GODZILLA: FINAL WARS
Directed By: Ryuhei Kitamura
Screenplay By: Isao Kiriyama & Wataru Mimura
American Distribution By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Admittedly, I had spoken ill of this movie in my review for Destroy All Monsters but even so, my statement then still holds true to this one. This film is, for lack of a better comparison, is a strange fusion of Dragon Ball Z and The Matrix with the additional bonus of having giant monsters involved.
The film proper begins some decades ago where Godzilla is in a fierce battle with the Gotengo, a specialized anti-kaiju submarine/airship armed with a massive drill at its forefront, in the frozen heart of the South Pole. Though the Gotengo ends up being badly damaged in the fray, they manage to beat Godzilla by blowing up the ice beneath him and putting him into a state of suspended animation by burying him beneath a whole glacier’s worth of ice.
Following this, we get an interesting introductory segment that tells that following nuclear tests and mankind’s interference with nature, kaiju have started appearing and having merry havoc. What makes this segment particularly interesting is that the clips involved are those of several other kaiju films from Toho, films that steadily show the growing threat of the kaiju and mankind’s ingenuity, and luck, in dealing with them. Chief amongst said luck is the discovery of a specialized race of humans, aptly dubbed as mutants, who possess superhuman strength and extraordinary combat effectiveness.
Controlled by the Earth Defense Force, Organization-M is mostly where the human side of the film takes place but, in all honesty, I couldn’t really focus on the human elements all that much in this film because, as I said previously, this film is all kinds of over the top silliness, especially with the human side of things. When I made the comparison of The Matrix, I meant it strictly towards the kung-fu style fight scenes that occur in virtually every scene the humans are in, whether or not they’re fighting the Xiliens, other mutants, or even freaking kaiju.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually do enjoy martial arts films, be they realistic or fantastical in their telling, but the sheer absurdity of this occurring in sync with how the kaiju themselves were fighting was more than a little off-putting.
Where was I with the story again…? Ah, yes, so anyway, rather inexplicably, kaiju have started appearing all across the world at the same time. King Caesar stomps through the sacred lands of Okinawa, Anguirus rolls his way through the streets of Shanghai, Zilla devours the pedestrians of Sydney while Rodan soars over the skyscrapers of New York, and Kamacuras makes a nuisance of itself in Paris while Kumonga shuffles along in the desert of Arizona.
I’d like to take a moment to also make one other aspect of this film clear. The English in this film, and yes there is actual English-speaking mostly from the main character of Captain Gordon of the Gotengo II, is really, really bad. Not grammatically but like SyFy Channel bad and the saddest thing is that I can’t tell if it was done intentionally or by accident. Really, it’s only because of the sheer amount of work and effort that went into the monsters, both in their appearance and their actual scenes, that earns this movie its place in my list.
As to the monsters themselves, man where do I begin? A lot of work went into making them fit into this Millennium era but more detail was given to their actual species. Anguirus for example has gained the trait to roll himself up into a ball rather like an armadillo, a trait that was impossible to duplicate in the Showa era, and his tail is now topped with a spiked club like a true Ankylosaurus.
Rodan in the meanwhile is shown to actually land atop of buildings as he would, figuratively speaking, be light enough to stay atop them without them collapsing on him and his wings, much like Mothra’s own in similarly recent films, has a more flesh-like quality to them, actually moving and bending as he unfurls them.
Back to the story proper however, just as quickly as the monsters appear, they disappear thanks seemingly to the efforts of the Xiliens who have come to Earth to… y’know what, I’ll not beat around the bush with this one. It’s another “we come in peace but really, we’re not” ploy done a million and one times before in other films.
Though in the case of the Xiliens their ploy is ruined by the second-in-command to the “Controller” of the Xiliens, otherwise known as the leader, who is either a lunatic of Joker proportions or incredibly immature for his species. The Old Controller was content in a subtle and kind takeover of our world, wanting to minimize the damage and loss of life, but his replacement?
Oh he unleashes Hell on Earth with youthful abandon, not caring the slightest bit that he is, essentially, wiping out the one reason that his people have come to our world for in the first place. Humanity as a food source if you must know, which is not wholly unoriginal but does get perks in that the “food” in question is something very specific to our genetic make-up versus most other reasons.
The Controller, as he name/title implies controls not only all the kaiju on Earth but any and all creatures that possess the same mutagenic gene in their bodies, meaning that all of the mutants in Organization-M save for a select few come under his sway and it’s up to a small ragtag group of military mavericks to kick some monster tail the only conceivable way it can be done in a film such as this.
Go and get Godzilla to take care of it.
This in itself sounds like a bad idea but there are several reasons why it isn’t. Godzilla is one of the few “natural” kaiju of Earth, meaning that he has no M-base and thus cannot be controlled by the Xiliens. Secondly, Godzilla is King of the Monsters for a reason, especially in this film unlike any other that has come before it. Thirdly, Godzilla is unbelievably territorial and holds a grudge like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Shortly upon awakening and dealing a decidedly swift blow to Gigan via nuclear breath to the face and thus ridding the cyborg of his head, Godzilla sets his sight on the Gotengo II and mistaking it for the same ship that froze him in ice over forty years ago, begins to pursue it all over the world. I mean that quite literally too as the Gotengo II flies to each and every location where the controlled kaiju are with Godzilla not even a mile behind it.
First stop from Antarctica is Sydney where Godzilla and Zilla face off in a battle of the ages that takes all of fourteen seconds. No joke, it literally goes from the two meeting, the confrontational roar, to Zilla leaping at Godzilla only to be tail-swiped into the Opera House and being obliterated via nuclear breath.
Next we head off to New Guinea where Godzilla lays the smack down on Kumonga, the fight going from serious to comical as Kumonga tries to ensnare Godzilla in her web only to be grabbed by said webbing and flung off into the distance with an honest-to-Godzilla scream of terror.
From there we head to Manazuru in Japan where Godzilla’s pursuit of the Gotengo II is briefly interrupted by Kamacuras whom Godzilla carelessly tosses into a downed spire, puncturing the massive mantis dead. He doesn’t even wait to confirm the poor bug is dead, he just keeps marching on after the Gotengo II.
One of the best, and weirdest battles, occurs at the foot of Mount Fuji where Godzilla faces not one but three kaiju at once. The problem here though is that all three of them are his own friends and allies, Anguirus, Rodan, and King Caesar. The fight has a lot of good moments as it does silly with one such example of both being Godzilla tail-smacking a rolling Anguirus up into the soaring Rodan, knocking the pterosaur for a loop.
The Gotengo II finally manages to outpace Godzilla and heads for the Xilien mother ship floating over what remains of Tokyo. Following a scene that was ripped right out of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Godzilla appears on the scene after obliterating Ebirah and Hedorah. The Monster King is soon distracted though as he looks up into the sky and sees a small, glimmering light drawing closer and closer to his world. Planting himself firmly in the ground, Godzilla unleashes his nuclear breath upon the asteroid and seemingly destroys it.
Well, in a way, he did destroy the asteroid but not the creature dwelling within it…
The creature known simply as Monster X…
Overall, this movie is much like Godzilla vs. Megalon, a good collection of fight scenes done to obscenely over the top levels but with a story that is, at best, only reasonably sensible. Honestly, I’d watch this movie strictly for the monster fight scenes because they gave it there all and then some to give each and every kaiju their do even with Godzilla owning their collective behinds throughout most of the film. I only say most because, like most other Godzilla films, he’s not in it from beginning to end.