Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle Film Review: A Tasty Slice Of Kaiju

Mitch Nissen Mitch Nissen
Expert Contributor
July 30th, 2018

Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle Film Review: A Tasty Slice Of Kaiju
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High Concept Sci-fi Drama

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On July 30, 2018
Last modified:July 30, 2018

Summary:

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle are not kaiju films. Nor are they anime in the more common/traditional styles. They are pure science fiction. Fans of in-depth cerebral science fiction should find much to enjoy about the films. References to Godzilla lore abound, much visible only to the hyper analytical Godzilla fan. There’s just the problem of pacing that needs to be endured.

Price:
High Concept Sci-fi Drama

Reviewed by:
Rating:

3
On July 30, 2018
Last modified:July 30, 2018

Summary:

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle are not kaiju films. Nor are they anime in the more common/traditional styles. They are pure science fiction. Fans of in-depth cerebral science fiction should find much to enjoy about the films. References to Godzilla lore abound, much visible only to the hyper analytical Godzilla fan. There’s just the problem of pacing that needs to be endured.

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The second chapter in Toho’s first ever anime epic has arrived. Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle might be the most experimental Godzilla film yet. But does it work? ComiConverse examines. 

Review: Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

Over the last few years, Godzilla hasn't entirely been himself. There are the 2014 Legendary Pictures Godzilla, which has more in common with kaiju rival Gamera than the 1954 Gojira. Then in 2016, there was Shin Godzilla, which had more in common with Neon Genesis Evangelion's Angels. This current era of Godzilla films could be considered the "experimental period" in the franchise.

Within the last twelve months, Toho has executed yet another strikingly alien take on the kaiju king. Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters was the first ever Godzilla centric anime film ever produced. Released theatrically in Japan and directly to Netflix here in the states, the movie ended on a cliffhanger. The second film, in what appears to be a trilogy, has now surfaced on Netflix.

Synopsis:

The battle to retake Earth rages on. The survivors of the 300 meters tall Godzilla are rescued by strange indigenous people worshipping a giant egg. These people, the Hutu, tend to the wounded and lead the survivors to the last city on Earth: Mecha-Godzilla City. Grown over 20,000 years from the continually building nano-metal of Mechagodzilla’s remains humanity attempts to weaponised Mechagodzilla once more and mount one last attack against the king of the monsters.

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Credit: Toho Animation, Polygon Pictures

The Breakdown:

Ever wonder what a high concept science fiction take on Godzilla would look like? This burgeoning anime trilogy attempts to provide an answer. Possessing similar elements to Alex Garland’s 2018 film, Annihilation, as well as ideas that would be right at home within Square Enix’s Nier: Automata, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, as well as its precursor, reimagines Toho’s kaiju universe like never before.

The central premise of the anime trilogy appears to be exploring kaiju evolution on Earth over the course of 20,000 years. The first film saw humanity return to Earth after 20 years in space having travelled 11 light years distant. Due to the nature of light speed travel, by the time humanity returns to Earth, 20,000 years have passed on the planet. Earth has adapted to Godzilla’s unique genetics resulting in flora, fauna, and a biosphere based off the kaiju’s biology. Planet Earth is now Planet Godzilla. Subspecies of Godzilla based lifeforms run rampant across the surface, from winged to wormed to massive duplicate Godzillas.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle further explores this Planet Godzilla in greater detail. Pockets of other kaiju ecosystems exist as well, one based on Mothra’s biology as well as another springing from the self-replicating nano-metal of Mechagodzilla. These ideas are seemingly derived from pre-existing concepts of Godzilla lore embedded in the series since its inception.

In the original 1954 film the concept of Godzilla’s mere presence altering the very ground, the creature treads upon was introduced. His footsteps poisoned the field he had walked upon. Strange or long thought extinct animals appear in his wakes such as trilobites or mutated sea lice. Then there’s Mothra’s luminescent dust, which has long had a counter-effect to Godzilla’s biology and powers. And lastly, Mechagodzilla’s different space metal and how it would affect the Earth is explored.

It’s these ideas, long a part of the Toho Godzilla mythos, that the filmmakers explore to the nth degree. If you’re a hyper-aware Godzilla fan, discovering which concepts mined from the classic films are present provides a fun and engaging viewing experience. If you know your Godzilla lore genuinely you can begin to see the direction the film is headed towards and even predict character motivations.

Credit: Toho Animation, Polygon Pictures

Toho Animation and Polygon Pictures are treating the content very seriously as if this weren’t an anime at all, but rather a legitimate dramatic science fiction film.

Herein lies both the strength and weakness of the film. The core of these films is a genuine human drama, one that connects deeply with Japanese history. In the movie, we follow a nation of people suffering from a grave defeat that changes their lives forever. Losing their home, their identity, and their pride in a monstrous enemy. The movie is about people, not monsters. It’s about people reacting to a calamity beyond any to have come before. In this approach, the film parallels Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 Gojira in spirit. Such gravity and drama have been absent from the franchise since 1984.

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Even Polygon Pictures realistic cell-shaded animation distances itself from traditional anime, having more in common with live action films than the typical Japanese animation. Rather than embracing the advantages of animation, such as providing blockbuster levels of action and spectacle, the filmmaker's display restraint, opting for more thought-provoking storytelling.

The film’s biggest pitfall is in its slower pace, much like the preceding chapter.

These films succeed as in capturing science fiction and drama but fail in broader appeal. Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle expands upon the thoughts and ideas of the first film, and I feel it improves upon the first film. Sadly though it maintains the same slow pace of its predecessor.

Hopefully, the third chapter will continue to bring this trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.

What did you think?

Drop us a comment below

Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

  • 3

High Concept Sci-fi Drama

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle are not kaiju films. Nor are they anime in the more common/traditional styles. They are pure science fiction. Fans of in-depth cerebral science fiction should find much to enjoy about the films. References to Godzilla lore abound, much visible only to the hyper analytical Godzilla fan. There’s just the problem of pacing that needs to be endured.

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