Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)


godzilla final wars poster

With the onset of numerous kaiju attacking countries the world over, the Earth Defense Force (EDF) is created to contain and eliminate these gigantic threats to mankind. Unable to destroy the most fearsome kaiju of them all, Godzilla, the EDF buries him in ice at the Antarctic circle. Years later, the planet faces a new threat from beyond the stars; the kaiju weaponizing Xiliens. With the EDF scattered and the world at stake, the survivors hatch a crazy plan; release Godzilla to defeat the new onslaught of kaiju laying waste to the planet.
Action film director Ryuhei Kitamura helms this film, the 28th in the storied franchise. A visual director, Final Wars revels in mayhem, wacky SF, and fanservice for kaiju fans new and old. A plethora of kaiju tear across the screen new and old alike and the kid in me truly got a massive kick out of seeing so many on screen at once. The film does get bogged down immensely with the head scratching inclusion of the Mutant race of monster/human hybrids which are utilized to serve on the modern EDF. These sequences are seemingly meant to reinforce the fact that mankind is not fully helpless, but it just comes off as hokey when everyone is here to see Godzilla and the other monsters get into it with each other.
Masahiro Matsuoka and Rei Kikukawa are the primary leads and do a decent job of keeping the film going. They do not have exceptional chemistry but it is adequate for the purposes of story. Of note is the delightfully over the top performance by Kazuki Kitamura as the Xilien commander. He certainly goes for it in a big way and while isn’t always delivering great stuff, the energy he displays is infectious to say the least. The supporting cast is rounded out by a bevy of Godzilla alum including Akira Takarada and a number of mixed martial artists including Don Frye and Pride FC competitors. Ryuhei Kitamura himself makes a quick cameo in a blink and you’ll miss it scene.
The film itself is frantically paced; action scenes erupt frequently and with abandon. The human level fights vary with car chases, a sentai-esque assault on Ebirah, and a few effects driven scuffles between the EDF characters and the Xiliens. The real draw of the film is in the titanic brawls between the Big G and a who’s who of series monsters. While there are a handful of lamentable omissions, nearly all your favorite creatures from films past make an appearance and the world’s landmarks are their casualties.
When Godzilla gets drawn into these fights, there was a sense of childlike anticipation that ran through me which is hard to describe unless you are a kaiju fan at heart. Crazy and with a surprising freshness, these numerous scuffles are crafted to be crowd pleasing and for the most part they deliver. The final climatic battle perhaps goes on for too long, but most monster movie fans won’t complain with the great payoff the film delivers towards the final act.
The creature effects and designs are terrific with a near seamless mix of rubber suit and computer generated effects. Model sets are terrific and the sheer size of them gives ample opportunity for destruction and Kitamura’s distinct brand of action.
Originally released in 2004 for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Godzilla franchise, Final Wars was supposedly meant to mark the end of the film series. While we are on the eve of the next film in the series, Final Wars was a fine send-off of a beloved franchise despite the overall goofiness and perhaps too ambitious science fiction. In the end, this is wish fulfillment in the highest degree and the numerous flaws do not take away the fact that this is a must see for Godzilla fans, diehard and casual alike.

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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