Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
By: Trist Jones on April 4, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1, English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 125 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Kazuki Kitamura, Don Frye, Maki Mizuno
Screenplay: Ryuhei Kitamura, Isao Kiriyama
Country: Japan
AKA: Gojira: Fainaru Uozu

Now before I get into this review, I have to say that I had really high expectations for Godzilla: Final Wars. For those who pay attention to the bits and pieces that come from Japan regarding these films, you'll know there was a huge amount of pre-release hype surrounding this one. It, even as the trailer states, is the end of Godzilla. On his fiftieth anniversary, Godzilla bows out of the world of cinema in a film directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi). My expectations were huge.

For some reason, I had it very clear in my head that, with this being the last of the Godzilla films, the big guy was to die by the time this film ended. I'm pretty sure I'd read on a number of sites in the pre-hype, that Godzilla would bite the dust (hence the title). Now if anyone else here was under the same impression I'm going to say it straight up; Godzilla does not die in this film. If that's what you're hanging out to see in this then just pass it on, because it doesn't happen. This film is in fact the final Godzilla film in the Millennium series (starting at Godzilla 2000, including everything after, except Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!), due largely to declining box office sales, and that there will likely be another Godzilla movie in a decade's time. If you can deal with the aforementioned revelation then you've got nothing to really worry about.

Now, because of my expectations, the film felt like a huge waste of time for me, but I'm positive that if I hadn't been under the impressions I was before I saw it, my outlook would be drastically different. However, there are some things that would have appeared in both reviews, regardless of what my feelings towards Final Wars were prior to viewing. The first problem I had with Final Wars was that even though it has such a huge cast of monsters, the screen time most of the creatures are given is minimal. I had expected with 14 monsters (Godzilla, Mothra, Anguiras, Ebira, Kumonga, Hedorah, King Caesar, Gigan, Rodan, Kamacuras, Manda, Minya/Minilla, Monster X, Keiser Ghidora, and Zilla) that it would be a tour de force of rampaging monster battles (and would have done so from either viewpoint). Not so. Large amounts of the film revolve around the M-Organization; an elite task force of mutants (basically hyper powered humans – less exciting versions of the X-Men) who deal with giant monster attacks, and the American Colonel Gordon (who feels like a G.I. Joe reject), as they face an invasion from the Xillians; fish-men disguised as trendy Japanese people. Actually, HUGE amounts of the film revolve around this. Essentially, it's like a sci-fi epic in the same vein as The Matrix with Godzilla sequences dropped at each end and sparsely through the middle.

The second huge problem stems from the first. The monster fights are ridiculously lacklustre. You'd think, if it was going to be Godzilla's last movie for a long time (or that they were going to kill him) that the battles would be epic, that they'd leave all that came before them for dead, especially with Kitamura directing. Again, this wasn't to be. The big fights all happen between the humans. It's a wire works and crazy stunts bonanza for them, I can only recall two vaguely impressive fight sequences, one between Godzilla and the three worst monsters of the film, and the fight with Ghidorah (simply because it's such a technically stupid design to pull of well – which is achieved reasonably here). The rest, even if compiled together, would have barely filled a music video for the Sum 41 song they're set to. It is kind of cool to see the American Godzilla (Zilla) get his arse kicked by the original, but again, I expected more, and the fight involving Hedorah (a monster not seen since the campy 70's run and a monster I was looking forward to seeing updated) was the biggest cop out of the lot.

There are some huge plot holes and moments of ludicrous convenience (such as the return of the Secretary General), all smattered with terrible acting. I realise it's harder to tell when there's a language barrier, but there are a lot of moments in this where you can just see, straight out, that the actors are terrible (the villain, the woman playing the Japanese Prime Minister are both awesome examples). Any English speaking actor in these films should also paint targets on their bodies, because they stand out like sore thumbs every single one of them flat out suck and will likely never get work as actors in their homelands. Even the bizarre moments where the Japanese actors decide to say lines in English are delivered better than the Western actors!

On a final note regarding the film itself, I really can't come at why the human race relies on such impractically designed military technology. The 'flying drill-bit submarines' are the last thing I would want to get into to fight a giant monster. Where were the Mechas? If they could build things like Mechagodzilla, why are they relying on these terrible flying submarines?!
The transfer is great and giant monsters always look awesome on giant TV's, even when they're terrible marionettes or men in rubber suits. The film is also presented in the original aspect ratio 2:35.1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
You get a 5.1 Japanese track and dubbed 5.1 and 2.0 English tracks. You're best forgetting that they even exist because the English dub is the worst dub I've heard on any of these films. I suppose if you're watching these movies for laughs then, by all means, go for it. Thankfully this time the subtitles for both tracks aren't 'dubtitles' as they are often found to be on many of previously released Godzilla movies.
Extra Features
There's a fair amount here, but not much of it is really that substantial. The best of the extras is easily the behind the scenes footage, which shows us various bits and pieces of home video footage going over rehearsals, actual shoots, conversations between the suit actors and Kitamura and a slew of other great little insights. If you couldn't work out how something was done in the film, this will show you. It's also neat to see the water tank Toho Studios built fifty years ago and has been used to film the 'ocean walk' sequences for just about every Godzilla film (which incidentally has been torn down due to the progressions in CGI).

There's a Meet the Monsters section which basically lets you pick a monster from the film and gives you a brief bio and the option to watch their fight sequences.

Finally, there are the standards, trailers, TV spots, biographies, still galleries and marketing campaign materials. Cool for a browse, but ultimately nothing special.
The Verdict
I'm kind of glad they put this third series to rest. I think growing up in the 80's and being exposed to the Heisei or VS series (Godzilla Returns/Godzilla 1985 through to Godzilla vs. Destroyah) I'm more used to Godzilla being taken far more seriously (in the films at least) and treated more as an animal, or a savage and uncompromising force of nature, and therefore am not as huge a fan of the more flashy "Power Rangers-esque" Millennium series. The nasty streak was what appealed so much in All Out Monsters Attack, but even that had a lot of really awful moments in it. While it is sad that we won't see the big guy for a long time, the films had started to go the way of James Bond, looping back around and becoming almost parodies of themselves by becoming more and more like their campy 70's predecessors. For me, it was a massive disappointment that showed so much potential, and that part of me gives it one star but for ardent fans, I'm sure there's plenty here to enjoy, so it's three stars for you.
Movie Score
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