So the monthly reviews haven’t exactly been uh, monthly in a while, have they? A solid six months of the hiatus (starting last July) I can pin on getting, struggling with, and moving on from a job that was not a good fit. The months after that are on me: adjusting to a new job, trying to make time for my people, balancing my other creative endeavors, and wrangling my stupid trash brain all left me without the normal level of chutzpah (and just, you know, time) I need to crank out reviews for your brain and eyeballs.
That stuff’s all true and accurate, but I couldn’t put my finger on why the holdup went on for so long after I worked out the job stuff. Why have I had blogger’s
constipation block? The big reason hadn’t dawned on me until VERY recently: IT’S BECAUSE I’VE BEEN SUBCONSCIOUSLY PUTTING OFF REVIEWING THE SECOND TWO GODZILLA ANIME MOVIES.
I wasn’t exactly crazy about Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, so the prospect of two more full feature films in that world didn’t have me champing at the bit to do more watching and writing. I’m the one fucking bizarro-world film fan that would rather write about stuff I love than dunk on shit I hate (which to be fair, I don’t hate PotM, just its cruel narcissist protagonist). Big ups then are in order for friend of the blog Ariccio, who graciously hosted a stream of Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle and Godzilla: The Planet Eater. Powering through them both on my own wasn’t something I looked forward to, but knocking ’em out with a bud was a pretty fuckin’ fun afternoon. It also helps that the movies genuinely get progressively better!
Since both sequels were handled by the same creative team as Planet of the Monsters, and since they all collectively tell one big, over-arching story in the same unique world, I’m rolling my reviews of the two movies into one slightly lighter than normal article. A lot of the behind the scenes/deep dive stuff I normally do was already covered in my PotM review, anyway, so there’s just less junk to ramble about. That said, there’s still plenty of junk to ramble about! Put on your spacesuit, slather yourself in bug-dust, and pray for the second coming of Ghidorah, because we’re finishing this fuckin’ trilogy!
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle
Before settling on the fairly normal title above, title translations for this flick included Godzilla: The City Mechanized for the Final Battle and the hilariously horny-sounding Godzilla: Battle Mobile Breeding City.
Godzilla: The War for Pound-Town hit Japanese theaters in May of 2018 and teleported onto Netflix that following July. Get a taste for what’s in store with the movie’s (Japanese) trailer:
The sequel picks up shortly after Planet of the Monsters ended: the orbiting mothership Aratrum is unable to make contact with Haruo or any of the other scattered survivors of super-duper Godzilla’s apocalyptic laser-light show.
The post-credits stinger of PotM revealed Haruo was rescued by a native woman, Miana. Miana saved Haruo by treating his wounds with a mysterious powder, and soon after Haruo hooks back up with some of the remaining survivors of his platoon. That doesn’t last though, because they get jumped by Miana’s twin Maina (seriously guys? you might as well have named them Jenny and Jenni) and her hunting party.
Maina takes them back to the natives’ underground city. Lazarri and his platoon are there, healed up by the natives (called the Houtua). The Houtua are sort of benevolent captors–Haruo and co. aren’t prisoners, but they’re not free to do whatever they want, either. We get a glimpse of their underground society, Lazarri hypothesizes that they’re descended from bugs, and we even see Haruo get bitched out by one of his men and Haruo actually doubts himself and his insane actions.
The Houtua telepathically grill Haruo and pals–turns out they’re not super psyched about randos nuking the shit out of their home. But then they are cool with it when Haruo explains they were trying to kill swole tree pee-paw.
Which… makes me question their role as the eco-conscious “living with the land” types. After thousands of years, shouldn’t they have learned to live with Godzilla? Maybe even have a symbiotic relationship with him? Wouldn’t that have been more interesting?Ultimately their anti-Godzilla stance more or less makes sense–they’re basically this world’s version of Mothra-worshipping Infant Islanders, which apparently is a mono-kaiju-stic religion.
Maina and Miana (but no Minya 😢) go on a walkabout with Haruo and pals. They meet up with Metphies and his squad, and they all promptly get jumped by the weird pterodactyls from the first movie. Like before, they’re essentially bulletproof… but Maina and Miana light ’em the fuck up with arrows.
