Godzilla: Monster Planet (2017)

(aka, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters; Godzilla; Gojira: Kaiju Wakusei)

Sometimes you have to wonder if Netflix has any idea what they are doing.

It’s frustrating enough that their “original” films are simply not available anywhere else, not even on DVD (I know if I had made a film I would find that one particularly painful), but whatever possessed them to rename this film “Godzilla” I can’t even begin to imagine.  There have been no fewer than four different previous movies simply titled Godzilla — the original; the 1984 film we usually call “Godzilla 1985“; and the two American versions.

It seems particularly strange because we are talking one of the strangest — and least typical — films ever made about the Big Green Guy.

It is also the first, full-length animated Godzilla feature — and the first animated Godzilla made by Toho studios.

The last remnants of mankind have fled to the stars to escape the rage of Godzilla.  But they’ve failed to find a habitable planet, and decide that it is time to return home.  This time they will destroy the beast.  They have a plan, and a mechanized army of flying bikes, power suits and mecha artillery.

Unfortunately, almost 20,000 years have passed and the world has changed almost completely…

For most of its running time, Monster Planet might be one of the more earnest Japanese Anime films, with a giant spaceship and an even larger miasma of despair.  We get the usual troubled young man who wants revenge, some philosophical speculation, and a series of all-out battles with flying monsters and Godzilla, himself.  Although. with the exception of a brief flashback, Godzilla does not show up for most of the film.

I find it intriguing that the destruction of Earth starts off with an outbreak of Kaiju attacks from most of the monsters in the Toho bestiary (including a surprise appearance from one of the rarest of them all, Dogora) — and the arrival of not one, but two alien races.  It might almost be the opening of one of the Showa era monster mashups — perhaps Destroy All Monsters! — except that they get it all over in a matter of minutes and get on with the story of the ragtag fleet looking for a new home…

Okay, “ship” not “fleet.”  But you get the idea.

Although what I’d read suggested that this one featured the radically different Godzilla from Shin Godzilla, I was surprised to see that its Godzilla actually resembled the one from the 2014 American version.   I can see why that connection got made, because Shin Godzilla was portrayed as a destroyer of worlds — and ended with the suggestion that this Godzilla could multiply rapidly.  It would certainly be capable of reshaping an entire world — and that is what has happened here, with a new Earth with a toxic atmosphere full of particles from Godzilla’s breath weapon, at least one new type of Godzilla derived monster, and even Godzilla plants with a metallic skin.  Curiously, the other Kaiju all seem to be missing and we only meet one monstrous spin-off species.  Still, it seems a reasonable extrapolation, particularly when one remembers the Heisei era obsession with “G cells” combining with things, including Roses, Mothra, and crystaline life forms.

One of the themes here,  that Godzilla is a punishment for Man’s arrogance, has been around for a while, but the suggestion here, that this has happened on planet after planet, elevates it to new heights and transforms it into something mystical.  Or at least, what passes for mystical in a Godzilla film.

This is supposedly the first of a trilogy of films, with a man-made Mechagodzilla rumored to appear in the next one.  If they turn out as well as this one did, then they should be interesting.

Although still not much like a Godzilla film.

 

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