Two Cents Hails an All-New King with GODZILLA: PLANET OF THE MONSTERS

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Godzilla’s been through a lot ever since he first strolled out of the waters near Odo Island in 1954. In the intervening half-century, the King of All Monsters has been a devastating force of nature, a monster-wrassling protector, a grumpy Dad, a fish-devouring Mom, a worm, you get the idea. He’s been to space, to Monster Island, and battled everything from smog-beasts to aqua-monstrosities.

So when we say that Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is something different, be aware of just how much import is packed into that statement.

Planet of the Monsters kicks off with humanity on its last legs, having been exiled from their home-world after a seemingly endless plague of attacks by giant monsters was capped by the appearance of the most destructive beast of them all…Godzilla.

Running low on resources and with a populace circling the drain, the last dregs of the human race opt to return to Earth and see what has become of the place. While only a couple of decades have passed for the space-faring humans, close to 20,000 years have passed on Earth and things are much different and much deadlier than when the gang left.

Oh, and Godzilla is still kicking around, and he’s none too happy to see the pesky humans again.

The first entry in a planned trilogy of anime features, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters was a theatrical release in Japan, and a Netflix exclusive elsewhere in the world.

But does such a new riff dilute the awesome majesty of the King, or does Godzilla roar with renewed vitality in this new format and story? We put the question to the test!

Next Week’s Pick:

Like all right-thinking human beings, we are excited beyond belief for the debut of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther in a couple weeks. The movie looks amazing, early word is that it is amazing, and we have a feel we’re going to be revisiting Wakanda for years to come.

But before Coogler took Marvel by storm, he revived a faded franchise that many probably didn’t even think they wanted more of.

Creed took audiences by storm when it first dropped in 2015, stunning even the most die-hard of Rocky fans, who thought the series good and wrapped up with 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Creed finds Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis ‘Donny’ Creed, the long-lost lovechild of Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed, tracking down the retired Balboa and drafting his help in becoming a professional box, having no idea of just how much this action will change the lives of both men.

Creed is available to stream via Amazon Prime.

You can send your thoughts to [email protected] anytime before midnight on Thursday.

Our Guest

Trey Lawson:

I like to think I am pretty well versed in the tokusatsu and daikaiju genres — maybe not an authority, but certainly an educated enthusiast. That said, I’m not much of an anime guy. Thus it was with some uncertainty that I approached Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. Looking at the big picture, the premise of this film is very smart, and effectively dodges most questions of how it fits into any of the various Godzilla continuities that have developed over the years (spoiler: it doesn’t, and that’s fine). Its far-distant future setting changes the stakes of the human-kaiju conflict in interesting ways. Also the animation — particularly once they arrive on Earth — is gorgeous, and Godzilla translates surprisingly well to the anime style Toho employed.

Unfortunately, the specifics of the plot are less interesting. Much of the first half of the film is spent with exposition, and yet despite its deliberate pace I still felt I wasn’t quite getting everything I was supposed to about the characters — particularly the aliens. Virtually all the human/alien scenes are high melodrama, and while the dialogue flourishes are entertaining I never really cared much about these characters beyond a general sense of wanting humanity to survive. Similarly, Godzilla has far less personality than he had in most prior eras of Godzilla films. It is more than monstrous — it is an unstoppable engine of destruction. Those scenes, with the remnants of humanity struggling against the king of monsters, are the best in the film. Well, there’s also a post-credits scene with REALLY interesting implications, but I won’t spoil that. This isn’t the best Godzilla movie ever — but it’s not the worst either, and I’m curious to see where the rest of this animated trilogy goes. (@T_Lawson)

The Team

Ed Travis:

In the grand scheme of Godzilla, I’m probably a fair-weather fan at best. I love the big guy, but when it comes down to it, I haven’t really experienced all that many of his expansive oeuvre. I’ve seen the easy stuff. The English-language stuff. The newer entries. One or two of the most famous older titles, including the original. I find it to be a hard franchise to go deep on because there are just so many. And there’s a samey-ness that makes them rather indistinguishable from one another. Godzilla: Planet Of The Monsters feels different. Right off the bat the beautiful animation style distinguishes it. Then there’s the high concept premise of a Battlestar Galactica-like humanity confined to a small fleet of ships, banished from their home planet, and in a permanent state of retreat. It’s a premise that feels grand in scope, and over which Godzilla looms large. The final act of the film, an absolutely massive battle between the remnants of humanity returned to their home planet looking for revenge and the monster himself, is glorious and well-staged. Ending on a cliffhanger, there’s no doubt I’ll return to learn the ultimate fate of humanity. (@Ed_Travis)

Justin Harlan:

Dear Godzilla,

It’s hard to write this letter. I wish I could tell you in person, but it’s just too difficult. So I guess I’ll get on with it… it’s not you, it’s me.

