What the Hell Happened in Godzilla: The Planet Eater?
by Nicholas Dupree & Andy Pfeiffer,
Godzilla: The Planet Eater brings Polygon Pictures and Gen Urobuchi's lizard king trilogy to a somewhat baffling end. This week, Nick and Andy find out if this convoluted journey was worth the payoff.
Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for language.
Andy Ya know Nick, I knew I had big shoes to fill when I started on TWIA , but I failed to realize that I had also inherited some unfinished business. It's time to end this.
Nick Sadly, we won't be discussing Godzooky, the greatest addition to the Godzilla canon ever created. Instead we're gonna be covering something with less dignity.
This trilogy of "What grinds Gen Urobuchi's gears? (featuring Godzilla)" has come to a close. Following humanity's repetition of mistakes and STEMLORD technology, we have finally arrived at Religion and Nihilism.
Yeah, the Boochzilla series has only ever tangentially been about Godzilla. He's like the big plot device to drive the films' philosophical conflicts rather than a character or central obstacle the way the big green king is in most other entries. And that's especially true for The Planet Eater.
It turns out the real monster was Organized Religion all along.
Godzilla as a character usually works in one of two ways. Historically he's been used either as a metaphor for a specific societal issue or simply as an excuse for silly fights between cool rubber suits. This trilogy tries to be the former but forgets what issue to focus on. In the end, it turns into a wishy-washy mess of concepts and ideas with copious amounts of technobabble and stock Boochisms in between to fill screentime.
Though it's good to see he's kept reading books since writing Psycho-Pass.
Yeah, while I didn't have many kind words for the first two films, they at least felt like complete statements on their particular pet themes. Even if they ended up bloated to hell and filled with way too much fluff in the script, they at least managed to make their point by the end.
Not so with Planet Eater which is definitely the worst thing I've ever seen written by Urobuchi.
I still can't believe that it manages to undermine itself so quickly. There's probably a version of this script that could work, and the idea that humanity will eventually undo itself is a fine narrative that's a total throwback to the original Godzilla and its message about nuclear power.
But one of the first lines we get is "maybe the space elves constructed all of our history", and then later it's proven true through an evil monologue accompanied by this hilarious shot.
Einstein did Godzilla, Wake up Sheeple. So yeah, turns out the space priests who have been hanging out menacingly in the background for the last two movies not only engineered all of human civilization from the dawn of time, they've also specifically been raising our angry hero to be so angry.
I'm still lost on why this was necessary, since everything goes according to plan without our hero. I guess the entire philosophy was just so we could have some homoerotic undertones between these two throughout?
Okay, so what I gathered from the 40 minutes of monologue that is this film's final act, the Space Scientologists' driving philosophy is that their super-advanced civilization wrecked itself with nuclear weapons and made their own Godzilla, which led to them realizing that the universe is finite so fuck it.
"Why even bother living if living's gonna suck? Let's have a giant interdimensional dragon fucking eat us."
I really wish this was a better film, because it actually does something that no other Godzilla film has ever managed to do: sell me on the idea that this dumb-looking thing is a threat.
I mean, not visually. Everything in these movies looks like a CG attempt at Rankin Bass animation. But conceptually, the idea of a nightmare god that lives in the void outside of existence ready to devour us all is pretty cool.
Yeah. Like everything in this movie, the concept is solid but the execution is a mess. I hope your idea of a cool kaiju fight is just this shot for 30 minutes, interspersed with people describing this shot. At least the other movies had some dynamic action sequences. This time all we get is Golden Shenron sucking on Godzilla like a teething baby.
Once again we are denied a kaiju fight in the most insulting way. It's not enough that our villain waxes poetic about how his religion revolves around sacrificing your life for empty promises, but we need all the other characters repeating that for some reason. Ghidorah can't be detected by any scientific means, but we can see it affecting and destroying us. How do we fight against religion Ghidorah when we can't prove it exists to physically attack it?
So many Deep questions.
But yeah, apparently they've done this with dozens of other planets across the universe? It's some galaxy brain shit that would be a lot easier to swallow if these films had any sense of levity, but in context, this super-serious monologue just sounds dumb as all hell.
