A few days ago, the final entry in the Netflix animated movie Godzilla trilogy, Planet Eater, was released, and to say it has disappointed more than impressed would be an understatement.
Quite frankly, the previous two entries in this film series were quite a slog for me to get through, mostly on account of the large amount of time spent on characters that had little to no depth and not entirely enough spent on Godzilla. Heck, the second movie, City on the Edge of Battle, didn’t even have Mecha Godzilla, a classic in the line of Godzilla foes. Just his head.
But what I truly disliked about the series come to fruition in the third movie, as me and a fellow fan of Godzilla came to realize: it is an absolute exercise in Nihilism, self entered in its own intelligence that humanity will kill itself off.
Warning, here there be spoilers.
When I was a kid, first watching English dubbed Godzilla films on TBS, I was in awe of this giant, towering dinosaur-like figure smashing its way through Tokyo, toppling buildings, plowing through military ordinance like they were annoying gnats, and just generally being an unstoppable force of nature. As I got older, and started reading more into the lore of what went behind Godzilla’s creation and just what that original movie meant in post-war Japan, I understood that Godzilla was not a villain, but an antagonist and a message about the dangers of using atomic weapons.
Over 60 years and many, many films later, this message has remained mostly the same, albeit with Godzilla going through different iterations through the Showa, Heisei, and Millennium series.
Which again brings me back to just how nihilistic Godzilla – Planet Eater is and how much wasted potential it contains.
Starting off with the characters. We follow the series alongside Eren Jaeger as he fights to rid the world of Titans-
No, wait, I mean Haruo Sakaki as he fights to reclaim Earth from Godzilla and give it back to humanity.
But honestly, at this point I don’t see much difference between the two characters because Haruo has two different modes: Angry and Not Angry. He’s SO ANGRY over Godzilla being alive and having taken over the planet that he makes stupid decisions in the first movie. In the hands of better writers, this would be something he reflects upon and grows out of, but right up until the very end, he does not.
The sad thing is, Haruo is about the only character with any kind of depth, and as such, I could barely connect with anyone in this series. Thus, when the ship containing the last remnants of humanity is wiped out by Ghidorah, in about the LONGEST bloody explosion sequence I’ve ever seen (Michael Bay would have wept with joy over the extended destruction of this ship), the most emotion I felt could be summed up as shrug.
In the second movie, when Yuko is overcome with the nano-machines built into her flying mecha by the Bilusaludo, we’re supposed to feel saddened by her death and how it affects Haruo, as they were suddenly in this loving relationship, and yet again shrug. We didn’t even get to know Yoko and her only purpose was to be a disposable female body stuffed into a fridge, to give the main male lead Man Pain, a trope discussed by graphic novel writer Gail Simone’s Women In Refrigerator website.
What were her hobbies? What did she like to do on Earth before they escaped? Favourite colour? Occupation on the ship? Dreams and aspirations? We learn nothing about her, and it shows through how little we learn of anyone else and, thus, how little we come to care about them.
Before I go any further, I should say some things that I liked about the movie trilogy. I love Godzilla’s design in this, being a massive, towering living mountain seemingly made of thick plant or stone, almost a kind of nod to Biolante, and that it is a sheer force of nature, so much so that the Earth adapted to it rather than the other way around.
There was always a kind of home field advantage the JDSF had in fighting against Godzilla over the years, and while it may not have amounted to much, it was something. In Monster Planet, humanity is coming back to an Earth that has all but forgotten them, with toxic air, creatures born of Godzilla that are horribly alien and dangerous in equal measures, and not a safe port in sight. This ramped up the tension, as one has to wonder just what the remaining members of humanity are able to do against such overwhelming odds. How will they enact Haruo’s plan when it seems the entire planet is out to get them?
And what about the other monsters? While it’s shown that when Godzilla first shows up, it destroys a lot of other creatures, maybe some of them could have survived and thrived. After all, Mothra is still around, hiding in a cave underground with her tribe, so why not others? It could have been a great time to break out some little known monsters in Toho’s library to add some diversity. This was something I really enjoyed about the IDW Godzilla series, Rulers of Earth, written by Matt Frank and Chris Mowry. Those two simply threw everything AND the kitchen sink into the series that showed such a love of Godzilla and Toho’s Kaiju movies.
The mecha and spaceship designs were also really cool, and I am always down for a neat design. Plus, I’d love to have one of those flying cycles. Those were pretty cool.
I will also always give some kudos to a series that at least tries something new with an old property. It was why I honestly did not mind the reboots in the Millennium series, because each director that came on wanted to bring their own vision to Godzilla. It was also why I stuck out this series all the way to the end.
Ghidorah as an otherworldly being from a different dimension that brings nothing but death and destruction? I was totally on board for that!
But, alas, such potential was wasted.
And it came to a head in the third installment, which revealed in its nihilism like a first year college student who discovered Ayn Rand and totally needs to tell us how we’re all government slaves to the SJW agenda.
Essentially, the Exif are revealed to be a Death Cult, lead by Metphiles who explains to Haruo that Ghidorah comes to all societies that have reached their pinnacle, as it did when it came to their planet. As such, it’s the destiny of humanity to lose and be consumed by Ghidorah, and because it comes from another dimension, our understanding of science and reality can’t begin to comprehend it beyond what we see and hear.
