After all these years it is time for the hype to be realized. Godzilla is an anime film that seemed to be announced 100 years before it came out. It took so long that you would be forgiven for forgetting it completely. Still, it is here at last so it’s time to compare it to the rest. Was Godzilla’s first anime adventure a success? Well, yes in the sense that it is a good film but not really a success for Godzilla as it doesn’t rank too highly in the franchise. There are some issues here which hold it back.
The film starts off with a rebel trying to stop the army from sending a rocket filled with a bunch of old people that are being purged. The airship everyone lives in simply can’t support this many people so some of them need to die. Unfortunately the rebel hesitated because he realized better than anyone that living on a spaceship can be even worse than death. He lets the old people destroy themselves and is arrested. We get a flashback where we see Godzilla and a lot of the classic Kaiju opponents as they decimate the Earth and humanity was forced to retreat off world along with some aliens who were going to conquer Earth but also couldn’t stop Godzilla. Humanity has been looking for an inhabitable planet for around 20 years but nothing would show up so now they are forced to give Earth one more try. Thanks to the ship being slower than molasses they will have to use a teleportation route which will cause 20000 years to pass on Earth.
By the way, 20000 isn’t the number they use at first. It’s actually a plot twist as first it’s 1000 years, then 10000, then 20000. I’m honestly not sure why this even qualifies as a twist and why the film didn’t just say 20000 right off the bat but we’ll roll with it. Unfortunately for the humans, it appears that Godzilla still lives and while he destroyed all of the other Kaiju, there are Winged Godzilla spinoffs flying around. Can humanity retake their planet or are they doomed to be destroyed for their arrogance in thinking they could beat Godzilla?
There are some aspects of a film that you always want to be on point to complement the writing of the movie. Those two aspects are the animation and the soundtrack. Both are absolutely crucial. For the music, this film is actually pretty good. It’s probably in my top 3 Godzilla soundtracks as I can only think of it losing out to Final Wars and maybe Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla. It has some nice, fast anime music thrown in there during one of the flying scenes which was pretty cool. That’s basically the stand out music but a lot of it just works pretty well. The true Godzilla theme is also reasonably solid although probably his weakest theme.
No, what really hurts the film is the terrible animation. I’m not going to mince words here, the animation is embarrassing. Anime that came out 30 years ago look better. TV shows and online productions with no budget look better than this. This is something that you would expect from an indie film that tries to look really bad on purpose just to defy the mainstream. It’s like watching a Fire Emblem cutscene and stretching it to a whole movie. In a video game you don’t expect the cutscenes to look amazing because you want the bulk of the development time to be spent on the gameplay. If you can do both that’s fine, but the game is the priority. For a movie I am certainly expecting you to put the animation as the priority. Writing doesn’t cost anything so I’m not counting that and while good voice actors are important, they need to be able to work with something. You can almost feel the pain of the animators whenever Godzilla tries to move. You hear his skin cracking as if he is a very fragile Godzilla statue who would break with a single punch. The character model is barely even animated at times and just sits there. The animation can’t even convey Godzilla moving so he just sits there and randomly speeds up off screen so he can get where he is supposed to be. I don’t know where the budget went but it clearly wasn’t with the animation. Godzilla’s energy attacks looked good and in general the energy effects were on point, that’s the only good thing I can say about the animation.
The film is very heavy on dialogue but that does seem to be the norm for many Godzilla films. It’s like the writers think that the people who came to see the film about a giant monster don’t actually want to be watching a film about a giant monster. So the main focus is once again on the humans. It’s definitely not the most interesting cast of characters so prepare to roll your eyes at these guys.
The main character is good at least. He wants to bring back human pride since he feels like Godzilla took it away when he blew up Earth and we ran away. He’s not really wrong on that, but of course pride isn’t everything. Sakaki is productive with his time and comes up with a plan so it’s not as if he’s recklessly going into action without one. I think the plan is terrible but I’ll get into that later. Sakaki acts like a captain and overall he does an admirable job of leading the assault. The voice actor does a good job and Sakaki basically spits out every line. He ends every sentence with a violent intensity.
