Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first in a planned trilogy of animated movies starring none other than the King of Monsters himself, Godzilla, as the title might give away, but it’s a different kind of Godzilla movie than most of the fare currently out there.
Godzilla has seen an big screen revival of late, with Shin Godzilla reigniting Godzilla fever in Japan, but it’s the 2014 Hollywood reboot version of the kaiju that takes the starring role in this story. Notably, it’s probably the first post-post-apocalyptic Godzilla movie to make it to screen, featuring a world where humanity has fled the Earth in the wake of the emergence of Godzilla and other monsters, forced to roam the cosmos for a new homeworld alongside two alien races, the Exif and the Bilasaludo, who had initially reached out to help Earth upon the emergence of Godzilla.
20 years later, humanity has run out of options. Running low on supplies and unsuccessful in their quest to find a new homeworld, we follow Captain Haruo Sakaki as he tries to stop a group of senior and disabled citizens, including his grandfather, from sacrificing themselves to lessen the strain on essential supplies. The impossibility of finding a habitable planet looming over their heads, a group of young leaders convince the elders that there is only one choice left – to return to Earth, where thousands of years have passed as humanity traveled hyperspace, and retake it, if need be.
This is a setup we’ve seen before in previous sci-fi outings, just with Godzilla included this time. The plot points follow the beats you’d expect, with even the alien races being largely stand-ins for the military-industrial complex and the religious institutions and being external to the general conversation at best. I found my attention sliding away from Haruo and his struggles – the whole cast in general suffered from generally forgettable status, except for a wonderful last stand from one of the leads, but I’ll let you watch it for yourself.
The story picks up when a sizable company departs to Earth to determine whether or not it’s safe for the motherships to land. They find that not just several thousand years have passed since they left, but it has been 20,000 years, and the Earth is a far different place. A thick fog perpetually hangs, and the local wildlife seems to have reverted back to the age of the dinosaurs, even if we only get to see pterodactyl-like creatures and some velociraptor ones in this outing. More importantly, however, Godzilla is alive, and he is still king.
Humanity struggles to kill the monster and perhaps then move on to reclaiming the Earth bit by bit, but the initial 600-person force is largely decimated in a climatic battle against Godzilla to confirm the theory that an organ in the monster generates an electromagnetic barrier – which ends up being in his dorsal fin.
After a war of attrition, and a risky gambit with the company’s transport ships, humanity prevails, slaying Godzilla – only to reveal that the massive kaiju was merely an offspring of a 20,000 year old megalith, a mountain-sized Godzilla, quickly sending humanity into retreat back into space, demanding the sacrifice of Captain Haruo.
Largely forgettable and as stereotypical as sci-fi characters come, Captain Haruo and his associates are largely forgettable and merely serve as vehicles to plod the plot forward. Admittedly, a Godzilla movie without humans is kind of pointless as the King of Monsters mostly exists as a metaphor for a) our hubris in creating weapons of mass destruction, or b) the wrath of Mother Earth against mankind, but while Hollywood has largely erred on the end of overly dramatising their human characters to the point of dis-servicing the monster, having a discernible latch-on point to the story through human characters is not only necessary but vital.
As the first of a trilogy, I can forgive the lack of innovation in the story and characters in Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. The end of this installation with the mountainous King Godzilla is enough to intrigue me for a sequel, and it will be glorious seeing humanity attempt to reclaim the Earth. Plus, at the media junket for Netflix’ 2017 anime slate, Polygon Pictures’ Hiroyuki Seshita hinted at other monsters being present on Earth – so… King Ghidorah, maybe? The animation cannot be praised enough, and the sight of King Godzilla is indeed something to behold. If you’re a Godzilla fan, I’d recommend this on the idea that the sequels could promise something good.