Godzilla vs. the Most Punchable Face in the Universe

300px-GODZILLA_Planet_of_the_Monsters_new_posterSince I’ve started MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD in 2014, something wonderful has happened: a new kaiju/giant monster boom in mainstream moviedom on both sides of the Pacific.  Maybe “boom” is too strong a word considering that superheroes still maintain their box office dominance, but since I’ve started the blog, mon-stars have come back in a (heh) big way.  There have now been three new Godzilla movies (the reviews for the other two are here and here), a new Kong flick, Ultraman is slamming out top-notch series, Pacific Rim did well enough to spawn an upcoming sequel, and we’re even getting “me-too” movies like Power RangersColossal and Rampage.  Maybe it’s not a full-on monster boom, but it’s certainly a hearty, bassy rumble.  (One that will include Gamera sometime soonish? Please!?!)

With all this monster money and kaiju kash pouring in it was a pleasant non-surprise when Toho announced they had more Godzilla films planned after Shin Godzilla.  What was a surprise is that said films are a trilogy of anime movies set 20,000 years in the future, starring a 1000 ft. tall, plant-based Godzilla & released straight to Netflix.  The first installment, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters hit Netflix this month, so practice your best perma-scowl, hop into a robot suit, and get angsty as fuck, because we’re gonna watch some cartoons!

Godzilla starring in full-length animated feature films is exciting new territory, but this is definitely not the first time we’ve seen a toon’d up King of the Monsters!  That honor (weirdly enough) belongs to the absurd, ahead of its time, absolutely un-authorized Bambi Meets Godzilla. This little masterpiece came out in 1969, and I’m not joking when I say “little”, the total running time clocks in at a crisp 90 seconds:

As far as Toho-sanctioned productions go, the earliest one I know of is the 1978 TV series produced by Hanna-Barbera.  It’s got all the clunky-but-charming elements of a classic H-B cartoon: formulaic plots, a kid-appeal goofball sidekick character, and stiff animation. The intro is iconic and Godzooky is an endlessly reference-able boondoggle (not to mention a shit-ton more charming than say, Scrappy-Doo):

And yes, this is the one where Godzilla shoots lasers out of his eyes.  He also breathes regular-ass (non-atomic) fire, and his roar just sounds like a dude going “RAAAWWR.”  Godzilla also spends most of his time at sea not smashing buildings, and it turns out most of that weirdness was thrust onto Hanna-Barbera by overzealous folks at Broadcast Standards and Practices.  Even if it’s all a little wonky, I had a blast watching this show as a kid in the early 90s: Cartoon Network had just launched and relied almost exclusively on weird old relics like this to fill out their schedule. This is also why I know (and love? Sure, love) THE MOTHERFUCKING HERCULOIDS

But don’t worry, Godzilla got animated in his homeland too! This iteration is even kid-friendlier than the Hanna-Barbera one!

That’s the intro to Godzilland, a series of four edutainment videos that came out in 1994 and 1996 to teach kids language and math skills. Other than being insanely cute and obscure as hell, Godzilland is notable for introducing a little girl Godzilla named Gojirin:

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She has heart-shaped spines! ❤️❤️❤️

The cute-ified kaiju of Godzilland actually predate the educational videos, appearing on promotional tie-ins and merchandise galore for all the Heisei-era Godzilla movies, starting with The Return of Godzilla (released Stateside as Godzilla 1985).  The videos are pretty easy to find and watch online, and if you’re curious about Godzilland’s (surprisingly sprawling) full history, be sure to check out Godzilland Museum.

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Godzilland also features an adorable, non-antagonistic pink girl version of Hedorah!

For fans looking for Godzillanimation with a little more bite, there’s Godzilla: The Series. GTS ran from 1998 to 2000, picking up right where Godzilla ’98 left off. That’s not the most promising starting point for a Godzilla show, but GTS has a dedicated cult following… because this take on the monster actually, you know, breathes atomic fire and fights other monsters.

What a crazy fucking concept!

There was also a Crayon Shin Chan/Shin Godzilla crossover:

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think that’s all the officially-licensed animated stuff? Well, officially-licensed plus the Bambi short, that is.  Shit tons of cartoons have referenced or parodied Godzilla over the years, but cataloging every unofficial occurrence would practically be a full-time job.  The Simpsons alone has at least a dozen Godzilla jokes, cameos, and references:

The point is that Godzilla’s had a long, varied, and strange life in animation, and a large sect of fans have been clamoring for a Godzilla anime film for years.  Full disclosure: I am not one of those fans.  I don’t “get” anime.

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When I look at this I just want that fist to pull a U-turn and knock his (CGI?!?!?!?!?!) teeth out of his grotesquely mis-proportioned face.

At the risk of sounding like a parody hash tag, no, not all anime.  I love Hayao Miyazaki’s movies (especially Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away), I enjoy and respect Akira and Ghost in the Shell, I’ve seen a little bit of Cowboy Bebop and thought it was fine…. and that’s about it.  But like, Dragon Ball Z?  No thanks.  Naruto?  Narut-no.  Shit, I couldn’t get past the first episode of Attack on Titan, and it’s The Walking Dead but with kaiju instead of zombies.  That’s like they tried to tailor an anime to me specifically.

