DVD Review: Godzilla: Final Wars

There's one thing going for Godzilla: Final Wars. It's not the 1998 American travesty called Godzilla. Final Wars knows this, and few references to that ugly mess are the only real highlights here. It's an attention deficit disorder nightmare of a film, radically altering a concept (admittedly quickly going stale) that's worked for decades.

Bringing in Ryuhei Kitamura of Versus fame, the overly energetic director at least tries to do something different with the monster vs. monster epic. Unfortunately, it's so out there, this barely resembles a Godzilla film. The dark tone, gore, and brutal edge to the fight sequences earn this one a PG-13, a first for a movie in the series.

That should indicate a new direction for the series. If it is, let's be thankful this could be the end of the franchise. Inserting action sequences that take the series to new levels of absurdities, giant monster fans will be treated to Angilas being kicked like a soccer ball as Godzilla tries to make "a save," Minya returning, and countless Matrix knock-off human fights that drag on without a point.

Running over the two-hour mark, this entry in the series has too much going on, and with the rapid editing, you'll never what you're actually viewing. The soundtrack with songs from Sum 41 continues to alter this movie for the worse. There is no flow from scene to scene, and with 15 monsters involved (some for a few seconds at the most), everything is crammed in without care.

Admittedly, this is a film that gets better with multiple viewings. It's hard to ignore the intensity of the monster fights, even with the unnecessary camp moments. Unfortunately, in those moments where you have a little time to concentrate, all you can think about is what this COULD have been, not what it is. (* out of *****)

While nearly identical, this DVD transfer from Sony carries a slight advantage to the region 2 disc from Toho. Colors and saturation are more prevalent on Toho's disc. This is a benefit to American viewers as the toned down color works to preserve the bleak settings. Smoke, dirt, and dust cause DVD problems every time they show up, and Final Wars has plenty of all three. It's tough to pick out grain if there is any. Sharpness isn't at a great level, but the soft touch is acceptable. Black levels are flawless, and the four-way melee near the ending is nicely draped in blues and blacks without many problems. (****)

Comparing the audio, the Japanese release has a deeper and more forceful bass track. Both are standard 5.1, and again, this Sony disc wins out. The lower frequencies would drown out the subtle audio. Sony's mix preserves the surround work even with the blaring soundtrack. Dialogue is clearly discernable during the giant action sequences, a slight problem for Toho's effort. It's a nearly flawless audio mix. (*****)

The single, solo extra aside from numerous trailers is 18-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. There is no commentary or subtitles to discuss the happenings, though it's apparent as to what you're seeing. The Toho release came in a three disc special edition with hours of bonus material. There is plenty of source material to pick from making this an inexcusable oversight. (*)

It's strange to think that the two films that split the fan base right in the middle both feature the American "Godzilla." If you're not a member of the community, things became quite heated on message boards, letters sections in G-Fan magazine, and in private between followers. Some people obviously found the point in this unbearable editing exercise.

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