Godzilla’s 50th year anniversary film is the subject of much controversy amongst fans. Some love it, others loathe it. Either way, Godzilla: Final Wars certainly sent it’s title monster out with a bang.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure of the best way to handle this movie. I really don’t have a desire to review this film, and that’s not in a negative connotation, either. I am just confident that I can sum up my feelings of this film in one scentence:
Fun? Oh yes. Chocked full of long-lost kaiju favorites? You bet your ass. Don Frye? Hilariously awesome. A film worthy of Godzilla’s 50th anniversary? Not even remotely. I’ll let our Kaiju Fan Nation handle this one before I get carried away!
– Jon @ UnCanny
Ah, yes, the controversial movie in the skin. This movie has sparked arguments unlike almost any other movie in the series. Something about this film ignites a flaming hatred inside of people, and this brief review will five head-first into why this is.
The plot centers in on a continuity that follows the Showa series (or at least that would be the presumption, since all the monsters seen are already identified and named) for the first time in almost thirty years. The G-Force has found a string of mutant humans that have increased fighting capabilities and speed. The force uses flying battleships (such as Goten–or Gotengo, a clear homage to the earlier non-Godzilla science fiction genre) to fight against the various different monsters across the globe. In the other wing of the G-Force (metaphorically speaking), scientists uncover a mummified monster of some strange origin. The Shobijin appear and reveal its identity to be Gigan. In ancient times, Mothra and Gigan had fought for the earth, but Mothra had won. It’s an interesting backstory, but it raises questions about who exactly Gigan is; a alien’s warhammer or a rogue destroyer? Then, the world breaks out into a massive panic as monsters appear all around the world, as if part of a plan…
After that, the story and pacing really kick up and you’ll cruise to the end before you have time to realize what happened. The main complaint about the movie is the minimal screentime some monsters had. Take Hedorah, for instance. He had a grand total of maybe a half a minute on the silver screen, yet he was one of Godzilla’s deadliest opponents ever. The movie had to juggle the biggest cast of monsters ever put into a Godzilla movie, which is one of its fatal flaws. Considering the alternate of each battle taking five to ten minutes with all those monsters, it’s understandable why the filmmakers kept the fights brief. Then again, they could have just reduced the number of monsters…I digress.
The acting is decent, nothing spectacular, but X (the Xilien second-in-command with the spiky hair) is fairly memorable, partially because of his psychotic tendencies. Don Frye took up the role as the captain of the Gotengo, and he is the perfect stereotype of a badass. He always gives a sly comeback to the Xilien leader, which is amusing at times. To sum it all up, Gordon kicks butt and asks questions later.
The movie definitely is focused on the human cast. Godzilla (and the whole crew of Kaiju, for that matter) are in the shadow of the humans (or mutants, depending on how you see it). Godzilla Final Wars is speckled with conflicts between aliens and humans, surpassing the other competitors easily in that field. The fight scenes remind me of the crazy Kung-Fu movies where ninjas would jump all over the place, kicking and punching at times that would otherwise be impossible. Whether it was an intentional nod to that genre or not, I thought I should point it out. There’s also a scene towards the end that rips off of Star Wars, where a ship has to reach the center of the mothership and destroy its generator. This, hands down, is too noticeable not to see.
Through all of these problems, the movie is still entertaining. It isnt boring or dull like Godzilla Raids Again or Mothra vs Godzilla: Battle for the earth, but it doesn’t blow you away like the Mothra vs Godzilla would. It falls somewhere in-between the cracks. I will say that any avid Godzilla fan should give this movie a try, because it is action-packed from start-to-finish.
Three and a half Eclairs out of five for Operation Final Wars.
Pretty well balanced review, right? Our KFNExpert King Caesar did an excellent job of giving an honest, neutral review of the film. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you one of the extremes. Oh, Final Wars. How you divide the fandom so.
