Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)

Directed by Hiroyuki Seshita, Kobun Shizuno

Written by Gen Urobuchi, Sadayuki Murai, Yusuke Kozaki

Produced by Yoshihiro Furusawa, Takashi Yoshizawa

Run Time: 91 minutes

 

GODZILLA: PLANET OF THE MONSTERS (2017)

PROLOGUE
Hello, this is Grumpy McFaultfinder, and I’ll be your guest reviewer for today. The occasion is the release of the Netflix/Toho Animation “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.” I watched it cold, having avoided all pre-release gossip, because I really wanted to like it. Especially after the depressing fiasco that was “The Last Jedi.” (Did they really kill off Admiral Akbar? For no reason? Why trash Luke Skywalker like that? Did Yoda really blow up the Jedi library?!? Has he become a Space Nazi? Etc.)

And well, “Planet of the Monsters” has some virtues. The animation is handsome, even if the color palette is too monochrome and the faces a bit too samey-samey for my tastes. A lot of work goes into the sci-fi hardware and the staging of the battle scenes – and they work on a visceral level. Godzilla himself is based on the 2014 design, and he looks fine. He’s off screen for most of the movie, but when he is on, his scenes are well staged.

But “Planet of the Monsters” is also full of earnest dramatic ambition, which it expresses by going dark, very dark. It’s a world away from the buoyant fun of “Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster,” a personal favorite that resurrects the ancient pagan gods as giant monsters and sets them loose in the 20th century. “Ghidorah” was OK with idea that mankind isn’t always Top Dog, but not so “Planet of the Monsters,” which is a tortured moral quest for human redemption and supremacy. To get an idea about the vibe it gives off, just image a young Adolf Hitler writing “Moby Dick” as an allegory of Germany’s defeat in World War I. Eeek!

Inept storytelling is my other source of frustration. The movie’s a hodgepodge of dramatically meaningless detail, missed dramatic opportunities, and flubbed introductions to important plot points. I’m still not sure about the details surrounding two key developments, an unauthorized info dump, and a tactical Anti-Godzilla plan. No matter, I’m going to walk you through the plot – because misery loves company! So sit down, grab a drink, or an anti-depressant, (or both!) and buckle up for the half-baked gloomfest that is “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.”

THE PLOT

We open in space, aboard a large ship where some young hot head has created a crisis by planting bombs on a shuttlecraft in the docking bay. As a SWAT team surrounds the shuttle with pointed rifles, we learn the hot head’s reason for the terrorist act; the shuttle is full of old people being sent down to an uninhabitable planet. Seeing this as a cruel way to get rid of extra mouths to feed, he has boarded the shuttle himself, and threatens to blow it up unless the operation is cancelled. In other words, the hot head is protesting an inhumane abandonment of unwanted space passengers by threatening to blow up said unwanted space passengers…..Sure, why not? And by the way, we’ve just met Captain Haruo Sakaki, the movie’s hero and moral compass!

Portrait of the hero as an angry young man

Spaceship command has no luck talking Haruo down, as orders and argument merely enrage him further. But then his own grandfather, who’s one of his hostages, takes the mic. He tells Haruo that he and the others really are volunteering to go down and die on the planet, because after 22 difficult years living on the spaceship, they can’t take it anymore. Broken and betrayed by his granddad’s defeatism, Haruo loses his will to fight injustice by blowing everyone up, and he’s taken into custody by the SWAT team. And I’m already asking questions I shouldn’t be asking, like, why didn’t Haruo have that conversation with his granddad BEFORE rigging the shuttle with bombs?

Thrown into a small prison cell with a nice window, Haruo watches the shuttle launch – only to blow up minutes later. Oops. Did his bombs do this? It’s never explained, and no one seems to care as no investigation is mounted. However, much later in the story the script craftily plants a seed of suspicion in our minds that the ship’s Central Committee blew the shuttle up on purpose. Why would the Central Committee do such a thing? You got me there. At any rate, Haruo, poor kid, screams in rage and despair. But next time Haruo, don’t rig the shuttle with bombs.

Depressed yet? I am, and now the movie goes into its title sequence, an epically humungus backstory, narrated by Haruo in an epically humungus rant.

