Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

A feature-length, non-theatrical anime from Toho and Netflix, which forms the first chapter of a series in three parts. This was good, mostly.

The CGI-hybrid style of animation was equal parts stunning and distracting. It’s obviously computer-rendered, but shaded in a way that simulates the flat look of hand-drawn. It can sometimes look weirdly cheap-looking, to my eyes at least, compared to traditional cell animation. This is perhaps because it feels like there’s less handcrafted skill involved in making it (despite the fact that some of the detail on the screen is far more intricate than hand-drawn could achieve), and the shading is a constant reminder of non-CG.

The biggest downside, though, unfortunately, is Godzilla himself. For most of his screen time he just sits there, inert, looking like a big old blob of tar, or plastic, or gristle. I get the feeling that he’s supposed to stand out stylistically to make him more impressive, as if his gigantic bulk isn’t already doing that! But it achieves the opposite. There’s no definition to his features; just lots of overly-smooth texture. Add that to the lack of movement and it’s an undoubtedly disappointing, underwhelming package.

True to form, Godzilla also appears on-screen for very little of the total running time. Franchise stalwarts will have no problem with this. But – fittingly – the shadow he casts over the story is huge. There isn’t a moment when he’s not the centre of attention in some way.

Speaking of story, Planet of the Monsters is more akin to the Godzillas of the 70s in terms of its wackier science fiction and otherworldly elements. This is fused with a more modern militaristic and tech-based anime with a harder sci-fi edge, so its appeal will depend on what you make of that. If you’re expecting anything like the Earth-based realism of the more recent live-action movies, those expectations will not be met. This is more of a futuristic alternate take on the Godzilla universe. I found the story engaging enough to justify the time it takes to tell it. It’s OK.

We need to address one more thing. Is Godzilla good, bad, or neutral? Spoiler alert! Contemporary mainstream viewers might be put off by this, but he’s a massive villain. And he isn’t a part of nature’s balance – he’s an abomination that has had an almost cancerous affect on the Earth in the 20,000 years he’s effectively ruled it, and is an active force for harm. He’s also nigh-on indestructible. If you’re into the more benevolent (or dispassionate) and vulnerable side of Godzilla, look elsewhere.

Ultimately, your enjoyment of Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters will depend on how you like the anime style and the direction the story takes – and Godzilla’s place in it. It’s worth a watch, especially as you’re already paying for it with your subscription. But there is plenty of scope for improvement in the next two parts; if they don’t deliver, it will be hard to recommend any of it with any kind of enthusiasm.

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