Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita’s kaiju opener is a tedious but promising start to a trilogy.
“He is the punishing iron hammer for the arrogant. For the species who pronounce themselves as lords of creation, a divine avenger will pay them a visit. And so, he will…”
We’ve seen Godzilla in many forms over the years: he’s been a guy in a suit, he’s been CG, he’s been Japanese and American, a mere 50 meters tall and a whopping 120 meters in his most recent live-action incarnation. But, strangely, with the exception of the result of bold … if strikingly bad choices on the part of Hanna-Barbera, we’ve never seen Godzilla in animated form. It’s quite odd to think about it, really, that neither anime nor Godzilla have ever really come together to make a film. If shows like One Punch Man and Attack on Titan can give us immense large-scale combats and scenes of destruction, then why isn’t Godzilla getting a piece of the action?
Godzilla, Planet of the Monsters is the answer to that. Released in 2017 as part of its own Godzilla continuity, the film has no connection whatsoever to the other films, meaning that as of its release there are at least three ongoing canons to the King of Monsters: his rebooted ever-evolving self, his animated incarnation, and his American version. In this universe, Earth has become inhospitable thanks to the recent appearance of a number of kaiju – worst of all, Godzilla himself. When a group of aliens … no, sorry, two groups of aliens arrive to help (one of them supposedly attempting and failing to activate a MechaGodzilla), the humans decide to abscond with them to another planet.
Twenty years later, and Captain (of what?) Haruo Sakaki is unhappy on the spaceship. Resources are staggeringly low, the elderly are sent out to die, and it has become very apparent that the ship barely has enough supplies to last a few more years. With the help of his friend Metphies – an Exif (one of the two alien races) – he devises a plan that will kill Godzilla, and make Earth habitable again. With the people in charge gingerly on board, the plan is set into motion. But, upon returning to Earth, they find that a lot of time has passed, and Earth now belongs entirely to the monsters.
The premise of this film is very strong. Movies like After Earth and Kong: Skull Island exist on this very idea. The main characters having to survive in a place that is actively trying to kill them is always a fun premise. There’s potential for all kinds of monsters to attack the heroes and cause chaos to even their best laid plans – and those little moments are fun to watch in Planet of the Monsters (even though, considering the title, I was expecting far more monsters). But, as Shyamalan’s attempt proves, it’s not an automatic success. Planet of the Monsters isn’t as bad as After Earth, and the comparison isn’t super fair, but both films did suffer the same problem: that of its main cast.
Neither Haruo nor Metphies are particularly engaging main characters. Haruo is a typically frustrated, growly anime protagonist and the alien doctor sort of this bland exposition machine, with the rest of the cast not particularly doing the film many favours. The first half hour goes on like an extended videogame cutscene, with everyone just sort of saying or yelling things to one another until they finally touch down on Earth. This wouldn’t be so bad if we understood more of who these people were, or what their connections to each other are. But as it stands, you’re just counting down the seconds until the titular monster appears.
The actions scenes are good, but few and far between. Otherwise it just sort plays out like similar anime movies like Blame, which doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. It’s just a bit bland. Once Godzilla finally shows his slow-moving, expressionless face, it’s a welcome relief. Godzilla is immense and in any of his forms, it’s great to see him. I know the usual complaint is that there is never as much Godzilla as one would want in his movies (usually by design), but in this one, there seemed to be even less. We see the beast loosely in flashbacks, and then during the one assault at the end. It’s a bit of a letdown, really. Where Planet of the Monsters shines is, frustratingly, in its final five minutes which promises us something very interesting for the films moving forward.
I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with their (by far) biggest Godzilla yet in the next films. He’s had 20,000 years to grow, evolve and get scary. Now that the scene is set, the characters are trapped on Earth and Godzilla is back – things can (or should) only get better from here. This definitely feels like the first in a trilogy so some of its flaws are forgivable, it’s just that others have set pieces on the board with a lot more skill and panache than was done here. For its first dive into anime, I think more could have been done, and it would have been incredible to see it all hand-drawn (the CG is fine, but kind of dull). It’s probably worth a watch, but that’ll largely be down to how the rest of the series goes.
Verdict: By far not the worst Godzilla film, Planet of the Monsters still feels a little like a wasted premise.
Overall entertainment: 6/10
Violence: 5/10 for some solid kaiju action
Sex: Godzilla’s been reproducing it seems. Who’s he getting it on with?
Godzilla screentime: Less than ever before!
MechaGodzilla: Absolute tease
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)
Also known as: GODZILLA 怪獣惑星 (Gojira: Kaijū Wakusei)
Directors: Kobun Shizuno, Hiroyuki Seshita
Writer: Gen Urobuchi
Mamoru Miyano – Haruo
Takahiro Sakurai – Metphies
Tomokazu Sugita – Martin Lazzari
Junichi Suwabe – Mulu Elu Galu Gu
Kenta Miyake – Rilu-Elu Belu-be
Kana Hanazawa – Yuko Tani
Yuki Kaji – Adam Bindewald
Daisuke Ono – Eliott Leland
Aya Suzaki – Haruo (young)
Kenyu Horiuchi – Unberto Mori
Kazuya Nakai – Halu-Elu Dolu-do
Kazuhiro Yamaji – Endurphe