In the last summer of the 20th century, Haruo tells us, giant monsters suddenly started popping up all over. And then Godzilla himself, “our worst nightmare” appeared. An “avatar of destruction” he not only destroyed cities, he also killed all the other giant monsters, making them dramatically pointless. We don’t even see any of the fights between Godzilla and the other monsters. Nor do we see anything of the “large scale nuclear attack” launched against him. Later we are told this involved 150 nuclear bombs going off at once. Wow! But all we do see are snippets of a TV news broadcast as Godzilla trashes Paris. Nothing wrong with trashing Paris, but I want to see 150 nuclear bombs going off at once! (I know, I’m sick.)

Godzilla’s brief appearance at the start of the movie is mostly a tease.

But what’s this? As Haruo explains, “It was not only mankind that feared (Godzilla’s) destructive power,” we see a fleet of spaceships hovering over the United Nations. A race called the Exif has arrived, and we hear a portentous voice explain, “We are observers and prophets. The time of your destruction is nigh. Your salvation lies through absolute devotion.” Devotion to what!?! Who knows, who cares? No time is spent on humankind’s reaction to these confounding words as ANOTHER alien race shows up at just this time.

They are the Bilusaludo, (boy, that’s a mouthful) and we get a generous amount of information on THEIR backstory. To wit, their home world was the 3rd world from the sun of another solar system. Just like our earth is the 3rd planet from our sun! But, alas, their world was sucked into a black hole. I’d tell you how it came to pass that a black hole got so close to the home world of the Bilusaludo that it was destroyed, but on this point the narration is silent. Perhaps Haruo never thought to ask about this.

OK, so now we have Godzilla on a rampage, and not one but two alien races. Interesting times indeed, even if we don’t really see them. But at least the Bilusaludo seem to have more to offer than portentous oratory. They promise to destroy Godzilla if we give them permission to settle on earth. Is this a good deal? Haruo sounds suspicious as he mutters darkly about aliens “who wanted our beautiful blue world for their own,” and were too impatient to wait for “it to be scorched.” Yes, I guess that is suspicious. But apparently the powers that be said yes to the offer for we cut immediately to a multi-screen display of Bilusalodorians (is that the right way to describe them?) working on, something. Then we hear frantic radio chatter as something goes wrong or something is attacked. The music is too loud at this point so it’s hard to hear exactly what’s happening. And then the screens go dark. So I guess something bad happened. To something.

Oh no! Something has happened!…To…something…

Later we will hear of the Bilusalodorians’ attempt to build a Mecha-Godzilla. So I guess that is what we just saw. But as it was apparently destroyed before it was completed, it is dramatically pointless, like the briefly mentioned giant monsters. Does this mean that the Bilusaludo themselves are dramatically pointless? Ha ha! Read on and see!

Next we cut to a cute little tyke boarding a space shuttle with his granddad. You guessed it, this is young Haruo! Seconds after asking granddad where mommy and daddy are, the kid sees their bus engulfed in flames after a fiery Godzilla attack destroys a nearby space shuttle. Oh well, at least Haruo and granddad make it safely onto their spaceship. Hurray! Because that way, granddad lives long enough to give up on life and wish for death. Death he experiences from the bombs that his grandson, driven insane by 22 years in space, rigged on his space shuttle. And Haruo gets to witness the fiery death of another beloved relative, a fiery death he himself made possible. I love happy endings!

Back to the backstory, which isn’t over yet. As the big spaceship (which the plot synopsis posted on Netflix tells me is called the Aratrum) sails away from the earth in search of another habitable planet, Haruo continues his tale of woe. “We would soon pay the price for such foolish optimism. In the frozen void of space we found a kind of hell worse than that of our ravaged planet.” As he describes a life of cold, thirst, hunger and a wave of early deaths, we see the blood of a suicide splatter on the wall, and a group of corpses jettisoned into the void. “Kindness and pride were nothing but a memory now,” he mourns, finishing on an anguished note, “Haunted by the memories of the dead, why are we still alive?”

High School detention with no smartphone privileges, or “a kind of hell worse than that of our ravaged planet?” Answer: both.

Gee, as hard as life on that ship might be, I would imagine that camaraderie and an exalted sense of purpose would see everyone through. Remember, since there are what, only a few thousand people left, every individual would be important in a way that today’s miserably poor, numbering in the billions, can never hope to be. Such thoughts probably make me Little Mary Sunshine.

But let’s return to Haruo brooding in his cell as the movie replays images of his grandfather’s shuttle blowing up. – No doubt Haruo replays that image in his own mind over and over and over and over…….(Joking! Because I don’t think he ever thinks about it. Really.)

Thus Endeth The Backstory.

