2017’s anime film Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is the first in a trilogy of animated films about the big galoot. It was written by Gen Urobuchi and co-directed by Kōbun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita. Voice actors include Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji. Mamoru Miyano, Daisuke Ono, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Sugita, and Junichi Suwabe.
Humanity was seemingly helpless in the face of the kaiju, in particular Godzilla itself. Timely first contact with not one but two highly advanced aliens — the pious Exif and the technologically sophisticated Bilusaludo — proved humanity’s salvation. Not because the Exif and Bilusaludo were any more adept at fighting giant, indestructible monsters than the humans. They weren’t. But with alien help, a handful of humans was able to board starship Aratrum and flee towards the possible haven of Tau Ceti e.
Twenty years later.…
Tau Ceti e is not the haven for which the humans and their allies had hoped. Convinced that continuing effort to settle there would be suicide (and having failed to blackmail the Central Committee into abandoning the effort), Haruo Sakaki and his Exif ally Metphies resort to underhanded methods. They manage to convince the passengers on Aratrum that the best hope for survival is to return to the one planet known to be habitable for humans: Earth.
This isn’t completely insane. True, Earth was overrun by monsters the last time humans saw it. But the exiles have had twenty years to sift the data they gathered in their futile efforts to defeat the kaiju. Having worked out the secret of monster invulnerability, Haruo believes it is possible to kill humanity’s enemies and take back the Earth.
One risky long-range jump later, Aratrum arrives at Earth1. What was twenty years for the ship was twenty thousand years for humanity’s lost homeland. Aratrum finds a world transformed. Dispatching drones to survey the surface, they soon discover the kaiju still rule. As does their old foe Godzilla.
No worries! Armed with better understanding of their enemies and impressive weaponry, Haruo is convinced that humans can exterminate the monsters. The day that he makes Godzilla pay for killing his family is finally at hand.
The one downside of contemporary spectacles like The Planet of Monsters is that older animated pieces, ones that looked impressive in their day, are diminished by comparison.
The enthusiasts that I have dubbed space cadets try to sell space with the “eggs in one basket” line, But … Earth is by far the most human-habitable world of all the worlds we know. This would still be true even after, say, a meteor strike, climate catastrophe, or nuclear war. The only advantage that Tau Ceti e has going for it is that it is not known to harbor nuclear-fire breathing monsters. Of course, it may have had its own kaiju, biding their time in some underwater fastness or on a remote island, waiting to erupt and massacre humanity again. After all, the alien Exif have seen entities like Godzilla on other worlds. Nowhere is safe from these monsters.
(Be sure to check under your bed every night.)
How does one breathe life into a franchise older than James Bond? How does one manage to find a new twist on watching a monster the size of the Astrodome trample Tokyo underfoot yet again? Planet of Monsters chooses to borrow from the famous Melville novel, Moby Dick. Haruo is Planet’s Ahab, obsessed beyond reason with vengeance. He is not only willing to risk his own life to vanquish the monster; he will sacrifice any number of other lives if their deaths bring him closer to his goal. At the start of the film, Haruo is complaining that the ship’s Central Committee is sacrificing expendable passengers in order to husband Aratrum’s dwindling supplies. By the end of the film, Haruo has more than equalled the Central Committee’s death toll.
I also found myself wondering about Haruo’s Exif friend Metphies. By supporting Haruo, he’s condemning a fair number of humans to death. Could it be that the Exif are not entirely on humanity’s side? Or at least this Exif? Hmmm.
If you’re looking for a Godzilla film with comic relief, a film in which good triumphs over evil, look elsewhere. If you want something as upbeat as Moby Dick or Threads, this may be the Godzilla film you want to see.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is available on Netflix.
1: You may ask “why, if the ship could travel from Sol to Tau Ceti in one fast (in the frame of the ship) hop, did they spend twenty years travelling to Tau Ceti?” My reading is that long jumps are disproportionately risky. At the beginning of the voyage, when everything was new and shiny, it seemed more prudent to be patient.