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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

"Release all the monsters. Make the earthlings realize they're cattle. This is our farm."
- X (Kazuki Kitamura)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 13, 2005

Stars: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Kazui Kitamura, Don Frye
Other Stars: Akira Takarada, Kane Kosugi, Maki Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Kenta Suga, Tsutomu Kitagawa
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Violence
Run Time: 02h:05m:08s
Release Date: December 13, 2005
UPC: 043396127616
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C+A-A C

DVD Review

Godzilla: Final Wars was released by Toho to mark the 50th anniversary of the original Godzilla. It seems rather odd to commemorate an anniversary such as this with what purports to be the final installment of the Godzilla saga. Of course, Toho has declared the big lizard permanently retired before, so the 'finality' claim needs to be taken with many grains of salt. In any event, it's a ramped-up monsterfest that takes the saga in a different direction, and not always for the better.

The Earth Defense Force (with a contingent of mutant warriors) guards against the return of the various monsters, including the worst, Godzilla, who lies buried in the Antarctic ice. A wave of monsters, including Anguirus, Monster X, Manda, Rodan and others are storming the major cities of the world. Mutant Shinchi Ozaki (Masahiro Matsuoka) is assigned to guard biologist Miyuki Otonashi (Rei Kikukawa) as she tries to get to the bottom of things by examining a mummified monster. But a UFO from the planet Xillan comes to the rescue, and works with the UN to set up an interplanetary government. However, things are certainly not what they seem, and before long the aliens are revealed to be using humans as a food source. The Xillians devastate humanity, with the aid of the monsters, until there is only one hope left: to release Godzilla from his icy prison and pray for the best.

Although it has elements of the nasty "Godzilla, friend of humanity" films of the 1970s, the radioactive dinosaur is nonetheless in finely destructive form. Tsutomu Kitagawa once again dons the rubber suit here, and he does a fine job of wrecking everything and being furious. The other monsters come off pretty well, generally, with good renditions of Monster X (Ghidrah) and Rodan in particular. Mothra doesn't quite seem realistic, with a much too smoth character to its appearance. Gigan is way over the top, with lobster claws that transform into double chainsaws. Minilla is here too, but at least he's kept to small doses, which are more palatable, but his suit really looks fake, even for a Godzilla film. The effects work generally is pretty admirable, although there are quite a few model shots that are seriously unconvincing even to the tolerant.

Where the film really breaks down is in the human characterizations. Although there's a bit of dissension between the humans and the mutants, and a knockdown battle beteween Ozuki and his compatriot, the human characters seem rather unmotivated and the viewer hardly cares about them. The destruction of human civilization is given pretty short shrift too, replaced instead by talky sequences between the humans and the Xillians. There is a more interesting dimension to the aliens, who unlike the garden variety earth-conquering beings, don't all seem to be on the same page themselves, with their own agendas. The acting is passable but many of the characters have little to do and no opportunity to add depth to their portrayals. The one truly entertaining human portrayal is the scenery-chewing effort by Don Frye, as the cigar-chomping and testy Captain Gordon. He plays the role like Mike Ditka with a testosterone overdose, and it's pretty humorous in its out-of-control mania. Akira Takarada, who appeared in the original 1954 film, gets a workout as both the UN Secretary General and the alien who replaces him.

This is an incredibly loud and obnoxious film, with smatterings of score by Keith Emerson and others. These synth-based moments seem out of place at first but eventually they get palatable. More annoying is the introduction of tiresome Matrix-style wire fu. These battles go on and on, trying the patience of the viewer anxious to get back to rubber-suited-monster mayhem. It's a disappointing finale (for now) to the series, though the title sequence looking back at Godzilla over the years will certainly please fans of the creature. Those with fond memories of Destroy All Monsters will have mixed feelings about this updated version.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Happily, the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen Tohoscope. Color is fine, though sharpness isn't always what one would like to see. Edge enhancement has not been added to accommodate, which indicates progress from Sony. The source material, not surprisingly, is flawless.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Japanese, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Loud. This is one of the loudest soundtracks I own. Even halfway between zero and reference, it's deafening on the English track, and the Japanese track is even louder. Anyone wanting to give their systems a serious workout should give this disc some consideration. There's plenty of bass and excellent range, and the decibel levels will challenge the foundations of your home theater. It sounds fine, with plenty of surround activity and a big soundstage, but it's an overwhelming experience. Start off with very low volume and work your way up.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Steamboy, Dust to Glory, Madison, Mirrormask
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:12s

Extra Extras:
  1. Comparison of B-Roll to finished film
Extras Review: Other than a collection of randomly-chosen trailers, the sole extra is a 17m:53s set of B-roll footage of filming of various segments of the fight between Godzilla and Gigan, complete with wires, etc., followed by comparisons to the finished footage. It's interesting, but would have been better with a voiceover or text commentary to indicate what we're seeing, since it's sometimes difficult to determine the context until you see the finished footage.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

This doesn't seem like a right note to finish the series, and it's certainly one of the weaker entries in the modern Godzilla canon. The b-roll comparison is interesting, but the soundtrack is loud, loud, loud.

 


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