Still stewing in the brig, Haruo gets a visitor, an Exif named Metflies. In this way we learn that the surviving humans share their spaceship with some Exifs, even though the Aratrum looks nothing like the fleet of Exif craft that appeared over the U. N. What happened to those craft? Who knows? Who cares? But we do learn that Metphies is some sort priest whose job it is to “offer confession. Even to prisoners.” Haruo refuses to cheer up at this news and laughs bitterly, “You want me to repent to your God?” – Yes Haruo, that’s probably what the alien priest wants you to do. (Does Haruo know anything about the nature of that God? Does any human? Does it matter? – Who knows? Who cares? The scriptwriters sure don’t.)

But Metphies is also there for another reason. He hands over some classified data that Haruo apparently requested at an earlier date. Maybe before he threatened to blow up the shuttle full of old people, while it was in the docking bay, thus endangering the entire ship. At any rate, this tells us that the Exif priests enjoy a top security clearance in humanity’s final refuge. What did the Exif do to earn such trust? Who knows? Who cares? At least we know that Metphies is willing to betray this trust, all the while speaking in a condescending, slightly effeminate and sinister manner that screams “villain!” Haruo doesn’t pick up on that, of course, because he is too obsessed with Godzilla. You see, he’s certain that mankind is now being punished because it “ran away from” Godzilla, who he refers to as “that bastard.” Haruo is also convinced that he can destroy the monster that defeated an entire planet. “If we had only been better prepared, mankind could have defeated him. I’ll show everyone!” – You know, I hate to admit it, but Haruo has a point. Even as I write this, the world is still woefully unprepared for a Godzilla attack. Which is pretty shocking.

Haruo knows that mankind can only redeem itself by returning to earth and fighting Godzilla. But nobody listens to him, NOBODY!!!

If Metphies was a competent mental health professional, he would now push the secret button that summons security. But he merely smirks, “You seem to want to see Godzilla again.” Haruo seems oblivious, not only to the condescension that drips from that comment, but to Metfies himself.

Now we cut to a meeting of the Central Committee. Metphies is there as is another Exif. And while it’s not explicitly mentioned, alert viewers will pick up that several Bilusaludo are also present. Wait! What happened to their fleet of advanced interstellar spacecraft?!? – Oh, never mind. But apparently mankind is sharing its final refuge with not one, but two alien races. Both of which have (had?) their own fleet of interstellar spacecraft. And both of which enjoy access to executive power. OK, fine. Should I take this opportunity to mention that each member of either alien race in the Aratrum means one less berth for a human being? Maybe not, I’m starting to sound like a Republican.

Creepy Metfies, on the left, and his dyspeptic boss address the Central Committee

Another question, did the aliens help build the Aratrum? No idea, as the ship’s creation is shrouded in mystery, despite its central importance to the plot. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everyone’s together in a ship our hero calls a hell worse then a Godzilla scorched earth. Surely the aliens have something to offer, like a knowledge of stellar geography, right? Wrong! At the Central Committee meeting the expedition leaders finally realize, after 22 years of misery, that finding another habitable planet is impossible.

OK, so it was pointless to bring the aliens along. Right? Well, not so fast. Metflies and his boss explain that even though they are now 11.9 light years from earth, something called the Gematron will make a quick hyper-space back to earth possible. This makes one wonder why they didn’t use the Gematron earlier when people were committing suicide from cold and hunger and hopelessness, but I digress. Despite some qualms about the danger of such a long jump, the counsel sort of makes a decision to do it. Without bothering, I should note, to put such an eventful decision up for a vote of all the passengers. It seems to be a cliché of post-apocalyptic sci-fi that nothing important is ever decided in a democratic fashion.

And no matter. The sheeple people who inhabit the Aratrum take the news of a dangerous return to earth in a surprisingly blasé manner. We hear two nameless crew members complacently murmur about how “the brass are turning to the gods, as usual.” The gods!?! Are they the aliens, or the gods of the aliens? Oh, who knows? And who cares, because we are on to our next plot point, the unauthorized release of an “inflammatory” essay onto the public server. This essay, it appears, causes more of a stir than the announcement that they will soon return to earth. (!?!)

The script is cagey about what’s in this essay and who released it, but we eventually discover that it contains a brilliant new plan to destroy Godzilla, and it was written by …. drumroll …. Haruo! Yes, while sitting in his computer-free prison cell he managed to do what all of earth’s scientists couldn’t – locate an obscure weakness in Godzilla’s physiology. Way to go Haruo! Is anyone else getting the feeling that Haruo is a Mary Sue, or rather a Gary Stu? Maybe I’m being unkind here. Sure, Haruo is only a mid-ranking military officer, but why should that mean he isn’t a scientific genius as well? It works this way, he saw his parents killed by Godzilla when he was a boy, and so he hates Godzilla. When he grows up, this hate is magically transformed into heroic super-abilities. There, I solved the problem. And I apologize for calling Haruo a Gary Stu.

