Saturday, June 11, 2011

Godzilla : Final Wars (2004)

Title: Godzilla: Final Wars (1994)

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura


The reason why Godzilla film #28 is called ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ is because Toho decided that this was going to be the last Godzilla movie they were going to make in a while. Reportedly, when Toho released Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004 their plan was to stop making Godzilla movies for 10 whole years; so this was going to be the last Godzilla movie at least until 2014-15 or something. Godzilla was going to go into hibernation so to speak. So of course Godzilla: Final Wars had to be extra special. After all, it was with this film that they were commemorating Godzilla’s 50th anniversary since his first appearance in Gojira (1954)! So this film was a “see you later” to Godzilla, at least until he is resurrected again for a new era of films, because lets face it, nothing is going to stop Godzilla from reemerging.

Godzilla is resurrected from an icy grave

On Final Wars giant monsters are attacking cities from all over the world. They are popping up in places like New York , Australia and Shanghai , but have no fear! By now, humans are so accustomed to being attacked by giant monsters (hey, it’s been 28 movies after all!!) that they’ve created their own anti-monster unit called The Earth Defense Force or ‘EDF’ for short. This unit is made up of genetically enhanced humans that have special abilities like augmented strength and agility. These ‘mutants’ have been born and raised to protect the earth against monsters, which keep popping up all over the place. Why are so many of these creatures suddenly appearing in different countries? Could it have something to do with the alien spaceship that’s hovering around Japan ?

So this was to be a special Godzilla movie because it was the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and it was going to be last Godzilla film in a while, so Toho wanted to go out with a bang. The result is this huge monster bash, where practically every monster that Godzilla has ever fought shows up! This sort of thing where a bunch of monsters show up in a single Godzilla film had been done before in a Godzilla film called Destroy all Monsters! (1968). By the way, the story for Godzilla: Final Wars is extremely similar to Destroy All Monsters, right down to having mind controlling aliens as part of the plot. On Final Wars, the aliens are called Xillians, and like most aliens in Godzilla films, at first they seem benign then they end up being evil. As I continue watching Godzilla movies I’ve come to the realization that somehow an alien race always ends up appearing on these films. This angle of alien spaceships controlling the giant monsters is something that Hollywoodhas always tried to avoid in their attempts at making Godzilla films. Director Jan De Bont (Speed, Twister) was going to include Aliens on his proposed Godzilla film, but that film never came to be. I guess Hollywood considers this angle too cheesy.

Monster X

The director of this film is Ryuhei Kitamura, the director behind Versus (2000), Alive (2002) and one of my favorite horror films from 2008, the hugely underrated Midnight Meat Train (2008). I’ve seen enough of his films to know that he loves manga style action, in other words, nothing that adheres to reality. His films are always filled with comic book style action and fights, lots of characters striking poses and trying to look cool; Godzilla: Final Wars was no exception. The Earth Defense Force is composed of these mutants that love to have Matrix-style fights that take up way to much time in the film. Actually, this would be a good time to mention that this film focuses a hell of a lot more on the humans and their matrix style fights then on the monster fights. A really good Godzilla film will try and have both a good storyline for the humans, while at the same time including good monster fights, playing a nice balancing act between the two; but never forgetting that the main reason why people have put their butts in the movie theater is to see big monsters fighting! Did Final Wars achieve this?

Well, yes and no. On the monster side of things, we do get tons of monsters on this film. A lot of them had been absent from Godzilla films for years and years, so I’m guessing Godzilla fans must have been truly excited to see all these old monsters reappearing on the big screen. Unfortunately, their appearances are really short as are the fights between the creatures. Again, the film seemed more focused on ripping off The Matrix. Just when you think you’re going to get a good monster fight sequence, bam, the film cuts back to the aliens and the mutants doing their best Neo impersonation. And speaking of impersonating characters from The Matrix, one of this films major faults is that they spend too much time with Matrix style fights! This is something I’ve noticed about Godzilla movies, they always seem to rip off some Hollywood film. For example Godzilla vs King Gihdora (1991) has a Terminator style cyborg infused into its storyline, Godzilla vs. Mothra: the Battle for Earth (1992) has an Indiana Jones type of character. Actually that one has a whole sequence that was lifted form Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , almost shot for shot! On Final Wars, the director was sucking both of the Wachowski brothers dicks. You know how in The Matrix neo stops bullets mid-air with the power of his mind? Well on Final Wars one of the characters stops laser beams in mid-air with the power of his mind! Filmmakers behind Godzilla films need to remember, we came to watch big monsters brawl, everything else is secondary! But not on this one, on this one the director wanted to show how well he could direct action and fight sequences. And to be honest, the film does have some nifty action sequences in it For example, we get an extended motorcycle chase sequence that stands out. While watching it, I couldn’t help but notice how many shots the director stole directly from John Woo films. That motorcycle sequence reminded me of scenes from John Woo’s Hard Target (1993) and Hard Boiled (1992). 

