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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Godzilla: Final Wars and the future

Godzilla: Final Wars
 Well, in 2004 we saw Godzilla: Final Wars, supposedly the last and greatest Godzilla movie. Yeah right! Another reviewer hit the nail on the head when he said this movie plays like a greatest hits album or a video game. Overall, I found it disappointing. It was unabashedly unoriginal, which was a shame because I so liked director Ryuhei Kitamura’s previous movies, especially Versus, which was very original. Even the opening title sequence was a disappointment, simply a montage of previous Godzilla movies with some modern music, how boring! Everything in this movie is meant to remind you of the past, particularly the Showa era movies of the 60’s and 70’s. This film is a hodgepodge of many different movies. It’s Godzilla times The Matrix, times X-men, times Equilibrium (a pretty good Christian Bale sci-fi movie featuring Gun Katta fighting), and a little bit of Dragon Ball Z thrown in for good measure. It feature no less than 13 monsters, which is part of the problem. I didn’t really like Godzilla’s design either, which is also a mixture of various Godzillas. Kitamura said he wanted a Godzilla that could run, so he’s much thinner and lighter. He’s too thin in my opinion and lacks mass and accentuates the fact that it’s an actor in a suit.

But my main problem with this movie is the battle scenes. There are far too many and too short, most lasting less than a minute, sometimes less than thirty seconds. They lack any real drama. This goes for the rest of the movie itself. Kitamua wanted to make a fast-paced movie and he does. It keeps our head spinning. There are so many monsters, that there is almost no story or character development. This is in sharp contrast to the previous two installments in the series, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., the Kiryu saga, which are much better movies.

Anguirus A.K.A. Angilas

Godzilla: Final Wars does have its moments. The scenes at the Antarctic were original and cool. Also, the fight between Godzilla and his three former allies, Anguirus, Rodan, and King Cessar is pretty fun. It’s notable that he doesn’t kill them, only knocks them out. My favorite character is the new Anguirus. (or Angilas as I grew up with him) This scrappy fan favorite has a new look and cool new attack and frankly steals many scenes from Godzilla. He more entertaining. If you’re a fan, of course you’ll want to see it and have fun. But if want a good Godzilla movie, look elsewhere, particularly Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah, Giant Monsters All-Out Attack my personal favorite or revisit the past Showa movies.

The Future?

As a fan I’m really concerned about the future and longevity of Godzilla. Final Wars was made because interest in Godzilla was waning in Japan and I think I know why. Hed been built up too much. He’s too unbeatable. This was a trend that really started in the millennium series and was most apparent in Final Wars. In years past, we knew Godzilla to be the hero and the King of the Monsters, but we never thought him to be unbeatable. He’s been defeated many times. Watching a good Godzilla movie is like watching a good Rocky movie. You want to see him get knocked down and then get back up. In Final Wars, He beat all the world monsters single handed without breaking a sweat. When you create a monster who is completely invincible, he ceases to be very interesting. Would you pay to see Rocky if he won all his fights by knock out in thirty seconds?

Regardless of how these movies were marketed,(being double billed with a kids anime movie like Hamutaro) they were really made with the adult fans in mind. We adult fans prefer the darker Godzilla.(I know I do!) and may boohoo the more childish movies of the 60’s and 70’s, but as a kid, those were some of my favorites. I liked seeing Minya in Son of Godzilla and I wanted to be the little boy in All Monsters Attack who had a magical transistor radio and could travel to monster island. The child fans of today are the adult fans of tomorrow. I don’t think Toho has done enough to build a fan base with children and that’ why interest is waning. Living in Japan, I can talk to a lot of kids and they don’t talk much about Godzilla. Boys talk about Kamen Rider or even Ultraman, and it’s hard to find Godzilla toys in the stores.

Now with Godzilla 2014 by Legendary Pictures on the horizon, it seems it's time for America to take up the mantle again. Perhaps it's necessary to breathe some new life into the series. Everything I've seen from Legendary so far makes me optimistic the movie will be a hit, and I mean with Godzilla fans, not just the box office. It's interesting to speculate the future. Will Godzilla 2014 spawn a new series of movies in America, or will Japan start making new movies again. In that event, I have some advice for Toho. Drop Godzilla down a peg or two and make him a hero to children again. He doesn’t always have to be dark. And for future movies, well how about a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla? Tag team him up with Angilas again, or if Toho and Daiei could set aside there differences, how about a dream bout between Godzilla and Gamera? How wouldn’t pay to see that?

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