You’re a great little movie, I really mean it. You haven’t done anything wrong at all. Please don’t blame yourself.

I should have known going in that you weren’t my type. Anime and I simply don’t mix. Every so often I forget this and I try out a new relationship with someone like you, but every one ends up the same: a one night stand that ends prematurely with no one satisfied at all.

In your case, I even gave it a second go before I shut you off and realized it simply couldn’t work.

There are far better people out there for you, who will love you for you. Never change for some fool like me.

Justin (@ThePaintedMan)

Brendan Foley:

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters has some cool ideas running through its veins, not the least of which is an attempt to actually play with the ‘God’ aspect of Godzilla’s nature. This isn’t the first film to equate the big lizard’s destructive power with the wrath of God, but it might be the one make the point most, uh, pointedly. And the Battlestar Galtacta-ian depiction of humanity’s last days are indeed harrowing. While the point about their wretched condition being the result of the loss of hope and pride is broadly made, it is nonetheless effective and a strong central theme for this story.

The problem is that even with the apparent freedom of the animated format, they fall into the same dumb fucking trap as so many other Godzilla films. You spend (over) half the runtime watching humans squabble and bump heads, all the while thinking, ‘I don’t care about any of this shit, just have Godzilla show up.’ And in fact the problem is compounded in this film because that usual pointless human drama is all tied up in the convoluted mythology of this future and the various political and strategic games going on, none of which is easier to understand given that the anime format renders huge chunks of the cast indistinguishable from each other (there are three different effete blonde dudes that I honestly could not tell apart from one another. When one of them died and then another one popped up on camera, I honestly thought the first guy had somehow survived).

As is often the case with these films, all is mostly forgiven once the big guy finally shows up and starts stomping shit. The last third of Planet of the Monsters is essentially the Death Star run in the original Star Wars, except the Death Star is Godzilla, and I think I will brook no argument when I say that that is fucking awesome. And the last chunk of the film (including a post-credits scene) suggest new wrinkles and twists that should lend all kinds of juicy directions for the next installments in this series. Which I fully intend to watch, but with the knowledge that it’s OK to check the phone while the people yap. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

It seems we’re mostly in agreement on this one. Echoing what’s already been said, the problems here include a lot of uninteresting melodrama and heavy-handed exposition. Not to generalize, but if you hate the trope of anime characters screaming at each other, this won’t do anything to change your opinion.

Certainly, being the “Part 1” of this particular story works to its disadvantage — despite being a full feature film, it never escapes feeling like a first act.

In its favor, the film’s animation is well realized, and while the endless exposition of crafting a whole new mythology is unfortunate, there’s certainly a sense here that Toho is doing something different with the big guy than his previous 30-odd outings. And like Shin Godzilla, the humans are trying to apply a biological strategy to their battle rather than show up with toy tanks and planes.

Watching this whole thing, though, I was constantly wondering why they didn’t just… go somewhere else. OK, Godzilla is 300 meters tall. That’s pretty big. But ya know what’s bigger? The damn planet, with a land area of 148 million square km (give or take 20,000 years). With the dwindling remnants of humanity confined to a few transports, this is no longer a situation in which the concern is about densely populated cities all over the world getting razed. Just park on the other side of the Earth, maybe build a handful of colonies around the world. Keep track of Godzilla’s movements, and if he comes within 500 miles use the giant spaceships to retreat. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Without spoiling anything, the climax is by far the best part of the film, and while the overall languidness is a bummer, I’m super excited for the setup for next one. (@VforVashaw)

Watch it on Netflix:

Next week’s pick:

Previous post KILL ORDER: A Fight Film Highlight Reel
Next post REVENGE IN KIND: Murder in Big D