That’s some hot shit, so Galu-Gu (gabbagoo?!) deduces that the arrowheads must contain some nanometal–the same stuff their failed Mechagodzilla was made out of way back when. Gabbagoo apparently knows (or guesses?) that the nanometal has been growing and replicating itself the last 20,000 years, and would now be more than enough to kill off Godzilla. “Kill off Godzilla” are Haruo’s three favorite words in the entire universe, so instead of everybody regrouping with the Aratrum like originally planned, they send like two dudes up to tell them to wait while Haruo, Gabbagoo and the rest see if they can fire up good ol’ MechaG.
Aw yeah, Mechagodzilla! one of the coolest, craziest staples of the entire franchise! After seeing how they handled G-man himself, it’ll be super interesting to see what weird new twist they do for MG!…
Haruo and pals are able to track down the nanometal motherlode, a huge empty factory complex that they dub Mechagodzilla City. The nanometal has mostly been rebuilding and expanding the lab it was created in, waiting for new orders from its Bilusaludo masters. Maina and Miana fully peace out here–they say the nanometal is poisonous, but Gabbagoo and his Bilu-buddies handwave off their concerns.
Galu-gu and the other Billysalads start working on Mechagodzilla City right away. The city springs to life with some bitching techno music and Tron light-up architecture. Similar to the plan in the first movie, the idea is to lure Godzilla into the city, then trap and kill him. Instead of triggering landslides and stuff like before, they’ll hit him with huge nanometal harpoons and have the nanometal itself engulf him to death. They also upgrade Yuko’s robot (and all the other models of that robot, but they don’t convey that very well) because… I don’t know, the jetbikes aren’t cool enough anymore? Maybe those all got destroyed?
Haruo and Yuko stroll around the vast and eerily quiet MG City and shoot the shit. Yuko inexplicably declares that she’s hot for Haruo and smewches him. Haruo’s starting to feel the same sickness that his comrades had started complaining about shortly after entering the city. “Every woman must want to bonezone the main character” is an eyeroll-inducing anime cliche, but MG City being so sterile and mechanized that it’s subtly inhospitable to human life is a neat idea.
Haruo stumbles onto Metphies holed up in a cave just on the edge of MG City. Metphies is leery of the Billysalads and their Mechagodzilla, ominously hinting that their real goal isn’t just to defeat Godzilla, but to replace him as the monstrous tyrant king of the planet. Metphies also
erotically whispers the name of the creature that destroyed the Exif homeworld into Haruo’s ear.
Lending shitloads of credence to Metphies’
clearwater revival warnings about the Billysalads, some of the humans spot Billysalads willingly being absorbed by MG City to boost its might and processing power. Gabbagoo is just like “u mad bro?” and the Billysalads prove themselves to not be a cross between Klingons and Vulcans like we initially thought, but a cross between Klingons and The Borg.
And even though that’s horrifying… I totally get where they’re coming from? And I’m surprised Haruo isn’t into it. Hasn’t his gameplan always been to destroy Godzilla at ANY cost? Hasn’t Haruo already shown himself to be SUPER willing to sacrifice hundreds of lives for abstract moral victories? But oh boy if said sacrifice is done knowingly and willingly and happens to involve Capri Sunning into a wall, suddenly it’s a ghoulish, inhuman nightmare?
ANYWAY Godzilla’s up and at ’em, so it is GAME TIME. Time to finally see Mechagodzilla kick some ass! Look at how crazy this new design is!
I don’t know if this is the best time to dive into it, but I’m gonna. That weird, wicked MG design never shows up in this movie. It’s not in the next one either. It’s one thing to have concept art for a character or scene that ends up on the cutting room floor, but Bandai went ahead and made and sold action figures of this dude which strikes me as pretty shitty. Like, why tease that and then mecha-blue balls everybody?
From IMDB (emphasis mine):
Writer Gen Urobuchi and director Hiroyuki Seshita, both fans of the Godzilla series, toyed with ideas like Mechagodzilla City coming alive at the film’s climax, either turning into a monstrous, 1 km tall robot, or transforming its various components into replicas of Mechagodzilla’s head and attack Godzilla. Co-director Kôbun Shizuno rejected such ideas, as he was never a big fan of monster movies, and wanted to avoid silly-looking monster battles, as per the request of Toho Studios. As a result, Mechagodzilla was never revealed in full in the film, only in promotional material.
