Thursday, 22 February 2018

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters has that TV stink about it. Rather than just cut to the chase and fill its 90 minute running time with exciting situations that track towards a definite conclusion, the film is full of dithering, false starts and even a pretender King of Monsters. Set in the distant future, Earth has been utterly trampled by rampaging Daikaiju. A despondent mankind has thrown their lot in with a couple of alien races that promise, variously, safe passage to the stars and weapons strong enough to beat humanity's ultimate threat - Godzilla.

Directors Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita frame their events at arm's length, using a cast of characters who repeatedly thwart any hint of intimacy whilst moving with the creaky, marionette rigging of a PlayStation 2 game. This primitiveness extends to the writing too, screenwriter Gen Urobuchi's characters fulfil basic military adventure roles and very little else. Considering his introduction, hero Haruo Sakai should be a maverick, bending the rules to cater to the revolutionary anti-Godzilla strategy he has been given by a priest from a creepy, alien religion. Instead, back on a geologically aggressive Earth, Sakai is gifted a commanding role almost immediately. Mankind's remnants quickly fall into line too, following a plan that promises a degree of despairing complication but, in practice, features the usual tank barrages and drill attacks.

As it turns out Planet of the Monsters is an inciting incident stretched to feature length. Massive amounts of screen time are dedicated to unspooling the temporal run-around required to feature a home planet that has evolved into a host body for lethargic calamity. Godzilla himself may move with all the urgency of an iceberg but his design is a pleasant combination of the bulk seen in the Gareth Edwards' 2014 film and the flayed, volcanic musculature of Shin Godzilla. Godzilla's sheer size, far bigger than any previous incarnation, at least promises an interesting future debrief too. Shizuno and Sehsita's film may have a lot of aesthetic heft - as well as the chief monster design it is also beautifully lit throughout, making constant use of luminous, holographic computer read-outs - but, ultimately, it's also extremely dull. A film plotted not to entertain but to leave acres of dramatic wriggle room for the episodic sequels set to follow.

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