Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah (or GMK) is reactionary. Writer/director Shusuke Kaneko, brought forward for his critically celebrated work on the Gamera trilogy, crafts his film on the back of societal values – or rather how they were dwindling. Godzilla is a staggering, unrelenting villain who lashes out at Japan’s toxic, disrespectful youth and their petty ignorance of the past.
It takes effective mysticism and foreign religious ideals to work. Kaneko’s touch of radical folklore is an innovative juxtaposition to the typical embodiment of Japan’s nuclear past, although that is also a presence. This Godzilla, steely eyed without irises, proves brutally vicious. He exists as a physical embodiment of wartime spirits who grew angry as the culture brushed their deeds aside. GMK attacks this idea with the pretense of disbelief and must sacrifice a sustained veil of reality in that process.
In execution, the stand alone film feels unsure of itself. An embedded repertoire of self-awareness is damaging. References to the 1998 American Godzilla and a frustrated politician’s irritation as to why Godzilla is privy to march inland toward Tokyo are too quirky. In dramatic context, it’s merely outlandish fan service.
GMK is also bitten by Toho’s budget wrangling and demanding turn-around. Kaneko’s differentiating style (when paired with Gamera special effects vet Makoto Kamiya) produces complex perspective shots, which are ultimately crumpled by messy compositing later. There are secondary design issues with Ghidorah, whose flimsy trio of faces are too stiffened and scrunched for any layer of believability, this all coming in a feature desperately trying for justification of practical effects.
Otherwise, the freshness of the work is only subsided by the marketable routine of the monster choices. GMK’s flourishes and city destruction, in conjunction with a powerful female lead in Yuri (Chiharu Niiyama), all feels distinctive. No other Godzilla film carries such a darkened personality when in the midst of a kaiju fight fest. Outside of the hard integration of localized belief systems, GMK is near (key word) the vaunted level of US theatrical release. Sadly, GMK was bunched together on American home video with the rest of the back-end Toho offerings as if it fit together like a central puzzle piece.
The mistake is treating GMK the same when hiring Kaneko was central to breaking from the shackles of repetition this franchise had fallen into. Composer Ko Ohtani – yet another Gamera vet – creates the haunting score with piercingly subtle three note piano cues for thematic influence and screeching electronica mixed with bold horns to sell Godzilla’s ferociousness. It’s a memorable bit of composition in a memorable foreign gem.
For its Blu-ray debut, it can be said Sony did NOT use the same master as their previous DVD. That’s a positive… the only one. GMK is atrocious. A few months ago, Godzilla Final Wars was the disc that discredited this “Toho’s Godzilla Collection” line, and now GMK is trying the same schtick.
Sure, black levels are tremendous. A true black night sky reaches absolute depth during a critical junction in the elongated finale. Color saturation appears natural as well, if faded a tad to reveal the opening salvo of this inconsiderate master.
All else fails. Everything. A sliver of edge enhancement is noted as the layer of unnecessary processing, and yet this offers no support for the abhorrent softness on display. There is no evidence this was mastered at 1080p, let alone 720p. The lack of fidelity does not support the notion of HD in any capacity. Sony’s high bitrate encode gives the film plenty of back-end support, but the grain is completely lost in the swarm of low resolution mushiness. AVC work is for nothing.
Any detail feels accidental, as if the mastering team – likely those at Toho – missed an opportunity to squelch a smidgen of facial detail. They must work overtime to ensure a slew of banding is apparent to make up for anything that may appear positive.
Just to squash ye old instance of, “It’s better than the DVD!,” it’s 2014. It’s been seven years since this format debuted. DVD should not factor into judgment of quality any longer (as if it were ever appropriate), nor should masters appear as if they were celebrating an anniversary with the source material.
No, GMK does not host the mixing muscle of local blockbusters, yet it is a film still producing some audio oomph. On the low-end, some clarity and tightness may be lacking. However, the energy is there, selling explosions, collapsing chunks of debris, and Godzilla’s footsteps through the city. LFE work is central to selling the weight of these creatures.
Likewise, surrounds are intact for this DTS-HD track, quickly offering their services to space the action. Stereos are employed with frequency and match their rear channel cousins as needed to best match the camera work. Roars are all appropriately placed and by the time GMK is hosting flying monsters, the activity is greatly increased.
Both English dubbing and Japanese language uncompressed tracks are available, equals aside from the raised dialog in the dub. Note the subtitles support the original language rather than relying on dubtitles.
Sony offers a lone trailer as a bonus.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.