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I liked the live action movie just fine! Psyched to eventually watch the second one and review ’em both!

This is especially weird because I love animation.  Raunchy adult ‘toons, earnest family friendly fare, artsy experimental weirdness, I’m down for all of it.  So why do I dog on mainstream anime?  Because mainstream anime characters:

  1. don’t behave, talk, or move like human beings and
  2. the character designs land on some incredibly specific point in the uncanny valley that my brain finds revolting.

Again, not all anime.  I fucking treasure those Miyazaki movies (and a bunch of Studio Ghibli’s movies he wasn’t involved with like Pom Poko).  But the mainstream stuff that people gobble up?  It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.  Also super important to note: this is not me condemning anime or trying to tell anyone they shouldn’t enjoy it.  I’m just being honest and up front about my weird visceral, involuntary reaction to anime and how it colors my perspective on Planet of the Monsters.

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Green.  It colors my perspective this lovely shade of green.

All that said, I went in to Planet of the Monsters with an open mind and neutral expectations, so let’s finally talk about this fuckin’ movie, man! Lemme give you that trailer hook-up:

It’s so clear and concise that you don’t need to speak a word of Japanese to fully understand it.  We get a nice sampler platter of the movie’s visuals, which are vividly colored, action-packed, and avoid 95% of the usual anime design quirks that make my eyeballs want to hang themselves.  With only a few exceptions, I really liked the look of PotM! The score for the movie is really solid too!

That’s the main theme, fittingly titled “GODZILLA.”  It runs through PotM’s whole emotional arc: spooky mood music accompanied by ominous vocals, then dramatic string-driven action music (punctuated by the eerie vocals) that eventually melts away into a spidery, tension-building conclusion.  In an oblique sort of way it reminds me of Godzilla 2000‘s terrific main theme.

Besides being a successful palate cleanser, G2k’s greatest achievement might be this theme. That’s not a snarky dig against the movie, it’s just a really fucking rad piece of Godzilla music.

And I swear to God I didn’t know this beforehand, but that aural resemblance is probably because both scores are by the same dudeTakayuki Hattori also composed the score for Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla and a whole bunch of anime and video games I’ve never heard of.  Well except Intelligent Qube.  I remember seeing that in video game magazines 20+ years ago.

This is the kind of bullshit my trash brain chooses to record.

Planet of the Monsters is directed by by Kōbun Shizuno & Hiroyuki Seshita and written by Gen Urobuchi.  All three have extensive experience making anime I’m not familiar with, but Urobuchi has a bit of a reputation for telling aggressively nihilistic, bleak stories.  So knowing that, it’s a little less shocking that PotM includes suicide by gunshot and a “protagonist” that threatens to suicide bomb the last remnants of humanity if they don’t do whatever he wants.

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If you like seeing a waifish, doll-like malignant narcissist scowl endlessly, you are gonna love this movie my friend!

And that actually brings us to the beginning of the film!  Planet of the Monsters opens on a long shot of the colony ship Aratrum.  It’s a big, cool, kinda ominous-looking hulk floating through space.

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The space shots in PotM are beautiful.

Things look calm from space, but inside the Aratrum alarms are blaring and soldiers are rushing into position around a shuttle.  Captain Haruo Sakaki is inside, and he’s that suicide bomb-threatening frowny bitch I mentioned earlier.  He’s threatening to kill every last member of humanity because he’s convinced that the bigwigs running the show are sending a shuttle full of senior citizens on a suicidal colonization mission just so that there will be fewer mouths to feed on the ship.  And you know what, I can see where he’s coming from here.  I think I’m projecting my later frustration with Haruo onto him in this early scene, but even when I can understand him philosophically I can’t get onboard with him erasing humanity out of principle. He’s also incredibly screamy and grating.

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I’m gonna tally up the number of screen grabs I post that feature Haruo grimacing. I know I’m gonna hit double digits, but I bet we’ll hit 20 or at least high teens.

One of the oldsters Facetimes with Haruo and explains that none of them were coerced, and none of them were tricked into this mission.  They’ve been stuck on the Aratrum for 20 miserable years and just want off, even if it means dying on some weird planet.

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See, this old man can’t stand Haruo either!

Captain Furrow-Brow relents at this revelation and gets thrown in the brig.  Hauro and the rest of the crew watch as the shuttle full of Grampas and Grandmas drifts down to the remote alien world below.

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And fucking explodes anyway!

Guess what kind of face Haruo makes in response to this.  Just guess.  I dare you.

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RARR RARR RARR! Like every “great” nu-metal singer, Haruo’s only emotions are anger and LOUD ANGER.

Not shock, not sorrow, not horror, just anger and LOUD ANGER and nothing else EVER.  I. Hate. This. Douche. We get a brief respite from him with the title card though:

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And then he narrates a big, Pacific Rim-style exposition dump. PotM’s exposition bomb isn’t as varied or engaging as PR’s. This one only consists of cable news clips of kaiju (and the aliens that followed), whereas Pacific Rim took a broader multimedia cross-section of its pre-apocalyptic world.  PotM makes up for that with some tasty kaiju kameos as the credits roll:

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Perennial b-list Godzilla monster Kamacuras trashes NYC!

