Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Class: User
Author: Destroyer
Score: (4.5/5)
September 24th, 2011 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Final Wars has an interesting reputation. It's the 50th anniversary film. Truly a feat; fifty years of Godzilla! This film was meant to be "the goodbye", the one where it ends on a high note. The one where you look back and say, "Wow! What a great end to a great franchise!" Does it succeed? Read on...

The plot takes place in the near future. Monsters are the norm, and there exist "mutants," the core of the Earth Defense Force. As for Godzilla, it has been several years since he was frozen in the Antarctic. Out of nowhere, Rodan attacks NYC, and before you know it, monsters galore! As the Earth Defense Force attempts to combat these gargantuan beasts, a mysterious ship from outer space enters into Earth's orbit. The monsters are seemingly eliminated and the beings inside, calling themselves "Xiliens", claim to come in peace. They also explain that a planet called "Gorath" is en route to Earth and that the collision will be catastrophic. However, things are not what they seem...

Sound familiar? Veteran fans should instantly recognize this plot. This film is basically a modern combination of Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). Scratch all realism from the recent Millennium films, this one's going to be Showa-crazy. And that's a good thing! While the past two Millennium films were a more serious approach, Final Wars provides a welcome change of pace and a throwback to the 60's and 70's. I loved every second of it.

This film is a lot different than the ones you're used to watching. I'm not just talking Godzilla films, but many films in general, though it does take its inspiration from here and there. While other films give you a breather to develop the characters and take the time to explain things, Final Wars lets you have your cake and eat it too; all the action, all the exposition, and none of the coffee breaks. Seriously, even during the dialogue scenes the music still keeps things on track. It is nonstop, and I think that's the way to do it.

Everything about this film is different than your average G flick. The characters have a certain "cool style" about them. Think Matrix-y fighting wouldn't mesh well with Godzilla? Think again. Human screen time could get pretty dreadful in other Godzilla movies (I'm looking at you Destroy All Monsters). Thanks to the fun characters and crazy fights, the human element was actually rather enjoyable.

The main character, Ozaki, will almost certainly remind you of Neo from the The Matrix. In fact, a lot of the fights are reminiscent of the 1999 sci-fi film. Pro or con? I think it's a plus, as it presents a refreshing change in routine for the Godzilla franchise. Supporting character Captain Gordon is such a fun guy to watch on screen. Sure, he might come across as corny sometimes, but it fits in with this strange and unique movie.

MONSTERS, MONSTERS, and MONSTERS! This is the selling point naturally. Fiftieth anniversary? What better way to celebrate than with fifteen monsters?! Here we have the most monsters ever captured in a Godzilla film, and they get some great screen time too. The effects are certainly a step above anything Toho has produced before.

Godzilla is certainly looking his best; this one is my personal favorite. His presence is menacing, but not evil-menacing like GMK (2001). Mothra is just about the same from the last film, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). Thanks to the awesome effects, she's never looked stronger. Gigan (my favorite monster, btw) gets a big modern redesign, sporting a black and silver look rather than his classic green and yellow motif. He looks simply AMAZING, and yes, they even showcase his laser, something that was never revealed in his early appearances. Rodan sports his Showa look and flaps his wings with glory. Anguirus is the most disappointing, sadly. His look from Destroy All Monsters (1968), a film from thirty-six years earlier, looks better than this movie. King Caesar looks practically like a copy of his Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) self. A great modern update goes to Kamacurus, who now features an updated set of wings. Kumonga looks impressive, although his original appearance in Son of Godzilla (1967) was equally amazing (which is pretty cool considering that film came out almost forty years prior). A great surprise was the inclusion of Zilla, a renamed version of the American Godzilla from the '98 film. The CGI is decent enough, and at least he actually looks impressive (remember the '98 film? Yeah, me neither). Ebirah gets a nice modern look, but the film goes out of its way to show you just how weak the monster is, as he is the only one to fall at the hands of the mutants. Manda is given an impressive redesign; by far, his is among the vastest of improvements (again, I'm looking at you Destroy All Monsters). Minya, well, it's pretty much impossible to make him look even a little feasible. Still, it's a lot less goofy looking than all of his previous incarnations. The new monster on the block, Monster X, has a rather unique design. A new monster is a welcome addition to a cast of regulars. His transformation into a new version of everyone's favorite three-headed monster is almost a given considering that this is the 50th anniversary. Even I was surprised when I saw this beast. Boasting incredibly feral features, "Keizer Ghidorah" made a satisfying final opponent for the King of Monsters. Though I'm not a big fan of his Desghidorah-esque quadrupedal gait, Keizer still made himself out to be a great finisher for GFW. The towering menace even overshadows Godzilla (at least height-wise).

There are some really epic scenes that few other films can quite manage to surpass. After a powerful opening featuring Godzilla, it only gets better. Rodan's attack on NYC is truly a standout moment that I'll never forget. Gigan's rise is just plain cool, and the monster scenes overall are a notch above what we've seen before. The kaiju aren't slow moving behemoths at all; they are fast, furious, and the battles are top notch (Mothra's fight with Gigan being the best in the whole thing). Every aspect, from Manda attacking the Gotengo to Monster X's transformation all came together to make for one knockout film.

The soundtrack is (prepares to dodge the inevitable tomato) the best in all of the Godzilla films. It might be lacking the dramatic feel of the oldies, but the music here simply works! It's just awesome; there's really no other word to accurately describe it. Godzilla's new leitmotif is fantastic and utilized with immense success (they still use the classic one for the intro, which is a nice touch). The music is energetic and keeps you entertained; as it should, since this film is pretty long at two hours and five minutes. We even get to hear a song from the band SUM 41, "We're All to Blame". That song played during Godzilla's fight with his American counterpart. The skirmish only lasts for about fifteen seconds, but its inclusion makes it some of the most epic fifteen seconds of your moviegoing life (you'll want to really crank up the volume for this).

The Xiliens from Invasion get an updated look too, but they still boast a bit of retro spandex and space visors. Their leader (well, the one that takes charge later in the film) is a cold, cruel villain, but at the same time, eccentric to a fault and hilarious every step of the way. He adds a bit of extra spice to the gumbo with lines like, "I knew that tuna-eating monster was useless!" Classic.

Though I can see why a lot of fans don't like this movie because of the unprecedented pacing that might off their favorite monster in the blink of an eye, I on the other hand will always greatly enjoy this film. It's everything I've ever wanted in a Godzilla movie, lots of great monster destruction and furious fight scenes. Even the humans are cool and a treat to watch. The musical score is top-notch and the dubbing doesn't descend into that underrealm of corniness! Godzilla: Final Wars may not be the 50th anniversary "hurrah" that fits everyone's taste, but it's the one for me. It's hard to deny that it's a darn fun film that will remind you just why you got into the franchise in the first place.