I was lucky enough to see this in the theatre when it toured North America in 2005, and I still love this movie today, because it is probably the most gonzo giant monster flick I’ve ever seen. At the original screening, about 50 minutes into the movie, I turned to my buddy Eamon and said “this is the greatest movie ever made.”
And I was right.
Godzilla: Final Wars was announced at the time as the last Godzilla movie from Toho. Godzilla’s box office in his native land had been dropping steadily, and the rising cost of special effects and the need to keep up with the blockbusters flooding in from America has meant that it had simply become too expensive for Toho to keep up with the Big G. It’s sad, but in a way, if they really had chosen to pull the plug on him, I’d have been okay with it. I would rather he go out while still moderately popular than fade away into embrarrassing obscurity. Little did I know of Legendary Pictures plans for their MonsterVerse.
As a send off, G:FW was an extended love-letter to the fans. Throughout the movie there are numerous tributes and nods to previous movies, including the first appearance of the alien antagonists, the “Xiliens”, an updated version of the X-Seijin from Monster Zero. The movie is strewn with monsters, many of whom haven’t been seen since their original screen debuts decades ago. Most were been redesigned, but affectionately so, without losing their distinctive look. Most, sad to say, don’t get enough screen time.
Fans looking forward to a mass monster-bash in the vein of Destroy All Monsters may have been disappointed. True, the movie features more Toho monsters than have ever been seen in one flick before, but they typically appear one at a time, in throwaway moments. Despite the kick of seeing Manda, Hedorah, Kumonga, Kamakiras and even the monster from the 1998 American version of Godzilla, I was disappointed not to see Battra, Megalon or Varan. The monster choices were interesting. Who decided that Ebirah needed another outing? I mean, Ebirah?
Japanese cinema’s embarrassing tendency to clone elements from Hollywood resurfaced in this flick too, with the hero being one of a mysterious “advanced” human species of “mutants” who had begun to arise. The look and attitude of this group brought to mind a fusion of the movie X-Men and pretty much every Sentai series ever. Thankfully, there were no vehicles that combined into a giant robot wombat or anything, for which I was grateful.
I found the casting of the film ambitious, and for the most part it paid off. The hero was played by a guy with the gayest hair ever, and for a while I was genuinely excited that we were going to be introduced to the first openly gay character in a G-flick that wasn’t evil or played for laughs. Sadly, that didn’t happen, but the total lack of romantic chemistry between leading man and leading lady pretty much confirmed my initial assessment. The main villain was played by the evil Japanese lovechild of Billy Zane and Eddie Izzard, who had a great line in malevolent laughter and frustrated temper tantrums.
And then there was the wonder that is Don Frye playing Captain Gordon, a man with a moustache so manly that I’m growing more chest hair just thinking about it. He growls his hyper-masculine dialogue with just enough of a twinkle to know that he thinks the entire thing is ridiculous and is just having the time of his life. I’d watch a series of movies about Captain Gordon, in which he makes bad guys fall down and women’s clothes fall off, all through the power of his goddamn awesome moustache.
Brilliant stuff, best enjoyed with beer, pizza and friends. It truly is the greatest movie ever made.