Title: Godzilla: Final Wars
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikumkawa, Don Frye, Kane Kosugi, Maki Mizuno, Kazuki Kitamura, Masakatsu Funaki, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Masami Nagasawa, Chihiro Otsuka, Masatoh Eve, June Kunimura, Akira Takarada, Tsutomu Kitagawa
Plot: When an invasion by the alien Xilens, unleashes giant monsters around the world, the Earth Defense Force (EDF) are soon faced with releasing Godzilla from his current icy tomb in the South Pole, but whose side will he fight for?
Review: Released to celebrate fifty years of Godzilla this film is every bit the best of collection that Director Kitamura proposed for the project. This of course is nothing but a plus really for the fans especially when it features the largest collection of monsters from the Toho catalogue since the legendry “Destroy All Monsters” as every monster from Godzilla’s (with the exception of Destroyah) past battles are brought back for one final battle in what is unsurprisingly also makes this one of the most action packed entries to date.
Unquestionably it was a big responsibility that Kitamura was tasked with here, but equally an honour he was more than happy to except as he stated that it came with "the same kind of honour that a British director would feel being asked to direct a Bond movie". A comment which would also serve to remind most western audiences of the radical difference in viewpoints when it came to the franchise, especially when the West still largely view the series as just a bunch of fun movies about monsters stomping on Tokyo. Still this public perception did not stop Godzilla getting a star on the Hollywood walk of fame upon the release of this film which currently to date has been the last films in the series which Toho have produced originally promising to not make another for 10 years, but as yet there has to be any news on any new films being produced by the company leaving Legendary to continue the series with their intended trilogy (the first of which I will cover next time).
Now there has been some criticism by some Godzilla fans that this film was something of a lark and devoid of any of the emotional content for a film which carried such significance for the series, but then at the time of this film’s release we were 28 films into the franchise and after fifty years of kaiju goodness its safe to say that finding a plotline which carried weight was going to be tough going and with so many classic monsters from Godzilla’s past being brought out of retirement the fact that the film is essentially one long brawl if hardly surprising. True giant monsters brawling was no surprise but while we usually get scenes of the human cast talking or on some quest or other, here these scenes are replaced with even more fighting as Kitamura cranks up the action quota by combining scenes of monsters trashing major cities but “Casshern” style action as aliens and the super powered mutant members of the Earth Defence Force and if your mind isn’t completely frazzled by all that Don Frye plays a character katana welding Stalin lookalike!!
On the flip side of things it was equally not surprising that the film ended up being such a frenzied and kinetic film, as Kitamura had already directed the zombies and gangsters splatter fest “Versus” aswell as the hyper pop samurai movie “Azumi”, let alone producing the truly bonkers “Battlefield Baseball” and here it essentially more of the same while ensuring that this film features some of the most exciting Godzilla action to date.
While Kitamura might be a very modern director he still shows enough respect to the series to stick with old school effects for the vast majority of the films going on record at the films premiere in Hollywood, while also addressing the cheeky nod to the American remake which sees Godzilla facing off against the since renamed Zilla.
“We stick to the special effects. That’s what we’ve been doing for 50 years. And that’s why Hollywood don’t do it. So on the first meeting, I told everybody that we stick to the special effects, and the live action instead of CGI. So it’s a CGI-monster-Hollywood Godzilla versus our man-made live-action monsters.”
It is a powerful combination of old school effects and CGI which we get here as a result with the CGI only really being used for the more complex monster manoeuvres such as Anguilus’s Spike ball and Mothra’s flying footage. True by sticking with the man in the suit costumes it does also mean that we still don't have a believable Minila who is back on usual fan aggravating duties, perhaps to even more of an extent this time seeing how the character who finds him has a rifle and doesn't take the opportunity to shoot him between the eyes leaving us to endure his usual antics.
This dedication to tradition though does not extend to the score it seems as Akira Ifukube’s legendry themes are for the most part absent, while the Godzilla theme does still make a noteworthy appearance at the start of the film. Elsewhere Keith Emerson (of “Emerson, Lake and Palmer” fame) handles most of the score duties making for a change of pace which like so many aspects of the film was greeted with mixed opinion, but like the tracks from Zebrahead and Sum 41 which also feature on the soundtrack it does bring a more modern edge to the film, while more importantly not removing any of the soul from the film, especially when music has always played an important part in establishing Godzilla’s screen presence.
Ultimately this I found this film to be a lot of fun and a fitting end to not only the Millennium era but the series aswell (if this would be unfortunate to be the last Toho film) while at the same time managing to pull out a few surprises along the way, such as a new version of Gigan whose hook hands are replaced with double chainsaws!! Here's just hoping that Toho are using this time they have given to the Legendry to make their trilogy, to ensure that his homeland return is something really special as here it is clear that even after 50 years of city stomping antics Godzilla still has plenty of fight still left in him.