Godzilla: Final Wars

GODZILLA! GODZILLA! ...and God-zuuuuukiiiiii....
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2004
Director: 
Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring: 
Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Kazuki Kitamura, Don Frye, Akira Takarada
The Setup: 
Every monster in the book, and every trick in the book, is trotted out for the G-Man's final outing.
Discussion: 

I was REALLY EXCITED about this movie. I saw Godzilla 2000 when it came out and LOVED IT. It was fun, like a Godzilla movie usually is, and it had a wonderfully refreshing sense of special effects as creating spectacular and strange sights: for example, what does it look like when a giant lizard crosses a coastal inlet by moonlight, in contrast to our American sense of special effects, which is just to overwhelm. I thought it was awesome and I totally want to watch it again right now.

Anyway, so I kept waiting for this one to come out at the theater, but it never did, and I was super geeked to learn that it was on DVD. My interest in seeing it RIGHT NOW shot into the red zone when I learned of the existence of mustachioed wrestler Don Frye, and found out that he was in the movie [more on him later]. But alas, after watching it I see why it wasn’t released here, as this thing is essentially unreleasable.

The movie begins with a prologue in which Godzilla is frozen in ice at the South Pole. You will be SHOCKED, as I was, to learn that one of the Japanese crewmembers of the boat transforms into very American Don Frye a few years later! What, do you turn American if you just work out enough? Can I turn Greek or Brazilian or something if I diet? It raises an intriguing number of possibilities. Anyway, then we have a hyperkinetic credits sequence that reviews the entire history of Godzilla movies. It is emblematic of the entire film to come as 1) it gathers all the favorite elements of Godzilla over the years as this, intended to be the final Godzilla movie ever, attempts to do, and 2) it is so frenetic and over-the-top that it soon becomes boring.

So anyway, in a futuristic Japan designed by people who HAVE seen The Matrix, scientists have found the mummy of a cyborg monster. I would NEVER have suspected that this mummy is going to come alive later. It also seems that a portion of this future society is made up of mutants with special abilities, and they have banded together to create a band called M People, uh, I mean M Organization, or something. This storyline IN NO WAY resembles that of the X-Men series.

So a bunch of monsters attack inexplicably, including this cool armadillo thing that can roll itself into a ball and bounce over buildings. What I did like about the movie is the brazen way in which it mixes not-that-bad effects with obvious models and toys and guys in suits. Then these aliens appear and make the monsters go away. They are going to unite with humans and change the United Nations into the Space Nations, though it is soon revealed that—you won’t BELIEVE it!—they’re actually evil and are fish-like underneath their human disguises and are planning on using the humans for food. They repeatedly refer to the humans as cattle, in a way obviously intended to make us go “ooh!” This plotline… I had no idea that the short-lived TV series “V” was so influential in Japanese culture.

Along the way we have some Matrixy fights and motorcycle chases which are stupifyingly dull, an idiotic kiss-off line to a monster [“Sorry! I’m a vegetarian!”], and a ludicrously approximated New York complete with badly-dubbed cop who is ready to blow a black person away with almost no provocation. And by this time most viewers will be saying “Hello? Where the fuck is Godzilla?” While I, by contrast, was saying “Hello? Where the fuck is Don Frye?”

Yes, reader, I have discovered my ideal man. Don Frye is apparently a wrestler who works on the Japanese circuit, which is why we never hear of him [and which accounts for the sad dearth of pictures of him available through Google images], and he is this huge muscle guy with a big mustache, blue eyes, and a wonderful glower. Which is good, because glower and snarl are pretty much all he is asked to do for this movie. That’s fine with me, I don’t need much more from him in terms of conversation than for him to periodically bark things like: “Swallow it, Bitch!”

Anyway, at around the one-hour mark the aliens have loosed all these various monsters on the world, and the humans decide that their only hope is to go to the south pole and awaken Godzilla. They do. I did not know that Godzilla could zip around the world quite so quickly, but there he is, destroying the Sydney Opera House, and a few seconds later is in Japan, after visiting a bunch more countries in between [that I can’t even bother to recall]. He dispatches a bunch of monsters without a hitch, then the aliens release these cyborg-things with giant hedge-trimmers for hands, and they and Godzilla unleash some X-Treme wrestling moves, running up canyons and power-pounding each other in the umpteenth attempt to make this movie the ultimate in awesome and only results in rendering it stupid and embarassing. Then this other monster turns into my favorite one from the old films, that one with the three heads, and he lays waste to Godzilla until the big guy rips off his heads one by one, good triumphs, etc.

Now aside from the indirect X-Men rip-offs, we also have a BALD rip-off of the Death Star climax from Return of the Jedi, in which a spaceship flies through a tunnel lined with pipes and shit in the giant alien orb, until it comes to the big reactor chamber in the middle, which it blows up. I don’t understand… do they think we just didn’t SEE Return of the Jedi? Or just that it was so awesome we’d love to see the exact same thing again? Ditto the scene, replicated almost exactly from The Matrix, in which one of our heroes holds up his hand and stops a hail of bullets in their place right in front of him. This is in addition to all the general Matrix rip-offs throughout the movie. If you ask me, if this is really supposed to by Godzilla’s big finale, he deserves a lot better than cheesy rip-offs of movies that came years after him.

By the end everything is in such ruins it truly seems like the five heroes we follow are the only ones left alive. This also takes a lot of fun out of the monster battles, as there are no intact buildings left for them to inadvertently destroy. At the end there is the requisite moment where Godzilla is going to kill our five heroes [and I love the touch that Don Frye puts up his samurai sword, as though little him is going to take Godzilla DOWN! Oh Don, everything you do is so perfect…] but then we end [after all the extreme “cool” violence and destruction throughout the movie] with a disingenuous statement of non-violence, delivered from a child! An innocent babe! And, of course, Baby Godzilla. Yes, l’il G is on hand [y’all remember Godzuki from the animated series?] and he and Godzilla wade off romantically into the sunset together, having decided to spare what’s left of humanity, which ain’t much. So, so moving. There was not a dry eye. Now, where’s Don Frye?

Should you watch it: 

I think there are a lot better Godzilla movies that you should watch before this one.