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Monday, March 15, 2010

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) Dis List review #4

This column is reserved for terrible movies with little, to no redeeming qualities that are woefully disappointing, at least to me. These are movies that could, or should have had potential, but fail on nearly every level; movies that aren't good enough to be bad cheese. This is...



Masahiro Matsuoka (Shinichi Ozaki), Don Frye (Douglas Gordon), Kane Kosugi (Kazama), Kazuki Kitamura (Planet X Controller)

Ruined by Ryuhei Kitamura

I usually start these off with a plot synopsis, but since the plot used for this mess masquerading as a movie is a patchwork of past BETTER MOVIES, we'll just skip that part and just wing it...

Even in futuristic Japan, X-men practice Taebo

Sometime in the near future, giant monsters have become a "bigger" problem than cockroaches so a superhuman group of "X-men" are trained to combat the threats to mankind. Then, in an effort to create suspense, Aliens (called Xillians) suddenly show up and vanquish the creatures. Shortly after a laughable meeting with the Japanese government, the Xillians say that a runaway planetoid called Gorath, (also the name of a Toho sci-fi feature from 1962) is on a collision course with Earth.

This whole scene I kept hoping she'd do that Sharon Stone thing from BASIC INSTINCT...

With no time for extras or minor characters to even remotely question any of the motives of the visitors, everyone blindingly accepts them with open arms save for the small few characters Kitamura fails to build upon over the films two hour plus running time.

Koh Takasugi does his best Klingon impersonation

Amidst all the various riffs off of popular American blockbuster drivel, it would seem the makers even took inspiration from the wardrobe from David Lynch's DUNE (1984)

Good news!!! Not more than ten minutes go by before this subplot (the one involving Gorath, remember?) is totally dropped and the Xillians real agenda is revealed. Apparently the Planet X Controller somehow managed to see reruns of V (1983) and came upon the idea to harvest humans as a food supply for his reptilian race.

However, there's even more good news!!! This plot device is also rather idiotically forgotten about as the aliens, along with the monsters, proceed to destroy nearly all of humanity. As a last resort, General Gordon (played by PRIDE fighter and Japanese fan favorite Don "the Predator" Frye) leads some of the X-men in the Gotengo, a flying, weapons laden submarine (also the subject of a 1963 Toho sci-fi film called ATRAGON) to free Godzilla from the Arctic (He is put there at the start of the film in one of depressingly few decent sequences).

He is released from his icy tomb and proceeds to travel around the world in 80 seconds (which is about the average length of time the monster fights are given) to battle with the monsters while the human characters, in a bid to make some kind of sense of the script, fight the aliens and their space armada to save the Earth (and their careers).

This is an apparently unused battle scene found on disc 2 of the special features. The footage shows Godzilla fighting Monster X, Gigan and Angilas

For many, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973) is the nadir of the Godzilla series. It's CITIZEN CANE next to GODZILLA FINAL BORE. After producing some of the finest entries with the Millennium series (several of which captured the essence of some of the Toho monster films of the 1960's), Toho decided to allow a young up and comer to direct the last film (for now) in the franchise.

The Shobjin, as well as Mothra, appear as mostly an afterthought in the film. Also, in Japan's future, the good guys dress as Nazi's.

Also in Japan's future, X-men can't drive worth a damn and shit blows up for no discernable reason

They couldn't have made a worse choice by hiring Ryuhei Kitamura, the director of the cult film VERSUS. He also went on record stating how big of a fan of the 70's G films he was and that he wanted to turn this last entry into a tribute of sorts to that much reviled time in the Godzilla series. Considering the displeasure the late Tomoyuki Tanaka had over some of those entries, you'd think that would have been a red flag right there for new producer, Shogo Tomoyama.

Godzilla fights Kumongo for about 30 seconds. This fight doesn't even really have an end. He simply slings the huge spider away with such force, I was expecting the outsized arachnid to come flying back from the opposite side of the Earth just like in the cartoons; complete with stamps from around the world.