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Obscure space jellyfish Dogora attacks London!

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Just like in Godzilla Final Wars, not even Sydney is safe!

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Sydney’s slayer is Dagahra, a cool-looking kaiju that played antagonist in Rebirth of Mothra II!  I think he wins this montage’s obscure-off…

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…Especially because the only other monster we see in the montage (besides Godzilla) is Orga, the villain monster from Godzilla 2000.

One of the newscasts reports that humans had managed to kill off Hedorah, but we don’t actually see him.  I’m glad for the name drop, but it would’ve been nice to see my favorite sentient loaf of acidic space-diarrhea fucking up Quebec or something.  Apparently in the prequel novel “Godzilla: Monster Apocalypse” Hedorah was a failed attempt by the Chinese government to engineer an anti-kaiju bio-weapon.  That’s pretty cool as far as alternate origins go, and it looks like the novel is even more packed with deep cut Toho easter eggs.  Plus the novel is an oral history format from different sources ala “World War Z” (the book, not the movie).  It really sounds like one of those rare instances where I would have preferred a prequel movie.

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I guess deep down I’ve just always wanted more Dagahra in my life?!

After however many monsters came out of the woodwork, Godzilla showed up and proved he was the big swingin’ kaiju dick by killing most of them himself and then turning his apocalyptic attention to us.  To add insult to injury he did all this with a big cheeky grin on his face.

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PotM’s Godzilla design is a little quirky, but overall I like it.  It’s basically 2014’s “bear-croc” design (which admittedly I adore), but with that jokester grampa face, and a bod that either looks SUPER SWOLE:

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Or like it’s a perfect orb of King K. Rool-ish beer belly:

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If only Godzilla had K. Rool’s glamorous fashion sense.

Unflattering fat-angles aside, the weirdest thing about this Godzilla is his molecular makeup.  In this movie, he’s a hyper-evolved plant beast with metal-like qualities and an electromagnetic forcefield that makes him even more durable.  Making Godzilla a dino-shaped vegetable is odd, but it jives with PotM’s themes of wild, untamed nature getting revenge on arrogant humanity.  Godzilla’s stood in for nature before, it’s just been… a lot more subtle than this in the past. The film’s original title was Godzilla: Monster Planet, which becomes a clever double entendre when paired with these themes.  The EMP forcefield stuff feels pointlessly tacked-on, but it’s a major plot point and this isn’t even the first movie to give Godzilla some kind of electromagnetic superpower.

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His surprise magnetism power is one of the absolute coolest parts of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, so I won’t shit talk PotM’s forcefield too much.

So when Godzilla kicked humanity’s ass on Earth, we weren’t the only ones watching in fear.  Two alien races dropped in, claiming to want to save us.

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The Exif are tall, elegant, elven-looking religious nuts that preach about finding a path to spiritual salvation while the brawny, stocky, swarthy, Bilusaludo promise to build us a kick-ass Mechagodzilla that’ll ward off the real deal.  Both races are cleverly based on classic Godzilla series alien invaders: the Exif are inspired by the intelligent, treacherous inhabitants of Planet X (seen in Invasion of Astro-Monster and Final Wars) and the Bilusaludo are inspired by the warlike space apes from the first two Mechagodzilla movies.   All three humanoid races failed in their attempts to stop Godzilla and were forced to evacuate Earth together.  Not to dump on the rest of the movie, but this is by far the most interesting element of the story, and it’s a premise that is barely touched on.

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We get one short, juicy scene between a high-ranking Exif and Bilusaludo, but I’m pretty sure/hoping this dynamic will get explored further in the next two installments.

So no shock here, but baby Haruo was being rushed into an evacuating shuttle when he saw Godzilla roll up and barbecue the shit out of his parents. I think we’re supposed to go “oh surely no one has ever suffered such a horrible fate, I forgive him for being an insufferable sociopath” or whatever, but obviously that didn’t work on me. He’s even more of an ugly little turd as a kid:

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Now I’m not accusing Polygon Pictures of anything, but it really looks like they just stuck adult Haruo’s head on a kid body.  The result is an incredibly punchable (and hilarious looking) 6 year old.

Now the flashback/exposition dump continues on, but I want to stop and consider a couple things.  We know there are only about 4000 survivors aboard the Aratrum, why didn’t they just resettle on a part of Earth far away from Godzilla?  Or even live on Earth as nomads?  If Godzilla was the only monster left, couldn’t they just, you know, avoid him?  Godzilla’s big, but he’s not that big.

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Like shit, even if he was ten miles wide and ten miles tall, if he was dicking around in Japan it probably wouldn’t bother you much in Greenland.

If just moving to a different country or living on the move was impossible, why not just orbit the Earth?  Could Godzilla perceive and shoot down satellites?  That would have been an awesome scene, show us that shit! Failing that, why not set up a base on the Moon and make periodic supply runs back to Earth?  They even suggest this perfectly reasonable plan later in the movie, but Haruo shoots it down because he wants to be mister tough-guy action man.  That’s the only reason we’re given.  Haruo’s gambling with the last, tenuous thread of humanity so he can shoot a monster and prove how macho he is.

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What a hero.

