In 2004, Toho released the 28th and, to date, final film in the Godzilla series, Godzilla: Final Wars. Like most of the rest of the Millennium series, it stands on its own as a separate entity. Again, it really only follows the original Gojira (1954) and even that is vague. Being released in the 50th anniversary year of Godzilla, it served to not only wrap up the Godzilla series (for now at least) but also to pay homage to 50 years of Godzilla history. The end result is definitely mixed.
The movie begins in 2004 and the Earth Defense Force (EDF) has been created to protect Earth. Mutants are now among us, possessing speed and strength as they were born to fight. A final showdown between the EDF’s ship Gotengo and Godzilla is occurring at the South Pole. The images are stunning as we see Godzilla buried alive under the ice and snow. Enjoy it because it will be another hour before Godzilla shows up again. We jump ahead 40 years as we witness the Gotengo, under the command of Col. Doug Gordon (MMA fighter and professional wrestler Don Frye, no Academy Award performance here), engaged in a thrilling undersea battle with Manda (it’s best appearance to date, in my opinion). Manda is destroyed but the Gotengo is greatly damaged and Col. Gordon is court martialed and jailed. We are then introduced to Shinichi Ozaki (Masahiro Matsuoka), one of the mutants who doesn’t have a desire to fight. He is assigned as a bodyguard for Miyuki Otonashi (Rei Kikikawa), a biologist investigating a mummified creature. It’s time for the Shobjin fairies to appear and warn them that the creature is really Gigan. Mothra barely defeated once and now, a major conflict is right around the corner.
Soon, we get a battle royale of monsters popping up around the world. Anguiris, Rodan (looking awesome), King Caesar (looking goofy as ever), Kumonga, Hedorah, Ebirah (finally returning from his Toho exile) and even a kaiju named Zilla (resembling the Americanized 1998 Godzilla). As the planet is under siege, an alien spacecraft arrives with the Xiliens (looking a lot like the aliens from Invasion of the Astro-Monster). They warn Earth of an impending collision with an planetoid called Gorath. The United Nations Secretary-General welcomes the Xiliens with open arms and disbands the United Nations, forming the new Space Nations. However, Shinichi and Rei are suspicious and, with help from Rei’s news reporter sister Anna (Maki Mizuno), their real plan is soon revealed. The Xiliens can take over human form, only being identified by their inability to blink. They have taken over the bodies of key figures, such as the United Nations Secretary-General. They view humans as cattle and, once they are revealed to humanity, a young upstart kills the Xilien leader so he can wage full war and destruction on Earth. He releases all of the monsters, leaving little hope for humanity.
Col. Gordon is released from prison since they know he is real and not a Xilien. Assuming command of the Gotango, he decides to release Godzilla from his icy grave in hopes that Godzilla defends Earth against the onslaught of monsters. However, Gigan is now loose and a confrontation with Godzilla is on. With Godzilla eventually killing Gigan and the humans boarding the alien mothership, Godzilla battles a new creature, Monster X, which soon evolves into King Ghidorah.
Godzilla: Final Wars has a tremendous amount of action and plot going on. The synopsis above doesn’t do the film justice. There are a lot of moments that will make any Godzilla fan happy. However, there are also elements that, quite frankly, I could have done without. First, I felt like I was watching a Power Rangers episode at times. I really didn’t care for the mutants storyline and the special effects made the film seem like it was taking a step back from some of the previous entries. The soundtrack didn’t impress me as much as the previous films either. It seemed to lack a powerful punch that was needed for the final Godzilla film. Outside of a brief moment at the beginning of the film, Akira Ifukube’s original score is sorely missing, a bad decision in my opinion. And the return of Minilla…I’m sorry but I’ve never really liked Minilla and his appearance here, while kept to a minimum, definitely wasn’t one of the film’s finer moments. On the other hand, seeing all of the great monsters return and the destruction happening all over the world was, well, awesome. Granted, some of the American scenes were pretty painful to watch. And poor Zilla didn’t fair too well did it? Toho’s moment of redemption made me smile.
All things considered, I did enjoy Godzilla: Final Wars. No, it isn’t going down as one of my favorites but it certainly had some fun moments. Unfortunately, it also had quite a few moments that it went off course. Godzilla looked great and some of the monsters, especially Rodan and Manda, never looked better. Director Ryuhei Kitamura tried to recapture the feel of Godzilla from the Showa era but the result is a little off as it has a chaotic and unfinished quality at times. Audiences were less than enthused with the effort and Godzilla: Final Wars was the least attended film in the series since 1975.
This was announced as Toho’s final Godzilla film for at least 10 years. They felt the franchise needed a rest and even went as far as to destroy the pool used for decades in filming the battle sequences. After watching it, I agree that a rest was in order.
Check out the trailer and yes, the DVD should be added to your collection for some of the battle sequences alone. For now, my Godzilla journey has ended. Come back tomorrow for a final wrap-up and maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll share some thoughts on 1998’s Godzilla.