Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Earth: Out-numbered, Out-monstered, Out-done.

Earth is a transformed place. Whilst the planet is constantly under threat from giant monsters, some humans are discovered to have mutant abilities and are part of the international ‘M-Group’ task force designated with stopping the monsters. When a UFO arrives and seemingly removes the monsters in the interests of peace, the planet looks to have a bright future. That is until it’s revealed the aliens are simply ‘farming’ the population of Earth for food. They take the monsters under their control and order them to destroy the planet when humans resist. However there is one monster they can’t control. One monster that mankind has tried for decades to kill with no luck. Now Earth’s only hope lies with Godzilla!


Godzilla: Final Wars was the fiftieth anniversary production for Godzilla and was heralded as the last Godzilla film to be made for a long while – the big monster was going to go into semi-retirement in order to give the series a much-needed break (though they have retired Godzilla twice before so I take this with a pinch of salt). In an attempt to give the fans what they’ve been dying for and send Godzilla off on a high, Toho decided to rehash one of the most popular of the Godzilla films – Destroy All Monsters – for the modern era. A classic monster mash-up from the 60s, it was famous for featuring pretty much all of Toho’s iconic screen monsters in one go.

Bringing in director Ryuhei Kitamura (of Versus fame, one of the craziest Japanese films I’ve seen for a long time) was a sign that fresh blood was being pumped in to the franchise in order to give the old ideas some new bite. The return of the ‘aliens taking over the world’ plot was a great throwback to the films of old as this was the staple diet of all the late 60s and 70s Godzilla films. So with a talented director at the helm, a serious old school vibe and with modern advances in technology and special effects to bring the monsters, cities and destruction to life like never before, this surely has to be a winner, right? Well yes and no.

For a start, Toho finally heeded someone’s advice and decided to resurrect not just one or two of the same old monsters they always bring back (Mothra and Mechagodzilla have been in more Godzilla films than any other monsters), but they decided to bring back pretty much their entire back catalogue. Yes Mothra is back again but that is forgiven as Anguirus, Rodan, Manda, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Hedorah, Ebirah, King Caesar and Gigan are all brought to life once again. I’m especially glad to see Gigan back as I always loved him in the old films and he was one of Godzilla’s nastier opponents. There are also a couple of surprise monsters in the film, namely the return of Godzilla’s most famous nemesis (I won’t spoil it but fans know who I mean) and the inclusion of none other than the American version of Godzilla, from the dreadful 1998 film. Yes the ridiculous salmon-eating critter from Roland Emmerich’s stinker is here as ‘Zilla’ and needless to say, he gets what’s coming to him in a big way.

Visually, the film blows the socks out of nine out of ten Hollywood summer blockbusters. The monsters are all superbly realised, with their city-stomping antics being brought to vivid life like never before. Most of the new suits look great especially Gigan’s kick-ass new makeover. But here is the first major issue I have. You see so little of some of the monsters that it’s pretty pointless them being included in the film. Ebirah isn’t in for long, Hedorah makes a cameo (I heard the scene with him was cut) and some of the others don’t fair much better when it comes to screen time. Godzilla is pretty much unstoppable here and he finishes off most of the monsters in record time. He’s no match for them at all. Just a quick blast of his radioactive breath or a quick whip of his tail and the other monsters are finished. We know that Godzilla is ‘King of the Monsters’ but does he really have to destroy everyone else so easily as it lessens the reputations of the likes of Rodan and Anguirus to see them treat so shabbily.

Godzilla: Final Wars also relies too much on in-jokes and referencing previous kaiju films, with things like the look of the aliens being modelled on those from Invasion of the Astro-Monsters. Not content with simply rehashing old kaiju plots and scenes, Kitamura also blatantly borrows scenes and ideas from The Matrix, Independence Day and X-Men to name a few. When the monsters aren’t fighting (which is for a good portion of the film it has to be said), the film relies on old plots with new twists to keep the story moving. I’m not overly hot on the story here as it’s just an excuse for plenty of Matrix-esque action set pieces with aliens wearing shades and leather jackets like Neo clones and an over-reliance on fancy, pointless special effects. However, the actions of the human and alien characters have a massive bearing on the monsters’ actions so you can’t just write this off. As we all know, having a couple of actors standing talking meaningless jargon to pad a few minutes is a lot more cost-effective than having two guys in expensive rubber suits trashing miniatures that have taken ages to build!


I have to say I was slightly disappointed because I was expecting a hell of a lot more monster mayhem akin to Destroy All Monsters. Those in it purely for the fighting will have to endure lengthy periods of unhealthy Hollywood plagiarism with the human sub-plots. Godzilla: Final Wars is still arguably the best Godzilla flick since Godzilla Vs Destroyer in 1995 and even the appearance of Minilla, Godzilla’s son, does little to detract from the kick ass approach to the film. It is style over substance all of the way but when a kaiju film has as much style as this, who cares?





Post a comment