Anyway, Haruo’s interminable narration continues.  He describes the bleak conditions aboard the Aratrum, but it doesn’t have the emotional punch that it needs. In English or Japanese he just sounds like an angsty teen complaining about how his parents are fascists for eating at McDonald’s and watching The Voice.  Food and water are brutally scarce, illness spreads throughout the ship, and suicides are common–these are serious problems to be sure, but I think I needed to hear about them from somebody besides Haruo.

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And then there’s a flashback to a scene that happened less than ten minutes ago. The first act of this movie is rough.

An Exif named Metphies visits Haruo in the brig for “confession.” Really he’s there to covertly slip him some classified files on Godzilla! With this last piece of intel Haruo insists that humanity “gave up and ran away,” that he could kill Godzilla, and also his girlfriend in Canada is a supermodel.

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Of course that last one is a joke that I added. If he said anything like that in the movie it would have actually humanized this unlikable quasi-person.

We see the Central Committee discussing the Aratrum’s grim prospects, and it’s especially cool that they account for crew psychology and morale.  They’re burning through the last of their supplies with no viable planets in sight and must now consider attempting a return to Earth.  They’re also considering a return to Earth because of an “anonymous” anti-Godzilla strategy that has been posted on the Aratrum’s Facebook wall.

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“The cat video, I mean. The anti-Godzilla strategy has like 13 views, which is really really good for something that’s not a cat video.”

Metphies reveals to the Bilusaludo captain that he was the one to actually leak Haruo’s plan, and then we get that awesome scene were the two former alien invaders gently rib each other for their race’s failed takeover of Earth.

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Fuck Haruo, gimme more of this!

Central Committee determines that they’re out of viable options and decides to make the dangerous warp jump all the way back to Earth.  Everyone aboard the Aratrum is psyched to see our little blue planet, even though it has aged thousands of years in the 20 that humanity have spent zipping through the galaxy.  I’m sure the math and science probably aren’t accurate, but I respect the shit out of PotM for at least addressing the fact that time wouldn’t pass normally for those aboard the Aratrum.

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Not to mention that warp speed looks rad as hell in PotM.

People aboard the Aratrum gather around windows and gaze at their lost homeworld in awe and wonder.  Central Committee sends down a handful of probes to scout the planet: sending probes instead of a human landing team is another smart hard sci-fi detail.  I appreciate these little touches, but they also invite my mind to be more analytical: it leads me to question almost every decision these weirdos make. The harder your sci-fi, the tighter the writing needs to be hold up under scrutiny. PotM’s writing ain’t that tight.

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The visuals are definitely toit though.

The probes pick up lots of nice, normal readings, UNTIL THEY DON’T! They can’t get a visual due to some strange electromagnetic fog in the atmosphere, but they can tell something enormous is moving around, the ambient temperature and energy levels spike like crazy, and the audio receivers pick up a very familiar sound right before the probe gets bliggity blasted.  One hopeful nerd suggests it might have been lightning and gets shut down with one of PotM’s best lines:

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It’s an interesting, oblique sort of non-reveal that mostly works.  It’s not the triumphant, pants-crapping moment you might have wanted, but G-fresh gets a grand entrance later (two, actually!), and we’ve already seen him tearing shit up in the prologue.  This way builds up a little tension and still lets you know even after thousands of years, humanity hasn’t escaped the King of the Monsters. But this re-raises those big strategy questions from me, a guy who isn’t even particularly strategy-minded.

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WHY THE FUCK ARE THEY LANDING IN GODZILLA COUNTRY? I mean I know Hauro and Metphies have murder boners for Godzilla, but why do that right now?! Why not land in Greenland or stay in orbit or whatever, get supplies, maybe even get a colony going, and THEN go fight Godzilla? What’s the big fuckin’ rush here?

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Oh right, because mommy and daddy died.  Considering that the human population has gone from 7 billion to 4000, I’m sure he’s the only person to lose any loved ones. Totally justified.

Like what, are they gonna… lose the chance to fight Godzilla?  If he’s stuck around for 20,000 years, he’ll probably be there after you feed your people, dummies.  I would’ve accepted some pretty obvious plot devices as explanations for the mad rush to battle Godzilla.  Maybe their scans could’ve shown a clutch of ten thousand Godzilla eggs that’ll hatch in the next four days, rendering Earth functionally uninhabitable.  Maybe there’s a solar flare coming in the next 48 hours that will thaw out a bunch of full-grown Godzillas, or it’ll somehow power up the current Godzilla to the point of true invincibility/immortality.  Maybe Godzilla can sense and shoot down orbiting ships! Something, anything besides “Haruo wants to do it right now and Metphies is gonna let him” would have been a more satisfying catalyst for the action.

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But instead of urgent, understandable stakes we get technobabble about waveforms and metamaterial.

Metphies’ continual prodding of Haruo and (calm, quiet) insistence on fighting Godzilla are pretty big red flags that he (if not the Exif in general) still have sinister plans for Earth.  It’s a really cool set up for the next two movies, which I really am looking forward to despite how much I’ve bitched about Haruo and logic holes in PotM.  If it turns out that Haruo is Metphies’ perfectly manipulated puppet, I’ll happily take back a bunch of the negative things I’ve said about this movie.

