Since his inception in 1954, Godzilla has held the title of “King of the Monsters”. However, the title seems to have gone away after recent adaptions of the famed kaiju. As human characters and their own storylines have repeatedly turned the king into a cameo. Forcing him to take a backseat in movies bearing his name.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is no different. The first installment in Toho Animation’s anime trilogy shows the titled character twice in its 88-minute runtime. Once in the beginning of a flashback sequence and then once again 53-minutes later which start of the movie’s third act. In-between those appearances the movie’s story and the focus turns to a large group of humans who were forced to leave Earth after numerous monsters invaded it.
Including Haruo Sasaki. The main protagonist who is highly unlikeable and one-dimensional from the start and has only one thing on his mind which is revenge. As he witnessed his parents being murdered by Godzilla when he was a child. What makes him unlikeable is a big issue that affects the whole movie, which is its dialogue repeatedly contradicts itself and doesn’t follow the rules it establishes.
Haruo’s first scene is him giving this grand speech about protecting the elderly after a group of them were sent to what he deems is a “Unhabitable planet”. So how does this “protagonist” attempt to reverse the council’s decision and have the group of elders returned? By threatening to blow up the ship he’s in which is inside of the vessel that’s carrying both he and all of the other survivors. So I’m supposed to root for a guy whose introduction includes the threatening of the lives of Earth’s only survivors that include women and children?
I think I’ll pass. Things get even more contradictory with the humans’ decision to return to Earth after years of being unable to find a new planet to inhabit. After it’s revealed that Godzilla is not only still alive but also emits radiation wherever he goes, the humans still decide to go to Earth to fight him and reclaim their home him. Which makes no sense.
If the Earth has been transformed by this creature into a global Chernobyl, why go back at all? A positive note about this whole ordeal though is the movie does do a decent job of showing that life in space can be Hell though it only lasts for about one scene of exposition. This is not a space movie set in discovery, it’s set in psychology. Its opening shows how being forced to leave Earth, and living with limited resources affects the human psyche.
If the movie focused on that just a little bit more and used it to develop its human characters, and show how each one of them deals with and views the situation then it would have made me care about them. Instead, the characters are one-dimensional, flatly speak uninteresting dialogue (in terms of the English dubbed version), and are never developed or are given depth outside of their introduction or rank. Causing their deaths while facing Godzilla, to have the emotional impact of redshirts dying on Star Trek. Which is really bad for a movie that is entirely focused on the human element.
Also for an anime about Earth being inhabited by monsters, this is the No Man’s Sky of anime. None of the monsters from the beginning flashback are ever shown again or are discussed. In fact, the only kaiju who have more than five seconds of screen time are Godzilla and a swarm of charcoal looking dragons in the third act. That’s it.
No Mothra, no King Ghidorah, no Rodan. Although Toho Animation did announce that Mecha Godzilla will be in the sequel that’s due to be released in May. The animation style was unique and did offer a nice touch, but when it came to Godzilla and the dragons they all looked the same and both they and their settings were colored in a way where none of their features looked distinct.
Also, Godzilla’s eyes were too human and were often never shown outside of his use of atomic breath. Causing him to look like a giant, dark, statue-like husk of a monster. I really wished this version would have gone the route of Kong: Skull Island. Have the human element in there but don’t make them the driving force of the movie.
Instead, frame the story around Godzilla’s nickname. The movie points out in the beginning that he was the last monster to arrive before the humans left. So why not frame his arrival on Earth like the Royal Rumble? Make him a guardian instead of an antagonist as it would also create a bond between him and the humans, giving the humans a sense of worth, and not just making them spectators, but more so guides.
But as the head-scratching ending and predictable twist show that likely won’t happen. This was a project I really wanted to be good, but once again the humans are the problem and are too much of the focus. Causing the story to be about them and not about how the title character both came to be, lives, and reigns. Which also causes me to become disinterested in the upcoming sequels and not hopeful in their direction of storytelling and character development.