Video Daikaiju came to my rescue again and supplied a great subtitled copy of Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). This is the 28th and (so far) final Godzilla movie directed by Kitamura Ryuhei. Godzilla’s Millennium Series ended with a bang with this over-the-top, thrill-packed movie.
Toho decided that the 6th movie in the Millennium Series (1999 to 2004) would be their last – at least for a number of years. Since 2004 was Godzilla’s 50th anniversary they decided to give him a big farewell party in the form of a movie with everything. This time the big budget action would not just be for the monsters. The human characters, often consigned to watching from the sidelines as the monsters battle, have plenty of battles of their own in Final Wars. A large host of the most popular monsters from past Godzilla movies were rounded up to appear again and give the King of the Monsters a proper farewell. Final Wars doesn’t follow the serious storytelling of the Heisei (1984 to 1995) and most of the Millennium movies. As a tribute to the Godzilla movies the creators of this film no doubt grew up with, they decided to emulate the light-hearted, fun feel of many of the later Godzilla movies of the Showa Series (1954 to 1975). Although I prefer the serious storytelling mode used by the Heisei Series I also enjoyed many of the lighter movies from the 1970’s. Godzilla: Final Wars was just too much fun for me to resist.
Starting with the first of Godzilla’s attacks in 1954, Earth has been ravaged by many giant monsters. To deal with the threat Earth’s governments have cooperated to fund and operate the Earth Defense Force (EDF). When some humans were discovered to have unusual strength, endurance and agility research uncovered a unique genetic sequence dubbed M base. These people were called mutants and enlisted by the EDF to form Organization M. Organization M soldiers form the vanguard of the EDF’s efforts to fight monsters both as heavily armed infantry and as bridge crew on the EDF’s combat air ships.
Organization M soldier Ozaki is assigned to protect genetic scientist Otonashi Miyuki as she begins to study a new monster unearthed in Hokkaido. Otonashi is beautiful but proud so sparks fly immediately between the two. When many giant monsters appear at the same time and attack several major cities the EDF is thrown into a panic. Just as all hope seems to be lost mysterious aliens from Planet X appear in the skies over the besieged cities and make the monsters vanish. The aliens announce their intentions are peaceful but many doubt the Earth’s new guests. Ozaki and Otonashi gather a small group to get some answers and Otonashi’s sister, a television news reporter, discovers that UN Secretary General Daigo is actually an alien imposter. When the aliens’ ruse is exposed the aliens’ leader is assassinated by his aide who now announces that all diplomacy with Earth is over. The X-ians have come to dominate the Earth and will brook no resistance. The giant monsters of the world have M base within them and are completely under the X-ians control. These monsters are quickly released to cause havoc in Earth’s cities to demoralize the human race and make them ready to submit to their alien masters.
Ozaki and his team resolve to revive the fragmented EDF and break the rebellious Colonel Gordon out of solitary confinement. Although locked up for insubordination, Colonel Gordon is a strong leader and the EDF’s last hope against the X-ians. Gordon wastes no time getting his crew aboard the airship Gotengo. He reveals a bold scheme to revive Godzilla, locked in ice at the South Pole, to battle the monsters terrorizing Earth’s cities while the Gotengo takes the fight to the X-ian mother ship. Godzilla sets to with a vengeance and makes short work of the monsters around the world. He even puts the beat down on Anguirus, King Caesar and Rodan when they all attack him at once. The Gotengo mounts an attack on the X-ian mother ship. After taking out the alien ship’s force field with an act of heroism the heroes are captured by X-ian soldiers and lead to the control room to confront their leader, the maniacal Controller.
A meteor sent to Earth by the X-ians finally makes impact and a fearsome new monster confronts Godzilla in a ruined Tokyo. When things seem at their darkest Mothra appears from her island hideaway and helps Godzilla narrowly escape a combined attack from Gigan and the new monster. Mothra takes out Gigan while Godzilla battles the new monster to a standstill. Rather than lose the fight the new monster throws away its disguise and transforms into King Ghidora. King Ghidora seizes Godzilla in a death grip and begins sucking out his life force.
