Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters – Anime Review
Synopsis: A desperate group of refugees attempts to recolonize Earth 20,000 years after Godzilla took over. But one young man wants revenge above all else. (Official Netflix Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is Polygon Pictures’ latest evolution in furthering Anime CGI animation. Godzilla is another triumphant step, managing to eliminate much of the stutter problems some of their earlier titles suffer from. It’s got a wonderfully dark and bleak color palate, solid sci-fi technical designs, and oozes with atmosphere. The one complaint that rings true however, is that Godzilla, for all its technical improvements, seems to suffer from a similar design aesthetic to Knights of Sidonia, one of Polygon’s first ever major titles. This makes Godzilla feel visually redundant, as if merely a side project to the Sidonia mainline. The two properties have nothing to do with the other, but anyone could be forgiven for thinking anything aboard the spaceship was a scene from Sidonia rather than this new three party Godzilla film series.
Linny: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters has a misleading title in that while it says Planet of the Monsters, we only get to see two monsters, one being the titular Godzilla and the other a group of lizard/dinosaur like flying creatures. Yes, we do get to see some monsters during the movie’s opening through brief news broadcast snippets and flashbacks but it’s all still and blurry images utilized as set up/exploration of the events prior to the film. Also, as this movie is part of a three part series, it seems more focused on set up and offering the bare minimum of true in depth exploration of its characters. It also rushes through a lot of its initial set up, (Monsters appearing across Earth, aliens arriving to help, etc.) which could lead to confusion for anyone not paying full attention, especially as the design for the aliens doesn’t differentiate them enough from ordinary humans.
Tom: I have to agree, the title really sets expectations high, but in the end Godzilla and some flying dragon thing are about all we really get. It’s a shame because I was set to expect some really crazy monster designs, a whole plethora of them, populating this planet. Also, like Godzilla 2014, it takes a long time for the titular monster himself to finally take center stage. Because of that, I think Linny’s right that this film feels more like set up, or even backstory, more than anything else. The film does have its own backstory, yes, but in some ways this film feels like an elongated exploration of how mankind comes back into conflict with Godzilla after he’s taken over the planet. Because of that, character work is incredibly thin. By the end of the film no one has developed, or really feels like a character we’ve come to know. There’s a female soldier, and friend of Haruo, voiced by Cristina Vee in the dub. Despite having such an A-List dub choice, the character like everyone, save Haruo and perhaps his religious alien ally, Metphius, exists purely to dole out exposition. Perhaps the most telling example of this severe lack of character is when the humans are attacked by a group of monsters. There’s a high death count, yet no one seems to bat an eye at all their fallen allies. No one cares that friends and family are dead, rather it’s all about whether the mission can succeed or not. These people aren’t characters, they’re plot devices, and that fosters a disconnected sense of care for anyone going up against Godzilla. If they don’t care about their own deaths, why should I?
Linny: One could hold out hope that the lack of in-depth characterization and humanization of its cast is mainly due to this movie being treated as set up saving greater development for the upcoming sequels. Otherwise, this could be a terribly shallow film as even our main character seems to be barely more than someone completely devoted and fixated on annihilating Godzilla to the point where he screams ‘I will kill you’ at Godzilla a laughable number of times.
Tom: Planet of the Monsters is so much more focused on crafting its atmosphere and setting. Tons of work has gone into fostering a very sci-fi, futuristic feel, putting this film apart from the rest of the Godzilla cannon. It’s admirable how much this film stands apart from the plethora of previous Godzilla works, giving it a unique presence among the rest of the franchise. That said, the film makes little effort to guide the audience into understanding its setting. Concepts like space-time dilation and subspace travel causing an intensely different passage of time go unexplained. That’s fine for more well versed sci-fi viewers, but for anyone who hasn’t seen Strategic Armored Infantry (STRAIN) or any other anime/film to deal with such a concept, they’re gonna feel a bit confused at times. Also, because the film is so focused on crafting its unique setting and world, things are intensely slow once we get past the flashbacks. It takes a good while before the action comes into play, and the film’s strict adherence to structure keeps it feeling largely predictable, save for a solid surprise twist on the end.
Linny: At the end of the day, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a typical Godzilla film in that you’re watching it to see Godzilla wreck havoc on earth and humanity’s best effort to exterminate him. That said, it does have some unique touches and is one of the more bleak experiences of what humanity could be reduced to when facing off against Godzilla. It’s definitely enjoyable as a shallow monster movie and has solid CGI art, but is also going to disappoint anyone who wanted a character focused tale or tight plot as the foreshadowing can be too obvious and the actions and decisions taken by characters don’t always seem logical or natural. Pick it up if you’re down for a fun watch and a fan of watching Godzilla being king of destruction and death. Give it a miss if you were hoping for a franchise changing phenomenon and solid plot.
Tom: Despite its flaws, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters mostly succeeds, although maybe not as it intended. The Godzilla films that can be considered incredible pieces of film making are few and far between, with most only just better than B-movie offerings. They’re fun films and I think in that regard Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is enjoyable. It’s setting is interesting, unique for the franchise, and once the action picks up, you get Godzilla wrecking our human characters like they’re ineffectual ants. The visuals elevate an otherwise ho-hum script into something that’s visually captivating. It’s no prize pig, but it’s a fun, if flawed, experience all the same.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is available for streaming via Netflix.