July 18th saw the Netflix-wide release of the second addition to the Toho Anime Godzilla series — Godzilla: City On The Edge of Battle, which takes place directly following Godzilla: Planet of The Monsters — but where the first film got many things right, the sequel got those same things wrong.
Article contains spoilers for Godzilla: City On The Edge of Battle
Now, before you get ahead of yourself, I enjoyed this film, as I do anything Kaiju related, and I have a fondness for those in the genre that take their time to develop their world and characters as opposed to just crashing creatures together. That being said, Godzilla: City On The Edge of Battle takes the wrong steps for development in that many character motivations become contradictory, and ultimately, either harm or stunt the growth of that potential character, this can leave the viewer confused and lead them to simply stop caring for those we gained much empathy for in the first entry.
City on The Edge of Battle takes place immediately following the awakening of Godzilla Earth and subsequent defeat of the humans, Bilusaludo, and Exif. Our hero, Haruo, is discovered by a member of the Houtua, Miana, a tribe that has remained on Earth since the passing of 20,000 years in Planet of The Monsters. Galu-gu, the Bilusaludo commander, notices that the spears used by the tribe are made from a particular “nanometal” that was used in the 21st century as a weapon to fight Godzilla and any other potential Kaiju threat that followed. The metal was initially to be used as a way of combining and deploying as a makeshift MechaGodzilla. This provides the remaining survivors with an idea to reboot the program with the hopes that the manufacturing plant that was initially utilized could still be operational, hence the title City on The Edge of Battle, with the “city” being MechaGodzilla itself, or rather, the city the mechanical beast supposedly put together during the 20,000 year rest.
That’s simply the best way I can describe the plot without delving into each possible outcome or piece of dialogue presented, and that’s simply because the film drags for so unnecessarily long for unnecessary reasons. After Miana’s twin sister, Mina, leads the survivors to the metalized city, we get to see some interesting concepts grow, but never develop. The nanometal itself almost appears sentient and acts in many ways to how modern 3-d printers. The frustration of years of desperation appears to finally weigh some of our characters down, yet Haruo makes reactionary decisions or responds in lacking or otherwise paranoid actions that make the audience care less and less about his success. Finally, there is a conflict between the Houtua, as the destruction and reign of Godzilla have caused them to be fearful after their “god” had been defeated and were left with eggs that hint at something bigger for this story to continue.
But outside of hints and easter eggs at a larger story for the finale to click with, and a few themes that are more or less tapped on the surface as opposed to being dug into, City on The Edge of Battle feels more like a preliminary comic event as opposed to a final product. The first act, much like its predecessor, is fast but develops the story naturally and in a relatable way. However, the second act of the story is so incredibly slow, that the pacing of the third act is barely able to save the action or actions. I will not go into depth about the team behind the film, as I still hold an aspiring respect for the first film, but the computer-generated imagery and overall art design just felt lazy, especially knowing that it could be so much better… this is a Godzilla world that audiences have never seen before, make the audience wish to be there, not look away in boredom.
I wish I could elaborate on this more, but Haruo is such a frustratingly stupid and paranoid character that I went from caring about the hero in the first installment to not giving a sh– about the guy within five minutes of the second film. His decisions feel like they are made in response to the writers wanting to force conflict but at the expense of the characters that we are supposed to be drawn to as the audience.
Overall, Godzilla: City On The Edge of Battle lacks what made Planet of The Monsters such a great exploration of a new Toho world; character development, art design, and intensive action range from minimal to missing in all degrees. While it is understandable that this is the second installment and that the viewers should have a built-in sensibility of patience, that does not verify an excuse for a story to be boring and uninteresting. I may not be an expert, but I know that much. City On The Edge of Battle is still a fun watch because it is not unbearably long, and does touch on some cool and interesting concepts, but the execution in most forms is lacking in the worst possible ways.