series and there will be many chances to learn more, but it'll be half a year to wait until we find out even the most basic facts about important cast members.
Ever since Blame!, it's been clear that Polygon Pictures have been thriving with the time allocated for a film compared to a TV series like Knights of Sidonia or Ajin: Demi-Human. Couple this with the fact that Polygon Pictures is constantly evolving and researching into new technologies and I get to repeat a statement made in last year's review of Blame! when I say that Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is easily Polygon Pictures' best-looking CG title yet. In addition to all the battles being an exhilarating watch, characters feel much more animated when they speak and make their arguments. And of course, Godzilla is as terrifying as ever, looming over the lush environment of post-apocalyptic Earth. Rather than the typical idea of stopping Godzilla rampaging through a familiar city, Godzilla: Planet of Monsters is visually developed with the intent of making the humans unfamiliar with their own planet, now ruled by Godzilla.
There aren't many opportunities to do so, but in between the clashes with Godzilla, we are given more chances to see what has become of Earth in the future. With backgrounds directed by Yukihiro Shibutani, the worlds of both the sullen spaceship struggling to keep the lights on and the hostile overgrown Earth have their own unique approach to feeling haunting. This first entry in the series glances over these scenes, but it appears likely that the second film will expand upon this and explore further into the new world.
In some ways, Godzilla: Monster Planet is an escape from the regular formula, but in more ways, it feels like a homage. Nobody would return to such a ridiculous concept as MechaGodzilla (who will be a main character in the sequel) if they didn't have a deep love for the franchise. But one of the most notable connections between the kaiju films and this anime is in the sound effects and musical score, composed by Godzilla 2000 composer Takayuki Hattori. Coupled with the bone-curdling roar of Godzilla, a mix of classic and new inspirations defines its soundscape as being a part of the historic franchise whilst still bringing in new ideas.
As of right now, Godzilla: Monster Planet does not tell a full story and will be directly followed by the second film, due to be released in Summer of 2018. It will be a long wait before we finally get closure on many of the mysteries speckling Gen Urobuchi's script, but if you can't wait to dive in, Godzilla: Monster Planet is a thrilling film that lives up to the reputation of the franchise and delivers on its science fiction premise.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Polygon Pictures' most accomplished CG yet, a unique concept, thrilling fight sequences
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