Thursday, July 7, 2016

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Yesterday I promised you all a strange crossover and today I am here to deliver on that promise. But it's not between giant monsters, as you might assume, but rather it's between a director known for his over-the-top action scenes and stylistic approach. Ryuhei Kitamura, mostly known for films like Versus and Alive, is not a bad director but it does beg the question why a man who is known for horror and action primarily was tapped to handle a movie about giant monsters. That fact alone may make the film the strangest entry in the Godzilla series, of which it's not even considered canon.

But, just because something is canon...doesn't mean it's well-liked.

It's also interesting to note that, prior to 2014's Godzilla, this was the last Godzilla film. But from the very beginning of the film, which we will go over, it's fairly obvious this film takes place in its own self-contained universe apart from the other films, only referencing them because they basically decided to squeeze as many giant monsters from them as possible into one film. And that means that, for all intents and purposes, this movie is really just a remake of another film, that being Destroy All Monsters.

Otherwise known as Kaiju Fanservice: The Movie.
Bearing all of this in mind, you know that whatever plot this film has will only be there to give a valid reason to show off nearly every single giant monster in Toho's arsenal. Sadly, we still have to wait for the true battle royale film that all fans want which would feature all the giant monsters from Mega-Shark to Stay Puft duking it out. I mean, who doesn't want to see Gorgo and Crocosaurus tag-teaming Pulgasari? Frankenstein tossing Leatherback into the path of one of Zone Fighter's flying kicks? Ultraman and Jet Jaguar chasing Kumonga with a giant can of Raid? Or maybe you're like me and just really want to see them all come together to mock Gabara for being the world's biggest cry-baby?

He's a bully who now gets bullied. Primarily by me, because it's fun.
But yeah, I'm rambled long enough so let's get into the meat of this thing. Now, the movie opens up on a rather surprising note as we already see humans fighting Godzilla...in the South Pole? Uhhhh...what? Why is he down there? Why does anyone care if he is, as there is no civilization down there? Why is all of this happening without any build-up or explanation? Just...why?

"It just raises too many questions."
But yeah, they're fighting Godzilla, the ground give way beneath him, he gets buried, they call it a  win. How exciting. From there we're dropped into this movie's favourite thing next to overblown martial arts: exposition. And boy, is there a lot of it. I half expect the Architect to appear as the narrator, explaining how all of this leads to the machines overtaking humanity. Oh, and that warship that was fighting Godzilla? That's the ship from Atragon. There's that fanservice I was expecting. Anyway, exposition dump narrator explains to us that due to humanity making a lot of stupid calls with nuclear weapons, a lot of giant monsters woke up and started trashing shit. To defend humanity, the organization the Earth Defense Force was formed to combat said giant monsters that humanity woke up. Also, there are mutants in the reality who are recruited to fight the giant monsters.

Nope, it's not quite as cool as that.
Yeah, these mutants are basically just regular people who are roughly on the same level as Captain America, powerwise, so they really don't seem all that impressive against giant fucking monsters. So, anyway, we get to see now upgraded Gotengo ship in a fight against Manda, which ends in them killing the kaiju, so hey, that was...kind of underwhelming, actually. Yeah, I know Manda isn't the most famous giant monster, but that's it? Well, yeah, because in a movie that serves no real purpose beyond injecting as many monsters as possible into its running time, there's not going to be a lot of epicness to any of the monsters who aren't considered flagship characters. We get some bit about how Captain Gordon is sure to get court martialed for his risky maneuvering in the fight with Manda, to which he basically replies with "fuck off", and then we're tossed into what all giant monster fans want to see in a giant monster film: two humans fighting it out.

Boy howdy, this sure is...*yawns*...exciting.
After the worst Power Rangers scene ever plays out, we then learn that Captain Gordon is officially in the brig for that thing he did (which killed a giant monster and saved his crew) and our main character (because Godzilla can't be the main character), Shinichi Ozaki, is given the job of protecting Dr. Miyuki Otonashi, a biologist who works for the United Nations. It's about here one of the more awkward things comes to my attention, that being that our hero is almost entirely dressed like a damn Nazi. I'm not kidding, that uniform is only missing a swastika on the red armband.

Why is this kaiju movie starting to feel like it was written by Frank Miller? Is the next scene just gonna be him calling the doctor a whore?
Shinichi and Miyuki go to check out this giant mummy, which turns out to be Gigan, because why not? Apparently the DNA in Gigan is also found in mutants, meaning these super-humans are related on a genetic level with the giant alien cyborg. This is going to be one of those movies, isn't it? The ones that give me a headache because of too "whats" and I end up turning into Rita Repulsa as I desperately look for a dose of acetaminophen to save me from the pain.

Man, I really wish I was watching Power Rangers right now.
 They get teleported to a mysterious location where they meet two girls kaiju fans are very familiar with, the Mothra Twins, who are two fairies who basically assist the heroic monster Mothra. They tell about Gigan and how Mothra defeated him way back in the past and that the big smackdown between good and evil is coming, so they better get their shit together. Particularly, they mean Shinichi, as he's got "main character importance" powers. And what should happen after that but giant monsters going wild all across the globe.

Kaiju Gone Wild wasn't very popular and the models soon ate Joe Francis.
Now that shit has hit the fan, we see the EDF doing their job when suddenly some aliens show up to deus ex machina their asses by getting rid of said monsters. Why? Probably because they claim a much bigger threat is coming in the form a big planetoid called Gorath which is on a collision course with Earth. Wait...why? Can we get a why? No? I mean, planets don't just do that, you know? Shit has to happen to cause things like that. Yeah, sure, I get that the Xiliens here will be revealed to actually be villains, but couldn't offer an explanation? And why did all the monsters suddenly attack? Argh, I swear I'm going to pop a vessel in my eye during this review. Anyway, supposedly the Xiliens are looking to sign a peace treaty. Yeah, I'm sure that won't end up being undone.

