Director – Hiroyuki Seshita, Kôbun Shizuno
Cast – Chris Niosi, Danny Boston, Lucien Dodge, Kana Hanazawa, Ken’yû Horiuchi, Robbie Daymond, Yûki Kaji, Mamoru Miyano, Kazuya Nakai, Daisuke Ono
Release Year – 2018
Reviewed by John of the Dead
We finally have it folks. I had been waiting quite some time for an animated Godzilla movie. Up until now, the only animated adaptations were for television. Well, thanks to Toho Animation and Netflix we have it available here in the US. This 90 minute entry is the first installment to a planned trilogy, and this is both good and bad. I see negatives in this because it suffers from not being able to show much given the latter films would be screwed. What makes this a good thing is it leaves us on such a high note that I cannot wait for what the creators have in store for us.
Set well into the future, the human race found itself purged when giant monsters known as “kaijus” began surfacing around the world. These monsters were defeated, but not by the humans. These creatures were defeated by the king of all monsters, Godzilla. Forced to retreat with the assistance of two human-esque alien races, what’s left of mankind now lives aboard the Tau Ceti E – a large ship just under 12 light years away. For twenty years the remaining 600 members of the human race have lived aboard this ship. With supplies dwindling and morale at an all-time low, the decision is made to return to Earth for a recon mission in hopes that Godzilla has returned to his slumber. While the recon soldiers find themselves pitted against horrors they never expected, they once again come face to face with the creature that forced them from their world. With the odds pitted against them, they hope to achieve what the world’s militaries failed to do – stop the beast. To do this, they will need the mind, ingenuity, and will of a man who spent the last 20 years planning his revenge against the beast that killed his parents.
The story follows Captain Haruo Sakaki, who is the man seeking vengeance against Godzilla. During the opening sequence we are treated to a short history lesson on what happened to his parents, and I must say that it is a bummer. It isn’t a bummer because it is sad. No, it is a bummer because this tactic is so poorly executed. It does nothing to make you feel for the character. You can put yourself in his shoes and imagine losing your parents in such a fashion, but the experience itself does not envelop you in it. After this the story doesn’t get much better. There are some silly plot holes that are too hard to ignore, including a warp jump that should leave you scratching your head. I am used to turning off my brain for these films, but that’s the thing – I turned it off and it still caught on to how dumb some of these scenes are. The biggest travesty, however, is the lack of character depth. While we know our lead is out for revenge over the death of his parents, we know nothing of his relationship with them. We simply aren’t shown any of this. Instead, the writers left us with a weak lead and even weaker supporting characters who are just taking up space. There are some positives to the story though. It gives us detail into how Godzilla works chemically, and also (eventually) shows us how this will expose his weakness.
We don’t see our first creature action / horror until 43 minutes into the experience. I was happy to see that I had not even noticed that half of the film had passed me by when the horror finally hit. Despite some dumb elements to the story I was still hooked on it. Godzilla shows up soon after and from then on out it’s a grueling slug-fest between mankind’s last onslaught and the king of all monsters. I mentioned earlier that the film leaves us on a high note, and that is thanks to a tremendous twist that I suspected but did not think would be so grande. Let’s just say that there are some “big” things in store for the series.
The direction comes from Hiroyuki Seshita and Kobun Shizuno, both of whom are known for their work on the Knights of Sidonia series. Their direction is mostly positive. I do feel that there was a lack of emotion during key moments, but that can probably be chalked up to the writing. I must admit that I viewed this film in English, and I was not a fan of the dialogue. Now, I cannot say if this is due to bad writing or if it is just a translation issue, so I did not factor that into the film’s rating. Aside from this I dug the look of the film. The atmosphere is great and the return to Earth was eerily similar to the scenes in Alien: Covenant where they find the hospitable planet. Despite enjoying the look of the film I was not big on the art direction. To me the art was choppy and lacked detail. This is especially the case with Godzilla and the close ups of his face. As for Godzilla, we are treated to a girthy kaiju much in the vein of the 2014 American Godzilla. In fact, he looks identical. However, his mannerisms are that of Shin Godzilla – the 2017 Japanese version. This mashup is fine and to me it works, however I just wish I was a bigger fan of the art.
Overall, Godzilla: Monster Planet (Part 1) is an OK experience overall. There are some major faults I have with this piece, but it still managed to suck me in and give me the Godzilla action I craved. I predict this will be the weakest installment of the series, especially with the climax showing us how much more the creators have in store for us.