Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
The 50-Year History Comes to an End.
Celebrating 50 years of Godzilla, and also marking the last made (until 2014's Godzilla hit theaters) Godzilla film, Final Wars finally pops up. Although unrelated to the previous reviewed Heisei era flicks, it certainly honors some of the earlier traditions of the big G - such as monster a monster battles. With access to higher levels of technology and equipment, can the entire movie be elevated for one epic final battle - or are we destined to suffer another stinker about a giant iguana?
We start the movie off with a "final showdown" between the Earth Defense Force's impressive flying battleship and the king of all monsters. As per norm, the EDF is taking a beating, but with a stroke of luck the ground of the Antarctic tundra breaks apart and Godzilla falls in - giving them just the chance they needed to launch their remaining missiles and bury the nuclear menace under tons of ice. We then jump the timeline forward a number of years (and won't see our Godzilla buddy until another hour or so later), into the modern time (of the movie). The EDF is contending with monster appearances as they happen with the aid of their giant flying battleships and Matrix-skilled mutant comrades.
Things are finally looking up for humans, when suddenly the monsters pop up everywhere, and man are they angry. The EDF deploys it's ships and troops all over to combat the creatures, but in the middle of the battle they all suddenly disappear leaving the EDF with a new possible threat - that of the strange alien spaceships that caused the monsters to disappear in the first place! Of course, it turns out these aliens are friendly to us and want to save us from a rogue planet throttling towards ours in outer space. Saving us from monsters and helping us stop a ball of doom shuttling at us? Seems too good to be true!
Well, turns out it is. After some detective work and some short action scenes, we find out the real goal of the aliens - particularly after a bit of a change of management - is to use us as cattle. To make matters worse, the monsters they all caught have been altered to contain M-base, the same genetic substance that helps make the mutant humans... well, mutants is also something the aliens can psychically control! Now devoid of the entire mutant team, the humans and one unaffected mutant concoct a crazy all-or-nothing scheme to save their species from becoming nothing more than cattle - Wake Godzilla.
Effect wise, CG crops up to enhance the experience a lot more than it used to - but that's not to say the old suits and models are gone. In a bit of a unexplainable move perhaps, we instead see the models and suits still get a massive amount of screentime, and said CG helps make some of the explosions nicer, or creature movements less awkward. In one instance, the CG is brilliantly used to make fun of the American made Godzilla movie that we all wish didn't exist by rendering it's iguana self in a rather subpar manner to the rest of what they show capable. Suit-wise, a very large amount of classics creep up, as well as a handful of new ones - the alien one in particular looks like some sort of cross between a necromancing power ranger and something H. R. Giger may have thought up.
Acting here is a mix between well done and what I can only assume is purposefully bad. To explain this a little bit further, we need only look at Captain Gordon - who by the way is the only character to speak english in the entire course of the japanese audio tracks. Whereas many characters have reasonable reactions to things (the audience when the aliens are shown to be weird looking spacemen), Gordon is over the top Sergeant Slaughter machismo in every line and action he takes. The main villain is also over-the-top in his presentation of crazy, down to the shadowed eyes and frequent evil laughter breaks.
Also, there happens to be quite a lot of Matrix like scenes going on in the flick's human segments. The mutants, what with being better than the normal human, tend to do a lot of wire-fu action scenes (to the extent that a group of five manage to take out a giant lobster monster). It seems ridiculous, but at the same time you'll find yourself thanking them for giving the movie an excuse to have such silly action scenes as the majority of your entertainment value resides there - the monster fighting proper doesn't happen for roughly an hour into the movie, in which case a lot of said battles are relatively brief with the exception of the final battle. Soundtrack is a mixed bag, ranging from forgettable to quite well placed.
In the end, Final Wars ends up being a highly entertaining send off for the King of Monsters. The tone is vastly less serious than the original, and yet is probably more akin to what the average fan enjoys most about godzilla - crazy things like giant monsters throwing down, with the world hanging in the balance. Humans play a much larger and more direct role in not only the film, but in also defending their own planet this time around, everything has a level of polish to it, and the over-the-top characters only help accentuate that the movie has one thing in mind: having fun. Without a doubt, this is money I feel was well spent.