I should also say here, that Godzilla’s Achilles’ Heel is a perfectly fine one. That’s not sarcasm. The script is at its best when dealing with secondary details, like giant monster physiology and battlefield logistics. It only falls down on the big questions of human drama and motivation. – Sigh.

OK, so now the ship is preparing to hyper-space jump back to earth, and all of the sheeple people are abuzz over the newly released and “inflammatory” plan on how to kill Godzilla. Why would it be inflammatory? At this point, isn’t it academic? The decision to return to earth has already been made and the essay doesn’t change that.
No one asks if Godzilla might still be alive BEFORE they make the jump back to earth. AFTER the jump is made, THEN they start asking if Godzilla still on the march. Jesus these people are clueless! (A competent script would have had the Committee decide to try for that other star, only to be overruled by the passengers when they learn about this new tactic against Godzilla.)

But let’s go back before the jump takes place to an important conversation between creepy Metphies and some unnamed member of the Bilusaludo contingent. This scene confirms, in a typically off-hand manner, that there are indeed members from both alien races aboard the Aratrum. During this talk we also learn that the Exif have lost their own homeworld, and it’s only now that the garbled Mecha-Godzilla moment in the backstory is explained. Ack. We also learn that, maybe, Metphies himself is the source of all the new anti-Godzilla strategy stuff. But it’s unclear. Ack.

Distrust flickers amongst the computer displays as creepy Metflies stares at a guy from Balusaludo.

As for the Bilusalusdorian (try saying that 3 times fast!) we learn that he speaks in a deep, butch voice. He has contempt for the humans because they are so weak that they are “giving up” after drifting around hopelessly in space for “only” 20 years.
And I’m wondering why none of the Bilsaludo argued to push on at that Central Committee meeting. That could have produced some drama. How about some conflict with Haruo? Nope, that doesn’t happen either. This script is so frustrating! Why bring this stuff up if you’re not going to do anything with it?!?

In addition to having contempt for the human race, the Bilosaludo don’t trust the Exif. “Even if mankind did defeat Godzilla, you and your cult would have taken over the earth.” Hmmm, interesting thought. How come it never occurs to any of the human characters? Oh well, for his part, Metphies replies that he wonders what Mecha-Godzilla would have attacked next should it have succeeded in defeating Godzilla? Hmmm, interesting thought. How come it never occurs to any of the human characters? (To be fair, comments Haruo makes in his backstory rant indicate that he has his suspicions, but nothing is made of it.)

Speaking of good questions, how is it that these two mutually suspicious races ended up together in one spaceship? A spaceship where the humans seem to be in charge? And how did the humans, the only race with no interstellar travel experience, end up in charge? – Oh, I know why, because!

Back to the story, or rather “story.” The jump is made back to earth, and drones are sent down to the surface for reconnaissance. One of them is destroyed by something that sounds like Godzilla. So finally, everyone in the Central Committee starts chattering about whether or not it’s possible that Godzilla could still be alive. And this is when creepy Metphies and his boss make their move. Haughty and cool as cucumbers, they bring the chatter to a halt by saying it isn’t important to understand the situation, they just need to come up with a plan to kill Godzilla. (!?!) And they remind everyone that the unauthorized info dump contained an “inflammatory” anti-Godzilla plan. This reminds the Central Committee that they are still pissed off about that info dump….because it was, what….a breach of protocol? Yeah, I guess that must be it. At any rate, Metphies lets it be known that he was the one who leaked classified info to the author of the plan. Apparently he is above the law on this spaceship, for he suffers no consequences for this crime. In fact, he makes demands on the council and on the Captain in charge, a human being, FYI. Metfies will only identify the author of the daring plan if Haruo is released from jail….thus, he has identified the author before the Committee has agreed to his terms. Brilliant Metfies, just brilliant.

Screens! Screens! You can never have too many screens!
Aratrum crew members review a torrent of important data from reconnaissance drones sent down to earth.

Why they need to free Haruo when all of his insights are now in the public domain, I have no idea, but free him they do. And a good thing too, because classic Gary Stu that he is, he has devised a brilliant tactical plan to exploit the weakness he discovered. Which means, I guess, that no one else on the spaceship is any good whatsoever when it comes to military operations. That makes sense, since no one has any military experience. But then, why would Haruo be good at it? Oh, because he’s a Gary Stu. Stupid question.

