Godzilla 2: City on the Edge of Battle – Anime Review
Synopsis: On Earth, Haruo and his companions make contact with the indigenous Houtua tribe. To defeat Godzilla, they set out for the old Mechagodzilla facility. (Official Netflix Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Polygon Pictures continue to improve, crafting visuals that are even one step above the previous Godzilla film in this trilogy, with incredible particle and lighting effects that sell the atmosphere of an Earth ruled by Godzilla, the sheer technological advancement of the film’s titular city, and the incredible battle that makes up the film’s climax. All that praise aside however, City on the Edge of Battle is a clear, overall step down from its predecessor. While Planet of the Monsters was nothing special, more B-movie Godzilla than the film itself would like to admit, City on the Edge of Battle manages to descend to levels that will disappoint most everyone, save the hardened fans.
To start City on the Edge of Battle offers very little to further its cast of characters. As with the first film Haruo remains the only individual we spend time coming to know and understand. His drive remains quite simple: An, admittedly, long standing grudge against Godzilla at the cost of greater reason. The rest of the cast is as paper thin as they were in the first film, and mostly exists to serve as vehicles for various themes in the plot. In fact the first thirty to forty minutes is incredibly plot heavy, barreling along as our characters move from total defeat from the end of the first film and towards their second attempt on Godzilla’s life. (or well, first I guess since they only fought/killed, uh, baby Godzilla?)
Despite the mayhem at the climax of Planet of the Monsters, most of our named characters survive that dark day, perhaps weakening the impact of the true Godzilla’s appearance at the end of the film. Indeed City on the Edge of Battle does little with that incredible reveal. The sheer size and monstrosity of the true Godzilla’s appearance factors in little between the two films, and City does very little to visually remind us that this Godzilla is on a totally different scale from his (son? daughter?)
While the plot heavy nature leaves little room for characterization, it still works to a B-movie capacity, especially as the film becomes inundated with repetitious words “Mechagodzilla, Nanometal, Mechagodzilla, Nanometal,” crafting an adorably B-movie atmosphere. It’s junk food, like most Godzilla films. However, written by Gen Urobochi, City on the Edge of Battle isn’t entirely ready to admit that B-movie nature, and abruptly slows to an incredible crawl as we jettison the fast and heavy plot focus to shift attention to the characters and themes.
On the cusp of this renewed attempt to reclaim Earth, Haruo suddenly suffers major doubts and the film spends a good half hour (or what feels like over an hour) questioning Haruo’s drive at every turn. We get a lot of pontificating, moral quandaries, and the like. This might work if we’d established these additional characters outside of Haruo himself. As it stands Haruo is already a paper thin lead, with one goal, one mind set, one setting to his emotional state: clear and focused rage aimed at undoing Godzilla. The rest of the cast is even thinner, never true characters themselves but entirely vehicles for the heavy themes the film becomes obsessed with exploring. It becomes a snooze fest, because without appreciation for the characters themselves, and an already B-movie atmosphere, none of this feels at home with the rest of the production.
The film does eventually pick up again once the final battle between Godzilla and Haruo’s forces commences. The film goes into spectacle mode and becomes a feast for the eyes thanks to Polygon’s visual efforts. But even so, the writing remains B-movie tier and as the film seeks to surprise you, so often falls back on classic Godzilla franchise tropes that you’ll see the film’s surprise ending/tease coming from a mile away. The ending feels tired, not only since it’s such a near repeat of Planet of the Monsters conclusion, but due to servicing the tried and true expectations of a franchise that feels stuck in the mud (Which is weird because Shin Godzilla was so successfully outside the box.)
Almost impressively City on the Edge of Battle is a major step down from Planet of the Monsters. I wouldn’t call either of the two traditionally good, but Planet of the Monsters kept enough of its cerebral pontificating on the lowdown, and spread out through its run time to keep that first entry from slowing down too much. Here City on the Edge of Battle dives in too deep, believing itself to be far stronger a film thematically and plot wise than it really is. Godzilla fans should still find fun to be had, what with some incredible art for this renewed assault on Godzilla, and some fun callbacks to Godzilla franchise’s long standing tropes, but more general audiences are very, very likely to walk away bored to tears.
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle is available for streaming via Netflix.