G: minus 1 days
Gojirathon is me just writing up some thoughts about the movies I see while I conduct my little marathon of Godzilla-movies in anticipation of the new Hollywood retooling. Why Gojirathon and not Godzillathon? Well, because Rolfe already did his Godzillathon as part of his Monster Madness, and I don’t want to steal his work. I’ll be using the terms, G, Big G, Godzilla and Gojira somewhat interchangeably… since I can be a bit lazy at times, when it comes to these things.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2003)
I’ll be frank. I probably wouldn’t have attempted something as time-consuming as a marathon of Godzilla-films like this while knowing it consisted of such a massive amount of films. 28 in total. But I knew the last one. It was the one that really made me fall in love with the franchise. It was. Final Wars!
I was at university spending some time watching random movies I had found on the internet. I decided to watch Final Wars almost on a whim. But the sheer amount of action almost got me evicted from my apartment I think. This is a film that invites you to play it loud. And loud is how you should experience it. So loud that blood starts streaming from your ears and your face is just one big smile of happy. Hair held back by the force of awesome. If Spinal Tap made a Godzilla-film. It would be this. It starts off at eleven and just increases from there! 😀
Oh, I think I should hold it with the gushing for a second. Yes, this film is a pure adrenaline rush of a roller-coaster but apart from that? What actually is it about?
Maybe start with the director I should? (Yes, my brain is fried and basic grammar is becoming hard to produce). Ryuhei Kitamura is one of those directors that I have actually kept an interest in his work outside of his one outing with Godzilla. The guy started his career in a film-school in Australia. Made his first feature length film about some gangsters embroiled in a fatal martial arts battle with zombies in a forest. As cheap as it gets, but the indie-action crowd liked it. So he got increasingly bigger projects. Two worth of note for me. First was a gig he got as a friend with Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima. That was to helm the re-imagining of the cinematics for when the first Metal Gear Solid was ported to GameCube. This turned the cut-scenes into a flamboyant (mess according to some) cavalcade of visual flurry. I enjoyed it. The other was the ninja epic Azumi that is terribly underseen. But films like that caught the attention of someone at Toho. Because Toho had decided that while they wanted to take a rest in the now yearly Godzilla-productions, they also wanted him to go out with a bang. And who better to helm it than this guy?
Kitamura has said in interviews that his favorite Godzilla-films are from the showa-era. There was very little waste of time. Always something going on. Particularly films like Destroy all Monsters. And it shows here. For in his own film he borrows left to right from most of the Showa-films. And most other popular films out there for that matter. I’m not saying that action here is all original. I’m just saying that it is presented as pure awesome-sause in a way that Bay only wishes he could
Ear-th Defence Force has managed to bury Godzilla in the ice of the Antarctic. A special squadron of newly discovered Mutants are assembled to fight the periodic onslaught of monsters. And suddenly, one day aliens from planet X turn up. They help us by making the monsters that appeared all at once disappear. (I mean, the coincidence of them showing up and helping just as the monsters suddenly attacked simoultaneously, something they never have done before, isn’t suspicious at all). But of course the conspiracy of alien supremacy is uncovered and as Don Frye’s moustach takes command of humanities last line of defense he hatches a plan so stupid it just has to work. To wake up Godzilla from the ice. Lead it towards the monsters under the Xilians mind-control and wipe them out. Using that as cover to drill into the enemy station to kick the Xilian brats ass. Oh, and explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.
I would probably go so far as to call this a masterpiece of Kaiju-action film-making. And I know that isn’t a popular opinion among all Godzilla-fans. But for me it is just one awesome piece of showmanship after the other. Even if you count…
Minira.. Yes. Minira, or Minya as he was previously called. He is in this film too. And I probably wouldn’t have minded so much about this fact if it wasn’t for the psychological whiplash-effect that you get from his introduction. You see. There’s one of those giant fights between mutants and a monster going on. Music pumping. Flames flaming. Explosions destructioning. All going in a symphony of… And suddenly all sound drowns out. We are thrown into a scene where a kid and his uncle is out on a hunt while stumbling over Minira. Minira looks even more goofy and strange than in the Showa-films. I swear. If I had seen this in the theater in 35mm, I would probably have assumed that someone accidentally spliced in the wrong reel from the wrong movie. That’s how friggin jarring this is.
But it’s mostly ok. The minira incarnation here at least wasn’t annoying. Just strange and out of place. And in the very end, finally they actually start to interact with the rest of the film to bring about a truce between the humans and Godzilla.
Another thing that a lot of people may find objectionable here is the decision on the look of the images themselves. Because, while all other films in the series have been shot on 35mm film with semi-natural color-pallettes, this one was shot on an early Sony Cine-Alta digital HD video camera. And then processed to get an almost color-coded visual style with extreme amount of visual defects. Sure, on the DVD it looks like grainy super8 at times, but for me it is strangely fitting. This isn’t the old style of naturalistic lighting. This is Godzilla on coke. Pissed off and just out to wreck havoc around himself.
And a final thing that is often brought up when discussing this ending of the Millenium era was the fact that for a good hour of the two hour film about Godzillas retirement. Godzilla wasn’t even in it. Only at about the hour-mark do they go to free him and all of the monsters under Xilians control has to be killed off. In what people would start to call “blink and you missed it” scenes monsters are straight up executed by the King of monsters. Some of them. Like Hedora doesn’t even get his own introduction. He’s just flung up on land from the sea and got his eye pierced by Ebirah before both get’s annihilated by the atomic breath. Speaking of which.
While Kitamura earned himself some detractors in the fanbase of Godzilla, he does share one opinion with them. He’s not all found of the american 1998 film. And here we get the same monster attacking Sidney. The G-defence team labels him Zilla (“because the americans have taken the GOD out of GODzilla” -Kitamura) And after first being introduced with a zany scene with a badly dubbed cop busting a pimp for illegal parking the next scene we get is the love-letter to all those who dislike the 1998 design and approach. One of the Xilians summons Zilla to battle Godzilla. Zilla runs up. Get’s bitchslapped by Godzillas tail. crushes himself into the Sidney Opera House. And then get’s pulvirised by Godzilla. The whole scene? 30 secs. I love it.
That’s about all of the constructive critisism I can muster at this time. I mean I can continue ranting about the comedic timing of the uppity Xilian. The nods to older films and such until my mouth turns blue. If ever you thought that Godzilla was a slow thing to witness. See this one. But remember to buckle up and turn up the volume. Because whatever your neighbours say. It’ll be worth it.
Now tomorrow is the big day. We get the new Godzilla. Will it be like the best of the japanese one, or will it be another Emmerich failure? Only time will tell us that. But as you might expect. I’m stoked to the core.
Be Seeing you!