Granted, the idea was to turn the series over to a young upstart filmmaker in the hopes of breathing new life into the series. Apparently, Toho execs had a lot of faith in Kitamura and more or less left him alone to shoot his cinematic train wreck. The biggest budget ever provided by Toho (20 million dollars) is totally wasted on ridiculous dialog and even more insipid "monster battles" and suit design. Much of the budget did go to the numerous location work such as New York, Australia, etc…

How the hell do you screw up a Godzilla movie? I mean, even the lesser entries still had their moments. Well, if you're going to make a Godzilla movie, or even a monster movie for that matter, it's usually a good idea to make the monsters the focus of your film. Even as bad and misguided as the American Godzilla was, at least the filmmakers there understood this much. The monster fights seen here are WAY too short. Some last barely ten seconds. Then Kitamura gets the hilarious idea to poke fun at the US Godzilla movie by having that "pretender to the throne" get incinerated here. It is quite an hilarious scene and inventive. It's also quite possibly the single most intentionally funny moment in the movie.

A revamped Gigan is hyped up throughout the picture and when we finally get a look at him, it's quite an impressive creation. But there's good news!!! When Gigan finally meets with Godzilla, he is, to viewers amazement, dispatched quickly; eliminating any build up the creature had up to that point.

Gigan gets wasted almost as quickly as he appears and loses his head for the first of two times

What's most amusing is the running gag that Gigan keeps losing his head. His second appearance is even more embarrassing! The only creature on the side of the Big G is Mothra. Like everything else in this movie, the inclusion of Mothra is rather hastily tossed into Kitamura's blender blunder of mismatched ingredients.

The scene in question features Mothra appearing to duel with the second incarnation of Gigan now sporting chainsaw appendages(!) This second appearance has all the potential to redeem the convoy of crap Kitamura has unspooled up to this point. But then....there's good news!!! Gigan fires some giant, spinning shuriken-like weapons which miss the giant flying God of Infant Island; only for Gigan to then turn her into a roaring ball of flame.

In one of the films dumbest moments (and if the movie didn't have enough already), Gigan cuts his own head off after blowing Mothra up

As he turns his back to the seemingly obliterated Mothra, Gigan's own weapons, the flying blades, return to sender and Gigan, rather stupidly, manages to decapitate himself(!?!?!) Now a flaming phoenix, Mothra does a kamikaze dive straight into the now headless Gigan, a victim of Kitamura's sloppy script.

One of many MATRIX styled nonsense in what is supposed to be a Godzilla movie

In what other ways can you screw up a Godzilla movie? There's WAY too damn much kung fu-MATRIX style fights. Me being a HUGE kung fu movie fan, I would have welcomed some of this here, but more screen time is given to martial arts scenes than the monster action. One of the funnier moments is the motorcycle chase scene between two of the X-men. One of them is Kane Kosugi, the son of international star, Sho Kosugi. As per Kitamura's penchant to have his caricatures...oh, I'm sorry, I meant characters! As per Kitamura's penchant to have his CHARACTERS pose a lot in his movies, here, we get that, too, but also the added attraction of Masahiro Matsuoka and Kane Kosugi exchanging glances shaking and fidgeting like they've had to much sugar in their tea.

Monster X prior to transforming into Kaiser Ghidorah, the least impressive incarnation of the scaly three headed monster to date

The ending is also guilty of shifting attention towards the human characters. More time is spent on their battle with the alien hordes inside the spaceship than the uninspired final Kaiju battle. Which is probably just as well considering this lifeless excuse of a "Final War" consists of revamped lowlights seen in all of the 70's movies such as that much talked about, cringe-worthy shot of Godzilla picking up an empty monster suit and slamming it down over and over.

An actual Kaiju soccer match. No shit, the filmmakers actually thought it would be cool to shoot a soccer match with monsters. The King Seesar suit design is really lame, too.

