WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, streaming on Netflix now.
In 2014, Warner Bros. and Legendary reignited the legend of Godzilla, kickstarting the MonsterVerse which has now grown to include King Kong, as well as upcoming monster mash-ups with the likes of Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah.
Last year, Netflix got in on the game, too, giving fans the first chapter in the anime trilogy, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters. It focused on humanity returning from a failed mission across the galaxy, intent on reclaiming Earth from Godzilla, who's eliminated nearly all life and ruled for 20,000 years.
With the sequel City on the Edge of Battle now out, the original Godzilla, the parent of the creature from the first flick, has emerged as brutal and unforgiving as ever, which reiterates just what makes these particular animated films tick.
The beast, unlike earlier depictions in its cinematic history, isn't an ally or anti-hero here. No, he's a straight-up villain, making it a battle which you actually want mankind to win because it appeals to our basic human instinct: The will to survive.
These movies aren't about humanity empathizing with the kaiju at all, or trying to figure out a way to co-exist. In Planet we learned that humans experimenting with weapons and chemicals destroyed quite a bit of the Earth and giving rise to these monsers, with Godzilla ascending to the rank of king. Not only did it proceed to wipe out mankind, it also destroyed all other monsters who attempted to usurp it and claim dominion. And it did so in such cruel fashion, showing no mercy for man, woman or child. Basically, there was no compassion or sense of character and personality, as other iterations we've seen before.
Gareth Edwards humanized the creature four years ago on the big screen as something (someone?) who wanted to share the world with us; the 1998 movie starring Matthew Broderick earlier shaped the beast as a mother who simply wanted a safe place to reproduce; and decades before, Godzilla was used as a protector of the planet. Come City, we see a vengeful behemoth, fully unleashed in all its glory, and with no sense of altruism.
It razes anything within sight because it wants Earth as its own. This unwillingness to share is what also drove the alien races, the Exif (a religious species) and the Bilusaludo (a highly-intelligent military race), to unite with humans. Everyone recognized that to get the planet back as a haven for life in a dying universe, they needed to destroy the radiated kaiju.
In these movies, Godzilla is meaner than ever, and it shows in his eyes. The creative team harps on showing how much rage and of course, the lack of fear and respect, the monster holds for everyone else. So much so that the indigenous species who lived during its reign (the Houtua) still cower in fear and don't even worship it as those who've worshiped rulers like Kong before. Simply put, this isn't a MonsterVerse where the king wants subjects, or to connect with humanity or be praised.
What also makes this version is so menacing yet appealing is its atomic powers, on display like never before -- a shield generated from the inside for protection; and last but not least, the ability to swallow WMDs, harnessing all forms of nuclear and alien energy. Its intimidating factor is heightened as it's not just physically invulnerable, it's very cerebral: planning methodically, laying traps and sussing out whatever the alliance is coming up with like a detective. These combine to emphasize Godzilla isn't just a wild animal, it's a genius who loves genocide and thrives on the thrill of the hunt.
And so, the alliance (led by Captain Haruo Sakaki) has to resort to science from the stars, uneasy coalitions with tribes and militaries they have only now met, and as the end of the sequel indicates, maybe even a partnership with the planet-eater Ghidorah, in order to topple a monster that as of now, doesn't seem likely to give up his throne. In short, Godzilla's not just king of the planet, it's an "immortal dictator" according the the resistance, toying with the fate of the cosmos.