Long-time readers of this site might know of my feeling on re-makes. I feel it’s somewhat of a cop out, taking pre-existing material and merely updating it for a new release. But I will say that with a film like Godzilla, I’m all in favor of it. The story won’t really ever change, but I’m all about better visuals, effects and superior sound. When you’ve got a 300 foot monster that does nothing but stomp, smashes and kills (and can belt out a stream of radioactive fire from its mouth) – well bring it on! Back in 1998 we were treated to an updated version of this epic saga and though it delivered, I found that it was hard to take Matthew Broderick as an action hero. Then again, the human component of a Godzilla movie certainly takes a backseat to the beast at hand. So now, 17 years later, we’ve got a new version of the timeless film and stars Bryan Cranston, Ken Wantanabe and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are set to take on our large, reptilian nemesis. Director Gareth Edwards might not be a household name, but his previous film, Monsters, was a rather interesting watch and after seeing both the film and the supplements – I agree with the choice to put him behind the camera.
We start off in 1999 at the Janjira nuclear plant. Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche respectively), scientists, are unknowingly caught up in the destruction of the plant causing Joe to lose his wife. Flash forward 15 years and Joe is now somewhat of a recluse, but is still trying to piece together the conspiracy that caused the meltdown of the plant. His son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), now a U.S. Naval officer, has to go to Japan to get Joe out of jail only to stumble on something much larger (in every sense of the word). Ford, in tow with Joe, soon discover that some of the same events that took place in 1999 are starting to occur again and finding himself back where it all began, Joe fears the worst. This is the catalyst for the M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) as they awaken and make their way to the sea. However the movie wouldn’t be complete without the “King of all Monsters” as Godzilla battles the M.U.T.O.s in Japan, Las Vegas and finally in San Francisco. We all know destruction will ensue, but who or what will escape?
While watching the film with my wife, she was a bit confused as to all the references to the EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulses) and their meaning. I’m not the most scientific person in the world, but seeing as how these were creatures of radiation, I took it with a grain of salt and just sat back and enjoyed the movie. I urged her to do the same. Look, Godzilla won’t win Best Picture – I doubt it’s crossed anyone’s mind. These films are all about entertainment and I was wholeheartedly entertained. That’s the point. After watching some of the supplements, the movie did make a bit more sense and I fear that others might get a bit lost in the details like my wife did. The human component of the film did a fine job with their roles, but again in a movie like this just let the visual effects and sound take you away. You want to see a 300 foot lizard demolish the Las Vegas strip or the Golden Gate Bridge? Well then…this is your movie. I felt that Edwards’ approach was the right one, giving us just the right mix of action, humor (yes, there’s a bit) and science to make a very complex plot be entertaining and enjoyable as well. This is superior to the 1998 in every way, shape and form so sit back and enjoy the show.
Video: How’s it look?
One of Warner’s marquee films of the year has hit, er…smashed, its way onto the 4K format. As such the bar has been set very high for the technical aspects of this film. Presented in a 2.40:1 HEVC 4K image, Godzilla delivers on every level. The use of practical and CGI effects throughout make this seem more realistic than other films of this nature. It’s like we’re observing the destruction through a peephole (if that makes sense, if not bear with me). The entire film seems to have a darker tone to it. Flesh tones seem warm and natural, but the detail is where this film excels. The wrinkles on Bryan Cranston’s face, the intricacies in the background, the on-screen displays used throughout and even the “news footage” all have a very realistic quality that’s hard to ignore. The last act takes place at night and contrast and black levels aren’t compromised in the least.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I’d wager that when you’ve got a movie that focuses on the destruction of cities with 300 foot monsters battling it out in downtown San Francisco, you’d better have a kick ass audio component to compliment it. And, wouldn’t you know it, that just so happens to be the case here. The new Dolby Atmos track is ample and robust from the opening scene to the end. Essentially every speaker’s range is used with great effect – be it the LFE’s as the buildings fall or the surrounds adding those little explosions and tweets in the background. There’s a lot of dialogue in the film, to boot, and the vocals take front and center here. Everything sounds amazing here: the H.A.L.O. jump, the fight between the M.U.T.O.s and Godzilla and everything in between. Simply put, this is an outrageous display of audio and it’s one of those that you turn it up to 11, sit back and enjoy every bit of it.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There is no new content to be found here. All of the supplements are found on the included Blu-ray. Though it lacks a commentary track and some deleted scenes, the featurettes included are actually very substantial and informative. Of note, though a 3D version does exist, it has not been included in this set.
Operation: Lucky Dragon – Some “archived footage” of sorts (if you’ve seen the television show Lost, this is similar in tone and quality to the “Hydra Initiative” tapes) that details some of the history of Godzilla, how the signatures of the nuclear submarines awakened him and the operation – “Lucky Dragon” was used to attempt to destroy Godzilla.
MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File – The “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism” studies the creatures that were awakened by man’s intrusion into their realm. This feature actually gives a more scientific explanation as to some of the things that happened in the film, complete with some on-screen displays that detail the subjects. Pretty interesting.
The Godzilla Revelation – Using some footage from the film and the “news footage” effect, this is more of a conspiracy theory that expounds on the above two features. This is narrated and gives accounts of the MUTO files that have been leaked, the involvement of Monarch and the ideas that there could be more M.U.T.O.s out there.
The Legendary Godzilla
Godzilla: Force of Nature – This is more a history of the Godzilla name, some of the earlier movies and an homage to the 1954 Japanese original. Interviews with Director Gareth Edwards and stars Bryan Cranston, Ken Wantanabe and others chime in with some observations (of note, some of the subtle references to Hiroshima in the ’54 film) as well as the long-lasting endurance of Godzilla.
A Whole New Level of Destruction – It’s no secret that parts of Japan, Las Vegas and San Francisco are the victims of Godzilla. In this feature we get a look at some of the practical and CGI effects that made some of the destruction scenes very realistic.
Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump – We get a look at some of the pre-vis material that Gareth Edwards sent to Warner before shooting began. We can see the evolution of the scene, how they achieved some of the effects and even some of the practical elements used for sound design (hint: there’s an element of 2001 in there).
An Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s – The design for the M.U.T.O.s is explored in that they essentially created an entire new breed of monster, one that hasn’t been seen or has no antecedents from the earlier Godzilla films. Some of the other aspects explored are how they communicate, the logic behind the EMP’s and the like.
The Bottom Line
Like Batman and Pride and Prejudice, there will always be a place for Godzilla films in Hollywood. Truthfully, this is one of the better adaptations of the classic tale and some top notch talent is involved. The 4K offering ups the ante with an even better picture and even more robust sound. No new extras have been included, but those that are make it worth of a purchase.