How many more ways can you screw up a Godzilla movie you ask??? In GODZILLA FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN, you see the Big G during the opening minutes, but then he's not seen again until a little over an hour later when he embarks on his "blink and you'll miss'em" monster battles. What the hell??? That means all we're stuck with until then is a pigs trough loaded down with characters and dialog you could give two shits about. Oh, and there's monsters seen during that time, too. There's also a totally hilarious and unnecessary jab at Gamera with a kid, whose mouth is totally covered in chocolate, is playing with Godzilla toys. He picks up his Gamera like turtle toy and yells at it, "You loser!" He then throws it in a fireplace.

With so much screen time devoted to human interaction you'd think the characters would be developed in such a way to seem somewhat interesting or even remotely believable. You would be horribly wrong. There's Don Frye, one of my favorite PRIDE fighters. He is the perfect embodiment of a live action anime character and has an enormous amount of screen presence, but he's one of the worst actors I've ever seen. His line delivery has all the energy and tonality of a James Taylor song. It also sounds like he's reading (badly) from cue cards. Frye stated in interviews that it was a lifetime dream to appear in a Godzilla movie. He also later stated the obvious that both his performance and this movie sucked. His fight scenes are good, at least.

PRIDE and K-1 fighter, "Big Daddy" Gary Goodridge and K-1 competitor, Ray Sefo have their own cameo. They only have a brief scene before G fries them, but their acting far surpasses Don Frye's lazy, disinterested delivery

Oh, and Kane Kosugi is memorable as the hot-headed Kazama. Several of the best loved Showa series actors, such as Akira Takarada, Kenji Sahara and Kumi Mizuno are on hand to look bewildered and somewhat embarrassed to be associated with this travesty.

Angilus is arguably the most interesting monster in this movie and gets some cool shots and new abilities

You couldn't possibly screw up a Godzilla movie anymore than this, could you?? This movie is fucking stupid. The blatantly and irrefutably comical in your face "homages" to STAR WARS and THE MATRIX look all the world like the Japanese equivalent to all those EPIC MOVIE, DATE MOVIE, MEET THE SPARTANS parodies that have been popular as of late. And then there's all the "Strike A Pose...Vogue" moments with the cast. The ridiculous score by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer feels hopelessly out of place and better suited for a Syfy Channel original. In more ironic news, Sum 41 delivered a track for the movie entitled 'We're All To Blame'.

There also appears to have been some MAJOR relooped dialog that is PAINFULLY noticeable. During the New York scene with the cop and the bum, they are clearly uttering the 'F' word over and over, but these enlightening exchanges have been overdubbed with words that look nothing like what's really being said. But then, there's not much else you can replace the word 'Fuck' with and make a sentence in the hopes of syncing the lip movements...'duck', 'stuck', 'Buck', 'luck'...One idea could have been to simply reshoot the scene, but I guess the 20 million forked over didn't allow for that. And let's not forget the Looney Tunes sound effects when Rodan flies over causing the pimp and the cops hats to fly off their heads.

You're kidding me, right?

Unlike a lot of other fans, I have no problem with the Minya (or Minilla) character. I think ALL MONSTERS ATTACK is one of the best entries in the entire series in the way it deals with a lonely latchkey kid who relies on the fantasy realm of monster island to lend him courage in dealing with (sometimes dangerous) daily life. But like so many other aspects of GODZILLA WTF?, the character is thrust into the narrative without any explanation whatsoever. He just appears and adds nothing to the film much like director Kitamura himself. At least Maasaki Tezuka understood what made these films work and successfully created some of the liveliest monster sequences of the entire run of GODZILLA films.

Footage (in English) of Godzilla receiving his star and also the premier festivities of the movie in California prior to its release in Japan

Toho banked so much on this one. The film was courted to US studios but none seemed interested particularly after the film bombed terribly in its native country. It only earned $12 million in Japan. Based on how much was spent on it, it was the least profitable Godzilla film. The film that trounced it like so many Tsuburaya created miniature models at the Japanese BO was the animated feature, HOWL'S FLYING CASTLE. However, GODZILLA'S BOGUS JOURNEY did receive a first for the series. It premiered in America at the Egyptian Theater in California before it came out in its native Japan.