Shizuno: it’s a good thing you avoided “silly-looking monster battles” so you could instead focus on the very well-written and not-at-all flat, flavorless and unlikable human characters. If you hate this stuff why are you directing it?
Toho: In what universe does it make sense to not have monster fights in your monster fights movie??? It’s like if Rocky Balboa was just two hours of him managing his restaurant (actually that sounds delightful, bad example but you know what I mean).
Just to clarify, I’m not mad that Mechagodzilla doesn’t materialize in the form of a dino-shaped super robot. The living city is a cool and trippy sci-fi idea. TEASING the dino-shaped super robot was a dick move though, and the motivations behind keeping him out of the movie seem misguided at best. I think it’s silly for audiences to demand that directors, writers, actors, etc. be “fans” of whatever intellectual property they’re adapting, but they should at least not have obvious disdain for the heart and soul of the source material.
So instead of that big crazy pointy Mechagodzilla clashing with Godzilla, we get a city shooting at him, plus Yuko, Haruo, and a Billysalad flying around in the suped-up robots peppering him with laser fire.
The three robot pilots slow down Godzilla, but they’re unable to buy the city enough time to fully power up the big-ass harpoons. Godzilla survives the trap and goes apeshit on MG City. Out of options, Gabbagoo merges with the city… and also commands the robots to absorb their pilots.
The Billysalad pilot is like “yes of course,” but Yuko and Haruo freak the fuck out. It’s some cool Cronenbergian body horror insanity–Haruo manages to shrug it off, but Yuko isn’t as successful. Decision time–let Mechagodzilla City run wild, killing Godzilla but also engulfing the entire planet in soul-crushing nano-goo? Or let Godzilla destroy MG City, preserving what’s left of humanity, giving Yuko a chance to recover, but ultimately sacrificing their best shot at killing off G-Fresh?
Amazingly, Haruo doesn’t sacrifice all of humanity to kill Godzilla. This is pointedly faint praise, but he really has gotten less insufferably shitty since the last movie. He’s certainly not likable or relatable in any way, but he’s not a 100% snarling, murderous, irredeemable malignant narcissist like he was in the last movie.
Godzilla fully wrecks shit, burning Mechagodzilla City to the ground, forcing our surviving protagonists to hole up in Metphies’ cave sanctuary. Yuko is still comatose, and on that dark, uncertain note, the movie ends!
City on the Edge of Battle is not like awesome but it’s a clear improvement over Planet of the Monsters. Haruo practically verges on tolerable, which is an incredible feat. I’m glad we got a peek into Houtua society and seeing the (arguably?) dark side of the Bilusaludo was satisfying. Like its predecessor, it gets bogged down and spends too much time on pointless technobabble and diminishing-returns action setpieces. It also fails to find the humanity in any of the characters, which would go a long way to grounding this kind of story. Haruo and Yuko’s walk around the MG City is the closest we get, but their limited emotional range and lack of personality keeps it from sticking the landing.
Like the first movie, Godzilla: Battle in Bonerville gets by on clever sci-fi concepts (that it doesn’t explore to their fullest potential), evocative and moody aesthetics, and bitchin’ tech: both the fighting machines used in-movie and the CG used to render them and Godzilla dynamically. The introduction of some light body horror is a welcome and surprising addition, and preps the audience for the big shift into Lovecraftian cosmic horror coming in the next movie. Speaking of which…
Godzilla: The Planet Eater
Sadly Godzilla: The Planet Eater doesn’t have any accidentally-hilarious name translations like City on the Edge of Battle did.
Planet Eater landed in Japanese theaters in November of 2018 and zapped onto Netflix the following January. Check out the Japanese trailer!
Planet Eater picks up right where City on the Edge of Battle left off.
We check back in with the Aratrum, where the Bilusaludos aboard are pissed that Haruo let Mechagodzilla City fry. The in-fighting escalates to the point where some rogue Billysalads shut down the ship’s engine, forcing them to coast on auxillary power for days.
