A scene from GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (Fainaru uôzu), directed by Kitamura Ryuhei for Toho Company Ltd.

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004, Kitamura Ryuhei)

According to Toho, Final Wars is the Godzilla movie for at least ten years. They haven’t been doing to well at the box office. It’s also the 50th anniversary movie (it actually came out last year in Japan, only showing up now on DVD in the US). The film is definitely homage, but not the kind you’d think. Instead of being somber, like the original, or a serious attempt (like Shusuke Kaneko’s Giant Monster’s All-Out Attack–really, it’s a serious attempt), Final Wars is dedicated to the Godzilla movies most people saw on Saturday afternoon TV. It’s the goofy, wrestling Godzilla. There isn’t a serious moment in the whole movie–whether it’s Godzilla fighting his Hollywood incarnation or the American actor who apparently understands Japanese but can’t speak it, it’s all light.

I wasn’t expecting much, of course, but I did think there’d at least be some good Kitamura fight scenes. There are lots of fight scenes, but they’re short and there’s a lot of visible computer assistance. It’s Versus-lite. Kitamura can make a better movie and he has a good time with the straight (as straight as this movie gets with the evil aliens), but the giant monster scenes are sort of without imagination. I can’t tell if he even likes Godzilla movies.

Final Wars clocks in at two hours and two minutes, which probably makes it the longest Japanese Godzilla movie, but Godzilla doesn’t even show until after an hour into the film. The film’s a little bit a remake of Destroy All Monsters and it could have gone further–more Godzilla, less people. It didn’t even have to do it straight, it could still goof, just go further.

There aren’t very many good Godzilla movies–just one, probably (though there’s a slight chance the 1984 Godzilla is all right)–and Final Wars is one of the better ones. Its target audience is actually a lot bigger than any other recent Godzilla film, just because so many people did watch those Saturday afternoon movies….

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Kitamura Ryuhei; screenplay by Kiriyama Isao and Kitamura, based on a story by Mimura Wataru and Tomiyama Shogo; director of photography, Furuya Takumi; music by Keith Emerson, Morino Nobuhiko and Yano Daisuke; produced by Tomiyama; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Matsuoka Masahiro (Ôzaki Shin’ichi), Kikukawa Rei (Otonashi Miyuki), Kitamura Kazuki (The Controller of Planet X), Don Frye (Douglas Gordon), Takarada Akira (Daigo Naotarô), Mizuno Maki (Otonashi Anna), Nagasawa Masami and Ôtsuka Chihiro (The Twin Fairies), Sahara Kenji (Jingûji Hachirô), Mizuno Kumi (Namikawa Akiko), Funaki Masakatsu (Kumasaka), Ibu Masatô (The Xilian General) and Takashima Masanobu (Major Kita).


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