Since I brought up the Big Captain of the entire ship, I’ll pause here to tell you that the man charged with leading an operation meant to save mankind from extinction is never given a name, never becomes a real character, and never has an impact on the events in the story. Blah.

So, Haruo ends up briefing all the idiots who put him in the brig on how they can destroy Godzilla. Here we learn that mysterious particles in the atmosphere are creating a fog that interferes with electronic communication. Oh, and we’re also told that there are some 4,000 individuals on the spaceship, including the Exif and the Bilusaludo, and that Haruo’s plan calls for a force of 600. That’s a hefty investment of personnel, and the top two commanding officers, whatever their names are, baulk at the prospect. And yet, we instantly cut away to preparations for Haruo’s military operation. (!?!)

For a pathetic group of starving refugees, these people muster an impressively well-equipped strike force. Before they head down to the surface they all pause to bow their heads as creepy Metfies offers up a prayer to his mysterious God. (One would think that human beings had no religion of their own when the Exif arrived.) After the prayer, one Commander Elliot Leland takes the stage for he, not Haruo, will be in charge of the “Earth Brigade.” A sensible decision I think, until Leland opens his mouth. He mentions something about civilizations that get stuck in old ways becoming doomed. He disparages fake promised lands and then vows to take back mankind’s home in order to guarantee a prosperous future. He sounds just like Haruo.

Members of the Earth Brigade are: A) Offering up a prayer to an alien God. B) Suffering from sinus headaches. C) Offering up a prayer to an alien God to relieve their sinus headaches.

So not surprisingly, Leland’s speech is music to Haruo’s ears. He correctly notes that Leland seems to want to pick a fight with the Central Committee. And it becomes clear that Leland wants to land a spot on the Committee himself, and hopes the Earth Brigade will be his ticket to promotion. – This is an interesting motivation, and Leland becomes a potential rival to Haruo for Future Leader Of The Human Race. Guess what happens to Leland in a little bit? For his part, creepy Metphies swings by to pump up Haruo with dreams of glory by telling him he’s the hero mankind has been waiting for. And it’s just what this particular young man needs to hear. (Joking!) (Ha ha!)

As the Earth Brigade departs for the surface, we are introduced to one Lt. Colonel Gala-gu. He’s a Bilusaludorian, the same Bilusaludorian that sparred with Metphies earlier….I think. I guess this means he’s an important character, right? No, he isn’t. But maybe he will be in Episode II.

At any rate, Earth Brigade splits into 5 companies with each landing in scattered locations over a very wide area. Each group, semi-isolated by the strange fog, will look for Godzilla on it’s own. If found, Godzilla is to be attacked in order to “record data” about that weakness discovered by Haruo. Using that data, another attack will hopefully finish Godzilla off. I won’t go into detail about that weakness – a perfectly good bit of sci-fi pseudo-science – I’ll just say that the Earth Brigade must disrupt Godzilla’s energy shield and hit a certain spot with explosives.

Mankind arrives back on earth.

The landing completed, we meet our first and only female character. She’s Yuko Tani. And while she is noticeably smaller than Haruo, Leland tasks her with making sure he doesn’t desert the operation and go off to live by himself in the Godzilla infested wilderness. Which is an actual danger, I guess. (Fun fact: Yoko Tani was a Japanese actress who starred in the pulp sci-fi classic “First Spaceship On Venus” back in 1964. Coincidence?)

Haruo, tailed by the diligent Yuko, heads out to join the scouting sorties, and we all run into a gobsmacking plot point, for the plants have leaves as sharp and strong as steak knives. But wait, there’s more! Haruo is warned not to brush against these leaves because they could rip his suit and that would be fatal, because….the AIR IS TOXIC. That’s right, everyone is wearing a gas mask, because the AIR IS TOXIC. Wouldn’t steel plants and toxic air make the earth UNINHABITABLE??? Isn’t this a factor to consider before moving forward with any plans!?! Apparently not, for everyone keeps prepping for the fight with Godzilla like nothing has happened. What? What? What? (Sean’s brain temporarily shuts down.)

