Monday, 6 August 2018

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

Picking up where Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters left off, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle flirts with a vivid sense of anthropological despair before relaxing into another well organised but ultimately doomed sortie. Nominal hero Haruo Sakai awakens from the previous film's devastation in a primitive, unfamiliar environment, his wounded body throbbing and glowing from the mysterious medical treatment he has received. Haruo has been rescued by Miana, the friendly descendant of the humans who have been able to survive for twenty millennia in the company of a monster so profoundly powerful that it has forced the Earth itself to abdicate its biological determination.

Since this universe's Godzilla has developed a dominant, symbiotic relationship with its host planet, it makes sense that mankind's artificial response would follow suit. A tie-in vinyl toy depicted the latest Mechagodzilla as a skulking Zoid lookalike, bristling with spines and pincers. Turns out this was a red herring. City on the Edge of Battle's Godzilla clone is a much more exciting proposition - an oversized, self-replicating industrial city that has sprung up around the remains of humanity's doomed robot. Luckily for Haruo and his plucky away team, the smoke-choked megalopolis proves to be heaving with a wondrous nanometal that can be used to turbo-charge the military equipment that the King of Monsters made short work of in the previous film. Plodding gun-platforms are transformed from clacking bipeds into soaring, luminescent raptors.

Although a little more generous with its narrative scraps than Planet of the Monsters, including the promise of a space dragon for the third chapter, City on the Edge of Battle is basically iterative, sharing its predecessor's flaws as well as its strengths. Characters continue as lumpen drafts, shuffling along their arc with a rigidity that prevents any sense of investment. Directors Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita have again delivered a film with a sumptuous, phosphorous colour palette that transforms basic monitor gazing into blazing examples of digital imagery. Beautiful in repose, City on the Edge of Battle struggles with action and interaction. Rather than obliterate the film's titanic computer generated sets, explosions are painted over the buildings, obscuring the moment when they yield then burst. A key beat where Godzilla's largest dorsal fan is harpooned, and apparently shattered, is rendered as two metal lances disappearing into a cloud of fire. City on the Edge of Battle has no pop.

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