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Godzilla: Final Wars

Godzilla: Final Wars

Gojira: Fainaru Wozu

Ryuhei Kitamura

Japan, 2004

Credits

Review by Lindsay Peters

Posted on 28 February 2013

Source Sony DVD

Categories The Compleat Godzilla

This Godzilla guy is one tough dude.

The prototypical kaiju franchise lumbered into its sixth decade with a high-octane 50th anniversary celebration: Godzilla: Final Wars. With director Ryuhei Kitamura at the helm, Final Wars promised to be a reprisal of the ingeniously choreographed fight scenes and maniacal energy that defined Kitamura’s low budget zombie-gangster underground hit Versus. To watch Final Wars is to experience full-on sensory overload, its overstuffed plot offset by an impressive array of battles waged between the biggest stars in the sprawling stable of Toho monsters. In short, the film is a heady mishmash of action movie tropes and a globetrotting extravaganza of kaiju excess.

The film opens with submarine battleship Gotengo at war with Godzilla in the snowy expanses of the South Pole. Tohophiles will note that the Gotengo (“roaring heaven”) first appeared in the 1963 tokusatsu film Atragon, and has also appeared in a number of other Toho sci fi films outside the Godzilla universe. A timely earthquake provides a convenient conclusion to the battle—Godzilla is quickly buried beneath the ice and frozen alive. A frenetic credit sequence follows, which gives the franchise its historical due through a well-crafted journey of the last 50 years using a newsreel aesthetic and a montage of clips from the previous films, and also provides Sum 41 top billing for its original song, “We Are to Blame.” (Tragically absent from the opening credits: Stereolab’s cover of the Godzilla theme).

The story returns to find the Gotengo in the midst of yet another battle, this time with the sea dragon Manda (which also made its debut in Atragon, and was featured along with Godzilla in Destroy All Monsters). The crew, led by captain Douglas Gordon (former UFC fighter and occasional Michael Mann player Don Frye), narrowly defeats Manda with a last minute freeze ray dealt by top gun mutant Ozaki, who will be our conscience-ridden humanoid savior for the remainder of the film.

Final Wars escalates with a series of global monster attacks that start, naturally, with the streets of New York. A seemingly benevolent brigade of aliens saves Earth from the onslaught, paving the way for galactic diplomatic relations. But as might be expected, the aliens are not what they seem. Earth’s only weapon against these duplicitous visitors from the outside? Defrost Godzilla, pit the monster against the rest, then somehow re-capture Godzilla after he’s done saving mankind. Luckily Minilla reunites with Godzilla just in time to help him defeat the last of the monsters, allowing Godzilla to swim into the sunset with his son, conveniently saving the humans from having to figure out how to defeat their unwitting protector.

Human conflict is ultimately little more than filler between the monster fight sequences, which pay solid homage to what the franchise has always done best—creature costume special effects. Released 3 years into the post 9/11 world, Godzilla: Final Wars had the chance to draw a parallel between the post-nuclear anxiety found in the 1954 original and the current quest for those ever-elusive weapons of mass destruction. Instead, Final Wars is less a product of its origins than a hyperactive sum of its incarnations. With Final Wars concluding the Millennium cycle, Godzilla is no longer simply an ominous force of single-minded destruction, but a convenient if combative tool at the disposal of humankind’s own ends, be it survival or mindless cinematic excess.

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