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Seattle Film Fest: Vern tackles the new GODZILLA: FINAL WARS film... possibly the last one!

Hey folks, Harry here... I hate Vern... he see MAN IN SUIT first! I hate Moriarty... he see MAN IN SUIT firster! I wanted to see MAN IN SUIT firstest!!! ARGHHHHHHH!

Boys -

I don't know if you've heard the news yet but apparently Godzilla is retiring. I know, I thought it sounded kind of sudden too, but according to the Toho Studios over there in Japan - actually they probaly never said this, but it was reported in magazines here so we'll pretend it's true - this is ABSOLUTELY gonna be the VERY LAST Godzilla movie. EVER. The final chapter. The final nightmare. I don't see how they could ever go back on their word on something like that, so they will probaly just have to start making domestic dramas, or find some new young and edgy giant monster, start him off small and hopefully build him up until all the kids are like, who the fuck is Godzilla? Sounds lame to me, just a ripoff of (new more extreme giant monster from Toho studios).

Like anybody, I watched the Godzilla movies when I was a kid. What it was about was, he was giant, he would step on buildings, then some other monster is out in the mountains and they wrestle for a while. A pretty good setup for movies. I figured I might as well see the guy off so I went to see GODZILLA: FINAL WARS at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The plot is simple: ever since Godzilla and about 75 other giant monsters kept attacking the earth, there has been a team called the Earth Defense Force who have spaceships and lasers, also there is a race of mutants who wear special padding and run around shooting lasers at giant monsters because they are mutants. But then one day, 7 or so giant monsters attack at the same time. But then also there are flying saucers that take away the giant monsters. So the United Nations makes peace with the aliens who are called Xilians. But actually they are evil and only pretending to look human and they replaced the UN Secretary General with a phoney because they are trying to turn people into cattle to steal their mitochondria (?) and when the humans find out because the UN Secretary General doesn't remember his dog the Xilians unleash all the giant monsters and control the mutants using a genetic trait known as M-base which they are able to control and the last band of badass humans go to the South Pole to release Godzilla so he can fight the other giant monsters but he thinks he is still fighting them from the time he got frozen in the South Pole years ago so he also fights against them but hopefully his wacky son Minilla will do something. By the way did I mention that one out of every million mutants or Xiliens is an extra-super powered being called a Keizer, and there's a giant fireball headed toward the earth for some reason. Also there is motorcycles involved.

Okay on second thought the plot isn't all that simple. This is a Godzilla movie that's been drinking too many god damned energy drinks. I was nervous at first because they got these opening credits by Kyle Cooper (the SEVEN credits guy) where they take the entire Godzilla series, compress it into a minute and force you to eat it. Then the camera swoops and editing at the beginning made me think I was in for Godzilla as seen by Michael Bay. And then there was techno music and some guys fighting in a cage. Stay calm though. It's gonna be okay. I hate that kind of shit and I was able to go with the flow, so you should be okay.

This is not a movie you can take seriously. It's stupid and silly as all hell, but it's a lot of damn fun. It was made for the 50th anniversary last year so it combines elements from all throughout the fifty years of Godzilla movies. And luckily they don't try very hard to update them for modern audiences. The midnight audience here definitely enjoyed it, applauding loudly for the appearance of all the old monsters like they were surprise cameos by beloved actors. Maybe the most applause besides Godzilla went to King Caesar, aka the stupidest looking giant monster of all time. I wasn't always sure when we were laughing with the movie and when were laughing at it but I think it was mostly the first one. With.

Like alot of these giant monster pictures, it's pretty much a story in 3 parts:

1. ALL OUT MONSTER MAYHEM. All kinds of crazy giant motherfuckers running around stepping on our buildings. Explosions, vehicles flying through the air, people running around screaming. There are attacks on different parts of the world. Giant bugs, pteroadactyls, spiked armadillos, even that stupid computer animated pet lizard that must've replaced Godzilla weeks before filming in the American Mathew Broderick vehicle they mysteriously called GODZILLA at the time. (Now I think they changed the title to BOA VS. PYTHON or something.)

2. The boring middle part with the humans.

3. EVEN BETTER MONSTER MAYHEM. This is the part where Godzilla comes out and fights off all of the other monsters, and some new ones show up. There is even some decapitations in this part. As you know, monsters vs. buildings is good, monsters vs. monsters is better, so they save that for section 3.

Without a doubt, everybody will enjoy sections 1 and 3. I'm not saying it is the best of its type. I'm no expert but the best I've seen is the giant flying turtle movies from a few years back. This isn't as dramatic and it's more insane than it is clever, but if you like seeing monsters biting each other and impaling each other on towers and shit, then this is what you like. They did a good job on the effects. Godzilla looks cool, the rubber suits look good and the computer animation for spaceships and things like that fits in well. It's funny to see a realistic computer shot right next to a phoney looking model. I like the mish mash of styles.

Now, having talked to some people after the movie, alot of people seemed to have trouble with the Section 2. And it is a good point, it definitely would be a stronger movie if it was tightened a little bit. But in my experience, the Section 2 of this movie is far more enjoyable than in most other giant monster type pictures. Usually in a picture like this, you got a bunch of scientists in lab coats standing around talking about fake science. Or a bunch of military guys in military uniforms standing around talking about fake weapons. Or a bunch of reporters in reporter clothes going to interview scientists and military guys to find out about the giant monster's secret. Or crap like that. I haven't seen too many giant monster pictures that *don't* have a boring human part in the middle. Or all throughout.

