In Antarctica, Godzilla is finally being vanquished as the crew of a flying battleship fight him in one last push. The shockwaves of the conflict set off an earthquake that opens a rift which Godzilla falls into, and the soldiers bury him under a huge landslide. Over recent years planet Earth has been subjected to too many attacks by giant monsters, but now, with the help of the M-Organization, it looks as if the terror may well be over. The M-Organization are made up of mutant humans with special powers, and may have some connection to the monsters. However, in the Northern Hemisphere the giant serpent Manda makes an appearance, and although destroyed by Captain Gordon (Don Frye) and his crew, could well mark the beginning of a new onslaught...
Toho Studios' giant monster movie industry had begun with Godzilla in 1954, so Godzilla: Final Wars was created for the fifty year anniversary by slick and fashionable director Ryuhei Kitamura (who also wrote the script with Isao Kiriyama and others). In addition, it marked, Toho claimed, the last we would see of the fire-breathing lizard for at least ten years, as this latest cycle of his adventures had not cleaned up at the box office as much as they had hoped for. As a send off, it most resembles Destroy All Monsters as it packs in as many of the old faces as it can without reducing the story to complete incomprehensibility.
Our hero is mutant officer Ozaki - well, our hero is Godzilla, obviously, but our human hero is Ozaki (Masahiro Matsuoko) who we first see working out in a violent fashion with one of his fellow soldiers who believes he should toughen up. The soldier is assigned to look after a scientist, so cue that joke about Osaki complaining that he doesn't want to be bodyguard to a boring old man only to turn round and see that the scientist is a beautiful young woman, Miyuki Otonashi (Rei Kikukawa). She is investigating the body of a huge creature that is part robot that has been uncovered and is supposedly over a thousand years old - and also shares genetic similarities with the mutants.
Hm. Been a bit quiet, hasn't it? Too quiet. So here come the monsters, arriving unannounced in major cities across the world and predictably causing havoc. Rodan the supersonic bird, Angilas the hedgehog lizard and others, including one computer generated thing that looks unmistakably similar to the Godzilla from the 1998 Hollywood movie (those displeased with that film will enjoy what happens here), are combatted by the soldiers, but the monsters seem to be winning. How lucky is it then that humanity should be saved at the crucial moment by a race of benign space aliens calling themselves Xilians? They bring news that Earth faces a new threat, one from outer space in the shape of a planet on collision course, and the Xilians promise to help.
However, after disappearing for a period of time, the head of the U.N. shows up again and our protagonists notice something different about him: he doesn't blink. Suspicions are raised, and when the aliens are confronted the truth is revealed... it was the Xilians who set the monsters on Earth, and plan to use us humans as "cattle". There's no shortage of plot as you'll have noticed, but it's all in a familiar mould; Kitamura said that he was a fan of the seventies incarnation of Godzilla, so when the big guy makes his reappearance to fight back against the invaders more than a touch of the seventies' silliness creeps in. Son of Godzilla appears, mainly as a cheerleader, and among the more amusing scenes are one where Godzilla acts as a goalkeeper to a flying Angilas curled up in a ball. At times it's all like a game of spot the monster for Godzilla fans, but the action is plentiful - perhaps too much martial arts for a Godzilla movie, though - and it never wears out its welcome, even at over two hours in length. Music by Keith Emerson.
Talented, prolific Japanese director heavily influenced by 80s horror and action movies, Kitamura makes films in a hyper-kinetic style that favours visceral excitement over tight plotting and character development. His samurai/zombie/yakuza debut Versus was a big festival hit, while subsequent films like Alive, Sky High and the period swashbuckler Azumi provide similar thrills. In 2004 directed the 28th film in the Godzilla series - Godzilla: Final Wars - then the neglected Clive Barker adaptation Midnight Meat Train, with Versus 2 long promised.