The final part of the Netflix Original trilogy of animated Godzilla films comes to an end, with a whimper rather than a roar in Godzilla: The Planet Eater. Godzilla himself has extremely limited screen time and instead we get a quasi-religious mish-mash of nonsense with no real bite.
I reviewed the first film in this new trilogy, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, 12 months ago, and I was filled with such optimism. I remember saying that the film had some good set pieces but forgettable characters. I had hoped that the film would double down on the action side of things by the release of Godzilla: The Planet Eater and jettison the faux-intellectual navel-gazing. How wrong I was.
I only just finished watching the second part of the trilogy, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, last week. I could only stomach it in 10-minute bursts because it was just such a heady mixture of dull and impenetrable. I suppose that should have been enough to warn me off writing off another 90 minutes of my life, but I just couldn’t stay away. I had to know how things ended, and surely they’ve saved up all the action for the final film?
In short: no, they haven’t. Instead of really giving us some action to sink our teeth into we just get more opaquely spiritual chatter. I’ve devoted well over 4 hours of my life to this trilogy and yet I’m struggling to remember the name of a single character. All I can remember is some vague, well-trodden character archetypes. I do know there were humans and several other alien races involved. One of which was a bit like a dwarf in Lord of the Rings (gruff, liked building stuff, hardy fighter) and the other was a bit Elvish (mystical, talked in riddles, nice long hair). Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. The characters felt incredibly underdeveloped and I would have enjoyed it more if they’d all just been fodder for Godzilla. Sadly not.
In Godzilla: The Planet Eater, Godzilla himself is limited to no more than a few minutes on screen and he doesn’t really do anything. He first shows up well over half an hour into the film and even then he’s only on screen for about 6 seconds. I know because I was so bored that I counted. I originally quite liked the design of Godzilla in these films; it’s something inventive and different. While everything else looks like traditional animation Godzilla has a cold, hard, metallic sheen. It’s probably the only thing I’ve actively enjoyed in the films and given Godzilla probably has 20-30 minutes of screen time across over 4 hours of movies, that’s not great.
The look of Godzilla is one thing; the way he moves is a different proposition entirely. He moves ridiculously slowly, like an oil tanker cruising through a lake of treacle. It’s as if when he was created by the nuclear fallout he got stuck in a permanent slow motion replay. We’re constantly shown just how devastating the big G can be, but it’s not as if he’s hard to see coming and you’ve got a reasonable amount of time to run away if he does show up. I actually found myself trying to calculate Godzilla’s average speed based on an estimated height and stride length – a sure indicator that I was thoroughly engaged in what was happening.
I desperately wanted to enjoy Godzilla: The Planet Eater. I’d forced myself through the other two films in the hope that we’d get a decent monster movie. A Godzilla anime seems perfect on paper because, in theory, you can do some amazing things that you can’t with live action (or you can’t without a staggering budget). The reality of Godzilla: The Planet Eater is that it’s more like a live-action film, with the focus on the characters and their spiritual beliefs. It’s probably the least satisfying conclusion that you could get to a trilogy of films that are meant to be about a big monster smashing stuff up.
I think it’s quite telling that the whole thing left me longing for the halcyon days of The Godzilla Power Hour and Godzooky.