When it comes to movie monsters Godzilla is up there with the best. The monolithic beast has enjoyed a resurgence in pop culture in recent times thanks to flawed but enjoyable reboots: the Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) American remake, and Shin Godzilla directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi. Next up is Godzilla: King of Monsters, the second instalment of Legendary’s MonsterVerse, which leads into 2020’s Godzilla vs Kong. So there is no shortage of media devoted to Godzilla that falls ion line with the modern disaster movies of our time. That makes Godzilla Part 1: Planet of the Monsters, the new animated movie, and the first of three instalments, all the more exciting.
Planet of the Monsters sets out to tell a very different Godzilla story, but one that feels logical even as it takes the character to its narrative extreme. Godzilla has always been about the destruction of nature, both in an environmental sense while also tied to the effects of nuclear power. In this animated adventure Godzilla has destroyed Earth as we know it, causing the survivors of the human race to band together to find a new home among the stars. There is also the added wrinkle of the presence of an alien species: the Exif and the Bilusaludo, whose plans to emigrate to Earth after their own civilisations have been destroyed are ruined by the same destruction. It’s an intriguing premise, one that goes the full science fiction route that breaks some new ground in this decades-old franchise. It’s a real shame then that Planet of the Monsters is such a mind-numbingly dull affair.
How can a Godzilla story be boring? That is the question I continually asked myself as I suffered through this 90-minute exercise in mediocrity. Even the awful Noah Emmerich remake of the 90s has some laugh out loud camp value, as long as you disengage your brain beforehand. The story of Planet of the Monsters is fairly simple. After 22 years in space, in which the human race has lost all hope of finding a new home, th decision is made to return to Earth to see if a new settlement is viable. There is an added bonus that Haruo Sakaki, a disgraced former Captain, has formulated a theory that could defeat Godzilla if the monster is still alive. Thanks to the ship’s lightspeed travel, it has been thousands of years since they left Earth, meaning that the planet is completely new when they return.
All of this sounds promising on paper, but the execution is dire. Planet of the Monsters is skilled at finding the dullest way of conveying its story. The script, which is about three-quarters jargon, is as entertaining as an engineering manual written in Latin. The characters, even the aliens, are interchangeable and make no real impact except for Haruo Sakaki. Even so, all of Sakai’s screen-time is devoted to scowls, and angrily calling Godzilla a bastard.
Worst of all is Godzilla himself, although this itself is a weak misdirection. He’s big and scary, but he’s not all that dynamic. He’s a lumbering nightmare that barely moves when he’s being attack: instead he resorts to using atomic breath that quickly becomes repetitive. That’s right, this movie will make you sick of atomic breath.
It’s not all bad though: the animation is beautiful at points, and there are the bones of a great story here. Overall, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a waste of a brilliant idea, bogged down in the kind of scientific jargon that would make the science officers of the Enterprise wonder if it’s a bit much, and with no characters to care about.