Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Guiltless Review: Godzilla Final Wars


I love Godzilla. Loved him ever since I started watching his movies as a 4 year old. I believe the first film I ever saw in a theatre was "Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster" (that would be the original "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" to those of you who know the real titles). When I saw that movie years later, I realized I'd forgotten just about all of it. All of it, that is, except for the monster fights. Even 15 years later I knew exactly how those fights went down. I had no idea at the time these were men wrestling in rubber suits. They were simply enormous and fantastically powerful creatures who could shoot laser beams out of their mouths and level multiple city blocks in seconds. These kind of images leave an impression.

Well, by now I've seen many, many Godzilla movies. I've seen 16 of the 17 'original series' movies (all except for the annoyingly hard-to-find 'Godzilla Raids Again'), all 7 of the 1984-1995 VS. series (or 'Heisei' series named after the ruling Japanese emperor throughout most of its run; holy sweet nachos am I a geek!). Finally I've seen 3 of the 7 'Millenium' films that have come out since 1999.

Anyway, the point is that when I heard that the final millenium series film was going to be an all-out monster slugfest in the spirit of 'Destroy All Monsters', I was excited to say the least. Destroy all Monsters (1968) was always my favorite movie as a kid. Whereas the average Godzilla movie would feature 2, 3, or maybe 4 monsters if we were lucky, Destroy all Monsters featured no less than 11!!! This was simple math at the time: 11 monsters > 4 monsters, therefore Destroy all Monsters=greatest movie of all time.

Well, the 4-year old in me was blown away by the kaiju quantity present in 'Godzilla Final Wars': 15 monsters! Now THIS, I thought was a movie that had its priorities straight. How did the jaded 33 year old react? The guiltless review reveals all . . . .

Aliens invade earth using the might of an army of kaiju, Oh Noes!! Us pesky humans resist with the help of Godzilla. Who really cares about plot anyway?

Awe: 4
I start here cause this is what godzilla movies are supposed to be about. The best of the godzilla series are all about creative carnage. There are a ton of monster fights in this film, but unfortunatley most of them breeze by way too quickly. When there is much more care taken with human fight scenes than monster fight scenes in a godzilla movie, we got a problem. There is extensive use of what I'd call 'MTV editing'; rapid cuts that produce more confusion than anything else. The fights almost seem like a trailer for a real godzilla movie.

We all know that these are stuntmen in rubbber suits. Yet past godzilla films have created awe through creative lighting, high-speed cameras (giving the creatures the illusion of massive size and weight), and some truly spectacular miniatures. Most importantly, the really good fight scenes are presented in long cuts, with the camera pulled back as to better give a view of the surreal, oversized mayhem. The fight scenes in GFW ignore these principles and what we're left with is an episode of "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" guest starring Godzilla. Total bummer.

Immersion: 0
The director was clearly more interested in remaking 'The Matrix' than in making a godzilla film. As such we are treated to endless derivative 'bullet-time' fights between the human-sized characters. Despite the impressive number of monsters on display, their actual onscreen time seems disproportionately small compared to the rather dull human cast. Also, Akira Ifukube's classic music is replaced by short bursts of techno and hard guitar riffs. Bottom line, I felt every second of the 125 min runtime and was frequently tempted to skip over the non-monster scenes.

Laughs: 3
I laughed exactly once, but it was a biggie. After a big build-up, Godzilla dispatches a monster with a striking resemblance to the American version of godzilla (from 1998's abysmal 'Godzilla') in about 5 seconds. Afterwards, we cut to the evil alien leader saying "I knew that tuna-eating monster was useless." Take it Roland Emmerich!

Investment: 1
The characters are dreary, not even in a fun way. Godzilla himself is the 'friend-of-mankind' version that is not my preference either.

Final Word:
Yikes, there goes my kaiju theory of relativity. I promise to review a godzilla film I actually liked next time I visit the genre.


Roe said...

Thank you for sparing me this one! And yes, 1998's Godzilla was abysmal. I believe after we emerged from the Astoria Sixplex, we both ranted and raved about Godzilla not eating fish. And then Mike proceeded to berate us for being geeks.

Chris said...

Hehe, yes I remember that one. Godzilla eating fish - ewww.

Roe said...


Stacey said...

I worked at AVR when that movie was being filmed, and used to see the truckloads of rubber fish and fake tanks on 23rd street every morning. I knew a guy whose wife worked in wardrobe, he told me they had one guy whose only job was to duck behind walls and toss fish over the side.

Roe said...

I want to meet the guy whose job it was to toss the tribbles at William Shatner in the Trouble with Tribbles episode.