Evil Aliens

The thing about some of these Godzilla films is that the human side of the story isn’t very well developed, humans have at times been reduced to mere by standers who stand in awe at the big monsters fighting, others will involve humans into the plot line a bit more. Often times the human side of the story is badly acted or written and you cant wait for it to be over so you can get to the monsters fighting. On this one, we get The Earth Defenders going up against the beasties, which I have to admit was a pretty original idea. Sadly, we only get to see the Earth Defense Force fight against a monster once in the whole movie. You’d think that the director would take the opportunity to have them go up against Godzilla himself or something. Personally, I would have loved that! To unite the human side of the story with the monsters instead of having them act as separate entities, the way it happens in most of these Godzilla movies. Even though the Earth Defense Force doesn’t directly go up against Godzilla, at least the filmmakers had a cool concept to play with this time around. I haven’t seen all of the Godzilla movies, but I’d say that this was a pretty novel approach. I just wish they’d taken it further!

Since this is the last Godzilla movie in a while, I thought it would be only natural to compare how Godzilla started out like in way back in Gojira (1954) and how he is in his latest and most modern incarnation in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), a pitting of the old vs. the new. I guess the biggest change between the two is the tone of the films. With it’s dark shadowy look and the ominous quality with which the creature was handled, the original Godzilla was closer to a horror film. The monster was kept in the shadows and had an evil aura to it. These new movies seem so bright and colorful in comparison. Not to mention that Gojira played its storyline pretty straight, a trait I enjoy from the older Godzilla movies. Even though with Gojira director Ishiro Honda was making a movie with a potentially silly premise, he treated Godzilla with a modicum of seriousness. He knew the premise was cheesy, but he directed a film that took itself seriously. When compared to the old films, these newer films feel more like a Manga or a comic book come to life. A lot of these newer films don’t take themselves too seriously; Final Wars is a good example of that and that aint a bad thing in my book. I enjoy both styles of Godzilla, the more serious one seen in Gojira and the more comic book style films we see today. It’s interesting to see the changes in tone and structure that these films have gone through across the years. But by far, for me anyways, this is one of the coolest looking Godzilla's. Very agile, he looks lean and strong when compared to the suits used in the older films. 

Finally, there was only one thing that I absolutely despised about Final Wars. I’m talking about the inclusion of ‘Manilla’, a.k.a. ‘Godzuki’, a.k.a. Godzilla’s son. Jeezus, this to me is the one and only Godzilla character I genuinely loath. Final Wars is the first time I’ve ever seen Manilla in action, but I gotta tell ya, the first impression is that it looks too freaking silly. It’s so obvious that it only exists to sell toys to kids. In Final Wars, the character doesn’t even figure into the story properly! In fact all of the scenes involving Manilla seem to have been squeezed into the film at the last moment. All he does is drive around with an old man and his grandson until the end, when he finally does something. Manilla’s scenes with the old man and the kid completely take you out of the movie! Some cool monster fight is happening, and suddenly we cut back to Manilla, the little kid and the old man driving around their pick up truck. I didn’t enjoy this character or his scenes at all; he could have easily been exorcised from the film. But I guess, since they wanted to bring in as many Godzilla characters as possible into this 50th Anniversary film, then that’s why we are forced to see the little monstrosity. But aside from that, this movie is a fun watch. It is every bit as over the top and fast paced as you’d expect a Godzilla movie to be. It borrows heavily from everywhere, Hollywood , Chinese Cinema, and even older Godzilla movies like Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965), in which the earth is also threatened by evil aliens and their dirty tricks. By the way, that’s the next Godzilla film I will be reviewing, be on the look out for that review! 

