Available on: Netflix
Running time: 90 Minutes
Directed by: Kobun Shizuno & Hiroyuki Sheshita
Produced by: Takashi Yoshizawa
Where do I even start with this one?
The Netflix Godzilla animated trilogy has been a wild ride. Each movie has had a fair number of problems, especially City on the Edge of Battle, but overall I’ve enjoyed each one. But honestly? Now that it’s over, I think that it may have been one of the weakest Godzilla stories ever produced. And this movie has a large part to play in my feelings on that.
Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater has a lot of things going for it. But for every positive, it has three negatives battling against it. Whereas the previous movies had a balance between the two, this movie was much akin to the actual battle between Godzilla and Ghidorah: horribly one sided towards one side and totally anticlimactic and unsatisfying.
Now, in case you still want to watch this movie, I must warn you: there will be spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen it yet, go check it out and come back to this. Proceed only if you have no interest in seeing this movie.
Got it? Good.
Let’s start with the positives to give our lightning storm a silver lining. For one, the visuals of this movie are fantastic. Sure, there are a few jarring shots here and there, but it’s far more good than it is bad. The animation is solid, the character models all look great, the cinematography and shot composition is stellar and the lighting is excellent. In terms of visuals, this movie is absolutely gorgeous and an absolute treat to watch.
I also really enjoy Ghidorah’s design. It’s unique, which helps him stand out to the live action counterparts that came before him. He really feels like an other worldly creature, and his massive size and winding stature make him intimidating as hell. Having him be a creature from another dimension, one that doesn’t abide by the laws of our own, makes him feel genuinely terrifying, which calls back to the early days of the character when he was a true threat.
They also use the classic monster sound cries to excellent effect. Ghidorah’s strange chirping noises are used throughout the film to create an air of tension and dread, and it’s surprisingly effective. We also get to hear Mothra’s iconic scream when they go to the Egg, though that one isn’t as effectively used as the Ghidorah sound bits.
The music is also excellent. Each track fits the scene they’re set to perfectly, and each one is memorable. I’m going to need to find this trilogy’s soundtrack, because it is a joy to listen to. Combined with the excellent visuals, and you have a movie that’s an absolute joy to watch.
It’s just a shame the visuals can’t hide the unsatisfying story on display here.
This movie’s plot leaves much to be desired. It’s stunning visuals try to distract you from the fact that the story on display has no satisfying ending and the fact that it fails to deliver on the promises it’s made. Plus, there are decisions in the story that are just uncomfortable and gross.
Let’s start with what everyone was waiting for: the battle between Godzilla and Ghidorah. In the past, whenever these two were on screen together, you knew shit was going to go down. They are the Kaiju equivalent of a good anime rivalry. Their battles were always the peaks of the franchise, the ones that tested Godzilla’s powers the most, and the ones that thrilled the audience unlike any other. Godzilla and Ghidorah is a rivalry as iconic to Japanese fiction as Goku and Vegeta.
Here though? The battle is as anticlimactic as it comes. Ghidorah bites Godzilla, Godzilla starts dying, then Ghidorah becomes vulnerable and Godzilla kills him. That’s it. There’s no thrilling back and forth, no ebb and flow that puts you on the edge of your seat and makes you wonder who will come out on top. It’s a curb stomp followed by a flipping of the tables and another curb stomp. It’s hardly thrilling and it’s super disappointing, even if you aren’t a massive Godzilla fan.
The same can be said for Mothra. Yes, Mothra makes an appearance in this movie. Does she throw down with Godzilla and Ghidorah? Nope. She doesn’t even hatch from the egg. Instead, she appears to Haruo in a dream state and… doesn’t do anything. We don’t even see anything beyond her silhouette! All that buildup for one of the most iconic monsters in the series and she doesn’t get to do a damn thing!
First Mechagodzilla, now Mothra. Why do all my favorite monsters get shit on so badly in these movies?!
The story also goes to some strange and uncomfortable places with the non-Kaiju characters. Some of them are done well, such as the haunting dream sequence where Haruo is tricked into eating soup with one of the Mothra-girls dead bodies within it. But others are just really uncomfortable and gross.
Such as Haruo having sex and impregnating the other Mothra girl off screen. Y’know. The character who looks like a ten year old child. And only a few days after his human girlfriend’s death. That’s not super uncomfortable at all. It’s especially not uncomfortable when we watch her strip. I am within the maximum possible zone of comfort right now.
And then there’s the ending. Oh my fucking god the ending. This is one of the most unsatisfying endings to any movie I’ve ever seen.
A few months after the Ghidorah incident, one of the remaining human survivors manages to reboot one of the Gundam style machines from the previous film. Realizing that history is doomed to repeat itself if it’s not destroyed, Haruo takes Yuko’s body, steals the machine, and kamikazes himself into Godzilla in an attempt to end the cycle of hatred that lead to Ghidorah’s arrival in the first place. Then, in a post credits scene, we see the children of the new generation worshiping Mothra as an ‘All powerful and terrible god’.
