GODZILLA: FINAL WARS ~ 2004, Ryuhei Kitamura – Japan
In 2004, Godzilla’s 50th anniversary, Toho released Godzilla: Final Wars. It was meant to be a finale of sorts, after which good old Godzilla would take some time to chill out. In an effort to celebrate the long running franchise, Final Wars works like a celebration of the entire cannon, and in a way, it’s almost a remake of every Godzilla movie simultaneously (mostly Destroy All Monsters), but it’s kind of a damn mess.
The plot is as follows: It is the future; blah blah blah who cares; the plot isn’t worth hashing out. Again, it’s that same old alien invasion story Toho has used over and over, but it’s really just a means to justify Godzilla fighting as many monsters as possible, and he really, really does. There are some dumb aliens in the mix, as well as a bunch of “mutants,” whom we’ll be talking about later.
It feels kinda disjointed and hurried. There is so much freaking homage in here that it almost just feels like watching a sitcom a clip show episode most of the time, which is not what you want from a glorious, 50th anniversary finale to your proudest franchise. The special effects suffer in the same way most modern Godzilla movies do- cheap, crappy CG and terrible composite effects, but the worst thing about the movie is the emphasis on its human, and “mutant” characters. We spend a lot of time with them… And that time is a grab bag, sometimes its good, sometimes its really, really terrible.
Let’s look at the good; basically, aside from all the rad monster stuff, the coolest part of the movie is this guy:
Captain Gordon… He kinda looks like Stalin, mostly because they dress him exactly like Stalin for some reason… but he also kinda looks like Sgt. Slaughter, or a bad ass Mario, so that’s sort of a mixed message, but the fact remains that holy shit is he cool. Our lame ass mutant characters bust him out of military jail because they need his leadership to save the world. He’s really awesome, and he’s the captain of a sweet flying/submarine/drill type ship borrowed right out of Atragon, which is one of the better Showa era homages in the entire flick. That’s all good stuff…
…And then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have these guys….
…“Mutants.” they suck so bad. These guys are part of the Earth anti-monster defense initiative or something. I have no idea in what way they’re better than normal people, but they’re supposed to be vaguely super human somehow, while remaining incredibly cliche and disinteresting. They’re like some profoundly lame Matrix/Ultraman combo deal, and they take up far too much screen time. I hate them a lot, for real, I’d have taken the G-Graspers over these idiots.
Also worth a mention, the big, stupid, Roland Emmerich version of Godzilla pops up in this movie, too. It tromps around and is promptly murdered by the real Godzilla, which takes less than a minute, and is a great thing that we all know needed to happen. I didn’t expect any sort of closure on that one, so this feels like a nice treat. Of course, I could have done without the unlistenable Sum 41 song that plays over the scene, but we have mute buttons, so it’s still good.
So, is it a good movie? Kinda. It’s probably going to make most Godzilla enthusiasts happy. I found myself enjoying the effort taken to pay respects to Godzilla’s older films, and all the monster fighting sequences are well done and entertaining. Also great; after relentlessly flip flopping on the Nature of Godzilla, I feel like this movie finds a good balance by casting him as humanity’s last ditch guardian by default, a looming threat that we all dread, but which is at the same time, our only hope for survival. I think this is a logical extension of the metaphor, given that GZ was originally meant to symbolize the horrors of atomic warfare. It’s a safe assumption that, if facing alien invasion, we might come to feel the same way about nuclear weapons that we do about Big Green in this film, so it feels appropriate that he has again found himself as a stand in for the bomb. Godzilla: Final Wars does a good job with that idea.
….BUT it isn’t a classic. As a finale, it feels appropriately epic, but we’ve traded a lot of character development for more for slick action sequences this time, and I’m never in favor of that. It’s simply too cluttered, and too all over the place, but if what you’re looking for is giant monsters fighting and little else, this for sure will give you what you want. I just think it would be wise to expect more from Godzilla, because his potential is enormous.