NO, things are SHITTY on Earth. Lazarri informs Haruo that Yuko is brain-dead and the nanometal is the only thing keeping her alive (fucking yikes). Lazarri hypothesizes that the weird dust the Houtua schmeared all over Haruo and other survivors protected them from being absorbed by nanometal–unfortunately the Houtua never glitter-bombed Yuko.
Our boy Metphies has been busy–dudeman’s built up a sizable human congregation of whatever religion the Exifs are. He tells Haruo they’re going to summon the Exif god, and he’ll need Haruo’s help.
Here comes the biggest groaner of the entire trilogy! Miana runs off with Haruo someplace secluded and explains to him that the Houtua don’t think about life in terms of good and evil, but “winning” and “losing.” Winning being surviving and reproducing, losing being dying off and going extinct. Sounds pretty bro-y for a bunch of bug-hippies, but sure. Miana tells Haruo he’s “losing”… so they better get to fucking.
Haruo turns her down! Yay! We narrowly avoided embarrassing, awkward sex in a Godzilla movie!
Oh but Maina shows up and they pork instead.
Eyeroll-inducing anime sex tropes aside, Miana telepathically eavesdrops on Metphies while he schemes with his Exif buddy Endurph (these names!). So what is Endurph’s game? Why did Metphies kidnap Miana immediately afterward?… Wait, is the Exif god not a big celestial Jeff Bridges coming to bring everybody sandwiches and super chill vibes???
Metphies and Freddurph and the rest of the congregation perform a ritual to summon mother fucking King Ghidorah to come kill Godzilla. Honestly, like the Billysalad’s plan in the last movie… I kinda get it! This Godzilla is a quadrillion feet tall and made out of plant adamantium (adaplantium?), you’re gonna have to pull out all the stops if you’re really serious about killing this thing.
Like this trilogy’s versions of Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, this is a pretty drastic re-imagining of a classic creature. Unlike their Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, this feels a lot more like a natural extension of what’s previously been established about the character. He’s still a gold-plated, cataclysmically destructive, godlike presence from deep space, Planet Eater just adjusts the knob away from “comprehendable super-dragon” and points it at “mind-melting eldritch abomination.”
Ghidorah is an untraceable, multi-dimensional entity that snakes out of micro blackholes and fully buttfucks the Aratrum to death. Finally some space action! Finally some tangible stakes!
Ghidorah manifests on Earth, eating Metphies’ followers and chomping into Godzilla. Ghidorah doesn’t even technically exist in our universe, so Godzilla is powerless to fight back.
It looks dope as shit in stills, and is solid reimagining of this incredibly iconic imagery from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah:
In motion its less “ferocious, animalistic fight to the death” and more “ethereal, metaphysical death hugging.” It suits the narrative and is cool in its own way, it just doesn’t bring the blood ‘n’ thunder like vs. King Ghidorah did. Meanwhile, Lazarri (somehow?!?!) deduces that someone in our reality must be in control of Ghidorah. Haruo’s like “OH YEAH” and goes to confront Metphies.
Metphies=Mephistopheles, right? Don’t think I didn’t catch that, MOVIE
Haruo finds that Metphies has gone full-on Sam Neill in Event Horizon, which is fucking rad. I knew from the beginning that the Bilusaludo and Exifs had the potential to keep these movies watchable, I just didn’t expect them to do it through techno-body horror and interstellar demonology! I ain’t mad though!
That doo-dad he was fixing in the last movie is some kind of amulet that gives him a link to Ghidorah–for maximum what-the-fuck scariness, he’s jammed it into his eye socket.
Metphies reveals the true nature of the Exif belief system. They’re basically a nihilistic death cult–Ghidorah DDTing their planet taught them that the universe is finite and that all things are fated to decay and be destroyed. Before coming to Earth they cruised around offering up whole planets as sacrifices to Ghidorah–Haruo’s spazzy hatred of Godzilla makes him (and I guess by extension all of Earth) an ideal Ghidorah snack.
