After a consistently inconsistent run of films from 1999 onward, Toho Studios realized they needed to pull their socks up and do something special for Godzilla’s rapidly approaching 60th birthday.
Enter Ryuhei Kitamura: director of energetic, cult oddity Versus, who was posed to give the King Of The Monsters a spectacular blow out for his prestigious anniversary with his breathless visual style and relentless action beats. What he cooked up was a plot that ,like Versus, was pure everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storytelling. Surely this loose canon of genre cinema could whip the Big G into shape to make up for the last couple of bland movies and restore Godzilla to his rightful place?
How you take Godzilla: Final Wars really depends on what you’re expecting going in as the experience is somewhat akin to a hyper-active child screaming the plot at you while having an unfortunate brush with epilepsy. The plot (as if it matters) is thus: it’s THE FUTURE and years after burying Godzilla alive in Antarctica mankind has reached a stable kind of peace with the whole rampaging giant monster thing in general. A tiny percentage of the population also have evolved into mega athletic super humans, which is nice. Dubbed Mutants (because fuck trade marking) they are utilized as a fighting force to defend the world against bad things – which then immediately happen. A huge clutch of Toho Kaiju back catalogue appear all around the globe and start wreaking havoc until an alien race suddenly arrive and beam the Monsters away claim they are here to save us all; however, anyone in the audience over five years old knows that this claim carries more crap than a Glaswegian public toilet and, shock, horror, are actually here to dominate us. A disparate group of tough talking action stereotypes head to the Antarctica in their flying battle craft to free their one and only hope; Godzilla, but can even he triumph in the face of such insurmountable odds?
To say Godzilla: Final Wars is an exercise in quantity over quality is kind of missing the brief; yes, it’s very, very silly and yes, way too much time is given to the human side of the story which is essentially a Matrix ripoff shot through an orange filter but with way more guy liner. And yet once the heavily edited wire fighting gives way to a more traditional kind of Godzilla movie, things pick up substantially because THIS Godzilla stomps arrogantly from scene to scene, opening Kaiju sized cans of whup-ass like a titanic Stone Cold Steve Austin. While stopping short of people holding up signs reading GODZILLA 3:16, what Kitamura is obviously going for is a kind of modern version of the tongue in cheek, more camp Godzilla movies of the past. A rolled up Anguirus is kicked around like a spikey football, the ’98 Anerican “Zilla” shows up only to get beat down in 9 seconds flat and cyborg-chicken monster Gigan gets a bitchin’ upgrade which includes dual chainsaws for hands. It’s stupid, but a fun beer and pizza stupid.
The humans fair less better in this unstoppable torrent of idiocy, with only the plank-like, porn ‘tashed, ex wrestler Don Frye making any sort of impression, most likely because he looks like Haggar from the old Final Fight video game and dresses like M. Bison from Street Fighter 2. And God knows what the daffy Minilla subplot is all about….
Toho was aiming for something memorable for Godzilla’s landmark birthday and you can’t argue that they didn’t achieve it even if it may not have been exactly for the reasons they were hoping for. However cramming 15 classic Toho monsters into one film and having them beat the tar out of each other is undemanding fun that while messy, is certainly enjoyable and it’s a very fond farewell to a character that would then lie dormant for another 10 years.
Noisy, goofy and yet suspiciously watchable, Godzilla: Final Wars may not be the movie that fans wanted at the time, but taken as an overview of his entire 60 year history, it does just fine.