Also known as: Gojira: Fainaru Wōzu (Japan)
Release Date: November 29th, 2004 (World Premiere)
Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura
Written by: Isao Kiriyama, Wataru Mimura
Music by: Keith Emerson, Nobuhiko Morino, Daisuke Yano
Cast: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Don Frye, Maki Mizuno, Kazuki Kitamura, Kane Kosugi, Jun Kunimura, Akira Takarada, Tsutomu Kitagawa
Toho, 125 Minutes
Godzilla: Final Wars, which came out in 2004, was the last of the Godzilla films to come out of Japan (until 2016’s Shin Gojira). Additionally, it was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Godzilla. In doing so, the filmmakers at Toho decided to throw just about every monster they have ever created into this one movie. That being said, the word “epic” is a vast understatement to what this film was. Although, just so we’re clear, epic isn’t a synonym for “good”.
This film was at times glorious and at times hard to look at. The plot was recycled Godzilla shtick: alien race comes to Earth, alien race tricks people, alien race brainwashes monsters, alien race turns monsters against us, alien race makes monsters attack world capitals, Godzilla shows up, bigger mayhem ensues. Now I’m not knocking the formula because frankly, I don’t care that much about what the story is, as long as big monsters get to tear the crap out of each other for my enjoyment.
That being said, never has there been more kaiju violence in one place than in this film. Once Godzilla is reintroduced to us after his exile, he goes ape shit and runs through every monster like he’s playing Mortal Kombat III. Every second of Godzilla bad assery, I loved. It completely rectified any flaw that this film had and it went on for what seemed like forever. It was like a kaiju Royal Rumble match and Godzilla was that big unstoppable hero who drew number 30 – only to show up late to the party fresh and ready to crack every skull.
So what was wrong with the film? Well, in some instances, monsters were dudes in traditional rubber suits. In other instances, monsters were 100 percent CGI. The mixture of CGI vs. rubber monsters was odd and it just didn’t click. I’ve always been a fan of practical effects, although CGI doesn’t entirely irritate me. However, to mix the two so blatantly and so poorly kind of magnifies the flaws in both. Where effects should blend in and look real, having two differing styles together on the screen, at the same time, makes both styles look worse. I get that this was probably a cost-cutting measure due to the immensity and scope of this film but c’mon, the Godzilla franchise has made billions in fifty years. They could’ve fattened the budget a bit more or just cut out half of the unnecessary human versus alien special effects segments, which wouldn’t be horribly missed.
Speaking of which, the human parts of the film just felt like a really bad Underworld rip-off, which is itself a really bad Matrix rip-off. I liked how they structured the general plot but most of it was over-the-top and kind of tedious to watch. The only real highlight was the American general who looked like a thicker Tom Selleck with a generic American tough guy voice. He was certainly a caricature of what Japanese people see from a blockbuster bad ass American military leader but it worked. He was also played by MMA legend and pro-wrestling bad ass, Don Frye.
This isn’t what I’d call a good film or even close to being the best in the Godzilla mythos but it was supremely enjoyable and a bit of a gem in regards to the non-stop kaiju violence. In the end, I was more than satisfied.
Besides, if you love Godzilla, you aren’t going to let a few flaws ruin the movie.