The Religious Alien, Metphies definitely seems like an intriguing character. He talks a good game and always tries to be one step ahead of the heroes but he isn’t quite as cool as he tries to be. If the whole film was just part of the plan for him then that’s pretty cool. I guess even if it isn’t nefarious and Metphies is just being misleadingly cryptic he still does a good job with the council. He has more personality than the other guy who wanted to build a Mecha Godzilla but the plans fell through midway. I’m sure he will do more in the next film but his character was basically just his personality of being a tough guy. He didn’t do anything beyond that.
Now let’s talk Godzilla. This is easily his worst design but that’s probably the animation’s fault. Maybe it looks better in the concept art. This Godzilla also isn’t very smart since the whole plan that the heroes have is getting Godzilla to walk through the path they’ve set up so they can bury him with rocks long enough to blast him. This Godzilla doesn’t have Omni directional lasers to nullify this tactic and he is also too weak to escape the rocks. Am I really supposed to believe that Godzilla was pinned by mere rocks? I can’t buy into that and Godzilla should have been up right away. Then the humans grabbing onto him should have been knocked away when he rose up. Godzilla having a weak point is pretty random and also takes away quite a lot from Godzilla since apparently without the force field his durability is actually pretty bad. I’m glad they kept in then Atomic Breath and having a force field is cool, but even without all of that this is the King of the Monsters right? (hmmm) There are some twists so I can’t be too specific but we can forgive some of the issues here. Not entirely since the monster should have destroyed the humans and shut down the plan, but it isn’t as bad as it could have been. That’s really my main point here. At the end of the film we get a brief glimpse at what should have been happening the whole time. This is why I think the next film has a good chance at being a lot better. If I just saw this film, I can’t say I would be too impressed with Godzilla to be honest.
Even less so with the Rodan ripoffs. They aren’t bullet proof? Really? I just don’t know about that to be honest, seems like a mistake if you ask me. It takes away from them being a threat and it also means that if they give Godzilla any kind of a fight then it weakens the King of the Kaiju as well. It’s a lose-lose situation here. Hopefully the other Kaiju we meet up with are a lot stronger. In theory there should be a bunch of beasts wandering the planet since Earth is pretty huge. I’m guessing their scanners haven’t quite picked up on everything just yet.
The film goes by pretty quick but the length isn’t very long to start with. One thing I have to note is that this movie probably wouldn’t be great for rewatching. Sure, the planning is fun and all the first time, but the second time you’ll just want the film to get on with it. It’s something that’s fairly unavoidable depending how you set up a film. Slow burners will rarely be as good as the initial time you watch it while action blockbusters can be timeless if there is always something happening. So, this film would probably lose a star the next time you watch it and probably settle at that score, if not one lower. I personally can’t picture myself rewatching this one anytime soon. For that I could take a look at one of the older Godzilla films and give it a retro review.
While not a flattering way to secure a high score, Godzilla manages not to make any real mistakes. We don’t have to deal with animal violence, excessive language, random violence, or any slew of negatives that can pop up in a film. My complaints that I listed above are ones that are worth noting but don’t really affect the score much. Combined those issues may just take it down 1 star. It does depend on how you look at it, but basically a film that doesn’t make any real mistakes can get a 7. A 7 means that you’re a fun/good movie. To get higher than that, you have to actually do something really great. To get lower than a 7, you have to make a mistake. A 7 is essentially the starting point for all films. As the credits are rolling it starts out at a 7 and then moves up or down based on what it does. This film doesn’t really do anything and so it manages to stay there. That’s not really a bad thing, it’s just how it is. I can at least watch the full Godzilla film without rolling my eyes or cringing at a poorly made scene. Well, some scenes are poorly made, but at least not in bad taste. I was reasonably interested the whole time. Perhaps not excited, but I was following the story.
Overall, If you’re watching this Godzilla film for Godzilla then you will probably be disappointed. If you are watching it as more of a survival film then you’ll like it a lot more. I hesitate to call it a thriller since a good chunk of the film is just everyone talking but once they land on the planet I would say it qualifies. The film would probably be more impressive if it wasn’t called Godzilla which is a little unfortunate since having a brand should usually just make everything better. I do think that Part 2 should pick up quite a bit since most of the characters are already on Earth. Ideally it will focus on them and not too much on the people who are still in space. At least the wait until the next film shouldn’t be too long. This was my long roundabout way of saying that I’d recommend checking this film out.