‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ – the 50th anniversary film on Hulu

Fifty years and 27 films after the original Godzilla (1954) introduced the lizard king of all nuclear age giant monsters, Toho celebrated a half century of kaiju dominance with a film that served as tribute, celebration, summing up, and send off.

Godzilla: Final Wars (Japan, 2004), announced as the last Godzilla film that Toho would make (it wasn’t), is a blithely campy, altogether good-natured love letter to the classic Godzilla films of the 1960s and 1970s. It brings back all the old monsters (Rodan, Gigan, Anguirus, Hedora, and the gang), tosses in an alien invasion force to revive the monsters and send them rampaging across the globe, and puts the world under the protection of the Earth Defense Force, an international team of Power Ranger-like mutants led by a Jesse Ventura-like American Captain (Don Frye).

When they fail to stop the alien Xilien invasion, the international Earth Defense Force digs Godzilla out of his frozen North Pole prison and sends him in to take out the monster squad. Meanwhile a farm boy finds Minilla, Godzilla’s child, and helps the goofy little lizard get to papa. There’s even an appearance by Mothra and a final battle with the dreaded Monster X.

Godzilla: Final Wars is the first Godzilla film in decades to embrace the early “history” of the franchise and quite possibly the first franchise film directed by an honest to goodness fan of the old-school Godzilla movie. Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus), Japan’s adolescent action stylist, leans in on the classic suitmation effects and stomped-on miniatures and adds his own specialty: martial arts action and high flying stunts.



Old meets new: there are CGI flourishes and classic clips from the original movies, and Kitamura borrows liberally from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the original alien invasion TV miniseries V (“Hello, people of Earth. We come in peace”) and even The Matrix. Our hero (Masahiro Matsuoka) practically becomes Neo by the end. It’s lusciously, knowingly, lovingly cheesy, an affectionate farewell with a hilarious parting shot at the 1999 American remake.

Toho proclaimed that this would be their last Godzilla movie and it was for over a decade, leaving the franchise to the U.S. to revive, until Shin Godzilla

Costars Rei Kikukawa, Kazuki Kitamura, and Akira Takarada. Kitamura, meanwhile, made the leap to American movies with Clive Barker horror film The Midnight Meat Train with Bradley Cooper.

In Japanese with English subtitles, but most streaming versions in the U.S. feature the English language dubbed version.

Rated PG-13

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. / Godzilla: Final Wars [Blu-ray]
Godzilla: Final Wars [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases include the featurette “Godzilla: B-Roll to Film.”

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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