OK, I’m back! Yuko, unconcerned about the implications of steel plants and toxic air asks Haruo about that shuttle we saw blow up at the start of the movie. Turns out her granddad was also on board, and she wonders if maybe the bombs that he rigged up on the shuttle were the bombs that killed her granddad. Interesting question, and you’d think she’d have some strong feelings about the matter. We might even get a clash of wills and viewpoints between her and Haruo, a clash that would test his convictions. But no, we can’t have Gary Stu’s convictions tested by a sympathetic character, as that might make some members of the audience question his convictions as well. So Yuko never gets emotional, and she blandly pivots away from Haruo’s possible guilt to wonder if the Central Committee blew up the shuttle on purpose. Why? She doesn’t say, but oddly, Haruo doesn’t want to believe that. You’d think he would cling to that explanation, as it would relieve him of the thought that HE was responsible for the shuttle’s destruction. In fact, he is remarkably uncurious about why the shuttle blew up. That’s not the issue. The issue is – he doesn’t want to succumb to mistrust. Because, you see, mistrust is a flaw that mankind picked up while living on the cramped Aratrum. (Ha!) And why are they living on the cramped Aratrum? Because of mankind’s cowardice in the face of Godzilla’s wrath.

It’s a sin that Haruo cannot forgive, and he hates mankind for it. The script, and many viewers will protest this assertion, but yes, Haruo hates mankind for failing this test. Godzilla, in Haruo’s words “stole” the earth. And in the process, he also stole “Justice, faith and basic human dignity.” In other words, mankind’s cowardice in the face of danger has led to its moral corruption. Mankind must be redeemed, and that can only happen when it follows a prophet who leads them to reclaim their former greatness.

If we make Godzilla a symbol for the Allies, this really is remarkably close to Hitler’s belief that Germany could have won World War I if it had just kept on fighting. And as we know, he dedicated himself to erasing the shame of that defeat. He also blamed villains such as bankers and Jews, of course, and now let’s remember Haruo’s belief that the aliens want our beautiful blue earth for themselves. Will he come to view the Exif as Hitler viewed the Jews?

Moving up to World War II, Haruo also reminds me of a right-wing patriot bemoaning Japan’s surrender to the U.S. Even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were torched there were squads of fanatical soldiers determined to assassinate any politician willing to declare defeat. For them, death, even for the entire nation, was heroic and survival through defeat shameful….Yikes. I doubt that the makers of “Planet of the Monsters” dream of a new Japanese Empire, but their fervently sophomoric dreams of glory are turning this Godzilla movie into a weird variation of “Red Dawn.”

A minute or two later we get another demonstration of Haruo’s moral hysteria. Encountering some “fossilized” fungus that has retained the shape of mankind’s ruined skyscrapers, he closes his eyes as the music swells and moans, “You (the earth have) remembered. Even though we’ve forgotten.” – Oh mankind, how weak, faithless, and wretched thou art! No doubt Moses felt the same way when he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments only to discover that the Hebrews were worshiping a golden calf.

By the way, we discover that not 1,000 but 19,200 years have passed by on earth. I guess that’s important.

And now we get an action sequence as some rather generic western-style dragons swoop in and attack our company of the Earth Brigade. The dragons are driven off, but not before they kill a number of soldiers and destroy some vital equipment. Leland makes the sensible call that they stop the operation. He even thinks it would be wiser to avoid a fight with Godzilla and instead build a base on the moon, and then travel to earth only for resource collecting trips. Predictably, this sets Haruo off. “What about fighting Godzilla and becoming a hero?!?” he screams, for just as his granddad turned out to be a quitter, Leland is now a coward.

The dragon attack

The next sequence is full of more complicated logistics, and I won’t get into them, except to say that Leland’s attempt to call a retreat is foiled when Metfies asserts they can still execute something close to Haruo’s original Godzilla plan. (I’ll be honest, I thought they were executing Haruo’s plan all along. Why bring him along if they weren’t?) “Bested,” Leland agrees to execute this new version of Haruo’s plan, as long as everyone agrees not to engage Godzilla if the monster is indeed sighted. What? Oh, never mind, let’s just move on.

Having done his best to set up a battle between the humans and Godzilla, Metflies says some interesting things to Haruo. Such as, “Godzilla will never let humanity escape,” and “He is the vengeful hammer for the arrogant. Those species that pronounce themselves as lords of creation will be struck down by his blind fury.” Does any of this raise a red flag in Haruo’s mind? Not that we see, and right on cue a series of seismic shocks mark the arrival of …..ba ba bummmm – Godzilla! Finally. And we are only 53 minutes into the movie!

Godzilla finally makes an appearance.

