Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Godzilla: Tokyo SOS/Godzilla: Final Wars Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Mechagodzilla, the superior-armed, state-of-the-art, all-robot version of Godzilla, is undergoing repairs after his devastating battle against the world’s monsters. As the great robot nears completion, a series of mysterious incidents rock the world and awaken Godzilla, who unleashes a reign of terror against Tokyo. Mothra joins him and Japan’s desperate Prime Minister has no choice but to launch the unfinished Mechagodzilla against Mothra and Godzilla. In Godzilla: Final Wars, Earth has been relatively peaceful since Godzilla was successfully buried deep in ice beneath the South Pole. Then -- sometime a few years hence -- several of his old nemeses return to wreak havoc on cities worldwide. A huge spaceship suddenly appears and neutralizes all the monsters in a blink. The visitors are “Xiliens,” who take human form and announce they would like to negotiate a peace treaty that would replace the United Nations with a “United Universe.”  It doesn’t take long before their nefarious real purpose is exposed - conquering Earth. Greatly outmatched, Earth officials decide to de-freeze Godzilla as man’s only hope to vanish the invaders, as well as the monsters they control. Only trouble is Godzilla is still mad at man for freezing him in the first place.

Films (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The fourth Toho Godzilla double feature contains the 2003 and 2004 Godzilla films, presumable wrapping up the Godzilla storyline. While you could start at almost any movie and figure out what’s going on, I recommend starting at the beginning of this series. Most of the films do connect to the others in some way.  Beyond that, set one was really like a warm up, while sets two and three really took off.  I was getting used to Godzilla vs. someone and right off the bat I notice that neither of these films follows the formula that I have grown to appreciate.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S

Mechagodzilla is out of commission, awaiting upgrades and repairs.  Mechagodzilla is the robot version of Godzilla who recently battled the monsters of the world.  The tiny women appear with the warning that it is unwise to rebuild mechagodzilla.  The warnings are ignored and it’s not long before a series of strange events begins.  Godzilla’s bones should be returned to the ocean and mankind should look to Mothra for protection.  As long as people are good to the Earth, Mothra will be their protector. 

Although it doesn’t follow the formula in name (Godzilla vs. ?) this film is all about big monster battles.  I’ve always been a fan of the rubber suit version of Godzilla but this is the first time I stopped to think how fake these creatures look.  Mothra, in particular often looks as though the film makers have dangled a stuffed animal over the city.  The miniature city-scapes are still clearly miniatures but did offer more detail than found in previous films.

Godzilla: Final Wars 

The Godzilla franchise has gone off the rails in the final installment.  Godzilla has been buried in the ice beneath the South Pole and mankind has rebuilt.  Seemingly out of nowhere Earth is attacked my multiple creatures.  Mutants have been discovered and they now form an X-men like team tasked with protection.  As the mutants train, their sparring looks like it came straight out of The Matrix as they use unexplained powers to defy gravity.

A spaceship appears and it becomes known that aliens do exist.  With all the creatures and tiny women that have come to light, I’m not sure why anyone doubted the existence of aliens.  The visitors, known as Xaliens take human form and attempt to negotiate a Space Nations to replace the current United Nations.  Once the people realize that their new friends aren’t truly friendly they are forced to unfreeze Godzilla and count on his defense.

This movie turned cheesy good into cheesy bad.  It was silly in all the wrong ways and was somehow insulting to the Godzilla I’ve come to know and love.  I didn’t like the characters and wanted to see everyone eaten by Godzilla.  There was even a baby lizard that looked like it was about to say “not the mama” on the television show Dinosaurs.  This was not the way to end the Godzilla series.  Given the fact that it was made in 2004 I had set the bar a little higher, expecting some decent special effects and hopefully better acting.  Neither was achieved.

Video (2 /1 out of 5 stars)
Both films offer a solid, but not spectacular video presentation.  In both films outdoor night time scenes were very murky.  The definition in clothing and furniture is slightly better in the second film.  The monsters were incredibly fake, but unlike in previous films it was bothersome.

Audio (4 out o f 5 stars)
The audio presentation fairs better than the video in both films.  The Japanese and English audio tracks are at an even consistent level and creature noises are impressive.  Jets zoom by with realistic directionality while explosions and destruction can rock your living room.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Both discs finally have added a special feature beyond trailers.  The behind the scenes features aren’t high quality but are interesting to watch.

  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. contains a making-of feature lasting over 20 minutes and a theatrical trailer. 
  • Godzilla: Final Wars contains a featurette (Godzilla B-Roll to film) as well as teasers, and a theatrical trailer. 
Summary (2 out of  5 stars)
Godzilla: Final Wars was a bad ending to a good franchise. I will probably not rewatch either of the films on this disc again.  All the Godzilla films are more complicated than I realized due to the fact that there are so many nuclear/environmental issues to discuss.  Godzilla: Final Wars is so needlessly complicated that it’s easy to forget it’s even supposed to be about Godzilla. While in the previous installments there was plenty for me to enjoy, this set of movies just didn't work for me.

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