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DRAGON ON A BIT
Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater (12A)
Screenplay: Gen Urobuchi
Review: David Stephens
As the much-anticipated “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” draws ever nearer to its May release date (Thinks: Please Don’t Suck! Please Don’t Suck!), a much more experimental trilogy is quietly drawing to a close on the prime streaming channel. “Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater” is the final film in the series of feature-length anime films produced by Toho Animation, made by Polygon Pictures, and distributed in association with Netflix. It all kicked off in early 2018 with “Planet of the Monsters”, which was set 20,000 years in the future. In this alternate Kaiju-infested timeline, Godzilla had triumphed over humankind and made Earth uninhabitable. The remnants of the population fled to the stars, eventually returning to reclaim Earth with their alien allies (the Bilusaludo and the Exif). Taking on the (now 300m in height) colossal beast, there was a fake-out triumph in the first film, so the conflict continued between the monster and the survivors in “Godzilla 2: City on the Edge of Battle”. This saw the Big G almost defeated by the remains of “Mecha Godzilla”, Nano-machines that had organised themselves into a … err… weaponised “city”. But even this failed to eradicate the behemoth, which merely went into a hibernation state again after destroying the city and the bulk of the Bilusaludo race. This concluding chapter of the trilogy premiered as the closing film at the Tokyo International Film Festival in November of 2018, and is now on Netflix in the US and UK regions. So YGROY takes a look to see if we can Fug-Ghidorah-boutit… or not.
The film continues straight on from “City”, with Haruo Sakaki (English vocals again by Chris Niosi) and the remaining earthbound group licking their wounds and recovering from some devastating losses. Whilst Godzilla remains in a “sleep” state, the Human-Alien alliance on the orbiting spaceship is starting to fall apart, but the Exif are encouraging belief in “miracles” and pushing the remaining population into worshipping their “God”. The name of this deity has already been whispered to Sakaki by the shifty prophet Metphies (English vocals by Lucien Dodge), and it’s obviously well-known to those who know anything about their Kaiju history. It seems that the Exif are expecting to summon their “Golden King” to finally take care of Godzilla, something that has been prophesised for some time in their religion. The problem being that when this otherworldly serpent arrives, he’s not going to be satisfied with just snacking on one overgrown lizard…
Bet you never thought you’d see a Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah tussle underlined by a philosophical discussion about nihilism and the subversive nature of self-sacrifice. But that’s exactly what happens here. Although in all honesty, this film is as much about those two indulging in fisticuffs, as the previous one was about the Big G smacking his robotic counterpart upside his head (i.e. only very slightly). G2 was (in the most very basic terms) an intentionally skewed twist on the classic Kaiju beat-em’-up, with the gigantic robot reduced to a semi-sentient structure and fatally infectious invisible Nano-bots. In a similar vein, this chapter doesn’t feature the classic form of King Ghidorah, namely a gangly and very physical 3-headed dragon. Instead it’s a more metaphysical representation, still being dragon-headed but more nebulous and dangerous. In fact he is (arguably) represented as the actual embodiment of entropy and/or chaos itself. If that all seems somewhat pretentious and highbrow… well, you do still get a mah-hoo-sive Godzilla swiping away at a bitey golden serpent creature, which still looks cool whatever way you interpret it. We’ve possibly been a bit hard on the previous two chapters, as visually impressive as they occasionally are. And as a whole the trilogy certainly hasn’t exactly been a huge success, being something more of a flawed but interesting experiment. But with this closer, the intentions and tone of the whole narrative are simplified and made clearer. The two alien races are allegories of different facets of humankind – The Bilusaludo with their “worship” and reliance on technology & the Exif with their misguided and self-destructive cult religion. The returning humans have literally lost their way whilst exiled in space, whereas the de-evolved natives of Earth are the pure essence of humanity. Godzilla is now represented as nature’s response to our species’ hubris and arrogance, something which has been used in previous live-action films but it’s stated with pure conviction here, along with a bitter-sweet call-back to the first atomic bombing and the original 50’s live-action film
How you take all these allegories and metaphors, will ultimately dictate on how much enjoyment you get from this final chapter of the story (and also the trilogy as a whole). You can probably guess that “action” sequences don’t take priority here, and the title character takes barely a few (admittedly huge) steps in the entirety of the film. But it does still look visually great at certain points, with the scale ramped up to CG-Epic. However that is accompanied by some clunky dialogue and exposition, which feels especially stilted at the climax. EG: “What the Hell is going on?!” - *techno-babble about electromagnetic fields* - “What the Hell is that?!” - *More techno-babble about dimensional rifts*. So if you’re just expecting monster-go-smash or Kaiju-on-Kaiju action, then this isn’t really for you… although you shouldn’t be expecting that by this point in the trilogy anyway. If you’ve enjoyed the two previous films, or want to see something unusual done with the iconic monsters, then you may be up for this. In a nice touch, the Ghidorah “screech” (along with Godzilla’s roar and atomic breath) remains on the soundtrack. And there’s a pleasing (if ultimately pointless) cameo by another popular Kaiju that’ll bring a smile to the lips of monster fans. It’s an anime excursion that’s going to be remembered as “interesting” rather than mind-blowing, when most G-fans are panting to get more details around Michael Dougherty’s upcoming Monsterverse movie, and 2020’s title fight with Da’ Big Monkey. But that aside, this film remains a poetic end to an uneven but intriguing take on the King of the Monsters. Now let’s see what Hollywood and Toho have in store for him over the next few years…
Like the two previous movies, G3 is about plenty of analogies and philosophy, rather than just plain old Kaiju carnage. This one manages to distil it down to its purest form and plays with big visuals and bigger ideas. In that respect it is probably the most honest and poetic part of the trilogy. Not for everybody, but at least it does something unusual with the scenario and lingers in the mind.
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