Monster X transforms into Kaiser Ghidorah for no other reason other than to make it easier to cut his heads off

Never had a G-film divided its fans as much as this one but I cannot see how any fan can truly like this soulless excuse of a movie. It was as if Toho intentionally wanted to make the worst film imaginable by handing over the series to an individual who had nothing but disdain for the entire franchise. Considering the treatment a number of the Godzilla movies received when imported over here since the 80's, there's no way any tinkering could further fuck up this picture.

No, I guess you're not kidding...

Kitamura successfully turned the series into the giant joke many in America already perceive the films to be. If you look up Kitamura on IMDB you'll find this in the trivia section of his profile--Was offered the job directing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but turned it down, citing a poor script. I had a good laugh at the bit about the poor script. An incredibly sad and wasted opportunity, this was the 28th film in the long running series. Hopefully, none of the producers committed seppuka after the last of the box office receipts came in. Meanwhile, Kitamura's career has seemingly floundered.

This review is representative of a fansubbed version of the Japanese R2 3 disc set. Disc 3 makes the purchase totally worthwhile. It contains a near 90 minute documentary cataloguing all the various Godzilla costumes and effects technicians since the '54 original. It contains tons of great behind the scenes shots of the films being made.


Alec Pridgen said...

I'm starting to feel like I'm the only internet film critic that likes 'Final Wars.' I just don't get it.

In lieu of the talking heads and normal military footage, you have kung-fu fighting and lasers. What's the problem?

I get that the movie has a lot of sci-fi cliches in it, but that's sort of the point. It's a bit rushed, I will admit, but I still love it.

Besides, it has the lone American actor of note doing all of his dialogue in un-dubbed English. It's the inverse of what they usually do!

It's okay 'Final Wars'- I'll still be your friend.

venoms5 said...

The problem is, at least for me, is that the movie sucks. When it was first announced that Kitamura was attached to direct, I was a bit worried. Considering that Toho producers are very hands on with their prized possession, it was perplexing that they let him do what he wanted. Then after seeing a bad quality divix copy of the movie, it was the worst thing I'd seen in a long time. But, considering the quality, I figured I'd give it a chance till I saw the Japanese DVD. Boy was I wrong on that one!

Also, Don Frye isn't the only person who speaks English in this movie. PRIDE and K1 fighters, Gary Goodridge and Ray Sefo speak their lines in their own voices. Some of the Japanese cast also speak English at several points in the film. Kane Kosugi speaks fluent English, too.

You should definitely pick up the 3 disc set, Tim. It contains every iota of info regarding the movie. Some of the extras are in English including an odd interview with title credits designer, Kyle Cooper. He professes to be a huge G fan (mostly of the action figures). He looks uncomfortable in his interview. The premier in California is in English. Shogo Tomiyama gives a speech in English and the main stars speak before the audience in English. The third disc alone is well worth checking out and makes up for the slapdash main feature.

xxxxxxxx said...

I got a kick out of watching Final Wars .
A little cgi mixed with the old style Godzilla .
It kept me watching .
Godzilla is what it is .

Alec Pridgen said...

I'm sorry if I didn't credit the two K-1 fighters who say about six words and die in my analysis.

Between Venom and Carl, I feel like I'm in a constant loop of having to defend this movie. I simply don't get the hate for it- plain and simple.

Maybe I'm a bit biased because I've liked every Kitamura film that I've seen- even 'Aragami: Raging God of Battle'- and I love kung-fu films.

I just don't think that this film is a giant blight on the 'Godzilla' franchise. That would be 'Godzilla vs. Megalon.'

I Like Horror Movies said...

I gotta go with V on this one, while all of the points are entirely valid, the one that sticks out the worst for me is the cheap and disrespectful manner in which the film is handled. It looks and feels like the worst that the SyFy Channel has to offer, and while I understand the progression towards CG at this day and age, this was abusive CG at its worst. Completely ugly designs, and an unnecessary overuse of the method. I didnt find any part of the film to be enjoyable really, and I had every hope that V was wrong warning me in advance! I mean, how could something so awesome as a film with this many monsters go so horribly wrong?? Wait.. Destroy All Monsters..

venoms5 said...