Godzilla: Final Wars is Godzilla’s 28th outing, in which a group of mutants fight of an Alien race that brings apocalypse by controlling all of Earth’s Monsters. With Godzilla’s assistance, they make it to the alien mothership for a showdown with the alien leader.
Oh Godzilla: Final Wars…Where do I begin?
I will open with the statement that GINO is a better film than Godzilla: Final Wars. It is, honestly. The problem here is GINO, is not a Godzilla film, as GFW ironically proves(obnoxiously and nonsensically). GINO meets none of the criteria needed to be a Godzilla film other than monsters in it. So, where as GINO was a complete and utter false statement and took liberty on the entire franchise, and basically ruined Godzilla for a period of time, its wrongs were only temporary. And its funny because its ramifications were only temporary because it WASN’T a Godzilla film. So when you think about it, because they were two different things completely, the real Godzilla remains virtually untouched. All he has to do is file a suit for impersonation and identity theft. Godzilla would soon be back to his normal character. Shoot, with all the money GINO made, it probably paid for the budget of Godzilla 2000. Does this make me a GINO apologist? No. I hate the film and it is rather insulting that they slapped Godzilla’s name on it, but it isn’t really Godzilla, so its really just insulting itself. Now, GFW on the other hand is most certainly a Godzilla film, as it includes the character, the other monsters, Godzilla’s back story, destruction, and even a snippet of the Godzilla Theme. We have to live with this film now. Because it is a Godzilla film, we can’t push it under a rug and ignore it like GINO. Like the Prequel trilogy, it will always be there, taunting us with its stupidity and horrors. It is also, arguably, one of the most significant Godzilla films because its the 50th Anniversary film. Its supposed to be the culmination of 50 years of development and evolution of the character, Japan, and movie making itself. That’s what makes this most insulting. This is what we got for his 50th anniversary/retirement film.
Basically, GFW is the complete opposite of everything I said the 50th anniversary film should be. Instead of taking anything a step further it takes massive steps back. It pretty much crams every negative stereotype about modern cinema and Asian Culture into one film and creates a primitive tone between goofball and seriousness. Either of which would be bad, but together? Even worse. The film, rather than being an ambitious film that could focus on developing a character that has no human traits and exemplify the best of the series, completely folds back on itself. How can a film contribute anything to anything when it boldly rip offs almost every successful sci-fi/action film ever made? Some people say “derivative”. That’s incorrect. Derivative would be taking ideas form other works and restructuring them into something of artistic merit. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. A good example would be how the original Star Wars took inspiration from Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. A poor example would the Prequel star Wars trilogy trying to take fom the OT and failing miserably. (=P) GFW just blatantly, and unapologetically rips off so much, to the point that I don;t know how he never got sued. Though, that’s probably because I doubt George Lucas, the Wachowski Brothers, Stan Lee, or Michael Bay would trouble themselves to watch this schlock. Its honestly a disgusting practice and I;m not surprised Japanese audiences caught on to it. But there’s honestly not much else to say about that aspect off the film that hasn’t been said already. The next thing that’s a huge step back are the way the action sequences are shot. This is a pretty basic complaint and fairly two dimensional, but its important when a greater amount of run time is given to the Kung-Fu than the monster sequences. Basically, the action choreography follows every negative stereotype seen since the Shaw Brothers, and basically disrespects all the work people like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa put in to break those generalizations. Sure the Shaw Bros. films worked back in the 70’s, but thats because it was the 70’s. And that’s why they still hold up. They’re corny fun. Trying to emulate it in a modern film with dead pan seriousness will not work. Audiences are to sophisticated nowadays to not notice when people are basically flying. Realism also rears its head when you are using 70’s monster cliches as well. While possibly being the most infamous period of the franchise, it was also relatively