Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters review
|Director||Hiroyuki Seshita, Kôbun Shizuno|
|Writer(s)||Gen Urobuchi, Sadayuki Murai|
|Release Date||January 17, 2018|
What’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters?
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first of a new trilogy of movies about everybody’s favourite giant lizard, and is the first animated film in the franchise. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that this is the 32nd film in the franchise – in your face James Bond. Now, I can’t claim to be an expert in Kaiju (giant monsters to you and me) movies, but I have always had a soft spot for Godzilla. I’ve seen a reasonable number of the original movies and I am a huge advocate of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 take on Godzilla – it’s a film that was underrated on release and one that definitely improves with repeat viewings. How does this latest outing for the big guy compare to previous films, and is it more Godzuki than Godzilla?
Let me guess, Godzilla is causing trouble for mankind in this film?
Oh, you had better believe it, and not just mankind either. Towards the end of the 20th century, enormous monsters started appearing all across the planet and causing some (understandable) problems. As if things weren’t bad enough, Godzilla shows up on the scene and lays waste to the humans and monsters alike.
Well, this all sounds fairly familiar…
Well, I’ll grant you that up until this point everything is by the numbers Godzilla, but wait. Things take a turn for the Battlestar Galactica. Just as humanity is on the verge of collapse they’re greeted by not one but two aliens races: the Exif and the Bilusaludo. It’s typical, really; you wait for years for alien contact and then two species come along at once. The Exif are trying to spread their religion while the Bilusaludo is looking for a planet to call home, and offer to take down Godzilla with a giant robot version: Mechagodzilla. Sadly, things don’t really go according to plan, and they just can’t get Mechagodzilla started in time. Typical really, isn’t it? This forces the humans, the Exif and the Bilusaludo to take to the stars in search of a new home.
Hold on. They’ve all left Earth behind, so where does Godzilla actually fit in?
Unfortunately, this isn’t a character piece looking at Godzilla’s descent into madness as he wanders the Earth alone. Instead, some 11.9 light years from Earth, the last remnants of humanity (and the Exif and the Bilusaludo) are struggling to find a place to call home. With options running out, the band of survivors take the decision to head home and face the problem head-on. Things all get a little timey-wimey thanks to lightspeed travel meaning that the 20 years that have passed for humanity have meant they’ve been gone for closer to 20,000 years. Has Godzilla endured and is the planet even close to being a place they can call home anymore? Good question.
Wow. That’s quite the plot. I was just expecting Godzilla to appear and smash things.
Oh I know, I thought the same. It’s definitely a little bit out there. But no one can accuse Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters as being derivative or safe. It’s definitely something that I haven’t seen before in a Godzilla (or other Kaiju) movie – I can honestly say that I never thought a film like this would include weird missionary space priests. I found it hard to keep up with the characters at times. There aren’t many of them, but it almost feels like you’re dropped into the film right in the middle of something. I’m not sure if some of the stuff is canonical from previous movies but it does feel a little confusing at times.
Everything before the return to Earth is a little uneven and does bear more than a passing resemblance to Battlestar Galactica. I just would have appreciated a little bit more scene-setting for life in space. Historical events on Earth are really well portrayed, but life in space feels like it could have had more depth. I really would have liked to see more.
What about when they get back to Earth?
Once everyone gets back home it’s actually really interesting to see how the world has moved on without humanity. And then we get thrown into what is pretty much one big action set piece after another. The action is actually quite good, with plenty of monsters, explosions, and mech-suits, but as with the opening section of the film it felt a little scattered and confusing at times. It’s not always completely obvious who is doing what and why. It actually took me about 50% of the film to realise there were two aliens races involved, and not just the Exif.
How about the big fella, what’s Godzilla like in this?
I wasn’t really sold on the style of the CGI animation – the way characters move is just a little off. I can’t really put my finger on why, but something just isn’t right. It could be that the movement is too hyper-realistic and it jars, or it was just a little jerky and stilted at times, which took me out of things. The design of Godzilla is not really like I’ve ever seen him before. This is a really muscular, sinewy version, that at times looks like he’s carved out of obsidian. There’s something strangely metallic about Godzilla, and I don’t think it’s just a facet of the rendering; this feels like a conscious artistic choice. It’s a really unusual take on a classic creature. And despite some reservations about the animation I really liked the design.
I think so. It’s a slightly confusing and unexpected tale, but it’s also a lot of fun. Once you get beyond the Lost in Space-style Battlestar Galactica fun it’s a solid action film with some really good set pieces. But at the same time the characters are largely forgettable and it’s a bit unclear what’s happening at times. There are still two more films left to go in the planned series (the next being scheduled for May 2018) so I think I’m in for the long haul to see where it can go next. It’s inventive and certainly different but it’s just lacking really engaging characters.
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Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.