Hiroyuki Seshita & Kôbun Shizuno's GODZILLA: THE PLANET EATER
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This is the third of Toho Animation’s GODZILLA movies, the first two being Planet of the Monsters and City at the Edge of Battle. Thematically and story wise it’s an appropriate end and brings threads from the first two to a “logical” conclusion. Still, it left me disappointed.
First the positive.
The color palette of this film is impressive. Subtle within-frame variations in color are common. This underscores the frequently somber nature of what is being discussed (plus much of the character interaction takes place underground). This subtlety is then interrupted with almost blinding color and lighting contrasts that intensely illustrate the movie’s various character and action conflicts.
Facial expressions are well rendered despite an almost minimalist approach to variations in color and shading. Eyes, eyebrows, and lips seem better and more expressively rendered than in the first installment of the trilogy.
Clash of styles.
The clash of visual styles with almost abstract visions interspersed with realistic natural imagery is well used. This underscores the mixing of action and faux-spiritual themes that increasingly dominate the second half of the film. Watch the sequence where both Mothra and a realistically represented Enola Gay appear. It’s as good a rendering of a dream/nightmare/vision as I’ve seen on film.
Scale wise, the movie shifts from an imposing and terrifying display of Godzilla’s size and mass to a bird’s-eye-view of the field of monster battle that shows Godzilla as a tiny figure when viewed from above. In fact, distance and scale are well displayed throughout the film. This argues for seeing it on as large a screen as possible.
Now for the negative.
Stiff character movement.
The software that governs walking still is limited. Pixar characters’ movements are much more realistically rendered. Given the imaginative rendering of both natural and technological surroundings, this is a major distraction.
Too much talking.
When people do talk it’s likely to be silly techno-babble or — even worse — a boring recitation of spiritual and semi-religious themes that increasingly dominate the film as it progresses. I get it; a death cult believes all must be destroyed by their summoning of the three-headed monster Ghidora from its extra-dimensional lair. But stop talking! We want to see Godzilla in action!
Not enough action.
The disadvantage of having so much talking and exposition is that the action we hope to see — Godzilla vs. Ghidora — is greatly truncated as characters expound about life, death, fate, spiritual transition, and related topics. Godzilla as a character is wasted.
Is the movie worth seeing?
If you are a Godzilla fan, the answer is a definite yes. I still think Shin Godzilla is the best of this century’s Godzilla films but PLANET EATER is a worthy but flawed entry.
Visually, I think it is excellent. Unfortunately the script overemphasizes the wrong elements.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald