Friday, April 25, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Godzilla Final Wars (2004) Review

     We are only 21 days until Godzilla's release and today we're looking at the 28th and final Toho Godzilla film to be made, Godzilla: Final Wars.  2004 was coming up which would mark the 50th anniversary of the original Godzilla film and Toho decided that it was time to give the big guy a rest and send him out in the grandest fashion they could, pitting him against as many of his old enemies as possible.

     Here's the plot: So countless wars and environmental acts have caused several kaiju to surface, making the planet join forces and making the Earth Defense Force, which also recruits people with super-human abilities.  Godzilla has been pinned down in the South Pole by armed forces and a Gotengo (a cross between a blimp, battleship and submarine) manages to trap Godzilla in the ice with the help of an earthquake.  Fast forward forty years where several kaiju appear at once and begin devastating various cities around the globe.  Gotengos are dispatched worldwide to combat the monsters but the creatures suddenly disappear.  Turns out they've been taken by aliens who claim to be here to help Earth, but the central cast's doubts reveal the visitors' true nature: to conquer the planet and harvest humans like cattle.  With the fate of the world in their hands, our heroes must awaken Godzilla in order to stand a chance against the aliens.

And y'know, not die in the process...
      Okay, so there's a bit to talk about with this movie.  If Toho wanted Godzilla to go out with a bang, this was a pretty loud one.  Godzilla's design is one of the best, updating the look of the creature but still staying true to the original design and even using the original colors, unlike the Godzilla 2000 design (which I still like), and uses the same roar as G2K, which is my personal favorite roar (you can hear the evolution of the roar here).
     Are there other monsters to fight?  As you can tell by the poster and my earlier comment, damn right there are!  Looking at the villain roster in this movie is like looking at a band's greatest hits album and they all have updated looks.  The villains are Rodan, Anguirus, King Caesar, Gigan (probably the best design update in the movie), Kamacuras, Hedorah, Ebirah, Kumonga, a new creature named Monster X and Zilla (I'll elaborate more on his appearance later on).  The kaiju Manda, Milla (aka Minya) and Mothra also make appearances but do not actually clash with Godzilla.  When these creatures are on screen, they mostly look great and not surprisingly, these are the best parts of the movie.
     Okay, so how about the parts with the people?  Usually Godzilla movies are more about the people than the monster(s) and this one is no exception.  The stuff involving the people isn't bad, but it's not great either.  Probably the character that stands out the most is the alien leader, who looks like a cross between Dante from the The Devil May Cry remake and Neo from The Matrix.  After killing his superior officer (who looks suspiciously like George Takei), he takes control of the alien army and cuts the subtle invasion bullshit.  However, he's a little childlike for humor's sake, throwing a fit whenever Godzilla defeats one of his monsters (even calling Zilla a "tuna head.")  The rest of the cast is fairly archetypical with your good intentioned male lead, cute scientist female lead, tough as nails captain (who is the only main character who speaks English sans dubbing, even in the original Japanese version), etc etc.  It probably wouldn't have been so bad if the runtime for the film had been cut down a bit because when the film clocks in at two hours, mediocre human material just isn't going to cut it and it in many of these parts doesn't feel like you're watching a Godzilla movie.  At least when you see these characters, they're usually in some kind of battle and it is more interesting than the last Godzilla film we looked at.

*sigh* If only it were this cool...
     Alright, the only things that really annoy me with this movie involve Zilla.  Not the fact that he's in the movie period, but just how Toho treated it.  When you see Zilla, he's never a guy in a suit, only CGI and rather poor CGI at that.  He's not the only creature who is CG'd in this movie but it seems like when they came to animating Zilla, the digital effects team just phoned it in out of spite making Zilla look worse here than he did in his own movie.  Would've been nice if just a little more effort was put into it.
     Also, one of the main hypes surrounding this movie was, "Hey, guess what?!  The Japanese Godzilla is going to fight the American Godzilla!"  When I first heard that, I was like, "Sweet!  The Japanese one is totally going to win but that's gonna be an awesome fight!"  Oh, how wrong I was...

     "Disappointment" doesn't even begin to describe how I still feel about this scene.  First off, why Sum 41?  Sure, I know it's one of their crunchier songs, but it just seems like an odd choice.  Second off, what a cop out fight.  I know that Godzilla is much more powerful than Zilla and all that, but they weren't even trying with this part.  This is what a lot of fans wanted to see and Toho just went, "It's Zilla *SPLAT* Next."  This really should've been the final fight of the movie instead of (spoilers) Monster X turning into Ghidorah.  Ghidorah is physically Godzilla's greatest foe, not to mention one of the most popular so I understand why he was on last but stop and think about it: did Ghidorah try to take Godzilla's identity by being in a horrible movie with his name plastered all over it and leave a horrid inkblot on his legacy?  No, but Zilla did.  Zilla tried to take the name "Godzilla" from its owner.  I don't know about you but I'd take that shit pretty personally.  Final Wars' finale should have been once Ghidorah was defeated, Godzilla would be weakened by the fight with Milla rushing up to comfort him.  However, Zilla leaps out of Tokyo Bay and knocks Milla aside, landing a good sideswipe on Godzilla in the process.  After landing a few clawings and bites, maybe even clawing one of his eyes and drawing blood on Godzilla, Zilla turns his attention to Milla.  Milla attempts to fight back, but Zilla is too fast and strong for him.  Hearing his son's squeals for help, Godzilla goes into a berserker rage, pulls Zilla off of Milla and throws him through a few buildings by his tail.  The two continue to trade blows but Godzilla gets the upper hand and beats Zilla to a bloody lifeless pulp, not even relying on his atomic breath.  Milla, as well as any survivors, watch in awe as Godzilla, covered in both his blood and Zilla's, stands triumphant over his enemy's body and lets out the loudest victory roar the world has ever heard, forever cementing him as the true Godzilla.

     Alas, that will never happen although we did get a much better Godzilla/Zilla fight in the IDW comic Godzilla: Rulers Of Earth (it ends in a draw, though).  That being said, I for the most part enjoy Final Wars because while it may run a little too long, it was a great way to send the king off into a ten year break.  If you like giant monster mayhem, I'd say give this one a shot.

     Well, that's the last Godzilla movie to review before the new one.  Check back next time when we look at the found footage kaiju film, Cloverfield.
     -The Cynic


  1. I think a lot of people were happy the big G took out Zilla so easily. I too wanted a good fight but they were satisfied with what they got. But hey here's the plus side of it. Out of all the monsters, Zilla was the only one to actually dodge Godzilla's fire blast. And nearly 90% of the monsters went out just as easily.

    1. That's very true. Oh well, like I said, the Rulers Of Earth battle was much more satisfying.