As the others flee Haruo steals an air scooter and makes what seems to be a kamikaze run at Godzilla in order to record the data necessary for the follow up attack. Fortunately for Haruo, Godzilla lets him get away. But he also fails to get the data. So Leland, commander of the entire operation, proves he isn’t a coward after all by sacrificing himself in another Kamikaze run. Hey, it’s not like a regular soldier could have done that. Right? And after killing Leland, Godzilla wonders off in a fit of distraction.

Leland’s death turns out to be very convenient, for the 2nd in command is creepy alien priest Metfies, and guess what he wants to do? – Put Haruo in charge of course! As he explains to the Central Committee, “All people were born to complete their own task. So it has been established in our scripture.” Well sure, why wouldn’t that persuade the Central Committee to put a young, not-headed would be terrorist in charge of a vital military operation? (I swear, nothing in this story makes any sense.) And Haruo, now that you are in charge, are you remembering what Metphies said before the battle with Godzilla? Are you maybe wondering about his motivations? No? Never mind then.

There is one character in the movie who shares my amazement at the turn of events, and it’s Yuko. On hearing of Metphies’ intention to put Haruo in charge she cries, “That’s insane!” But don’t worry, she immediately changes her mind after he gives his big “Henry II at Agincourt” speech to the troops. Let’s listen in, and I’ll provide some color commentary:

The situation is dire. (True, but it’s been dire since the start of the movie, so I guess it’s business as usual.) I don’t know what the future holds for humanity. And I don’t have enough of a strategy to even begin to know our chances of victory. (Ummm, OK. And Metphies put you in charge because?….) However, what I do know is this, those who do not yield to Godzilla today can proudly welcome tomorrow. (Even if they’re dead?) This is not only a battle to defeat Godzilla. This is a battle against the humiliating future, a future where we have no choice but to accept despair and defeat. (Again, I’m thinking of the young Japanese patriots who wanted to fight on to the death, even after the A-bombs fell.) If we can reject that despair, fight against it, and once again dream of hope and pride, just as our ancestors did, who thrived here before us. That’s right, if we stand our ground, if we don’t show fear, and if we put our lives on the line, we’ve already won. (Yes, that was the inspiration behind the original kamikaze pilots. Facing up to the fact that the war was lost came second to the moral victory of never giving up.) We just have to finish it, once and for all. Humanity’s 22-year nightmare, and Godzilla’s 22,000 year reign. I look forward to your brave efforts. That is all. (It certainly is.)

Inspired, all the troops, including Yuko, salute in a fervent manner. And then we go into a big battle preparation montage that includes a bit of dialogue between two nameless grunts. One of them wonders whether or not the plan will work, and the other answers that “it doesn’t matter.” … Oh boy. Is this kind of fatalism really the answer? Yuko now thinks so, and she’s all hot to risk herself in battle as well. “I want to be stronger. That’s all I can think about!” she cries. Oh boy.

Today Godzilla, tomorrow the world!

Colonel Gala-gu plays no role in deciding the Brigade’s actions, but he is given an odd bit of dialogue, “At times like this, I find myself jealous of those who have a God to pray to.” I guess means that the religious get more out of suicidal military operations than atheists, because the religious assume they will be rewarded in Heaven. But Gala-gu shows no dismay at the prospect of dying in battle, so I don’t get his comment.

To make a long battle short, the Earth Brigade wins, and Godzilla is blown to smithereens. Hurray! (For monster hating fans of Human Dignity.) Only then, a much larger Godzilla rumbles out from under the ground. Hurray! (For people hating fans of Godzilla.) This new Godzilla, which is the old Godzilla that destroyed the human world, soon puts the Earth Brigade to flight. There’s an element of “having your cake and eating it too” here. Haruo is the hero, so his plan has to work. Yet killing Godzilla with his plan would piss off lots of fans and erase the need for another episode. So, voila, another Godzilla!

Watching the new/old behemoth from a safe distance, Metphies purringly dubs him a God of Destruction. Oh no! The practitioner of a foreign religion, formerly trusted as an ally, has just proved to be a duplicitous back stabber! Oh dear.

For his part, Harou flees with what’s left of his attack force, which has sustained heavy casualties. “Bastard, I’ll kill you!” he screams at Godzilla.

