Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle
*** out of five stars
Note: This is a film released as a Netflix original outside of Japan.
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle is a sequel to the recent Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, which was also released on Netflix. The two films, along with an upcoming third entry, form a trilogy of CGI-animated Godzilla films.
Picking up where Planet of the Monsters left off, human soldiers are on a future Earth with a totally alien ecosystem. They had just failed to attack Godzilla, the monster (or kaiju, if you will) whose dominance on the planet over many millennia caused the planet’s mutation. Captain Haruo Sakaki (voiced by Mamoru Miyano) and his team come across a tribe of indigenous people known as the Houtua. They soon make an even greater revelation with the discovery of the remnants of Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla was a robot built to defeat Godzilla but was destroyed 20,000 years ago. Since then, the nanometal within its surviving head has self-replicated into an enormous city. This “Mechagodzilla City” seems to have enough power to finally kill Godzilla, but will the use of nanometal rob Haruo and the other soldiers of their humanity?
City on the Edge of Battle continues much of the same formula as its predecessor, for better or worse. It again includes a lot of exposition, as well as some philosophizing about the nature of humanity and how monsters like Godzilla are created. There are some interesting concepts introduced here, like the speculation that the Houtua tribe are implied to have evolved from insects. Two twin Houtua girls, Maina (Reina Ueda) and Miana (Ari Ozawa), speak in unison via telepathy and mention an egg left behind by their god. This heavily implies that they are meant to be the anime trilogy’s incarnations of Mothra’s elfin priestesses (called the “Shobijin” in the first Mothra film and other entries). The character designs and animation for the twins makes them seem rather cute. The cel-shaded CGI animation, though very “video gamey,” in general possesses a certain charm.
The ideas introduced here, while interesting, are not developed very far. The film kept my attention but was bogged down by pretentious writing and shallow characterization that could have come from a low-rent Star Trek episode. The action, once it gets going, is rather engaging, all things considered, and there are intriguing set-ups for the next (and seemingly final) chapter.
City on the Edge of Battle is an adequately entertaining film. It will likely appeal more to fans of science fiction anime than to Godzilla devotees. And with a third anime film around the corner, several more MonsterVerse movies coming from Legendary Pictures, and talk of a new live-action cinematic kaiju universe from Toho Studios, this is a pretty exciting time for the King of the Monsters.