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5


Cal said...

Intresting-I've always stayed away from the more modern Godzilla films as the older films had a kind of charm the more recent additions seem to lack. The chance however of seeing a modern version of destroy all monsters may be too good to pass up

venoms5 said...

If this movie were toilet paper I wouldn't wipe my ass with it. Awful film that deserved to tank at the Japanese box office. I did a review for this one, too, some time back. This is the most divisive G film of the entire series, by the way.

Also, I'm not sure which versions of these you're seeing, Fran, English or Japanese, but the Japanese actors in many of the movies ie the older pictures, were award winning, or highly respected in their native country the way say a Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson is here.

If you're watching MONSTER ZERO next, it's probably best to watch the dubbed one since you get Nick Adams' real voice in that one. He was a class actor, too, and most likely the best caliber American actor to appear in those movies outside of Russ Tamblyn, who sleepwalks through WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.

Mr. Fiendish said...

I thought this movie was awesome pretty much all the way through. Your criticism of using a lot of scenes for action between humans is noted, although I think it's better that they have action, considering in the old movies they have long scenes of just talking. I think it's funny that you criticize it for ripping off elements of the Matrix, considering how much that movie rips off from many Japanese manga and action films. I'll call it the Revenge of the Emperor.
And I can't complain that they made my favorite Godzilla villains, Guidorah and Gigan, look damn badass. When Gigan shows up a second time with the chainsaws, I cheered.

venoms5 said...

I agree about Gigan--he looked great here....all 30 seconds he was onscreen. And the stupid way he gets offed the second time was one of many dumb moments. When Kitamura said he wanted to make the movie like a 70s G film, that should have been the only red flag Toho needed to realize they had the wrong guy for the job. I hope nobody involved with the production was pushed into committing seppuka after this bombed worse than atomic in Japan. It will be interesting to see what Toho does with the series from here, hopefully Kitamura will be kept away and they'll either bring Tezuka, or Kaneko back, or go with another director that actually makes good movies.

Good review, though, Fran and this was def more of a kung fu movie than a monster flick. Glad you had a good time with it, though. The only reason I bought the 3 disc set was for completion purposes and the making of features has a plethora of good stuff you don't see in the movie--such as monster action.

Jose Ramon Santana Vazquez said...


desde mis


CON saludos de la luna al
reflejarse en el mar de la



Mr. Fiendish said...

wow Jose Ramon, lay off the pipe

Franco Macabro said...

@Cal (YB): This is a Godzilla movie that you either love or hate as far as I could tell from my serch on it, but, I guess I fall under one of the ones that enjoyed it a heck of a lot, even with all its flaws.

@Venom5:Agree, about this films divisiveness Venom, I read some reviews for it where people would go from love it to hate it, but most seem to enjoy it even with all the things that bring it down.

The older films seem to have waaay better actors than the new ones. For example, I was watching Invasion of Monster Zero and I could clearly tell the difference between a Godzilla film with good performances, and the more recent ones. My review for Monster Zero will be up next week, I'll love to hear what you have to say about that one, cause I personally dug it LOTS!

Oh, I watched Monster Zero with its original Japanese dialogue already, I enjoy these movies better that way. Also, sometimes the American releases of these films edited scenes or changed whole sequences, and I'd rather experience these films the way they were released originally. Though I will say, Im also curious for the U.S. versions of these films.

@Mr.Fiendish: Action is welcome, I just didnt like the Matrix-y fights, those bore the hell out of me because they've been so over done in so many films. But I did enjoy that motorcycle sequence, it was pretty awesome, but also extremely influenced by John Woo's style of action, which isnt necesarilly a bad thing in my book.

Agree about how these movies feed off of each other. Final Wars feeds from The Matrix which fed off of Ghost in the Shell and it goes on like a never ending chain.

True about Gigan looking all sorts of bad ass with his new suit and weapons.