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I’ll do the same if the later movies treat Haruo like the petulant, psychotic Ahab he is instead of trying to pass him off as a hero.

Haruo’s plan as I understand it (and I’ve watched PotM twice now) is:

  • Attack Godzilla up close to set off his electromagnetic shield
  • Record electro-mag shield data
  • Analyze data to find Godzilla’s shield generating organ
  • Lead Godzilla into a trap to hold him down long enough to:
  • Destroy his shield generator organ
  • Inject Godzilla with EMP… thingies before the shield generator organ repairs itself
  • Profit

It doesn’t look so convoluted spelled out here in layman’s terms, but when I was watching the movie and they’re peppering each step with technobabble it was a little trickier for me to parse out.  Haruo gets 600 people to help carry out this plan (again, out of a total of 4000), and they’re off to Earth!

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Needs more Long Tall Sally.

The away team breaks up into four different companies with different mission objectives.  Some plant traps, others scout the area, others prep heavy artillery, others set up communications relays, all that good shit.  Dr. Martin Lazzari sets out to take some scientific samples and investigate the electromagnetic fog that’s scrambling their sensors. Haruo wants to come with, but since he’s on probation (you know, on account of all the attempted terrorism) Yuko Tani is assigned as his handler.

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And holy shit, Yuko’s a woman! Other than a surprise post-credits cameo, she’s the ONLY woman in the entire movie.  More like Godzilla: Planet of the Wieners 🌎🌭

On their walkabout, our crew discovers that Earth’s plant life has gotten weird.  Leaves are hard as steel and sharp enough to slice open their space suits. Lazzari has to use a plasma torch just to cut a sample loose.

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Meanwhile Yuko confronts Haruo about the shuttle full of octogenarians blowing up. She wants to know if he still thinks Central Committee was behind it. Haruo, heartened by being back on Earth and ready to believe in humanity again, answers in the negative.  He then tries to spin it into an inspirational mini-monologue about Godzilla stealing their home and their humanity, but of course it falls flat.  It’s not as obnoxious as his usual schtick though, so I’ll fucking take it!

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“However I will continue to be super judgmental of amoebas, horses, robins, ducks, green lizards, brown lizards, and ants. They know what they did.”

They press on through the forest and find themselves on a cliff overlooking a ruined city.  Or at least what looks like a ruined city.  After a little analysis, Lazzari and his team deduce that the actual buildings have rotted away, but the vines and moss that grew up in and around the buildings have retained their general shapes.  They’re like vegetative exoskeletons, living fossils of a civilization gone by.  It’s a powerful visual and a poignant idea, so of course Haruo ruins it by making it about himself.

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“Forgotten”?!  “FORGOTTEN”?! What he fuck is he even talking about?  Oh right of course, Haruo was the only one that dreamed of returning to Earth. Everybody else totally loved starving to death in the freezing void of deep space. They loved it so much we watched them commit suicide. You know, that suicide you commit when you’re happy and fulfilled. Haruo might be the worst film protagonist I’ve ever encountered.

But we get another Haruo break in the form of a violent monster attack!  Hooray!

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A flock of large, pterodactyl-like monsters swoop in and start eating people and breaking expensive-looking stuff and just generally are lifesavers for me.  Their long skinny necks and tails, snapping jaws and rows of red eyes are all pretty awesome looking, but their wiry, busy textures make them stand out from the human characters and their surroundings in an odd way. The monsters make metallic sounds when they get sprayed with gunfire, which is another nice big fat hint towards their origin.

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That wiry texture is totally meant to evoke knotted roots/vines and twisted together steel cable and tendons.  Thematically it’s awesome, but visually it’s a little clunky.

The human forces are eventually able to fight the creatures off, but not without suffering some casualties. When the dust settles, our characters regroup and share their findings.  First they reveal that 10,000 years haven’t passed on Earth, but 20,000 years!!! DUN DUN DUUUUUNNNNNN!!!

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Seriously, when the planet is a totally mutated, overgrown wilderness devoid of intelligent life and you know it’s AT LEAST 10,000 years in the future, how could another 10,000 or even another ten million really matter? They could have said “it’s been eleventy trillion bajillion googolplex infinity years!!” and I would have had the same emotional response. A more shocking revelation would be that much LESS time has passed.  “Holy Christ only 75 years have passed, what happened?!”

The more interesting revelation is that the plant and pterodactyl samples are almost identical matches for each other and the chemical composition of Godzilla: a strange mix of vegetable and metal.  All the deadly new lifeforms on this planet can be traced back to G-money.  Not only that, but the electromagnetic fog isn’t an atmospheric effect, it’s a thick pollen smog being farted out by the murder plants that have taken over the Earth! The entire planet is basically a toxic hellhole that’s actively trying to kill everyone.

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So like if The Happening wasn’t a beloved comedic romp.

Commanding officer Colonel Elliot Leland takes in all this data and wisely opts to retreat and regroup at the orbiting mother ship.  Of course Haruo (you know, the guy still handcuffed for trying to kill everyone) has a hissy fit when he hears that and tries to beat him up.