"You can totally trust us, because we look like members of a cyberpunk band. That's a sign of being good and junk. Yes."
Shinichi doesn't trust them though (gee, I wonder why) and him, the doctor, and her sister find out that...GASP...the whole Gorath being a planet on its way to crash into Earth thing is a total lie. Wow, what a plot twist. No really, who could see that coming? Look at how shocked I am.

I'm sure I'll look incredibly surprised any moment now...
The Xiliens are bad, the released the monsters, and they've also play body snatchers with members of the EDF, meaning that it's now time to try and foil their plans. Only, when they do so, it doesn't quite go over that great. The aliens just straight up drop pretenses of peace and let humanity know that we're going to be food. Sure am glad the governments of the world signed that peace treaty with these aliens who now intend to eat us. Wasn't this supposed to be a Godzilla movie? Anywho, the alien controller dude takes control of the mutants, because I guess they're not that closely related to humans, but Shinichi is able to keep from being controlled. All the monsters get stirred and shit officially hits the proverbial fan. Captain Gordon, using the power of his mustache, rallies everyone else to him and tells them what I've been thinking all along: Godzilla needs to be brought in, because clearly they can't handle this shit.

The mustache brings with it much wisdom.
They successfully wake up Big G, but Gigan was sent after them and now it's time for a fight we actually care about. After he takes down his enemy, Godzilla sees the ship that was full of assholes shooting at him in the beginning, so he follows them because being buried by humans like that is not something he digs. From there they lead him on a world tour of monster fights as he battle Zilla in Australia, Kumonga in New Guinea, Kamacuras in Manazuru, before going to Japan where he takes King Caesar, Anguirus, and Rodan in the vicinity of Mt. Fuji. From here it's off to Tokyo to throw down with Ebirah and my boy Hedorah. This highlights a massive weak point of the film though, which is something that people claim about other films but is even more prevalent here: the giant monster battles are too damn short. The humans are always important to the plot, sure, but when you have so many monsters in one film with so little screen time, it feels like the audience is getting gypped.

I know I do, because there wasn't a single scene of Frankenstein in here.
Godzilla and the Gotengo both end up at the Xilien mothership, but the shields are too strong for them to launch missiles at. One of the soldiers I didn't bother remembering the name of takes a small ship into the thing, destroying the shield generator, and the Gotengo drills through the damn mothership so the can fire their guns inside it. The Xiliens get wise to this, teleporting into the Gotengo and killing pretty much anyone who doesn't have main character powers. The villain then spouts exposition about why they want to destroy shit and eat us and how he and Shinichi are the same, which is why Shinichi was able to not be controlled. Other stuff happens, fighting, blah, blah, blah, the mothership is set to blow and they get away on the Gotengo.

Woo, I guess?
Finally, we go back to Godzilla to see him fight the new monster, Monster X, while Mothra has his back fighting the now repaired Gigan. After Mothra trounces Gigan, Monster X ends up showing it's final form as Keizer Ghidorah and shows off its love for the film Lifeforce by playing energy vampire with Godzilla. Our human hero, Shinichi, somehow transfers his own energy to Big G to give him the boost he needs. He takes two of the big bastard's heads off, tossing him around what little is left of Tokyo, because it always has to be poor Tokyo. He finally finishes the dragon off by tossing him into the air before exploding his ass with some fancy atomic breath. But now he's ready to fuck up the Gotengo as they fucked him up earlier. Luckily for them, that abomination Minilla shows up to talk him down and they both leave together with a roar.

"This movie was stupid."
Yep, Shinichi sums up my general feelings towards this one. I get the idea behind this, updating the premise of Destroy All Monsters with newer effects and the like, but the bigger roster of both human characters and monsters made the film feel very uneven. It focused too much on the human storyline, barely giving us much in the way of actual kaiju battles and left the monsters' fates kind of up in the air. Well, most of them, anyway. Ghidorah is dead and Godzilla snapped Zilla's neck, because they wanted to mock the 1998 film. Really though, are we suppose to assume the other monsters are all dead? Are they alive? Is there a Monster Island to stick them on in this reality? Why the fuck did Minilla need to be here? And what about the Xiliens? Are there more of them out there?

And, since this movie got no sequel, none of them will ever get answers!
In my honest opinion, this movie suffers a lot due to Kitamura's style over substance approach. It's great for action movies and can even be good in horror, but it just makes the human scenes get highlighted over the stuff involving the monsters to rather large degree. If he wanted to do a story about alien-human hybrids fighting aliens that wanted to eat humans, he should've done it separate from Godzilla. As it stands, this movie is a ho-hum sci-fi action movie with a little big of giant monster action in it. it doesn't hold up well when compared with a lot of other Godzilla films (outside of the 1998 one) and really just felt like a waste of time. The movie couldn't decide what it wanted to be, so in the end it just felt boring to me and I was glad when it was over. Apologies if you really loved it, but I just wasn't into the human storyline and felt no investment in any of the human characters. That's especially disappointing when I recently looked back on the original film and it's American counterpart, which both had rich interesting characters who were legitimately compelling. Final verdict? I have no real desire to ever watch this again. It's simply too jumbled for me to enjoy. So, until Captain Gordon arm-wrestles Ron Swanson for the title of best mustache, I'll be here grooving to the oldies. Later days, bleeders!

Maybe you're a killer, maybe you're Manilla, still you're staying alive, staying alive.

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