In this one, the Section 2 is far more in keeping with the feel of the giant monsters, because it's completely over the top. It's in the future, so everybody wears silly uniforms like out of a japanese cartoon you watched when you were a kid and still think is good because you can't let it go. There's a martial arts battle on motorcycles which alot of people thought shoulda been cut, but I would gladly take that over a pretty young reporter visiting an old man on an island to find out what he learned about Godzilla in the '50s. Most surprising to me, I was able to remember who most of the main characters were, and at many points was actually involved in what they were doing. Near the end, I even caught myself rooting for the good guys to survive! Usually I would want them to get eaten.

I guess the two main opposing forces would be the cocky young leader of the Xiliens (picture a Japanese Stephen Dorff as a villain in a Joel Schumacher movie) and the leader of the mutants, who argues you gotta have heart to defend the earth. The sensitive mutant. You know how some of the newsies in the talkbacks are always talking about "this movie is so gay" and "this is the gayest thing ever," etc. Well those guys are gonna be real uncomfortable during this movie, because these are the most effeminate hero and villain I've seen in a while. It's almost like they're having a gay-off. Homophobes will be denying things about themselves left and right.

Both the mutants and the Xiliens have a philosophical struggle between guys who just want to fight (in fact, think they were born to fight) and guys who want to find peaceful solutions. I like the way this mirrors the struggle of the giant monsters (who they are supposedly related to genetically). Godzilla never really seems to know for sure if he is a building smasher or a human protector, but it's a theme of this movie that you can make the choice, so I guess he does in the end.

I mean look, do you think it's EASY being Godzilla? 400 feet tall, radioactive, single father. The closest thing he ever gets to action is, sometimes this giant moth helps him in his fights. I mean nothing against Mothra, she's pretty hot for a giant moth, but I just don't get the impression Godzilla is satisfied. Plus, you gotta realize he spends alot of his life hibernating - frozen in ice or buried underwater or something. And then every time he wakes up either it's Hiroshima, or he's gotta fight a bunch of fuckin dragons and lobsters and space bats and crap. All this AND he's got the whole war/peace philosophical quandary weighing on his mind. No wonder he wants to retire.

By the way, these are aliens like the ones they had in the old days. You know they're aliens because they have those old thin sunglasses that fake punk rockers used to wear in movies. The movie tries to be modern by having wire fighting and matrixy camerawork and techno music, but it's not afraid to just say "fuck it" and be old fashioned in other ways.

BY FAR the most memorable thing about this movie is an actual good human character. His name is Captain Gordon, and he seems to be American (his whole part is spoken in English). He looks exactly like a cartoon, complete with boots, gloves, giant neck and mustache. Several people compared him to the wrestler Sergeant Slaughter. I looked him up and sure enough the actor, Don "The Predator" Frye, is a one time ultimate fighting champion and apparently also a pro-wrestler in Japan. Here he's the macho captain of the giant monster fighters. He pilots a spaceship with a big drill on the front, but he's always carrying a sword. You start to wonder if he's ever gonna use the god damn thing, especially when the sword gets taken away from him for a while. Sure enough, during Section 3 he gets to run around cutting up aliens, and get in a few references to VERSUS, that zombie/samurai movie teenagers like (it's by the same director as FINAL WARS).

I'm not saying this guy is a pro but his acting is much better than the usual English speaking actors in Japanese movies. They usually sound like they're reading off of smeared cue cards. This guy just looks so ridiculous and cool and he has the personality of a John Carpenter anti-hero. He gets a couple good lines in. When he's face to face with Godzilla with no more guns or spaceships, he stands there with his hand on his sword. I'm convinced that if it came down to it, he would've tried to take on Godzilla with his sword.

I walked out of this movie thinking holy shit, a couple years from now I'll still remember that character and his cool mustache. How many Godzilla movies have memorable human characters in them? Maybe the tormented scientist who kills himself in the first one. That's about all I can remember.

Captain Gordon: all time best white guy in a Godzilla movie.

They do get a couple swipes in at Americans though. The scene in New York (a dispute between a pimp and a cop) is a weird reflection of how we must look to the rest of the world. Also there's the matter of that lizard from the American GODZILLA. On the opening credits it says something about the rock band "Sum 41," which got some boos. It turned out their song was used as the theme of the American Godzilla lizard as he got his ass whooped. Bad American music to represent bad American monsters. A real funny scene. It's not every day you get to see a hated Big Summer Event Movie actually get beaten and killed on screen.

Anyway, this was a fun movie, Godzilla did a good job and I would watch other movies if Don Frye was in them. I think fans of this type of movie will enjoy it. It would be better with an audience than by yourself on video, though.

If Godzilla ever comes out of retirement I hope it's post-apocalyptic and Captain Gordon is the main human character. And he builds a road warrior type Mechanigodzilla out of junk.

Oh, what am I saying? If the guy doesn't want to work anymore he doesn't have to. Congratulations on your retirement Godzilla. Don't let King Kong give you any shit.

thanks Godzilla,


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