July 17, 2013

Movie Review: Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

I have been a fan of the kaiju "man in suit" monster films since I was 3.

Yes, three years old.

It was 1975* and we had just moved into our new home in Connecticut. It was an ungodly hot June day and my dad had set up this little 5-inch B&W television on the porch. The film Channel 3 was playing ... "King Kong vs. Godzilla." I sat there completely engrossed, watching these larger-than-life titans lay waste to half of Japan.

As I grew older, my love of these films grew as well. Most of my extended family lives in Rhode Island, so we made frequent weekend/summer trips there. At my grandparent's house, they got a Boston station (WLVI) that played the classic "Creature Double Feature" every Saturday. It was a lot of Hammer and Corman horror, which wasn't really my thing at the age of 6. But sometimes it was "Godzilla vs. Gigan", "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" or the geek-tastic "Destroy all Monsters," which basically was my Nirvava for these films.

But as I matured (in theory, as some might say) I lost touch with the films. When the original "Showa" period ended in 1975 and those films filtered onto TV, there were no new films in Japan until 1984. Then we were given Godzilla: 1985. And it sucked. S-U-C-K-E-D. The dearth of love for the film meant we didn't see anymore Godzilla movies for almost a decade. And if you got the Japanese VHS tapes, it was incomprehensible. Each tape had a different timeline and incomprehensible plot. Nothing made sense. And so the movies faded in memory. Add to that the abomination that was the Americanized "Godzilla" in 1998 (God, I hate that fucking movie), and the granddaddy of giant beasts was all but dead.

But somehow Toho pulled it out. In 2002 and 2003, they released "Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla" and "Godzilla: Tokyo SOS", a duology that got good buzz. Riding that wave, for the 50th Anniversary of the franchise, they released "Godzilla: Final Wars"

And it kicks ass.

The plot...as convoluted as the others. Godzilla is flash-frozen beneath Antarctica by a UN-type organization. Then some time later, some of his old monster pals appear and start laying waste to the Earth. Only to be suddenly removed by aliens known as "Xilians" They say they come in peace, to warn us of a planetoid that will crash into the Earth. The only way to stop it: Fire all of Earth's weapons at it at one time to vaporize it.

Of course, when aliens suggest disarming yourself in any fashion, you know they're up to no good. Their plot is discovered, so they release the monsters again onto the Earth. With most of the planet a smoking cinder, our heroes take the only step left to them: releasing Godzilla. Which has it's own problems, since he's not on speaking terms with Humanity after his freezing. Nevertheless, he proceeds to kick a lot of giant monster ass.

It reminds me of an updated "Destroy all Monsters." Which is a good thing. That film was like crack to me as a kid. I'd move heaven and earth to catch it on television. Now I have a modern version of my own. With better SFX and battles. Even more monsters. The fake American Godzilla gets shived like a prison bitch. Can you ask for more than that?

"G:FW" rules the Kaiju genre as far as entertainment value. For actual emotional impact, nothing will haunt you like the original "Godzilla", made in 1954. It's so good I would put it up as one of the best Japanese films made, along with "Tokyo Story", "Seven Samurai" and "Ran."

But if you want extensive heavy-duty monster action, you cannot beat "G:FW". The DVD comes with limited extras, but one of the best is the B-Roll of SFX sequences. You get to see how they do...what they do. It's very cool.

"Godzilla: Final Wars" gets a rock-solid, tail-whomping 8.5. It drags a little in the beginning with a lot of character development and little monster action. But the last hour...wow.


* I'm old, you may as well learn this now.


Post a Comment


Site of Future Awesomeness

Coming soon.

Site of Future Awesomeness

Coming soon