(In fact, a couple of human scientists/doctors reiterate this point for 5 minutes or so.)
And Ghidorah is defeated when Haruo, who gets his anger on once more… pokes out Metphiles’ eye, which causes Ghidorah to become susceptible to our rules of reality, giving Godzilla its chance to destroy it.
There is an extended section of the movie where Metphiles is trying to seduce Haruo to his way of thinking, to the inevitability of death and destruction as wrought by Ghidorah and how important it is that Haruo believe in this. Partly this is done through a sorta psychic vision where Metphiles uses examples from humanity’s own past to show humanity’s own self-destructive tendencies.
And part of that takes place in, I shit you not, the Enolay Gay, the bomber that dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
To be truthful, I was actually engaged with this, if only out of anger and a bizarre, sadistic desire to see this thing through to the end. I’m 40 years old now, and as such, I like to believe I know a little more about the world than I did when I was a kid watching Godzilla on TBS.
Yes, Nuclear bombs are terrible and they serve only one purpose, but history has put light to the lie that the Pacific Campaign of World War 2 could only end with the dropping of those terrible weapons. It was President Harry S Truman who ordered the dropping of those bombs on Japan because he was a racist bigot who considered Asian people only slightly better than black people.
Why do I bring this up? Because I know now that it’s systems of power built to protect and uphold the most privileged among us that is ultimately hurting us the most. Capitalism is meant to put a dollar value on everything, limit resources for all of us, and hold up the most greedy and sociopathic in humanity. It’s them that are hurting us, hording the most wealth and resources while the Earth continues to warm up, species are dying, we’re fighting to keep our heads above water, and the Baby Boomers are decrying our ‘killing’ of old, bloated industries like golf courses, diamonds, cereal, and anything else they can think of.
Humanity is not a monolith, so this idea that it’s somehow in our nature to destroy ourselves that Metphiles espouses on and on and on about is nothing more than nihilistic masturbation.
Not to mention just how much it deviates from the messages of Godzilla to begin with. Who are the heroes in this narrative? It’s sure as hell not the journalists and scientists who seek to understand the new development coming about. Hell, there are no journalists here to begin with, and no attempts to be made to understand Godzilla beyond how to kill it.
About the only thing in this series that’s even remotely reminiscent of Godzilla’s messages is when one of Mothra’s tribe members, a young woman named Miana says that while she’s afraid of Godzilla, she doesn’t hate it, in much the same way that she’s afraid of hurricanes or earthquakes, but doesn’t hate them. They are simply a thing that we have to learn to live with.
It’s a shame that we got three movies into this series before someone said something along these lines, but it’s not taken to heart by Haruo in the least.
To which my response was such:
And then there’s the ending, that garbage, garbage ending…
After one of the scientist reveals to Haruo that he managed to get one of the Bilusaludo mechs working again, saying that while it may take a while, they can come to understand it’s nano technology and eventually rebuild society, Haruo gets a vision from Metphiles that hey, Ghidorah is waiting and will destroy you all.
Determined to keep this from happening, Haruo gathers us Yuko’s breathing corpse (eww, why were you just keeping her around you creep?), jumps in the mecha, and commits suicide via Godzilla’s atomic breath attack.
This infuriated me for a number of reasons:
- Haruo makes the lone decision to keep humanity from being able to prosper because somehow, without a death cult like the Exif around to summon it, Ghidorah will still come back if humanity prospers.
- He’s still angry, and forgets the lesson of Dying is Losing, and hasn’t learned or grown at all.
- There’s nothing noble about his act. He is not Serizawa keeping the secrets of the Oxygen Destroyer from falling into the wrong hands by dying alongside Godzilla. He is keeping humanity from using nano-technology from making this very inhospitable world a little more hospitable for the very few humans left!
- I’m pretty sure Haruo got one of the Mothra Tribe women pregnant and just abandons her to raise their kid together. Great job dodging responsibility there, you prick.
The sheer idea that progress is wrong, that it invites destruction, even in the context of technology, is just infuriating to me. Science and technology are not inherently evil, nor are they inherently pure and good, it’s the people who use them for their own means that makes them good or bad.
The Oxygen Destroyer was an accidental creation by Dr Serizawa, and had only one purpose, hence why he made the noble, sad decision to die along with Godzilla because if such a weapon were to fall into the wrong hands, there’d be a lot of death.
The nano-technology is not inherently destructive. It was the Bilusaludo’s decision to try and remake the world into something it was not that was destructive and controlling, and to take that choice away from the rest of humanity which, as the film shows, can’t even survive outside the caves of the Mothra Tribe without a suit?
It is incredibly selfish and ignorant. What about the rest of humanity on Earth outside of Japan?
There’s a lot to unpack about just where this series went wrong and why, as well as how it’s disconnected from the kinds of philosophies the Godzilla movies have espoused over the years.
But ultimately, it’s its nihilism which dooms this series to the bottom of the barrel in terms of story-telling. We have a lot going on in the world from our environment in crisis to the growing rise of facism, I don’t need a movie telling me we’re doomed to be ignorant and self-destructive.