By the way, the dvd has an awesome makiang off featurette in which they show the director telling the Godzilla and Gigan actors hot to perform, I trulyl dug that featurette! You could see a lot of how these movies get made. Highly recommend it to those who havent seen it!

@Venom5: I loved how they ripped off Gigans head like that! That scene was awesome! Gigans fight was certainly one of the longest fights in the whole film.

Agree about it being more of a Kung Fu film, to the directors benefit, I will say that most of this action like the scene where the Earth Defense Force takes up their guns to go up against that Crab monster and the guy goes running through a wall shooting his gun at the monster, that was pretty cool stuff. I just wish they had done more of it and less of the wire fu stuff that we'd seen in The Matrix.

The extras were awesome on this dvd, I loved seeing how they shoot those Monster scenes, I'd never seen that, you could see them planning the fights and the choreography, you could see the actors who play the monsters, I loved those extras!

@Jose Ramon: Primer reply poetizado en la historia de The Film Connoisseur! Comparta el blog con todos los que usted quiera, me alegro que el blog sea de su agrado, espero verlo comentando por ahi pronto! Saludos.

odenat said...

too many Godzilla movies out there. i never watched them, Pay TV is not showing them here, no DVDs on store. My country is totally unprepared for the monsters ! lol

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, there's 28 Godzilla movies to go through, Im currently having a blast watching some of them. Did you try Amazon, they always have dvd's from various regions, try it out, it could help. Stores that specialize in selling films must have a couple of them around, good luck in your search Odenat. Thanks for commenting!

venoms5 said...

I thought it was right stupid that they build Gigan up so much then when we see him in action, he's killed in a matter of seconds. Then the second time we see him, he's onscreen longer because there's a 20 minute battle between the humans to cut back and forth between. And his second appearance, which isn't much longer in total, he ends up killing himself with his own weapon. Considering Kitamura's career pretty much went down the tubes after this fiasco, it's safe to say he won't be doing a Godzilla movie any time soon.

I wanted to like this one but there's too many other things that cripple this one beyond repair. I mentioned some of the other stuff in my review for it.

It's a shame this one wasn't in the hands of a more responsible director. It was a bold move for Toho to do what they did, but this was the one time they should have interfered instead of letting this guy throw shit to a wall to see how much of it was going to stick.

I'll be on the look out for MONSTER ZERO, that's one of my favorites. The differences between the two versions of that one are negligible if I remember right. Seeing it with Nick Adams' real voice is essential to why that one is such a fan favorite, though.

Franco Macabro said...

@Venom5: That is one of the things I disliked about the film, the cutting back and forth between the Matrix fights and the Monster fights. If the Matrix style fights between the humans had been something special, I probably wouldnt complain as much, but they were anything but.

That scene where Gigan cuts his head off, that was an awesome scene! I loved it, but like you say, a lot of things dont work on this one. Its a very uneven film when it should have been a very special one considering it was the 50th anniversary and that we wouldnt be seeing Godzilla in a while.

I mention the differences between the old and new Godzillas on this one a bit, and I'll be talking a bit about that on my review for Monster Zero which should be up by tomorrow, if Photobucket hurries with its damn maintanances! I hate it when they shut down the site for long periods of time like that.

I'll be revisiting your review for Final Wars soon, to see what I think about it now that I've actually seen the film. Thing is that even with all its flaws, I still managed to enjoy this one, well parts of it anyways.

Thanks for commenting Venom5!

Anonymous said...

A great idea that went bust, and caused the temp. shut down of the Godzilla series. Writers tried to appeal to the super-hero fans as well as the Godzilla fans - and failed on both. Great idea to bring all the classic monsters back, but the short 'tease' of seeing them for a few seconds was terrible. Especially the long awaited battle between classic Godzilla and the fake U.S. Godilla which only lasted a few seconds. Hope the Warners re-make will learn from past mistakes, make Godzilla look like Godzilla! ....and maybe have him visit New York again - this time do it right. The fans are waiting!!!

Franco Macabro said...

Looking forward to that new American Godzilla movie, but I havent heard a thing about in a long while...I hope it wont get caught up in development hell...l


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