Godzilla planet of the monsters

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters – Humanity Left Orphaned

Godzilla planet of the monsters
Godzilla looking upset

Note: This is my first foray into anime. Forgive me if I have blasphemed while I review Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. 

Tomatometer: N/A Audience Score: 49% IMDb: 6.0 

Perfect Audience:

  • Anime lovers
  • People with a monster fetish

Perfect Occasion:

  • When you think there’s no room left for a different Godzilla take and Netflix proves you wrong

It’s somewhat opportune to look at Netflix’s trilogy on Godzilla with considerable excitement and buzz building around the 2019 film starring Millie Bobby Brown, ­Godzilla: King of the Monsters. While the recently released trailer for next year’s movie romanticized a planet accommodating these gigantic creatures, Netflix’s Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters takes a more doomsday-heavy approach, similar to the 2014 film and almost all previous iterations of the reptile’s/amphibian’s/dinosaur’s appearances. In fact, this take by Netflix and Toho puts more than an interesting spin to the story of Godzilla.

While it plays out with the usual hallmarks of anime production, stylistically in both visual and auditory terms, the plot itself is groundbreaking. What if humans had to abandon earth because of Godzilla? What if humanity was orphaned by monsters taking over our planet? That’s what this trilogy contends with, and it does so by introducing an extraterrestrial landscape to the background.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Trailer. The Trailer is in Japanese but Netflix hosts an English-language version of the film.

Plot

Two alien species come to earth when humanity is in its most crucial struggle. The Exif, elven in their demeanor, wish to convert humans to their religion. The Bilusaludo, more industrious and dwarven-like, despite being taller and more commandeering than humans or the Exif, wish to cohabit earth and promise to defeat Godzilla. How do they plan to do it? By using their technology to create an equally destructive force, Mechagodzilla. Unfortunately, these new visitors fail miserably in their endeavors against the might of Godzilla. The remaining Humans, Exif, and Bilusaludo are forced to wander about in space for thousands of years. 

That is until a young human, Captain Haruo Sakaki, a rebel with a cause, creates significant disruption aboard the Aratrum, the spaceship they’re on board, to force the leaders’ hands into revisiting Earth and reclaiming the planet from Godzilla.

Themes and Templates

What’s highly impressive about Planet is its ability to evoke a feeling of unease. Granted, the feeling isn’t as powerful or potent as it could be in a live action movie, but its effective to a certain degree. Planet comes off as a space exploration movie similar to Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. It’s not as grandiose as those films, but we’re looking at a world from an outsider’s perspective. In this case, the irony is that the world we’re looking at is Earth, a place once home to humans.

With Earth turned into a radioactive mess, it’s the Humans, Exif, and Bilusaludo wearing exo suits as they navigate the alien terrain, trying to figure out the most plausible avenue to kill Godzilla. Thousands of years later, the planet has regressed to the time of the dinosaurs. Winged creatures roam the skies. Plant-like organisms that are as sharp as razors. The very air around us capable of poisoning us to death. Turning humanity’s home to an alien death trap seized by a gargantuan monster plays out brilliantly. It’s a home invasion of epic proportions, and watching the three species try and kick out the perpetrator, in this case a giant monster, is highly satisfying.

As is common among anime content, Planet grapples with serious themes and ideas, best encapsulated through the three races of Humans, Exif, and Bilusaludo. Each seems to have a different motive for re-entering Earth. Since those last two species had their plans foiled the first time around, the seeds are planted throughout the film to have us question their intentions this time as well. Are they looking to coexist peacefully once Godzilla is taken care of? There are political and ideological machinations underway. Each species has a different understanding and approach to life which they deem is better than that of the other races. Are these fundamental differences leading to a conflict of its own, or is the common threat of Godzilla significant enough to shelf those divergences? It’s always a welcome change to have a work of animation ponder on these high-brow intellectual conversations (Disney, pay attention). 