Metphies telepathically sends Haruo to the techno version of the Sunken Place from Get Out and tells him that if he really wants to kill Godzilla, he’s gotta let Ghidorah absorb him to give him the strength to do it. It’s an EXTREMELY tidy parallel to the end of the previous movie that I didn’t catch until I spelled it out for myself just now. Neat!
Maina and Lazarri use the Houtua’s god-egg to psychically reach Haruo and free him from Metphies’ mental manipulation.
Mothra has had some cockamamie, fucking cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs appearances and cameos over the years, but getting dream-revenge for Hiroshima and Nagasaki has got to be the buckwildest. I would rather she, you know, have a more robust role than “dream walk-on”, but I’ll take what I can get.
While he’s getting Get Out’d, Metphies reveals to Haruo that he orchestrated the Grampasplosion from the first movie! What a douche!… would be your initial thought, but Metphies (and by his extension the whole bonkers Exif religion) thinks of death as salvation–he was saving all those Grandmas from prolonged suffering. And I mean, I don’t know… a quick release seems preferable to slowly starving to death in the icy black reaches of deep space. Plus wasn’t Haruo going to blow up EVERYBODY in protest? Didn’t he sacrifice hundreds of lives Ahab-ing Godzilla? I legitimately can’t tell if this is character development or sloppy writing.
But Haruo remembers his dead parents, and the little charm they gave him before monsters ransacked the planet. Depending on the version you watch, his flashback-folks tell him his name either means “Hope” or “Spring”, which is hilariously ironic considering what a dour turd he is. Maybe his parents did it sarcastically? Ill-fitting as it is, it gives him the mental fortitude to shrug off Metphies’ emotional Scanners-ing and break his eye-amulet (eye-mulet? amul-eye-t?). Breaking it severs Metphies’ bond with Ghiddy, trapping him in our dimension, with our physics, with our huge-ass plantzilla. Hell yeah! Time for one final cathartic throwdown! GO NUTS MY MAN
Since director Shizuno is behind the wheel of this movie we don’t get a thrilling, climactic monster fight, we just get some half-hearted grappling and three atomic breath-blasts… and that’s it. Godzilla offing the Ghidster really is an afterthought, with the “real” climax being Haruo powering through Metphies’ psychological torture and breaking his link to the monster. And since Haruo is a full-blown dookie salad it’s an anticlimactic finale instead of the rousing, human victory it’s intended to be.
The movie then spends an extended scene on Haruo mourning and sobbing over
Yuko, his lost comrades, the years of wandering and suffering humanity has endured fucking Metphies.
I mean I understand being sad you had to kill someone you were close to… but Metphies turned out to be a genocidal nihilist psychopath. Maybe that dark revelation is part of what has Haruo so fucked up?
The movie then flashes forward an indeterminate amount of time. The survivors have integrated into Houtua society, starting new, simpler lives on Earth. Lazarri grabs Haruo and takes him to a remote spot to show off the secret project he’s been working on: it’s the last of the nanometal’d-up robot suits, up and running again thanks to his studies of the nanometal in (the still very braindead) Yuko. Lazarri excitedly explains that they’ll be able to fully rebuild and improve upon their old high-tech society! Hooray! Right?
When Lazarri says this, Haruo remembers Metphies’ ominous last words–that Ghidorah will always be watching him, and that continuing our old ways will bring him back to our world. He even hears Ghiddy’s iconic cackle echo in his mind. Shocking Lazarri, Haruo promptly scoops up Yuko, climbs into the robo-suit and suicides it into Godzilla.
With the last vestiges of nanometal and high technology destroyed, Human-Houtua society is safe from being engulfed by nanometal and safe from Ghidorah returning (for a while). It’s mostly a tidy, adequate resolution… albeit an aggressively bleak one, making it a fitting end for the trilogy. Nanometal, Ghidorah, and Yuko (yikes, sorry girl!) all get neatly uh, taken care of. Hilariously enough, Godzilla does not. After all of Haruo’s pointless sturm und drang, Godzilla ends the trilogy standing tall while H-bones is six feet under. Better movies (or just a better protagonist) would have made that resonate more, but I appreciate the attempt.
