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Godzilla: Final Wars (December 8/05)

Godzilla: Final Wars has been directed by acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura, best known for wildly over-the-top action flicks such as Versus and Azumi. But it becomes clear almost immediately that Kitamura is absolutely the wrong choice for the material, as he infuses Godzilla: Final Wars with exactly the same sort of kinetic restlessness that has become his trademark. Far more problematic, however, is the lack of screen time reserved for Godzilla himself; he's in about a quarter of this two-hour film, with the rest devoted to an entirely superfluous storyline involving aliens and mutants (no, really).

As has been widely reported, Godzilla: Final Wars eventually features the green giant going up against all his former enemies - though to get to that point, one has to sit through an interminable opening hour that couldn't possibly be more dull. When the various monsters from Godzilla's past (including Rodan, Gigan, and even Roland Emmerich's Godzilla) begin simultaneously wreaking havoc, all seems hopeless - until a group of seemingly friendly aliens effortlessly take care of the problem moments after arriving on the scene. As it turns out, the aliens are - in fact - even more dangerous than the monsters, leaving the surviving humans with little choice but to revive Godzilla and send him on an abomination-killing rampage.

Given that Godzilla is almost entirely absent from at least half of Godzilla: Final Wars, it's certainly possible for the viewer to forget that they're even watching a Godzilla movie. Kitamura seems far more interested in imbuing the film with wildly over-the-top action sequences and Matrix-inspired shenanigans than offering up anything resembling a traditional Godzilla flick, which lends the proceedings a dated, unrelentingly tedious vibe.

Having said that, the battles - when they finally arrive - are admittedly quite entertaining, though they invariably wind up overstaying their welcome by going on far longer than necessary (however, it's hard not to get a kick out of the sequence that finds the old-school Godzilla dispatching the American Godzilla with a flick of the tail). But Kitamura's inexplicable need to revel in excess (there's a space battle, for crying out loud) will undoubtedly alienate Godzilla neophytes and most likely irritate even the most die-hard fans of the legendary creature.

out of

About the DVD: Godzilla: Final Wars arrives on DVD in North America courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, armed with a letterboxed transfer and 18-minutes worth of b-roll footage (trailers for Steamboy, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Dust to Glory, Madison, and Mirrormask are also included).