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And that’s when Metphies strategically and suspiciously cuts in.  Demure, silver-tongued Metphies.  “Oh yes Colonel I agree, a full retreat would be wise,” he says (I’m paraphrasing), “but unfortunately those creatures damaged too much of our equipment to do so from here.  We’ll need to meet up with the other battalions, and in order to do that we’ll have to cross Godzilla’s path anyway.  And since we’ll be crossing Godzilla’s path we’ll have to defend ourselves and the other battalions from him, which was basically Haruo’s plan in the first place.  No of course I don’t have any ulterior motives, why do you ask?”

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Metphies isn’t an incredibly deep character (yet), but his manipulation and puppet-mastering make him by far the most interesting one.

Our heroes begin their trek through the woods to link up with the other battalions, and we get to see some of their cool tech in action.

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Heh, who hasn’t heard that one before, am I right??? 😉 😉 😉

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The jet bikes are legit sweet as hell.

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Godzilla makes his grand entrance and roars triumphantly–it sounds a lot cooler “in person.” G-fresh crosses the high-tech convoy’s path and Metphies waxes historical. The Exif have seen plenty of civilizations fall to creatures like Godzilla, and Metphies regards the colossal kaiju with god-fearing awe and reverence.

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“Punishing iron hammer” nets you either a groan-inducing (;)) penis joke or an overplayed “great name for a band” joke. Take your pick, it’s a Choose Your Own Bad Joke Adventure!

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Hell yeah, Muscle Grampa comes to save the movie from its own shitty protagonist!

Godzilla has a field day with the convoy, spewing beam every which way.  The ship carrying Haruo and Metphies is hit and crashes to the ground.  The big landing ships were cruising slow and low, so the crash itself isn’t fatal… but being a sitting duck in Godzilla’s line of sight is! Metphies unlocks Haruo’s restraints, and he heroically rushes to the engine room to re-route power to the shields, saving the precious lives onboard!

AHAHAHAHAHAHA, YEAH FUCKING RIGHT.  He abandons everyone as quickly as possible so he can go play cowboy on a jet bike.

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Now in all fairness to Haruo, he’s trying to goad Godzilla into setting off his EM shield so he can record it and move on to the next step of the anti-Godzilla strategy.  I don’t think that justifies leaving a bunch of people trapped in the crosshairs of a gigantic death monster, but I am relieved that there’s some kind of comprehensible motive behind Haruo’s selfishness.  This time.

Unfortunately, the pea shooter mounted on a single jet bike isn’t enough for Godzilla to turn on his shield, so Haruo’s desertion was ultimately a pointless gesture.  I won’t fully hate on Haruo for this: there’s no way he could have known.  Now if he was actually a likable character I would have felt something besides disdain here.  But instead he earns another eyeroll from me while an adult (Col. Leland) rolls in to actually get shit done, tank style.

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Tank you very much, Leland

Leland lands the shot and gets the data, but of course Godzilla doesn’t give him a chance to celebrate.  He does manage to squeeze off the other best line in the movie though!

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The line is undeniably dope as-is, but this would have been a perfect place for a single, tasteful f-bomb.  “Fuck this planet,” or “I hate this fuckin’ planet,” would have been delicious.

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Godzilla bails after nuking Leland off the face of the Earth and the survivors scrape themselves together and regroup with the other battalions.  Metphies is next in command, and he grants full control of the mission to Haruo.  On my first watch this felt corny and obvious, but now that I see the strings Metphies is pulling for his long con the choice is a lot more interesting.

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Interesting, but still a bummer for a BONCH of reasons.  Yuko fully agrees with me.

Haruo then stands alongside Metphies to deliver a speech, to say something meaningful to really rally the troops.  Is this his moment? Does Haruo finally get his shit together for a heartfelt, inspirational monologue? Is this his Independence Day speech?

AHAHAHAHAHAHA, YEAH FUCKING RIGHT.  Haruo shits the bed again, this time snarling and sniveling his way through a rant about not having a vision for the future, having no faith in his own plan or his own people, and then he basically calls everyone that’s died so far a loser:

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Yeah, Leland totally “yield[ed].” He certainly didn’t sacrifice it all like a bad-ass while heroically cleaning up after Haruo’s massive fuck-up.  I’m pretty sure Haruo is the worst protagonist I’ve ever had to deal with in a movie.  Yes I’m including schlockbusters like The RoomTroll 2, and Birdemic.

Thankfully the anti-Godzilla strategy kicks back into high gear as soon as Haruo’s shitty speech is over, giving us another break from having to look at his ugly, incredibly punchable face.  Squads of jet bikes streak through the sky, strafing Godzilla repeatedly in an attempt to corral him into the be-trapped valley. Watching these maniacs dive bomb Godzilla and then Tokyo Drift around his back is dope as hell.

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It’s some really solid fantasy action dogfighting.  Almost Death Star trench run-level good.

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They know it’s gold so they come back to it several times during this climactic battle.  It only starts to get stale on the fourth or fifth go-round, but they move on to other action setpieces at that point anyway.

Uh oh, the pterodactyls are ptero-back-tyl!

