By Nathan Schiff
Godzilla: Final Wars
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Produced by Shogo Tomiyama. Screenplay by Mr. Kitamura, Isao Kiriyama, Wataru Mimura, and Mr. Tomiyama. Cinematography by Takumi Furuya and Fujio Okawa. Starring Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Akira Takarada, Kane Kosugi, Kazuki Kitamura. Released in 2004. 125 minutes.
For more information go to
The Official Website
It’s amazing how long Godzilla and his compatriots have survived in an ever changing and largely hostile marketplace. Yet the charcoal gray radioactive lizard has endured into the 21st century despite the advanced techniques utilized to render imaginary creatures to life. What would finally be Godzilla’s undoing is difficult to consider. The big G has had his ups and downs in life; and like everything else, has weathered a number of transformations. Godzilla was man’s enemy at first. Then he became kind of neutral. Then he became a daddy, and this softened him up so that the mighty one was a friend to mankind. Then he reverted to being man’s enemy again: were the changing times taking their toll on Godzilla’s psyche? Because he was never more compulsive, obsessive and manically depressed than he’d ever been. Was he mystified by his pal Gamera, the giant flying fire breathing turtle? Gamera never achieved enormous success and notoriety, yet he managed to keep his shell on straight and was consistent with compulsory issues, like remaining friendly to mankind and never harming a child. Or was it easy for Gamera, because he never had a son?
Which brings us to Godzilla: Final Wars
. It’s a kind of Destroy All Monsters
and Monster Zero
hybrid. In the near future, atomic tests and changes in the Earth’s biorhythms give birth to a world of giant monsters and a new generation of humans called “mutants.” These “mutants,” we are told, are the next step in the evolution of mankind. Aliens, called Xians, come to Earth in peace, but secretly plot to harvest Earthlings for food. And there is Godzilla plus an all-star cast of eleven classic Toho monsters and a guest appearance by the American Tri-Star Godzilla, making a total of thirteen monsters.
But don’t let that fool you into believing this is a monster movie. The invincible Godzilla has finally met his match, but it’s not the work of another monster, a spaceman or a new super weapon. No—it’s the modern world that destroyed Godzilla. ’Twas infantile modernity killed the beast
. Awkward perhaps, but accurate all the same.
This is Godzilla’s 50th anniversary send-off, his 28th movie. Announced by Toho Studios as the ultimate Godzilla. Described by its director as the greatest Godzilla movie ever made (save for the original). Toho even doubled the budget. Godzilla himself received a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Could it be the King of the Monsters was now a bourgeois pop-star Hollywood sell-out? Wasn’t he always the stand-alone anarchist? The lizard with no name?? The easy rider of radioactive fury??? And now: had he become a dilettante? The man about town? A fop? A poseur? Lounge lizard? How could it be?
Look no further than Godzilla: Final Wars
. If Rodan could speak, he’d probably borrow from Easy Rider
’s Peter Fonda: “we blew it, man.” It’s not the worst Godzilla film ever made; it’s barely a Godzilla movie at all. The full blame goes to Toho and their new director, Ryuhei Kitamura. They apparently hadn’t a clue where to go with this movie, and hired a popular hotshot, someone lacking any real talent or merit, but with the all-action-no-substance approach that brings in the youth crowd and makes a pile of money. Why not hire a seasoned director with a proven track record with Godzilla, like Shusuke Kaneko (Gamera, Guardian Of The Universe
) or Masaaki Tezuka (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
), both of whom could work on half the budget? Instead they hired someone whose forte is violent Kung Fu videogames and gave him carte blanche—including final cut. Toho was clueless, desperate and stupid: they fashioned the ultimate Godzilla movie, the last
one of them all, doubled the budget, and then allowed this abomination to spew forth.
This movie is not about Godzilla, not about the monsters. It’s about what modish Japanese directors do best: concoct their own versions of Hollywood blockbusters. In Godzilla: Final Wars
you’ll find a whole lot of the Matrix
series, Star Wars, Independence Day, X-Men
and even Star Trek
. There’s little room for Godzilla in this Western stew. Nor do Godzilla and the other monsters possess any personality. They’re treated like inanimate objects, buildings or cars or rocks. There’s no drama to the monster action, as they appear and disappear with little to no impact. Absent from nearly half the film aside, Godzilla rips through his scenes wasting monster after monster, shoving them into oblivion without a trace of drama, suspense or excitement.
Such complete disrespect for Godzilla and all the other Toho monsters is unforgivable. With over two hours to create the greatest send-off ever, director Kitamura displays no interest in Godzilla or his opponents. His preoccupation is evidently in extraterrestrial Kung Fu and the Keanu Reeves/Matrix
look-alike, as the battles between man and alien are much longer and far more intense than anything else. I had my doubts from the start, since his first film, Versus
, is insufferable drek about Kung Fu fighting zombies bereft of personality, drama or purpose. Yet the fans hail it as a horror masterwork.
Avoiding all human drama, characters delight in striking neat poses, as if they’re in a commercial for toy rifles and designer jeans. With all the hollow posing in this film, I couldn’t help but laugh when I remembered an old Mad
magazine parody in which a body builder is shown in the same gaunt pose, panel after panel, and finally in bed fixed in his “pose.” In Final Wars
there is a scene where everybody breaks pose to flee Godzilla, except the lead character who’s stuck in his and has struggle out of it. In keeping with one of the more ridiculous current trends, if any poser moves an arm or turns their head, the sound of a bullet or a train zipping by snaps in at top volume.