So that’s Planet Eater! It’s easily the best of the three films, but that’s not that high of a bar to clear. Leaning into the cosmic horror of an alien death cult summoning a vastly powerful and unknowable space demon is an exciting turn that makes this the most watchable third of the trilogy. Toning down or fixing or developing Haruo helps a lot too, though the damage done (mostly in the first movie) is all but impossible to correct completely.
Looking at the trilogy as one cohesive story, I don’t see why this couldn’t have been one (tightly-packed) movie. Boil each of the movies down to their biggest plot beats and you have three solid acts instead of three draggy features. Act I: land on Earth, try to kill Godzilla, fail. Act II: Meet the
Fockers Houtua, boot up Mechagodzilla City, hint at Ghiddy, fail to kill Godzilla again. Act III: Ghiddy gone wild, psychic showdown with Metphies, resolution, fail to kill Godzilla one last time. Lop off 95% of Haruo’s genocidal psycho rage-angst bullshit, drop the embarrassing non-romances, strip out the inappropriately bleak misery, yank out as much pointless technobabble nonsense as you can, lose the most redundant and repetitive action scenes, jam it all back together and holy shit, now you might have one (1) decent flick!
The desperate effort to make the trilogy relentlessly grim and gritty is a huge swing and a miss. Instead of being a dark and poignant work of thought-provoking science fiction, it’s just a joyless, lifeless slog with occasional flashes of cleverness and excitement. This is going to sound meaner than I intend it, but: it comes across like fan-fiction written by an edgy fourteen year-old.
Me bitching about human characterization in a Godzilla movie might seem ridiculous: even the best G-flicks aren’t like, Oscar-bait dramas or heartfelt character studies or poignant indie dramedies. Meryl Streep don’t show up in fucking Turbosaurus vs. The Cyber-Luchadors and make everybody cry their asses off with some heartbreakingly good monologue about love and loss. But what the best Godzilla movies do do (heh poop) is build their human heroes out of powerful archetypes: the plucky reporter, the driven scientist, the big-hearted kid, the brave astronaut, the kooky inventor, the ominous mystic, the steely soldier, the loving parent or sibling–if you’ve seen enough of these movies, each archetype I just listed probably reminded you of at least one specific character. They’re simplified, narrative shorthand, but they instantly engage with your own humanity and help you understand a character, and by extension the story and its world. This trilogy doesn’t even bother utilizing these potent story-telling cheat codes, leaving the whole thing feeling clinical and inhuman. Making Godzilla taller, taking out the monster fights, and cramming in more shoot-outs doesn’t fix that.
Speaking of characters, I want to revisit this trilogy’s take on Godzilla for a sec. I’ve recently started Alan Moore’s iconic run on Swamp Thing, and I gotta say it has really warmed me up to this gentle giant, plant elemental take on G-fresh. It is possibly the most hamfisted way to deliver environmentalist allegory and a really bizarre and drastic change to everything we know about Godzilla–but I also dig the idea of him reaching a point in the far future where he’s SO powerful and so plugged into the natural world that his infinite fury finally mellows into zen-like inner peace (I mean, dude still gets pissed, but it’s not his default state, and he seems to have a way higher level of control over it). This Godzilla is immense and elemental in a way that we haven’t really seen before, and it truly feels like he’s a wild king ruling over his untamed dominion. Of course, he’s not really the focus of the trilogy, so ultimately this all ends up in the “clever but under-utilized sci-fi ideas” pile.
Fans have clamored for a Godzilla anime for years, but I bet this trilogy isn’t what a lot of them had in mind. Reactions range all over the spectrum, but if there’s any kind of general consensus it looks like it roughly lines up with my own impressions: the aesthetics are the high point (particularly the action scenes and the saturated, Fury Road-esque eye-candy color palette), the characters are the low point, and the films get progressively better. They never achieve greatness (they struggle to consistently hit goodness), but I don’t hate them either. If you’re a hardcore Godzilla fan (maybe with a completionist streak) I’d say they’re worth seeing once (or at least attempting once). They’re not the direction I want the franchise to continue in, but I’m glad Toho has the guts to let different creatives experiment and tinker with their biggest icon. Here’s to more fruitful experimentation in the future.