Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Writer: Isao Kiriyama, Wataru Mimura
Cast: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Akira Takarada, Kane Kosugi, Kazuki Kitamura, Maki Mizuno, Masami Nagasawa, Chihiro Otsuka, Don Frye, Naoko Kamio, Tsutomu, Kitagawa, Kumi Mizuno, Motokuni Nakagawa, Toshihiro Ogura
Running Time: 125 min.
Note that the only previous film of Ryuhei Kitamura’s I’ve seen was Versus. I haven’t seen Azumi and didn’t even play that MGS remake for the GC in which he was involved. Anyway, while it was supposed to be a sequel to the last three Godzilla films by Masaki Tezuka (Megaguiras, X MechaGodzilla, and Tokyo S.O.S.), it feels more like a stand-alone. And boy does it stand alone, as a completely atypical Godzilla and even Japanese film.
In this installment, the Japanese government trains WMAC Masters-I mean mutants-to take down future kaiju. The soldiers are not very interesting, personality-wise; nor are they really important to the plot, except for a few climactic moments. Plus, the actors are not very professional-looking fighters. And it shows with the scattered camerawork, which isn’t as erratic as Kill Bill or Romeo Must Die, but, when done in slow-mo, is quite tedious. Kitamura proved he can shoot original fights scenes in Versus, but in Final Wars, he just rips off some of the better moments from Matrix Reloaded. (Although I will admit he put a slightly interesting spin on the freeway chase, but John Woo pretty much had that ground covered in Mission Impossible 2.) And if Reloaded wasn’t enough, they decided to have Godzilla fight the meteor from Armageddon, as well as giant monsters spawned by a space ship straight out of ID4.
The aliens in UFO pretend to come in peace, but we all know they have no intention “to serve man”. (Not that I know if Kitamura even saw that Twilight Zone episode, but considering the montage of scenes from American pop culture already inserted into this flick, I wouldn’t be surprised.) Unfortunately, since most of the earth’s already been trashed, only UFC fighter Don Frye and a group of advisors and ship operators can take the enemy down. Don Frye’s character is like Godzilla’s Captain Ahab. He’ll put everything on the line, if he knows he can beat the lizard. But after capturing him at the beginning of the movie, he ends up freeing him so he can confront the other kaiju. So while Don Frye suddenly turns from Morpheus-they both carry a samurai sword(!)-into Han Solo, Godzilla turns into Goku, pretty much wiping out each monster he encounters with the help of his kamehameha wave (I mean fire-breath) and Mothra.
Now I don’t expect these flicks to have the best in acting, but Frye’s the only “thespian” who shows any emotion and seriousness about his lines. The Japanese actors are usually just running and jumping around in a sad attempt for you to care about them. When you care more about Frye and the dog which shows up occasionally in the film, you know Toho could’ve done a better casting job.
And since I’ve already complained about the hand-to-hand combat, the “claw-to-claw” combat was slightly disappointing as well. At first, I thought they were going to use that cliche in 80’s ninja movies where a guy fights one ninja at a time instead of being jumped by all of them at once, but eventually, Godzilla does fight more monsters than he can handle, and does some cool tricks. It’s just that the effing subplots take more precedence than the fights, which is a big no-no for a Godzilla film. The only sub-plot that’s even remotely enjoyable is when a grandfather and his grandkid are driving Jar Jar-I mean Son of Godzilla(Minilla)-around the countryside.
But all in all, I feel like I’m watching a bigger-budgeted Power Rangers, not a Godzilla film. I just hope if Kitamura gets any Hollywood projects, that, unlike Nakata, he’ll actually have something new to add to them.
Ningen’s Rating: 7.5/10 for being unable to fulfill my expectations. Add a 1.5 if you haven’t seen any Hollywood flicks since Jurassic Park.