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“Hey y’all, don’tchu forget about us now!” 😉

Plus the jet bikes are running low on fuel and ammo! Finally our story has some kind of ticking clock, and Haruo responds to that by commanding the landing ships to help clear Godzilla’s path to the ambush point by flying around and dropping payloads of bombs.  Doing so will deplete their fuel reserves to the point that they can never get back to the Aratrum, which means that even if they do kill Godzilla, they’ll all still be trapped on this toxic, monster-filled hell planet.  But everybody’s fine with this plan because that’s just how this movie works I guess.  Do they have terraforming equipment?  Unlimited supplies of breathable air and potable water?  A way to call the Aratrum for help?  Does the Aratrum have more landing ships to send down? Nobody knows or cares, so I won’t press it.  I’ve harped on Haruo enough for one lifetime,  I’m numb to his psychotic horseshit at this point.

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And just to reiterate, this time Haruo’s psychotic horseshit is forcing an eighth of the entire human race into his suicidal vigilante mission.

But hey it works! They corral Godzilla into the ambush point, set off charges that trap him in a pair of artificial landslides, and then tanks around the perimeter just fuckin’ wail on his big potted plant ass.

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SERIOUS QUESTION: If you smoked Herbzilla, do you think you’d get a buzz?  I like to think so.  That’d be a fun fan-fic, honestly.

They bombard him long enough to wear down his shield, then another squad of tanks blow up his shield generating dorsal fin (per the data Leland collected like a champ).  With the fin blow’d up, Haruo hops into a robot suit and stabs the EMP doo-dad into Plantzilla’s new gore-hole, followed by the rest of the robot suit team (including Yuko)!

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“Thanks for the acupuncture, guys!  I feel great! Hey, what are you doing later? I was thinking about popping some popcorn and having a movie night, wanna–“

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“OH DANG I GUESS NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT”

They did it!  After losing their civilization, after losing their entire planet, after 20 years of torturous space-bound exile, they defeated Godzilla!  Hauro’s lifelong wish has come true!  What kind of face do you suppose he’s making?  What emotion do you think he’s expressing? Joy? Exhaustion? Disbelief? Astonishment?

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NOPE, ANGERY.  ALWAYS ANGERY.  ONLY ANGERY. THE BEST, DARKEST, MOST MATURE EMOTION

Godzilla’s extremely slow movements and kind of dopey demeanor in those final moments make me sympathize with him over any human character.  He just seems sad and confused to be dying, not vengeful or wild.  I wonder if it’s PotM’s intent to make you feel bad for Godzilla, even if it’s just for a moment?  It’ll be fascinating to see if PotM’s two sequels shed a different light on these events and characters.  I have a (hopeful) feeling they will.

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God willing they’ll just drop ol’ Captain Sour McBitchFace for the next one.

Dr. Lazzari finds Capt. Forever Frowns and chats with him for a bit about the nature of Godzilla.  Lazzari thinks the Godzilla they just offed wasn’t the same one that drove humanity away from Earth, but a descendent of that creature.  As a living, viable species, its very likely that there are more Godzillas living somewhere on Earth.  Haruo is too stupid to wrap his brain around this extremely basic and obvious concept, so to prove Lazzari right SUPER DUPER MEGA HYPER ULTRA GODZILLA MAKES HIS (heh, VERY) BIG ENTRANCE

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This is the biggest Godzilla ever committed to film, clocking in at a ridiculous (albeit more or less meaningless) 300 meters (or just short of 1000 feet). He is the biggest boy.

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He could use previous Godzillas as a butt plug.

I say his insane size is kind of meaningless because there’s no human civilization to compare it against.  It’s a lot like the “no not 10,000 years in the future, but 20,000 years!” non-reveal we got earlier: it’s a bigger, more impressive number, but in a world without cities it doesn’t actually raise the stakes.  They could have just doubled the size of the first Godzilla and it would have had the same effect.  But whatever, he’s fucking huge and awesome and a menace II humanity.

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And I think Metphies has a crush on him?

This is the scene that crystallizes all our suspicions about Metphies.  He seems awfully reverent of mega Godzilla, and maybe that’s all it is… but maybe it’s not!  This is a super compelling thread and I can’t wait to see how the later movies pay it off.  Do the other Exifs admire Godzilla as much as Metphies?  Do the Bilusaludo feel the same way? There are a lot of different ways this could play out. For now, Godzilla’s more than happy to just wreck everybody’s shit with breath-blasts and tail-beams as they flee for their lives:

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In a shocking twist, Haruo doesn’t order everybody to suicide bomb the billion foot tall turbo Godzilla! I was legitimately surprised.

Godzilla’s face looked like a dopey grampa grin earlier, but now it looks cold, calculating, and sinister.  Scattered human forces make their escape, but plenty don’t. We cut to credits on this uncertain note, humanity’s victory rendered pointless by the true nature of this monster planet! There’s a post credits stinger too!  Hauro (UGH GOD) wakes up in a cave with the only other woman in the universe, this gal:

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“Oh, you have that shitty look on your face whether you’re asleep or awake.”

The body paint/tattoos, the white hair, the feathery antenna-bangs, the fact that she’s been living on toxic hellhole monster-Earth this whole time: she’s gotta have some kind of Mothra connection! This last second reveal, plus the promise of deeper alien intrigue and a reimagined Mechagodzilla have piqued my interest in the sequels.