@ Z-CAT: I hear ya. There's a lot of people that did like it for what it was, only I am one of the many who did not. I guess I was expecting a lot more from this. But since Toho decided to relax their leash this one time....

@ Tim: GODZILLA VS. MEGALON is everything FINAL WARS should have been in terms of monster battles. If you're gonna make a damn monster movie, you gotta have monsters in your film at least more than 10 minutes total screen time. Oh, and it isn't a good idea to have a movie called GODZILLA FINAL WARS and keep your star offscreen till 70 minutes into the thing. I remember my mom watching this (she's a big G fan) and close to an hour in she asked me if we were really watching a Godzilla movie.

I could go on and on about the absolute suckage this movie wallows in. I hope Toho learned from this huge mistake and did what Tanaka did with Yoshimitsu Banno and tell Kitamura he's never getting close to the G series ever again.

@ Carl: The multitude of extras for this release was amazing. Disc three was worth buying the set all by itself.

J.L. Carrozza said...

People either love or hate this one, some enjoy it's anarchic qualities and "screw you" attitude ala GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (which I love). I hate it for the record. Kitamura has little more than contempt for Japanese cinema and isn't even a very big Godzilla fan (preferring Fukuda's entries over Honda's) and just destroys the film. It's like a direct-to-video Godfrey Ho movie with footage of Godzilla spliced into a completely separate film to make it more profitable and indeed, Don Frye brings a C-list actor like Richard Harrison in a Godfrey Ho ninja film to mind in his presence far more than Nick Adams in MONSTER ZERO.

The film would be far more tolerable if it didn't include Godzilla. And if it wasn't the fucking 50th anniversary movie. I wish fate had switched Kaneko and Kitamura and Kaneko had made the Godzilla film and Kitamura had directed AZUMI 2.

venoms5 said...

Last I heard, Kitamura stated in an interview that he would be interested in ruining/doing another entry in the series.

Don Frye also said he was a huge fan of the series, but hates this movie. This is also one time I could have done with somebody dubbing over an actors performance.

Franco Macabro said...

Damn duuuude, you really hated this one didnt ya??

As you know I did have some fun with it, but then again, I havent seen as many Godzilla films as you have.

I hated the Little Godzilla scenes with a passion! In fact, I hate it when little Godzilla shows up on any of these! I was watching Space Godzilla and there it is! I laughed when one of the characters says "oh no, not again" my thoughts exactly. But I especially hate the way he looks on Final Wars.

venoms5 said...

I first saw a divix copy of it and thought its shittiness was down to the quality of the image I was seeing. But upon seeing a gorgeous fan subbed version, I couldn't believe how awful it was. I had a feeling going in that having Kitamura was a bad decision, but hoped for the best, anyway.

I've never minded the baby Godzilla that much, but understand why others don't dig him. I adore GODZILLA'S REVENGE mainly because I sympathize with the little boy in that movie. I was that little boy when I was a kid and got lost in my imagination and loved monster movies obsessively.

Personally, EVERYTHING is wrong in FINAL WARS. The script, the performances and the effects are a fucking mess.

Kaijinu said...

I actually enjoyed this comic-book-come-to-life style of G-flick. It's rushed and illogical, but then again, we're talking about giant monsters here that breathes radiation, aliend and Insect Goddesses. I see no reason for logic~ XD

But if that's how you stand, I'm more than welcome to accept your opinion, as a G-Fan from birth. (See? I'm not just a slasher fan, but I'm 1/16th Kaiju lovah~!)

venoms5 said...

I've been a G fan since I was a child, but I HATED this movie. This was the Millennium version of SMOG MONSTER. Kitamura raped the series in my opinion. At least there's nowhere for Toho to go but up after this one, lol.

Unknown said...

I love Godzilla Final Wars-It has a lot of Action and all of my favorite Monsters are in it. What's not to like?

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