short and i no way represents the franchise as a whole and was already “sort of” uncharacteristic to Godzilla’s character. To go this route in a film that’s supposed to be a 50th anniversary film for modern audiences? Its a stupid move. Especially when you have stuff like an S&M Monster with chainsaw hands. Keep it in anime please. All the other Godzilla films since 84 kept one foot in reality, at all times. This was because of how much more sophisticated audiences became. Why backtrack 30 years of evolution? Its not just evolution of the franchise, its film itself. GFW actually has some of the worst photography I’ve ever seen. Its all because the director was too lazy to construct interesting shots and uses of natural color. He just slams color filter over EVERYTHING to make up for it. Great work! Compare this to the dynamic camera movements and style of Godzilla 2000 and GMK. And the icing on the backtracking cake, is replacing a vast library of Godzilla music that has evolved over time with a terrible 80’s symphonic soundtrack. Lets top it off with the plot being a rip off of DAM, instead of creating a new and innovative plot that tells us more about Godzilla as a character. I don’t understand these decisions…
Another thing to point out that I think is never touched on, are the strong, sexual overtones of the film. It seems nearly everything is sexualized. EVERYHTING. Everyone is unrealistically attractive except the veterans shoe horned into this travesty, but even Mr. Takarada seems to shoot off an innuendo at one point. Of course the scientist is a perfect sex item with a short skirt. Of course her sister, the famous reporter, is one too. Of course all the main cast members are all in the prime and make a habit of getting into scenarios where they have to sweat and wrestle each other. Of course two ethnic men are alone together in the arctic listening to music and wearing revealing clothing. Of course are main villains are ripe with vanity and homosexual stereotypes. What was the purpose of this? I attribute it to compensating for a weak plot. they need to keep 13 year old boys and girls attention somehow, and apparently Godzilla won’t do the trick…
Possibly the worst aspect of the film though, which has nothing to do with its insulting attitude towards Asian cinema, is Godzilla’s involvement himself. sure its been cited that Godzilla has limited screentime, but I’d doubt he had all that much more in Godzilla ’84. The key difference is, Godzilla was involved in the plot. It revolved completely around him. He was still in the film even when he wasn’t on screen. This feeling of tension ALSO made it more impacting when he appeared on the screen. GFW is NOT about Godzilla. This is not an opinion, this is a fact. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. This idea is the 100% incorrect method of making a 50th anniversary film about a character. In the 28 films Godzilla’s been in, sure there’s some room for experimentation, but NOT on his 50th anniversary film. and even the former is arguable. What if you went to a movie called Spiderman: The Last Stand, and the movie wasn’t about Spiderman? But I guess that’s different because Spiderman is human.(SPOILER: It isn’t different at all.) Ozaki, the blatant Neo rip off is what the film is about, and his struggles against things and his character arch. He’s the parts we have to suffer through in order to get to the title character. And there’s s o much of it. I don’t even care about this character because he’s not the reason I saw the movie. Its painful to sit and watch all this crap that has NOTHING to do with Godzilla at all, in a film called Godzilla: Final Wars. Godzilla is almost treated as a Non character, he’s just a solution to one part of the problem. They’re all sitting at a table over halfway through the film, and they’re like “Hey! That’s right! Earth has the strongest creature in existence! Lets go get it, I guess.” This disregard for Godzilla’s character in the 50th anniversary film is just so disgusting and insulting that my hands are trembling as I type this. It just gives the impression that this hack director took advantage of the film he was assigned to make the movie HE always wanted to make. He used it to inflate his own ego and cram in every “idea” he’s ever had into one film(Hopefully because his career would be over afterwards). A disgusting way to use the studio and the fans for his own personal gain and wants.
So why? Why did Toho pick him, furthermore, why did Toho approve the script? I’m sure Kaneko or Okawara would’ve jumped to direct the 50th anniversary feature. Shoot, Banno would’ve done it better and cheaper. Why did we get this film?
