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Godzilla Final Wars (Kitamura Ryuhei 2004)


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Godzilla Final Wars

ゴジラ FINAL WARS

Genre: Climactic Kaijuu Extravaganza

review in one breath

This film deliberately marks the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and therefore goes all out regarding CG effects and top-notch contemporary talent. And at the helm of this project is none other than the contemporary maestro of cinematic "duels", Kitamura Ryuhei. This is an EXEMPLAR of the kaijuu genre and is an excellent gold anniversary tribute to Godzilla.


intro

The first Godzilla film appeared in 1954 by director Honda Ishiro and thus 2004 marks Godzilla's 50th Anniversary. Including his first appearance, there have been, to date, 27 Godzilla films. The sheer impact of "Godzilla" and his long-running legacy has not only made the name "Godzilla" popularly synonymous with "Japan" throughout the (entire) world, but has also wholly and irrevocably endeared the monstrous character within the hearts of the previous two generations of Japanese audiences.

And for this reason, Godzilla's 50th anniversary was treated with quite high reverence, both in terms of budget and participating talent. Godzilla: Final Wars is without doubt the best funded and most talented of the other 26. And when we throw director Kitamura Ryuhei into the mix, things really escalate.

I had heard long ago that director Kitamura had been given this film, and so I had assumed that this was due to some form of "appreciation" or recognition for his recent international accomplishments. But after watching this I now fully recognize that Kitamura was chosen for his unique ability to depict battles (aka "Duels") between two (or more) opponents. Viewers wholly familiar with Kitamura's more infamous works will certainly recognize his characteristic handiwork here, particularly in the one on one (human) fights in the initial scenes.

BUT THEN Kitamura simply explodes in what I can only assume is his directorial wet dream. Imagine ten invincible monsters (kaijuu) battling the heretofore undefeated Godzilla -- anywhere and everywhere on the globe. No need for "introductions" to your hero. Then throw in the latest CG technology and simply BLOW audiences away with the impact of your battles.

Oh yeah, let's not forget Kitamura's enduring (and wholly gratifying) "underdog" dedication wherein, inevitably, a lesser soul is suddenly granted mind-crushing powers. This characteristic formula works so well with audiences (and I submit that it works very well here too) that it has become an integral (and predictable) element of his narratives.

Well prior to seeing this, I was given the impression that this film marked Godzilla's (eternal) "retirement". However I strongly intuit that this is not the last cinematic depiction of Godzilla.

verdict

Well, if you've never (knowingly) seen a single Godzilla film, this will certainly not present the impact my review suggests. (And so I recommend you watch a few Godzilla films, starting with the 1954 original.)

If you are familiar with Godzilla, then I can wholly recommend this to you, knowing that you will be both entertained and impressed.

And if you are in this latter group, there is GOOD NEWS. Godzilla: Final Wars is due to be released December 13, 2005 (next week!) in Region 1, subtitled version. It should soon thereafter become available through all mainstream venues.

Version reviewed: Unsubtitled DVD

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Godzilla's 50th Anniversary populated by an incredible cast, rendered in convincing contemporary CG effects, and directed by Kitamura Ryuhei. Traditionally cautious depictions of (even monsters') demise. Nada. Here's kaijuu extraordinaire. simply put.

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