Mamoru MiyanoHaruki IshiyaAri OzawaGodzilla
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
Also known as: Godzilla: Kaijuu Wakusei
Medium: film
Year: 2017
Director: Hiroyuki Seshita, Kobun Shizuno
Writer: Gen Urobuchi, Sadayuki Murai
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Keywords: anime, SF, giant rampaging monster
Series: << Godzilla
Actor: Kana Hanazawa, Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Ono, Junichi Suwabe, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Kazuya Nakai, Kenta Miyake, Kenyuu Horiuchi, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuuki Kaji, Ari Ozawa, Aya Suzaki, Daiki Hamano, Haruka Watanabe, Haruki Ishiya, Junichi Yanagita, Kanehira Yamamoto, Masayoshi Sugawara, Masumi Taira, Michiko Kaiden, Nana Hamasaki, Naoko Komatsu, Riki Kagami, Shigeyuki Susaki, Shinya Takahashi, Takaaki Uchino, Tomisaburou Horikoshi
Format: 88 minutes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=19389
Website category: Anime 2017
Review date: 29 March 2018
It's the perfect combination of writer and material. (Caution: personal opinions coming.)
WRITER: Gen Urobuchi, aka. the Urobutcher. Liable to be cold and dreary, not primarily interested in character, best known for bleakness, killing and darkness. Any idealist in his stories will probably end up broken, dead, insane or despairing and suicidal. (In fairness, though, his work is very thoughtful and he's written genre-changing deconstructions like Puella Magi Madoka Magica.)
MATERIAL: Godzilla, the franchise that's not very interested in humans. Giant monster smashes stuff up. Humans act interchangeably and do Godzilla Movie things. Repeat for approximately ninety minutes at a time, over sixty years so far.
Personally I'm not a fan of either of those, but there are lots of people who are. I didn't like this film. However I didn't like it for the usual Godzilla reasons and I have to admit that it's putting a new twist on familiar Godzilla stuff. Some of these ideas aren't as new as they look (e.g. IDW Godzilla comics), but they're new in the official Toho films and they're even quite cool.
This is an anime Godzilla, by the way, courtesy of Netflix and CGI studio Polygon Pictures. Those two have a history (e.g. Knights of Sidonia, Ajin: Demi-Human). The CGI animation looks fine, if you were wondering, and I can't imagine anyone being bothered by it. This is also the first anime Godzilla, unless you count the animated segments in a 1993 Japanese children's TV series called Godzilland. Anyway, it's time to summarise the plot!
It's the future and we're all on a spaceship. Mankind fought Godzilla, lost and ran away. We've been flying around at near light-speed for 22 years, so goodness knows how long it's been for the rest of the universe. The ship's captain, one Haruo Sakaki, believes that we were wrong to flee and that we should have kept fighting! (Sounds like a recipe for self-inflicted genocide to me. Flashbacks show that even nuclear attacks didn't hurt Godzilla.) Haruo also has some cynical things to say about the people in charge of this ship and it does seem true that things got pretty bad over all these years in a tin box with an increasingly elderly population and limited resources. You may or may not choose to see a metaphor for Japan in there. One thing I genuinely like about Urobichi is that he's political.
Anyway, we're on that ship. Themes: lots of dark, interesting nastiness. Plot: humourless men talk a lot. Result: they decide to go to SPOILER.
Welcome to the Planet of the Monsters. I'll let you guess the name of the giant radioactive lizard we expect to meet there.
As a Godzilla film, the SF setting is pretty nifty. Laser cannons and spaceships vs. Godzilla is a new kind of battle, even if there's no longer a Tokyo for him to crush underfoot. (The latter is a significant strike against this film, for me. If Godzilla can't even trash any populated urban areas, what's the poor guy to do?) There's a Godzilla mega-battle, as was of course inevitable... but personally I'm afraid I didn't really care. I was in a semi-doze. I was clock-watching and waiting for the end.
Similarly, I can appreciate that Urobuchi's doing some moderately innovative things with these characters. They're still recognisable types in a Godzilla film, obviously, but they're in an Urobuchi universe and there's a layer of cynicism that makes these people capable of being significantly more selfish and stupid than normal. The character dichotomy in this film isn't good vs. bad, but instead a reckless, suicidally obsessed twisting of Japanese cultural norms about dignity and honour vs. the worst kind of cautious, mean-spirited people in power. That said, though, it would be hard to call any of them are likeable or memorable. Only two of them are dramatically active and the important one of those is determined to restore his people's pride by (deep breath) going toe to toe with Godzilla. We're supporting him because he's the protagonist and he's got plot inevitability on his side, this being a Godzilla film. However he's still a humourless monomaniac.
Oh, and the film's only female character gets almost no dialogue and is one-dimensional.
There's lots of cool stuff here. All the worldbuilding and cynical future history is worth thinking about. There are also two alien races alongside the humans on that spaceship, for instance, and one of those is religious. "All shall be according to God's will." This will be the first in a trilogy, by the way, with the second being due in May 2018 and expected to include Mechagodzilla. If you like Godzilla films, you might well like this. I'm the wrong person to be reviewing this film, really.