First of all: our main character killing himself is not a satisfying ending. If he managed to kill Godzilla in the process, thus freeing the future generations from his tyranny, then I’d accept it. But as it stands, it’s abundantly clear that Haruo didn’t do a damn thing to Godzilla. His death is pointless and unsatisfying. Even if he’s gone, that doesn’t mean the cycle of hatred will end! There are still plenty of human survivors left who felt the same way he did! All he’s done is trapped them in a primitive lifestyle.
Which I guess is better, because that’s kind of the theme of these movies. Maybe? That advancements in technology are only to further a species towards extinction so a stronger one can emerge? Fuck if I know. There are lots of long speeches about giving yourself to god and hatred, and all the themes are super convoluted and messy.
Or maybe I’m just an idiot. That’s a very real possibility.
Second: I really don’t like how they’re treating Mothra in this movie. The people who live on treat her like some great and terrible god that watches over them. Mothra isn’t a terrible monster that would destroy people if they didn’t please her! Mothra is the protector of humans, the single kindest and most selfless Kaiju in the entire series! Why is she being treated like the fucking devil?!
I haven’t been this unsatisfied with an ending since Devilman Crybaby. Mostly because they suffer the same problems. They’re both far too rushed, poorly developed, and they sour the experience right at the last second. A good ending is critical to a good story, and this trilogy is sorely lacking it.
It’s a damn shame too. This trilogy had several themes that could’ve been so much more interesting had the stories centered around them been better written. The idea that life is finite and destined to create it’s own destruction is a great concept that could expand the core ideas of Godzilla in an interesting way. And the different though processes behind those themes within the characters are fascinating.
The aliens that summon Ghidorah are essentially existential nihilists. They believe that, since life is destined to destroy itself anyways, they should just cut out the middle man and let Ghidorah get it over with quickly. That much is clear, well defined and interesting. But the protagonists don’t have an opposing philosophy to this. It’s just, “Well I don’t like that because I don’t want to die yet!”. It doesn’t leave much room for thought or debate, and it paints this interesting philosophical question in a black or while manner when, in reality, it should be an ambiguous gray that provokes thought.
Every other theme in the show isn’t nearly as focused on or well defined. The themes of science vs nature, history repeating itself, and becoming what you hate are all interesting and thought provoking. But they all fight for the spotlight, and it makes the story feel like a cluster fuck of different ideas and philosophies. As such, it’s hard to get a grasp on the core themes and ideals of this trilogy, because all of them are sort of sandwiched together in an ambiguous mess.
A good story should have a well defined theme that either delivers a powerful message or makes the audience think. However, when you try to do both, it just makes the story seem messy. You can have one or the other, but not both.
For example, let’s look at the best movie in the series: Shin Godzilla. The theme is simple and well defined: nuclear power isn’t going away, so we need to learn how to live with it. It delivers a message that is simple, powerful and to the point. It’s also a nice evolution of the themes of the original film, which focused on stopping nuclear development entirely. Shin Godzilla realizes that the world we live in is very different from what it was sixty years ago, and it changed the core themes of the franchise to better accommodate it in a genius way.
Now, that’s not to say a story can’t have multiple themes. So long as their well defined and connected by a grander underlying theme, it can have as many as it wants. For example, Into The Spider-Verse deals with themes of growing up, maturing, and facing your fears among other things. It doesn’t feel like a mess because they’re tied together by the greater theme of taking a leap of faith and doing it, despite your fears.
This trilogy, especially The Planet Eater, has tons of themes that are fighting for the spotlight. What it means to be a man, becoming what you hate in the pursuit of vengeance, the finite nature of life, the worship of Gods, holy shit there’s so many! And none of them are strong enough to carry the story. Each one is fist fighting for the spotlight, and it makes the story super messy.
Simply put: the Netflix Godzilla trilogy suffers from a lack of focus. The story doesn’t have a clear message or a clear and thoughtful question. It’s a mess as a stand alone story, and it’s a poor entry in the Godzilla series as a whole.
Is it absolutely terrible? No. Like I said before, the visuals and music in this series is stunning. It’s just a damn shame that they’re used in service of one of the worst stories the Godzilla series has ever told.
Whether you’re a casual movie watcher or a die hard Godzilla fan, I can’t recommend this movie or this trilogy. I’d only recommend you watch it if you have absolutely nothing else to do or if you just want to see some of those really pretty shots and listen to good music. This is a disappointing misstep in the Godzilla franchise, and I hope that the new film by Legendary can wash the taste this one left out of my mouth.
I’m sorry this post turned out to be so long. I don’t enjoy being so negative about a series so close to my heart, but I can’t just stay silent about the issues I have with it. I had a lot more to say than I thought I did when I started, and I only hope that you enjoyed reading this essay long rant.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a lovely day. See you!