: FINAL WARS (2004-JAPAN)
review by Seraph
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The big G franchise turns 50 and Godzilla returns to once again stomp all over Tokyo, and the entire world too. Or rather tiny mock up models of it. Word has it that this will be the last outing for the giant green lizard (man in a rubber suit), and with ace director Ryuhei Kitamura commanding a decent budget we’re in for one hell of a send off. Yes, we all get to feel like 8-year-old kids again, so leave your brain at the door and buckle your seat belt, it’s party time in Kaiju land.
After a snazzy intro sequence, chronicling the last 50 years worth of Godzilla films, Final Wars pretty much kicks off right away. Kaiju are appearing all over the planet, simultaneously, Tokyo, Sydney, Shanghai, Paris and New Guinea come under attack by everything from Rodan to Anglias. Even the newly developed M-Force (a team of mutants and men working together) cannot hope to halt the onslaught. When alien spaceships begin attacking Earth too, (what timing?) people give up all hope. Hope does exist however, buried under the South Pole since his last deadly attack, ‘Godzilla’ is the only being strong enough to fight these combined menaces to civilisation. Trouble is, Godzilla has never exactly liked us, how the hell will waking him up help?
It’s best not to ask that last question. In fact it’s best to not ask any questions at all while watching Final Wars, as doing so will only leave you scratching your head in confusion. In the space of 120 minutes you’ll get to see death, destruction, 4-way Kaiju fights, space battles, slo-mo gun fights, wire-fu and a whole lot of cheese. Ah, the cheese factor, it works so well here. I mean, at the end of the day we ‘are’ watching guys in green rubber suits pummeling the crap out of one another. Kitamura knows Godzilla’s strengths and he plays to them, directing the movie with the energy of an 8 year old on a sugar rush. Action Scene follows action scene and those of you who know Kitamura’s work, (Azumi, Versus, Sky High) know that he can shoot great action. Sure, there are some post-matrix bullet-time battles, but the effect is used in a unique way most of the time. There are also a few spaceship-based scenes that may just blow you away, there haven’t really been a lot of pure sci-fi sequences in eastern cinema but when the ‘Gotengo’ battles the alien mother ship with it’s thousands of mini-ships spewing laser beams into the sky, you’ll wonder why not.. Kaiju battles are what most of the viewers will want to see though, and there are plenty of them with Godzilla taking on 10, yes 10 monsters from previous films.
Kitamura’s skill with action and mixture of location shooting around the world, decently budgeted CGI effects and the aforementioned ‘model towns/men in rubber suits’ help make Final Wars’ Kaiju battles some of the best ever filmed. Once Godzilla is awake and up it doesn’t take him long to start dishing out punishment on his poor giant friends. The speed of big G is much faster this time out than in previous movies as he runs, leaps and crashes his way across our screen. Some people may complain at how quickly he manages to defeat certain foes, but when he meets his pathetic American counter-part (the CGI one) in Sydney harbour, you can’t help but cheer as a single tail whip sends it crashing into the opera house. Big G also looks better than he ever has done, with the suit having had a nice little overhaul. He looks menacing and deadly and is more than a match for both mankind and his Kaiju buddies.
The humans also get a look-in action wise, with acrobatic displays of Hong Kong style fighting. In fact, there are more than a few asides to many different genres’ and everything from 1999’s ‘The Matrix’ to ‘Independence Day’ and of course, Godzilla’s own distinguished history. What Final Wars lacks in plot development, it more than makes up for in chaos inducing mayhem, barely pausing for breath between the incredible bouts of human and monster smack-downs.
In terms of acting, cheese, is again the order of the day. You’ll laugh till you pee when the lead American hero, Colonel Gordon, (a portly fellow with a ridiculously large moustache) utters the words “There are two things you don’t know about this Earth. One is me, and the other is Godzilla” in a bid to scare off the alien attackers. I mean, what? Elsewhere, Kitamura regulars pop up for cameos all over the place. Tak Sakaguchi (Versus) plays an evil alien henchman with wicked kung fu skills, Hideo Sakakai is seen as the pilot of a doomed spaceship and Kazuki Kitamura (Azumi) plays the alien leader in an absolutely absurd ‘cackling villain’ mode.
You’ll know by now if you want to see this or not. Godzilla: Final Wars lives or dies by it’s absurdity. Some, like me, will have a blast watching Godzilla trading deadly blows with something called Monster X, while others will just scratch their heads or wonder if they just had a very odd nightmare. Some will retort in disgust at the over the top theatrics displayed by the second rate B-movie cast, others will laugh till they cry. If this is to be big G’s last stomp across our cinema screen, I for one, will be disappointed. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time and definitely one of the best outings ever for our big green friend. Godzilla is dead, long live Godzilla.
I rate it 8/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Director: Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Reviewed by PaulJ (Seraph), November 2005