[spoiler]Because screw you, thats why.[/spoiler]
In all seriousness, this production makes no sense to me. From the creative choices, to what Toho’s brass was thinking, to marketing. Nothing. I guess the DAM premise makes sense because of all the classic monsters. But this only works when the monsters are the main focus of the film, or are portrayed realistically. Why did GINO have to be in the movie? That doesn’t make any kind of sense. That’s like if Red Son appeared in a Superman film as a main villain. Sure it was an interesting scene to see, but was it really essential to have in the film? It seems more like a fun bonus feature to put on the DVD than a legit scene. Also, how much of the budget went towards getting that sound byte from a SUM 41 song? Minya? His size changing ability is canon, not a hallucinogenic drug? None of the decisions in this film make sense…Its worse than the Prequel Trilogy, Star Trek: Generations, and AVP: Requiem combined! The fanbase got the biggest kick in the balls with this movie than any other Sci-fi fandom in history. Look at the previous retirement film, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Perfection. It was true climactic perfection. It made perfect sense to tie the original film to the final film, and then kill the character off in an incredible way WHILE preserving his legacy. Why not try something like that? Why not add a third film to the “Kiryu saga” about something similar? Why all…this? Godzilla 2000 would’ve made a damn fine 50th anniversary film. So would GMK. Shoot, how about the project that GMK was made instead of. Toho rejected Daiei’s proposal to do Gamera vs. Godzilla so they could do GMK. Let that sink in for a moment. We were that close. GMK is a good movie and all, but I’m sure most of us would’ve preferred the alternative. But here’s the question, why not save that movie premise for Godzilla’s 50th anniversary? How GREAT would that have been? The movie we got is stupid.
Now lets put this in a retrospective. When I first saw the film, when I was 12. My mind told me I liked it, while my heart told me no, if that makes sense. I tried to rationalize liking it, as it was a Godzilla movie after all. I just couldn’t, and as I grew older and rewatched it, every time I had more of a reason as to why. The movie just fails on every level. I guess I can see how it would be fun and for someone to like it, but only in a really stupid kind of way, like “OMG this is so stupid! LOL!” Godzilla: Final Wars though is just too stupid for me. Its insulting to my intelligence, to me as a fan, and to Godzilla’s integrity. What was the point of this film? What was it trying to do or say? Every Godzilla film had a point, no matter how 2 dimensional or obvious it was, every single one had a point, and endgame. There really wasn’t any kind here…nothing the film is basically just fluff. Its kind of about nothing…I mean Don Frye was entertaining to watch. He’s kind of like Burt Reynolds mixed with Bruce Campbell, but I’d rather watch a movie about him than this piece of crap…maybe that was the point? Idk. Godzilla: Final Wars is a bad movie, and the worst Godzilla film ever made.
0 stars out of 5.
– Svitska Donkun
Last but certainly not least, OMGitsGodzilla weighs in with an in-depth plot analysis to help you decide whether this film is for you or not. He makes his own opinion rather clear!
In 1954, the Godzilla franchise began with Gojira, an extremely masterful and haunting nuclear-apocalypse horror film using a monster to illustrate the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. In 2004, the 50th anniversary of the original film, it ended (at least for a while) with Godzilla: Final Wars, a film that is considered at best a rather flawed but somewhat enjoyable monster-action film and at worst nigh-unwatchable filth from a hack director and a studio that didn’t care anymore.
The film opens in Antarctica, with the triphibian warship Gotengo (first seen in Atragon) doing battle with Godzilla in an unknown time period (some sources say it is the 1960s). The latter shoots down the former with a blast of atomic energy, forcing it to crash-land. As Godzilla advances on the Gotengo, a rather “deus ex machina” earthquake strikes and Godzilla falls into a crevasse that conveniently opens right under his feet. The quick-thinking commander of the Gotengo calls for missiles to be fired into a nearby glacier, and as they reach their target Godzilla is buried in an icy tomb.
Next, we have a montage to bring us up to speed on what happens in the years after this incident. A narrator tells us that monsters began appearing all over the world as a result of “wars and environmental disruptions.” To combat these creatures, the Earth Defense Force (EDF) is formed. A race of mutant humans possessing incredible fighting abilities (naturally) emerge as enemies of mankind, but join forces with humanity to fight the monsters. The M-Organization, a division of the EDF made up of mutant soldiers, is founded, with their ultimate goal being to defeat the King of the Monsters.
