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DVD Review 

by J. Caleb Mozzocco & r & Godzilla: Final Wars & r & What a month for giant monster fans this is. While Peter Jackson is reintroducing the world to film's original oversized city smasher, Japan's atomic age answer to Kong returns to DVD racks with his latest and greatest film. When Godzilla turned 50 last year, Japan got what was being billed at the time as the final Godzilla movie to ever be made, Godzilla: Final Wars.

A sort of Viking funeral befitting the King of Monsters, Finals Wars gives director Ryuhei Kitamura control of the entire kaiju menagerie to do with what he will, and he wills a fast-paced series of often incredibly cheesy battles, with one eye winking at the audience and the other on Godzilla's anti-war, pro-environment message.

The plot is incredibly fleet, offering -- in one hour -- a hypnotic stock footage collage recap of Godzilla's film career; a half dozen monsters pulverizing various locales around the world (it's not just Tokyo this time); and a race of humanoid aliens who first come in peace, then infiltrate the government, turn the United Nations into the Space Nations and destroy the Earth using mind-controlled monsters as WMDs. That's one hour.

To save the day, a ragtag group of heroes -- the UN Secretary General, a mutant kung-fu hero, a sexy biologist, a gruff Jesse Ventura look-alike -- wake up Godzilla and sic him on their enemies. Using a combination of cheap computer-generated imagery and old-fashioned shots of dudes in rubber suits stomping on miniatures, Kitamura shows us G plowing through just about every giant monster he's ever fought -- Rodan, Gigan, Anguirus, Manda, Kamakiras, King Shisha, King Ghidorah and more.

The human-scaled drama is predictably hackneyed and uninteresting, though Kitamura at least keeps it light, fast and fun, going out of his way to insert weird homages to American blockbusters (from Star Wars to The Matrix to Independence Day). As silly as it all is, Kitamura acknowledges that there was at one time more to Godzilla than just cool battles, as when Minilla and an old man step in to plead humanity's case before Godzilla, begging him to forgive us for ever meddling with nuclear energy in the first place, the franchise's original sin: "Godzilla, that's enough ... forgive them!" Even if this isn't the last Godzilla movie ever made, by hyper-condensing the highs and lows of virtually every preceding Godzilla film into one delirious B-movie, Final Wars is certainly the ultimate one.

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