To be continued in Episode II…

Not so fast says VLG, or Very Large Godzilla

Sean Ledden

A.K.A. Grumpy McFaultfinder

Feb 2018

 

Afterthoughts

“Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” lost me very early on when it shoved all of the spectacular stuff I wanted to see into a backstory that was needlessly long and complicated, but still left vital plot points unexplained. No doubt the filmmakers decided that Godzilla’s defeat of the entire human world was too big a story for them to dramatize, but merely serving up a long chunk of exposition mixed with some teaser images was a lazy solution and a bad call.
And I’m still bugged by all those monsters that appeared before Godzilla, only to disappear without a trace. Maybe they were a shout-out to the “Pacific Rim” franchise? If so, they were a pointless one. Speaking of shout-outs, the generic western style dragons that attack the Earth Brigade might be one to the “Game of Thrones” series. The script tells us that the dragons, and indeed the plants, are all genetically linked to Godzilla, but these European imports bear no family resemblance to Godzilla. Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing creatures conjured up by the same wild Japanese imagination that brought us the classic monsters of the Ultraman series.

I mentioned earlier that I think Godzilla’s look is just fine in this movie, and it turns out he’s the biggest incarnation yet. After watching the movie I learned from breathless fan media that the one who shows up at the very end is about 1000 feet tall. Which is really cool! But I couldn’t tell that by watching the movie. I could only tell he was supposed to be larger than the freshly killed Godzilla. Had he been juxtaposed with a modern cityscape his entrance would have been much more awesome. Another bad fumble for “Planet of the Monsters.”

You’ll notice that I don’t talk about Godzilla much in my review. That’s because he’s merely a plot device, which pisses me off. The movie’s true subject is Haruo’s quest to redeem mankind. In building Haruo up however, the movie reduces humanity to a bunch of vapid chumps. Only Leland is an actual character, and he soon sacrifices himself in affirmation of Haruo’s vision. As for Gala-gu and company, my guess is that they are squeezed into the story so that they can later prove in Episode II, after the treachery of the Exif has been un-masked, that not all foreigners, I mean aliens, I mean extraterrestrials are bad. But for now they merely clutter up the landscape as by-standers. Metphies is a potentially interesting critique of religious fanaticism, but the whole Exif set-up is botched so I can’t take him seriously. But how about the Exif as a sci-fi version of “the Jewish problem?” Well, that does kind of work. Which is freaky, but I doubt the filmmakers had that in mind. I hope.

Given the dark and hysterical nature of Haruo’s mindset, do I think the filmmakers are secret fascists? Not really, as I don’t think their values are organized enough to be called fascistic. The script goes all over the map, but at its core it’s a young man’s tale of grievance against his elders, so it has the air of a teenage temper tantrum, a very gloomy teenage temper tantrum. But genuine tragedy requires a mature perspective, and as an example let me point to the original 1954 “Gojira,” with its haunting air of gravitas. And it was created by men who actually did live through hell, instead of growing up in a prosperous post-war world.

Read more about Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters at

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4 comments to Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)

  • Guts3d

    Whew! This has to be your best review to date, Mr. McFaultfinder! The comparisons to WW2 and the Axis powers were unexpected, interesting and thought provoking. The thought that they were in space for 1,000 years but 19,200 years passed on Earth sounds like the Einsteinian paradox of faster than light travel. And the thought of aliens coming to help us altruistically is tough to swallow, unless you add a religion into the mix that states that it’s devotees must help others. I’ll bet Mecha-Godzilla will make an appearance in a later episode. As a kid growing up in Pittsburgh, I was scared as could be of Godzilla, but still I went and saw every movie I could with him or any Japanese monster. Could Mothra and Gamera show up and lend a … Well, not a hand but maybe a pseudopod? Top notch review!

  • Sean

    Danke mein freund! – Einsteinian paradoxes do indeed abound in this movie! And sorry my review didn’t make it clear, but the people only experienced 22 years on their wretched spaceship before returning to earth. And those aliens, sheesh. We see them arrive in their own FLEETS. What happened to their ships? Ships that must be superior to anything we could build. No explanation. Ack. You are probably right to guess that Mecha-Godzilla will reappear in Episode II. Will that movie then explain how a few thousand impoverished refugees manage to build a 1000 foot tall robot monster? I won’t hold my breath. As for Mothra and Gamera, I hope they tell their agents to keep them out of this one. 🙂

    You grew up in Pittsburgh? – A good friend from my Ohio high school days lives there. Nice town!

  • Great review of an amazingly so-so movie. This was had a whopping 200+ eyeroll moments while I was watching it on NETFLIX. It was basically very bad fan wank. I have little hope for any future episodes to improve the distaste in my mouth for this fetid mess.

  • Sean

    A bad fan wank indeed. If only the filmmakers didn’t mistake manic gloominess for drama.

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