Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle [Gojira: kessen kidô zôshoku toshi] (2018)

(aka Godzilla: Battle Mobile Breeding City

Godzilla: The City Mechanized for the Final Battle)

This is, of course, a sequel to last year’s Godzilla: Monster Planet, which was the first Godilla animated feature and a curious hybrid of a very familiar Anime conventions — the shipload of survivors on the run from a terrible menace, the angsty debates, the army of Mecha — all mixed in with a Godzilla film.

I suppose it is the sort of thing we should call “inevitable,” as Anime is a huge market in Japan, and an animated film — particularly one which is computer animated — can be made for a lot less than the next Shin Godzilla.  As you’d expect of the second film in a planned trilogy. post-The Empire Strikes Back, this is darker than the first film.

The last film ended with the 20,000 year old original Godzilla making a very unexpected appearance (after they’d killed a smaller Godzilla) and destroying all of the military vehicles sent against it.

The survivors of that battle find a tribe of humans who have survived on the planet, thanks to the help of their god.  Before Godzilla destroyed her, their god left them an egg.  If you have any trouble recognizing the reference, there are ceremonies in a big temple and twin girls who can communicate with the egg.

However, the big discovery is that something has survived at the construction site of the ultimate, Godzilla-hunting weapon, Mechagodzilla…

The first film more or less stayed within the familiar confines of the Toho Monsterverse, albeit a world changed by the 20,000 year reign of Godzilla,in which most of the forms of life appear to have taken on Godzilla-like properties, even the plants.  This time around, they’ve re-imagined at least one classic creature. While other versions of Mechagodzilla were built by aliens or used some sort of living metal, this version takes the big robot monster in unexpected directions — and turns it into something truly monstrous.

We also get an after the credits scene that hints that another classic monster is on his way (something that the posters for the upcoming third film hint at as well).

There are also some interesting hints about the origins of the monsters which, we learned in the first film arrive at the height of a civilization and destroy it.  However, whether or not this applies to Godzilla is unclear as they haven’t yet dealt with the origins of their version of Godzilla.  It is obviously not the same Godzilla as Shin Godzilla, but one suspects the final film of the trilogy may answer this question.

While there hasn’t been much critical enthusiasm for this film, I find it does what it sets out to do — it creates a densely-realized future in which Godzilla has destroyed our world and left the last few survivors in a desperate battle to reclaim their home.  Toho knows what is expected of Anime, so there is a massive battle at the end, and a lot of secrets to uncover before the story reaches its conclusion.  I found it kept my attention throughout and had quite a few interesting ideas sprinkled in the mix.  I suspect some of these may finally reach their payoff in the next film,  but so far I find myself cautiously optimistic and reasonably entertained in the process.

Now, I will note that the animation of the characters does look a little flat at times, thanks to their use of computer animation, but they are distinctive and actually move like human beings (which is harder than you think!).  However, the hardware and weaponry are all well done, as is Godzilla himself, although at times he looks a little too real.

Whether the series of films will ultimately live up to its promise is hard to say at this point, but it reflects a radical new vision of the classic Kaiju movie, and dares to raise moral questions that set it firmly against a certain reductionist view of our world.  It isn’t terrible.  Whether it is memorable, or whether it will become part of the growing canon of Godzilla films for future generations ultimately depends on how well they resolve their moral dilemmas in the next film.

The next one is due out in November in Japan.  I for one am eagerly looking forward to it.

After all, it is a Godzilla movie…

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