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And of course I want to see super-size Godzilla fuck more shit up.

Haruo can make Planet of the Monsters a tough watch (and a couple big dumb logic holes don’t do it any favors), but it’s definitely not a total loss.  PotM has vibrant, colorful visuals, an emotional, evocative score, exciting action, big ideas, and bigger plans. These things can’t fix a garbage main character, but they do a hell of a lot to soften the blow. Some of the PotM reviews I’ve seen that criticize Haruo also note that he’s a very common type of protagonist in anime.  Maybe that‘s why anime rubs me the wrong way.

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Also, the final count on Frowny McBitchFace pictures was 14.  Not quite the 20 I was betting on, but still 14 more than I ever wanted to see.

We’ve had three new Godzilla movies in four years. Even if this one wasn’t exactly my thing, that doesn’t change the fact that this is a really good, really exciting time to be a fan of Godzilla and his city-smashing, monster-mashing comrades.  See you in May for Godzilla: Battle Mobile Breeding City!

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Seriously, that’s what it’s gonna be called! Well, maybe.

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4 thoughts on “Godzilla vs. the Most Punchable Face in the Universe

  1. “Godzilla: Monster Planet” is the literal Japanese title of the movie. “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” is Toho’s international English title.

    The MG magnetism thing isn’t THAT out of left field. If you’ve been paying attention, they slowly build up to it over the series (not on purpose, though). When Godzilla first appears, both of them are susceptible to electric current. And when Showa Godzilla returns with a vengeance in the 60s, the military straight up weaponizes electricity to combat him. Now while it didn’t make it to the actual movie, in Sekizawa’s script for “Godzilla vs. Mothra ’64”, Godzilla was supposed to be building up a tolerance to electricity and that’s how he survived the military’s operations (instead of them just being impatient dickholes). I think that Sekizawa took that idea and ran with it in the later movies. By “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” (1966), electricity is able to wake him up and when he runs into it at the Red Bamboo base, it’s no more than a mild annoyance. In “Godzilla’s Revenge” (1969), Gabara’s electric attack is able to catch Godzilla off guard only momentarily. By “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” (1971), electricity doesn’t bother Godzilla at all anymore. When “Mechagodzilla” (1974) rolls around, Godzilla seems to have learned how to use the unique properties of his body to absorb electricity and turn it into the magnetism he needs to fuck up Mechagodzilla. Keep in mind, the Japanese are not ones to just “spell it out” (the way American audiences seem to want/need) in their storytelling. So I’d bet dollars to yen that was their actual thinking when considering the magnetic abilities when making MG.

    The Xians have nothing to do with “Ghidrah the Three Headed Monster.” They show up in “Monster Zero.”

    Considering that Profession Hayashida (canon) and Miki (non-canon) both had their parents killed by (different) Godzilla(s) and they turned out to be fine, upstanding people, Haruo’s got no excuse. That goes double for bitchy Ayana in “Gamera 3” as well.

    “A more shocking revelation would be that much LESS time has passed. ‘Holy Christ only 75 years have passed, what happened’?!”

    Matt, congratulations. You just became a better writer than Gen Urobuchi.

    So we have multiple Plantzillas? I mean, I know Minya and Spacegodzilla exist, but they are not Godzilla. Having a bunch of Godzillas in one movie just kills his uniqueness. Why should I care what happens to it if another one’s just going to take its place?

    Goddamn you, Toho. Godzilla does not shoot rays out of his fucking tail! This doesn’t end any other way than me being dragged out of Toho Corporate in handcuffs, does it?

    And Jesus Christ, that gif you included of Plantzilla’s foot? It just looks like a spiffified version of the foot from “Bambi Meets Godzilla.”

    You can say there were three new Godzilla movies all you want, but I only count one. And on the wrong side of the Pacific.

    Honestly, I’m glad I sat this out.

    • Thank you for the correction regarding Xians!

      Godzilla’s relationship with electricity has always been confusing for me, and now I’m thinking it’s because I’ve never watched the Showa series in chronological order.

      Yeah, we have two confirmed Veggiezillas here! Their enormous size difference makes them feel different-ish, but I agree, G-fresh is the most exciting when he’s a totally unique entity. I am SUPER curious to see how the next two movies handle this. Will they continue the idea that he’s part of a species with multiple members, or will they conveniently sweep that idea away so we’re back to humans vs. a single Godzilla?

      Muscle Grampa looks great from some angles, and crazy horrible from others. The footfall is definitely one of the crazy horrible ones.

      Two tail-beam movies in a row, Ted! I fear for your blood pressure, my man! I personally don’t mind ’em, but I also fully acknowledge that they’re weird as hell. I’d bet a crisp one dollar bill that Legendary’s next G-flick doesn’t keep that streak going. I just can’t imagine the ol’ bear-croc shooting tail-beams!

      PotM has its bright spots, but… sitting it out ain’t a bad call. Haruo’s just relentlessly a complete wet fart. It’s kind of a bummer that he shares a first name our dude Nakajima.

  2. “Something wonderful has happened…” Been watching 2010 lately?

    Thanks for the review! Planning to watch this over the weekend!

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