I saw Godzilla Final Wars at the New York Asian Film Festival yesterday evening (video clips here). Of all the movies at the festival, this was the first to sell out. The Godzilla following remains strong. Fans of Godzilla and campy movies will eat this up, much as yesterday's groupies did. Every time Godzilla belted out his trademark roar, the audience erupted in kind.
At some point in the future, suddenly all of Godzilla's past monster foes appear all over the world and start razing cities. The Earth Defense Force tries to fight back, but they are helpless, especially when the monsters are discovered to be in the control of aliens called Xiliens. It looks grim for Planet Earth, but the most dangerous weapon the Earth has ever known remains frozen in ice at the South Pole...GODZILLA!!!
The camp knows no bounds. This is the "man in rubber suit destroying mini models of famous landmarks and cities" school of Godzilla movies. Some characters speak in Japanese with English subtitles; Captain Gordon (Don Frye), who provides the most memorable of the movie's intentionally histrionic performance, speaks in English with Japanese subtitles. Everyone understands everyone else perfectly. Apparently they can see the subtitles also. Characters toss the term "monster" about as if it is a scientific term.
Before the movie began, festival promoters gave away prizes to those who could answer obscure Godzilla trivia. These were truly some hardcore fans, able to selectively recall which monsters appeared in which of the three different Godzilla movie series. This lizard is right up there with Zatoichi in Japanese cinematic productivity.
I am unfamiliar with all of Godzilla's foes, but among the ones to make an appearance in this movie are an armadillo, a spider, Rodan (who appears to be a descendant of a pterodactyl), what appears to be a giant Gremlin with Mad Cow Disease named King Caesar (sp?), a flying ant, the three-headed mutant offspring of Hydra, and Gigan (a cross between a lizard, a wooly mammoth, Cyclops, and a chainsaw). Also appearing are Mothra (yes, a giant moth) and what looked like a baby Godzilla; did the big guy father an illegitimate child somewhere along the way? Godzilla junkies got more of a kick out of each of these monster's appearances than I did, though even a novice like myself could revel in the paradox that is the movie's realistic yet completely unrealistic look. It's similar to the child-like joy of seeing stop motion animation, like seeing one's childhood toy fantasies enacted on a larger scale. Combined with lots of sake and a sushi dinner, Godzilla Final Wars could make for a fun night out.
The movie's score is by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi, Alive) directs.