Cinematography

Like most pieces of animation, it feels necessary to focus on the cinematography and visual style before diving into other aspects of the movie. Using traditional anime techniques like exaggerated physical features and limited two-dimensional drawings, Planet of the Monsters stays true to the Japanese craft by and large. Characters sport the usual emo-punk hairstyles and narrow facial structures. Wearing futuristic exo-suits and garb surrounded by technology systems generations ahead, the creative team takes us well into the future to create a reality we’re not accustomed to. 

The color palette switches between cool and dark tones for the planet and the various technologies before moving to warmer and saturated shades when the carnage is about to follow. The exception to the latter happens to be a certain monster’s radioactive weapons. With the first choice, going with the more neutral and bluer colors amplifies the sense of mystery and unknown on Earth. It’s not what we’re used to seeing, with free-flowing streams and rivers, verdant areas of foliage, and sunlight polishing everything in sight. By robbing the screen of vibrant mixes of colors, we immediately understand that Earth is no longer the home we knew. When we switch to the yellow, orange, and red, there’s a deep-rooted semblance to carnage and destruction. Bullets and missiles rain down while clouds of smoke and fire occupy the background in abundance. The palette switches are meant to rob us of any comfort we have looking at Earth, and it’s a job well done at that. 

Action Sequences

An off-shoot of the cinematography is the action sequences. While doing some minor digging into anime styles, I learned of the use of limited animation. To quote the article:

This animation technique involves using pieces from each scene that are the same in the next scene. This process allows the animator to draw only the new elements in the scene, rather than drawing an entirely new scene each time one is needed.

Show Me The Animation 

In addition to this, the creators use static pieces of animation, so that some elements on screen remain still while others move. When you have these dynamic and static elements on screen, while the camera stays still and sometimes pans, it enables the animators to create depth within the picture. This depth is vital in standard dialogue scenes, but more so in action sequences to highlight different layers of activity and pace.  

Anime manages to showcase speed and movement amazingly well. The above techniques are the primary reasons. Scenes, where the Humans are riding Stormtrooper-like speeders, showcase this best. You have the speeders racing across the somewhat static landscape and sky, mixed in with some hyper-focused and swift camera movements that make the scenes unfold at lightning speed. The choreography was superb, to put in concisely. If you’re a fan of tightly drawn and choreographed fight sequences, Planet offers plenty to relish. 

Exposition

Planet, like most works of anime deals with mature themes and content. Themes dealing with environmental and socio-political ideas. Since Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, this particular entry doesn’t skimp on the big talk.

The issue, however, is that the storytellers opted to “tell” us rather than “show” us. An initial montage lays out the events leading up to Humans abandoning Earth. While that piece of information was necessary, some other details may be too much at times.

I’m mostly referring to the story’s strategizing, which is meticulous to a fault.  Electromagnetic waves. Atmospheric pressure. Geomagnetic storms. Carbon dating. Radiation levels. Radiation scatters. Omission data. Emission data. It all goes to another level when the group plans out the Godzilla attack. It’s useful information, but at times it comes out as a word salad. Character motivations, actions, and events are reiterated and explained by words. We are told, rather than shown.

It doesn’t give the audience much to interpret or process on their own. Everything is understood because everything is explained. This even comes about with one of the lead Exifs, Metphies. He frequently imparts quotes you might find on an internet meme with a background of an ocean or waterfall, warning of humanity’s worst habits and instincts. While Mepthies provides the most nuanced and subtle conversations than any other character, we again know what he’s talking about in explicit terms. Nothing is ambiguous or open to interpretation. 

Conclusion

Barring that one last hiccup when it comes to the dialogue, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a well-concerted effort, utilizing anime to push the tale of the monster in an unconventional and refreshing new direction. Godzilla orphaned humanity. Can humanity reclaim its rightful home on the planet? That’s the question presented by Netflix’s and Toho’s new trilogy, and it’s playing out to be a fun ride this year on the verge of Legendary’s King of the Monsters in 2019.

It’s hype time.

Sankha started Not So Rotten because his friends didn’t like Mortdecai. He has yet to review the film for the website.

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