Sunday, January 21, 2018

'Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters' Is an Innovative Spin on Godzilla

The 32nd film (and the 30th non-Hollywood production) of the Godzilla franchise is also its very first animated feature.  Titled Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, it is the first installment of an anime trilogy that reimagines the mythology.

In this fresh take, kaiju – humongous, devastating monsters – start appearing and ravaging the world at the close of the 20th century.  The most powerful and terrible of them all is Godzilla, which is seemingly invincible and annihilates everything on its path, human and monster alike.  As this is going on, two alien species, the Exif and the Bilusalado, arrive hoping to assimilate with humans.  But even they and their superior technology are unable to defeat Godzilla.  To avoid extinction, both humans and aliens are forced to abandon Earth and turn to the stars, hoping to find a new home.
Two decades later, the emigration ship has failed to find a habitable planet.  Resources are almost depleted and the sense of desperation is rampant.  Hence, there’s no choice left but to return to Earth.  To their surprise, though 20 years have passed for them, 20,000 years have passed on Earth, and its biosphere has undergone tremendous change.  However, there’s still one thing that remains the same – Godzilla reigns over the planet.

Enter Captain Haruo Sakaki, who has formulated a plan that may finally kill Godzilla and let humanity reclaim their planet.
Seriously, Godzilla leveling cities is already a cliché at this point.  It could easily become tiresome if done for the nth time, regardless of the fact that it’s an anime this time around.  Thus, the futuristic science fiction spin of this film is much appreciated.  It begets an original Godzilla story, and delivers an entirely different dynamic from what has been previously seen.

The plot is straightforward.  However, despite the undemanding 88-minute runtime, I thought that its pace is dragging sometimes.  It would have been acceptable if this at least came from focusing more on characterizations (outside of the main character, who is a bit one-dimensional himself, the others are more of plot devices than actual characters) or showing more monsters (there are Easter eggs of famous non-Godzilla kaiju at the start, and a few flying creatures, but for a film subtitled “Planet of the Monsters”, it doesn’t have the weight of a planetful of monsters), but it didn’t.  The “extra moments” are more of exposition-heavy scenes that could have been shortened.  Sometimes, it looks like, rather than organically unfolding a world or story, it’s just stretching itself for three parts.  That said, when it does picks up, the narrative gets extremely visceral and exciting.  In addition, the last plot twist is kinda brilliant.
As for the animation, it’s splendid.  Its CGI style is the same as that of Blame!, which means both are produced by the same animation studio (I haven’t verified this yet, but I think there’s no need.  It’s rather obvious).  And since I was pleased by the visual style of Blame!, it was easy for me to like how this movie looked, too.

In the end, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is not quite epic, but with the innovative premise alone, it’s at least a pretty good start for a trilogy-in-the-making.

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