Not to be outdone, the heroes aboard the X-ian mother ship resolve their battle with the Controller and his elite X-ian soldiers. Ozaki learns that he is more than an M Organization mutant. He is a rare kaiser, a being capable of controlling humans and mutants with more power than any mutant can muster. The Controller attempts to bend Ozaki to his will but Otonashi, using a relic left behind by Mothra’s tiny priestesses, snaps the mind control and releases Ozaki’s true potential as a kaiser. In a hand-to-hand battle with the Controller Ozaki reveals his power and gives the Controller a fatal blow. Colonel Gordon leads the evacuation as the mother ship self destructs and Ozaki just barely makes it on board as they flee.
Once outside, Ozaki uses his newfound powers to revive Godzilla. Shaking off King Ghidora’s fatal embrace Godzilla savagely defeats the alien dragon and sends it into orbit with a radioactive blast that shatters the monster’s body. Godzilla then turns his rage upon the damaged Gotengo and its crew and almost destroys them when Minira (from Son of Godzilla) pleads with him to stop. Godzilla and Minira head for the sea while the human characters resolve to rebuild their shattered world.
Godzilla: Final Wars was a lot of fun to watch. The movie is not only action packed but features every kind of action I can think of – kung fu fights, gun fights, sword fights, motorcycle battles, giant monster rumbles, aerial battles. It was great to see so many of Godzilla’s famous rivals rounded up in one movie. Mecha Godzilla was absent but since this monster was featured prominently in the previous two movies, this omission was forgiveable. The special effects were great but not as good as the previous two or three movies. Because this movie was a tribute to Godzilla’s long career it seems the director wanted to return to more traditional rubber suit acting. Although newer CG effects were used they weren’t used as often or as wells as they were in other Millennium Series movies.
Some aspects of the film did disappoint me, though. Colonel Gordon was a great character but the writers seemed to focus on his tough guy persona too much. He had plenty of attitude and tenacity but they gave him so many sarcastic lines and so few intelligent ones that he ended up looking like more of a fool than a capable leader. In a nod to films like Song of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack, Minira appeared in the movie in a few scenes before making his impassioned plea to Godzilla at the end. Minira’s scenese, although mercifully few, were annoying and should have been taken out altogether. Not everything from Godzilla’s illustrious past was illustrious, after all. Also, when the mutant Kazama makes his heroic sacrifice and crashes his fighter plane into the heart of the alien mother ship to take out the force field we’re treated to a Star Wars cliche that just shouldn’t have been there.
One great thing about this movie was the explanation scene at the beginning. The writers did a great job of helping the audience understand what world the movie is set in and how humanity and the monsters relate. When the action started I didn’t have to wonder what it meant.
As is fitting in a tribute to Godzilla’s career, the movie was full of references to earlier movies. The movie itself is almost a remake of Attack of the Marching Monsters (Destroy All Monsters in North America). When Attack of the Marching Monsters was made it was a rousing return to classic Godzilla themes and featured more action and more monsters than any movie that came before it. Old time Godzilla actors returned in supporting roles for Godzilla: Final Wars. Akira Takarada, who starred in the very first Godzilla movie, appeared as UN General Secretary Daigo. Godzilla’s encasement in ice was borrowed from the end of the second Godzilla movie (and the beginning of the third). In keeping with early Godzilla traditions, we have a scientist and a reporter among the band of heroes. We also have a soldier and some EDF officers. This combination of the older and newer types of Godzilla heroes was a good mixture of the old and the new.
Godzilla: Final Wars was a lot of fun to watch and I enthusiastically recommend it to everyone. I watched it a second time with my two boys and they’re asking when they can watch it again. Don’t cheat yourself by missing out on this movie.