I get the idea that the inherent flaws of human society inevitably lead to its own destruction. But when that's abstracted as People + Time = Giant Laser Lizard, you have to at least wink at the audience over how ridiculous it sounds.
It's kinda hard to wink when your bloated metaphors end up getting literally transplanted into your eye.
Thanks for not letting us get out of these films without a Schrodinger's reference.
It's just so up its own ass. I love anime that have a political point of view, and I have no problem with a work criticizing organized religion or interrogating the nature of belief, but it's so flatly executed that none of the points it tries to make land.
Oh, Dr. Scientist. Do I have words for you. Do you mind if we talk about the first ending first, so we can talk about the extra special Lord of the Rings-style second ending after?
Oh, you mean where the movie's answer for how to combat nihilism is to knock up a teenager you barely know?
I mean, his ex seems totally okay with it!
I almost forgot the hilarious twist that the identical twin who wants to fuck him was actually the grumpy one the whole time.
I wouldn't blame you for forgetting. That entire plot comes out of nowhere. Haruo spent like 10 minutes with these characters in the last movie before fucking off to Mechagodzillaville to inhale a bunch of lead.
But yes, after he murders his boyfriend, we are treated to a montage of Haruo and the few other survivors being assimilated into Mothra's bug cult and leading happy lives. Haruo is rewarded with some new girlfriends and everything is going well.
None of this lands because none of these characters have enough depth to portray a believable relationship. That's a problem when your thematic resolution is that human connection is what makes life worth living, so you don't need the space dragon religion.
That message not landing is key to what happens next, because Dr. Scientist has remembered Yuko exists as a comatose body that was sidelined for this entire movie after her purpose of making Haruo sad was fulfilled. Apparently, the metal parts keeping her body alive can also be used to rebuild civilization!
Haruo does not take this well. At least I think that's supposed to be the face of existential fear, but ya know, Polygon Pictures.
Yeah, it turns out the actual resolution is that Haruo, as a stand-in for humanity at large, is just too full of hate and anger not to repeat the mistakes that led to Godzilla appearing in the first place, so he's gonna blow himself and his cyborg ex up and let the bug cult take over preserving the species.
You forgot my favorite part where he talks down to his new pregnant girlfriend and the thing that makes him decide to finally complete his suicide dive into Godzilla is that HER LANGUAGE DOESN'T HAVE A WORD FOR HATE.
I think I blocked that part out.
I mean, I'm pretty sure one of the other survivors is eventually gonna be like "Man I hate this food", and there goes civilization I guess?
I mean, if we're gonna poke holes in this, let's start with the aliens spending millions of years to cultivate their plan which ends up requiring maybe twenty people to believe in Ghidorah to summon him.
The way their bodies just flop apart as the shadow eats them is comedy gold.
I'm just saying, Metphies could have gotten the same results from coaching a youth hockey team.
But the pièce de résistance is the post-credits scene. After Haruo suicides to prevent himself from impacting the pristine peace of this new humanity, we're treated to a new ritual they've created that reenacts his suicide.
I could probably talk about how batshit that ending is for hours. It somehow undoes every theme in every previous movie.
Nihilism is wrong! Except when it's right. Then you should blow yourself up because it turns out all your failings are just part of your nature.
Religion is bad, except this primitive one that might be bad now that it adopted your actions? The cycle continues maybe?
I'm imagining an end of LOTR where Frodo sinks the fucking boat he's on so that everyone drowns, and then Sam honors him by deciding they throw a hobbit into the sea every year
Look, I'll excuse a lot of stuff for the sake of making a thematic point—it's the only way I'm able to love Macross as much as I do—but Planet Eater just devours its own tail and ends up a malformed mess that's more lecture than narrative, and not even a particularly interesting lecture at that. The core concept is fine, but it's buried under so many ridiculous plot points presented with stone-faced seriousness, it lacks anything resembling engaging characters, and with all the Godzilla material out there, you can easily find something more worth your time.
In short, next time you want to make a sprawling Godzilla trilogy on the nature of humankind...
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