After a very interesting (but nearly unreadable) opening credits sequence featuring scenes from Godzilla films throughout the franchise’s history, we see the Gotengo fighting Manda underwater off the coast of Normandy in the year 20XX. Colonel Douglas Gordon, the ship’s commander, manages to destroy the creature, but nearly destroys the ship in the process. Off-screen, he is court-martialed, becomes enraged at one of his superiors, assaults them, and is incarcerated. Next we see two of the mutants from the ship, Ozaki and Kazama, fighting in a training exercise. This scene establishes two things: First, that Ozaki is the “soft” one to Kazama’s fighting-obsessed mindset, and second, that the film’s human combat scenes are (ahem) inspired by those seen in the Matrix.
Ozaki is assigned to be the bodyguard of Miyuki Otonashi, a biologist from the UN. He goes with her to investigate a fossilized cyborg monster found in Hokkaido and brought to the EDF museum. Here we learn that mutants contain a fifth genetic base, creatively called M-base, which they share with this and other monsters. We also learn that the monster is 12,000 years old, meaning that it could not have been created on Earth.
We then see Miyuki’s sister, Anna Otonashi, interviewing the newest UN Secretary General, a Japanese man by the name of Daigo. We learn that he plans to go to New York next.
During her research, Miyuki comes across some documents on Infant Island that show ancient paintings that appear to depict the cyborg monster. She shows this to Ozaki and another scientist she is working with, when they hear two female voices in unison telling them the monster’s name: Gigan. The three of them are immediately teleported to Infant Island, where the Shobijin inform them that Mothra did battle with Gigan when he first appeared, 12,000 years ago. They warn Ozaki about his genetic relation to Gigan (“a wicked creature”) that we already know about, and say that so long as he does not become an enemy of the Earth, Mothra will aid him. They are teleported back to their laboratory, where they find a charm from Infant Island, given to them mid-transport by the Shobijin.
Next, Daigo’s plane is destroyed on its way to New York by Rodan, who proceeds to attack the city. Angilas appears in Shanghai, King Caesar in Okinawa, Zilla (an obvious stand-in for the American “Godzilla” from 1998) in Sydney, Kamakiras in Paris, Kumonga in Arizona, and Ebirah in Tokai. A squad of mutants led by Ozaki and Kazama take down Ebirah, only to have it disappear moments later. This happens to the other monsters as well, seemingly being captured by UFOs that converge into a huge mothership above EDF headquarters. Daigo descends from the ship, explaining that the aliens in the UFOs rescued him from his plane. He and two top military officers are taken aboard, where the Xiliens (aliens from Planet X) inform them of an impending threat from a planet, Gorath, that has broken free from its orbit in another solar system and is on a collision course with Earth. Daigo, apparently very grateful for this, suggests disbanding the United Nations and replacing it with the “Space Nations.” This is greeted very enthusiastically by just about everyone but Anna Otonashi, Ozaki and Miyuki.
As the latter two discuss their suspicions, the former shows up with a video of Daigo’s speech, saying that he has been replaced by an Xilien double, pointing out that he now doesn’t blink at all. These suspicions are confirmed by a test of blood recovered after an attempt to assassinate Daigo. Ozaki notices the same change in one of his superiors, who was one of the officers taken aboard the mothership. On top of this, Gorath is revealed to be a hoax, as all photographs of it are sloppy fakes. Realizing that their allies may all be in danger of replacement by aliens, Ozaki springs one man they know hasn’t been kidnapped: Colonel Gordon.
