Thursday, September 27, 2012

Godzilla: Final Wars

Who doesn't like to see a gigantic lizard stomping his way through Tokyo, destroying everything in sight while fighting another giant creature to the death? I'm a Godzilla fan, have been for over a decade. They're guilty pleasures in my opinion due to their being so cheesy and badly made that you can't help but smile and say "damn, that was fucking stupid looking, but it was damn cool!"

The last few G movies have upped the ante on the series (which is now 50 years old) with non-stop CGI enhancements, flashy visuals and some cool new and old villains taking on the big green one (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla being my personal favorite). Well, for this 50th Anniversary film, Toho decided to call it quits for the next ten years or so and they wanted their signature character to go out with a bang. They hired cult action/martial arts director Ryuhei Kitamura, who directed some of my favorite Japanese action films, Versus and Azumi. He's the perfect choice for this series! His kinetic fight scenes and ultra snazzy visual stylings would work wonders with this franchise.

Well, his style isn't in question; it's the fact that this is a Godzilla film and GODZILLA IS BARELY IN IT that raises my eyebrows.

OK, in this flick the G-Man is viewed as a hero, and when aliens from Planet X show up and claim to want to help us make our world a better place we eagerly accept with open arms. There are a group of human mutants that work for the government (they have super-human abilities) and they don't trust these newcomers and form a sort of underground resistance movement. Turns out the aliens want to take out the human race and they kidnap all the giant creatures from the planet to show us their power. So we call on the big green one to save the day. YIPPEE!

Well, the plot isn't original at all. DUH! It's a Ryuhei Kitamura film. What else would you expect? The plot is taken from Independence Day, V and every martial arts flick ever made. What's good about it is that it's fast and fun. Exactly what I want in a ‘Zilla flick!

What I don't like is that the human characters take center stage and Zilla is a side note. The mutant characters fight the aliens for the majority of the film (and fight amongst themselves even more) and Godzilla randomly pops up for a quick little fight against one of the many re-appearing villains. Seriously, the average kaiju big battle in this puppy is 45 seconds. WTF!? The Japanese ‘Zilla versus the abortion from Roland Emerich's 1998 American film being the one that disappointed me the most in this regard. It lasts a whole 10 seconds! FUCK YOU TOHO!

The actors are decent. It's cool to see Kane Kosugi (son of 80s ninja film star Sho Kosugi) in a flick again. His martial arts sequences are outstanding, as are all of the fights in the film. They are expertly choreographed and are cool as hell. Even Godzilla gets a little kung-fooey too.

The CGI FX are cartoony and look a bit unfinished, but the scope of this film probably exceeded the budget and cuts had to be made. The monster suits are awesome and the performers inside them deserve credit for not making them the slow, plodding creatures they usually are. Here they are quick and agile this time around and I loved every second of it!

Highlight fights are:

Mothra vs Gigan
Godzilla vs King Ghidora
Angruirus vs 2 monsters whose names I can't remember, but it's cool since it takes on a comical twist halfway through.

Long story short, if you are a Godzilla fan you might be disappointed by the fact that the title character isn't the main focus of the flick. If you're looking for a different take on a ‘Zilla flick you'll enjoy it. But most of all, if you're a fan of Ryuhei Kitamura's films, like I am, you'll love it. Personally, I enjoyed it fully, but I wanted to see more of the title character since the film is named after him for crying out loud. Maybe the 10 year hiatus will do some good.

3.5 out of 5

*written 8/10/05

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