Quick Thoughts on Godzilla: Singular Point

No specific spoilers, but overall discussion of the series and its narrative approach.

This week I finished watching the Netflix co-produced Godzilla: Singular Point anime. I’m not going to write too much about the episodes right now, though I might later on, particularly if I give it re-watch. What I want to address are some of the reactions I’ve read from other viewers, particularly ones who did not enjoy it. I see three common criticisms. My goal is not to say those criticisms are wrong, just to examine some thoughts they inspire.

Not enough Godzilla

This is a perennial issue in Godzilla media. It denotes a fundamental division among monster movie viewers, that I’m not going to go into right now. In this case, it is understandable that viewers might feel dissatisfied, misled by the title of the series. Godzilla: Singular Point is not the most accurate name for the series. It makes me think back to an opposite situation. When I was quite young I started watching the movie titled, in the USA adapted version, Monster Zero. I knew it was a Japanese sci-fi monster movie, but did not know it was going to be a Godzilla film. After all, it did not say “Godzilla” in the title. I was astonished and delighted when Godzilla did in fact show up. For this series, it is hard to blame the creators for putting the name prominently, even if ultimately it is not a story about Godzilla, but a story that happens to have Godzilla in it. It is an apocalyptic science fiction story, with the threatening Catastrophe embodied in kaiju, and with Godzilla as the apotheosis of that embodiment.

Technobabble

There are certainly a lot of mind-bending ideas in the show: mathematical concepts about trans-temporal molecular structures, divergent space-time geometries, programs that run backwards through time, and so on. Several characters are genius-level intellects that discuss and theorize amongst themselves without giving us, the audience, much context for what they are talking about. While watching the show I wondered how much of all this actually made sense — and if it really mattered if it did or not. Was the show even intending all the theoretical math to fit together into a coherent whole, a puzzle that, by the last episode, would answer every question? I don’t think that was the goal. Much of it, to me, was meant to signify that these were some super-smart characters trying to deal with a conundrum and paradox filled situation as a world-threatening crisis spiraled ever more out of control. It is the slow construction, layer by layer, of a world in which the final resolution seems like something that could happen. If you wanted to, you could look up and more deeply explore the concepts that fly past. A glossary of the show’s mathematics would be useful. One thing that I found refreshing is that the script did not fall back on the usually clichés of science-sounding jargon.

Characters

Whether one likes the characters in Godzilla: Singular Point is a matter of taste. A major criticism that does come up is that the characters don’t develop, they don’t change, learn about themselves, or experience what my playwright wife would call a “perception shift.” They are static. A lot of television writing in America, particularly for the serial dramas that fill the streaming services, is very character oriented. It is all about their “arcs” and relationships. Characters are even conceived and designed to support fan speculation about how they might change, fall, or be redeemed over the course of a series — and of course for how characters might be “shipped” in viewers imaginations or fan-fiction. We’ve come to expect that as the way a story is constructed. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Character does not have to be the most important part of a narrative. Godzilla: Singular Point, like a lot of classic science fiction, makes elements such character, emotion complexity, personal journies, secondary or even tertiary after other story components such as plot or extrapolation of concepts.

I like it when a show tries to do something different, even when it the experiment isn’t 100% successful. I found myself enjoying Godzilla: Singular Point and was pleasantly surprised at how unconventional and experimental it was. At the same time I can see that it doesn’t provide what some viewers are looking for, particularly in a show with “Godzilla” in the title.

 

 

Quick Thought: Doom Patrol 2.04: “Sex Patrol”

Some thoughts on the new Season of the Doom Patrol TV Series. Assume spoilers.

While watching, I frequently ponder whether I’m the ideal audience for this show —or whether I’m the worst. I know most of the source material they are drawing on, mixing and remixing characters and ideas from almost 60 years of comics. So I have some context for the cavalcade of weirdness: this a character from Grant Morrison, that’s a idea from Rachel Pollack, that’s a plot twist from Gerald Way, and so on.

I like the way the blender that is Jeremy Carver’s show reinterprets and rebuilds the comics. The SeX Men and the Shadow Mr. Evans are from the later issues of the Grant Morrison & Richard Case run. While they had their unique quirks, you could get the feeling that Morrison/Case were staring to recycle ideas. The SeX Men were another flavor of Normalcy Agents, while the Shadow Mr. Evans was next in a line of bizarre Demiurges. Remaking the SeX Men as orgone-tracking Ghostbusters was clever, and the comic never had any reason whatsoever for the Shadowy Mr. Evans to have an umbilical attached fetus floating around him.

Still, after the initial excitement of his appearance, I missed the attitude and dark insanity of the Shadow Mr. Evans as an active character, rather than a voiceless specter. The emergence of Scarlet Harlot was a big, very disturbing event in the comic and while she got a cameo here, it ended up another example of the show’s hesitancy to really go all out with what the comic gives them to work with.

It can be amazing to see what this show is doing with Doom Patrol lore. I don’t want them to just recreate comic stories. Their original concepts and plots, such as the party to revive Danny or their fresh interpretations of characters such as Rita or Dorothy, are the show’s best elements, worthy contributions to the many, varied visions creators have had for Doom Patrol. But too often by the end of an episode I’m disappointed that they aren’t doing more, that they back away rather than just going all out.

Presentation of comic lore and High Weirdness are one thing, another is fundamental problems with the characters. Most everybody seems adrift and without motivation. They are consumed with being depressed and tortured. Not that they don’t have good reasons to be. It is just that Cliff, Rita, Larry, and Jane have already spent decades mopping about the mansion feeling that way. I was anticipating the show being about their finally breaking out of their prison/refuge and becoming something more. Any growth from last season seems gone. They don’t really have anything to do. They are not even much connected to the surreal events swirling around them. I would love to see Rita trying to be a superhero, or have Cliff develop individual, functioning relationships with Jane’s personas. Or Larry go down a transhuman themed path into becoming Rebis, the unified alchemical entity from Morrison/Case’s stories.

If all we are going to get is grief, self-pity, and more “new” secret traumas from their pasts, I’m going to loose interest.