Anna Otonashi interviews Daigo, the Xilien Controller and his younger right-hand man on live TV. Meanwhile, Miyuki is confronted by the double of Ozaki’s superior as well as that of the other officer. Gordon, Ozaki, Kazama and a team of Mutants show up and kill the impostors and see their false bodies split open as they die, revealing their true form. They take one of the corpses to the scene of the interview, throwing it on the ground before the show’s guests and demanding an explanation. Daigo attempts to get up, but is immediately shot once in the chest by Gordon, his head opening to reveal that of an alien. The Controller stutters for a moment, trying to fabricate an explanation, but is shot through the head by his second-in-command, who assumes the position of Controller. Four more Xiliens teleport into the room. Gordon’s ensemble responds by calling a huge squad of mutants into the room.
The Controller places the mutants under his control (with the exception of Ozaki), leaving them to kill Gordon’s team. They manage to escape, however, but are confronted on the highway by a Xilien-controlled Kazama. Osaki and Kazama fight (on motorcycles!), culminating in Ozaki besting Kazama and freeing him of the mind control.
The Controller sets all the monsters, under his control, loose on the Earth. They utterly destroy the self-defense forces, wiping out almost all of civilization.
Gordon and the others take off in the now-repaired Gotengo for Antarctica, planning to free Godzilla. As they arrive, Gigan attacks, crippling the ship and again forcing it to crash-land. They fire off missiles into Godzilla’s prison, releasing him. Godzilla defeats Gigan, then advances towards the Gotengo once again, intending to finish their previous battle. The engines are repaired just in time, and the ship takes off with Godzilla following it.
They lead Godzilla around the world, where he defeats all of the enemy monsters. They then lead him to the Xilien mothership, where they are captured and brought aboard and talk about the Xilien’s plans for humanity, which I won’t even bother trying to explain. The mysterious Monster X arrives in a meteor and does battle with Godzilla. Mothra appears, prompting the Controller to deploy a new, improved Gigan. At the same time, Gordon’s group fights the Xilien forces, with Ozaki battling the Controller. Mothra sacrifices herself to defeat Gigan. The real Daigo and the military officers show up, Ozaki beats the Controller and they all escape as the Controller activates the mothership’s self-destruct mechanism.
Monster X suddenly transforms into the extremely powerful Kaiser Ghidorah, turning the tide on Godzilla. He begins sucking out Godzilla’s life-force. The Gotengo fires its maser into Godzilla’s spines, replenishing his life-force and allowing him to defeat Kaiser Ghidorah. He then shoots down the Gotengo once more, only stopped from killing the crew by the intervention of his son Minilla, who had been following his father for a while along with a hunter and his grandson. Godzilla and Minilla head out to sea and humankind is left to rebuild.
If the plot seems hopelessly convoluted, that’s only because it is. Most agree that it’s as if a Godzilla movie and several other action movies were haphazardly combined, scored like a video game and edited like a music video. The story itself has been compared to a bad fanfiction. It’s generally agreed that Ryuhei Kitamura, the director, was given far too much control over the project and that the result was a rather bad film.
The monster designs are a frequently debated aspect. Many people dislike them, while others are fond of some or all of them. I for one see them as rather cartoonish for the most part, but with a few high points, specifically Godzilla and Gigan. The revamped Gotengo looks great as well.
The editing is fairly standard, with a few major exceptions: Color filters are used almost constantly, which many find annoying. Also, some very quick cuts are used in the battle scenes for no apparent reason. Because of these two factors, the editing has been compared to a bad music video.
The music is highly unusual. It’s largely techno with some orchestral and pop-rock elements, and created by three different composers, which makes the score an exceptionally mixed bag. Some cues are great, while others are horrendous.
The overall tone of the films just seems like it’s trying to be cool instead of a good Godzilla film. The editing, techno music, Matrix-style fights, and random, semi-trendy occasional English dialogue all come off as an attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator in every possible way. Despite all these desperate attempts at coolness, the film tanked at the box office and is known as one of the worse installments in the entire series.
The final verdict? Do not go into this expecting a fitting celebration of Godzilla’s fiftieth birthday. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. It’s pretty much the only way to enjoy the film.