Blu-Ray Review: Godzilla
Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Street Date: September 16th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 123 Minutes
When I was 12 years old, I experienced a fairly severe case of the flu. Hopped up on Dayquil, eating saltines and chicken noodle soup, and drinking 7-Up in between naps on the couch, I was intermittently able to flip through the channels on TV. Of course when you’re home sick from school, there’s never anything good on; a mix of cheap infomercials and trashy talk shows was all that seemed to emanate from the television. But this particular Monday was my lucky day, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. A Godzilla marathon had begun, beginning with the original 1954 film and concluding with 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla. Though I was ill, Godzilla was the “chicken noodle soup for the cinephile” that I desperately needed. From his nuclear parallel beginnings to the goofy kid-centric fun of titles like Godzilla vs. Megalon, the big G captured my imagination like few movie monsters could.
Fast forward to 2014 and we have Gareth Edwards’ latest incarnation of Gojira. This is a film I have been following since its inception, getting more and more excited throughout the last couple of years as early concept art and Comic Con footage was leaked online. Godzilla fans have been waiting ages to see an American version of the Toho legend recreated faithfully on screen, especially after the horrendous Roland Emmerich version was unleashed onto fans in 1998, which left many of us scratching our heads. Luckily Edwards, a lifelong Godzilla fan himself, was able to bring something fresh and new to the series while at the same time paying respectful tribute to the series’ legacy.
Godzilla (2014) opens in 1954 with the U.S. Military utilizing atomic weaponry to destroy Godzilla in the Pacific Ocean. Covered up as “military testing drills” for the public, the monster is seemingly obliterated. Fast forward to 1999 and we’re introduced to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a nuclear engineer and plant supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Power Facility in Japan. When a seismic anomaly threatens the plant, Joe sends his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and a team of technicians into the reactors core to investigate, which ends tragically for Sandra, collapsing the plant and releasing radioactive elements in the environment.
Fifteen years later, Joe remains in a state of depression and confusion at the loss of his wife, convinced that the cause of the nuclear meltdown at Janjira was covered up by the Military. After being arrested for trespassing on the plants’ quarantined property, Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a naval explosives expert, begrudgingly comes to his aid. Soon, it’s revealed to Ford that the secret Government MONARCH project has been studying Godzilla for years, and nuclear “testing” in the Pacific was actually the group’s secret attempt to kill it without frightening the public. When two strange new M.U.T.O.’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) hatch from their chrysalis, Godzilla’s dormant slumber ends, as the big G reveals himself to the world to take on the M.U.T.O.’s, and the military decides the best course of action to take against creatures they don’t yet understand.
I hesitate to say too much more about the plot of the film, and my synopsis is purposely vague, as I want you to enjoy Godzilla in all of its glory with the least amount of spoilers. Gareth Edwards’ new film is packed with breathtaking battle sequences, some compelling human drama, and respects the Gojira fan-base while also standing as a unique entry in the long-running franchise. The re-watch factor is huge here, with outstanding action elements that fans will want to revisit time and time again. I especially appreciated Edwards’ vision when it came to the battle sequences, filmed in an entirely new way that stands apart in the franchise, often seen from the perspective of the public on the ground or the news media from afar. The human elements and interpersonal drama are captivating for the most part, thanks to the fine cast assembled here. I truly enjoyed revisiting Godzilla (2014) on this brand new Blu-Ray edition, and it remains one of my favorite films of 2014.
This Blu-Ray edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features superb picture quality, perfectly capturing the dark and brooding look of the film in High Definition. Godzilla himself looks lifelike, sporting leathery lava-like scales that are almost tangible for the viewer. The scenes of destruction come across beautifully on this disc as well, striking an impeccable balance between the bright fiery mayhem and shadowy ash-filled aftermath. Colors look authentic and true to the theatrical experience, and definition is flawless, providing detailed and lifelike skin tones and surface textures. By the time Godzilla’s atomic breath glows lightning blue with ferocity, you’ll understand how great this looks on Blu-Ray. This stands as one of the best visual presentations on the format in 2014.
Just as impressive here is the 7.1 DTS-HD audio mix which balances dialogue, intense action, music and sound effects with near flawless integrity. From the quiet and reflective moments to the all-out destructive mayhem, this track sounds incredible in High Definition. Well done!
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided fans of Godzilla with some fun special features for this Blu-Ray release. Split into two sections, the Blu-Ray edition includes multiple short featurettes on the making of the film. It’s worth noting here that it’s fairly imperative that you watch the film itself first before diving into any of these special features, as heavy spoilers are abound in the various featurettes. While I enjoyed what was presented, I would have enjoyed seeing a featurette exclusively centered on the journey from the original Toho films to Edwards’ latest creation. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- MONARCH: Declassified–
- Operation: Lucky Dragon– This is the roughly 3-minute faux WWII-period “classified” footage seen briefly in the film, depicting the military confronting Godzilla with atomic weaponry.
- MONARCH: The M.U.T.O File– About 4 ½ minutes of “classified” footage detailing the Monarch Government programs encounter with the M.U.T.O, their top-secret footage and intel, and updated events associated with scenes from the film.
- The Godzilla Revelation– This 7 ½ minute featurette plays as an in-movie news update of sorts, detailing the M.U.T.O.’s and Godzilla’s reign of terror that occurs throughout the film, complete with an intense voice-over implying the seriousness of the threat.
- The Legendary Godzilla–
- Godzilla: Force of Nature– Running slightly over 19 minutes, this featurette has the entire cast and crew discussing the legacy of Godzilla going into this new film, the importance of the original 1954 Gojira and its nuclear themes, the incredible pressure the crew felt regarding paying respect to the Godzilla legacy and fan base, and so much more. We get to see some incredible behind-the-scenes concept designs and visual effects stages as well. I loved hearing Gareth Edwards discuss the somewhat unusual and brilliant perspective of the audience through his camera work, which always appears to be from the bystanders point of view, rather than the large, epic, sweeping shots that some blockbusters go for. Great stuff!
- A Whole New Level of Destruction- A roughly 8 ½ minute featurette on the destruction sequences seen throughout the film, and the visual and practical effects that went into creating them for the big screen.
- Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump- Running exactly 5 minutes, this featurette focuses on the H.A.L.O. jump seen in the climax of the film, from storyboards to early special effects exploration, and piecing together the final product with both green screen and actual military personnel, this short feature captures the making of the sequence quite well for Godzilla fans.
- Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.’s- This nearly 7 minute featurette focuses on the antagonistic monsters from the film, from concept design to final product, there is a lot to love about the work that went into creating them. I especially enjoyed the fact that Gareth Edwards and the production team wanted to capture something unique while at the same time paying respect to some previous Godzilla villains.
Click the link below to see my Un-Boxing video for Godzilla via We Live Film’s YouTube channel.
If it wasn’t for getting such a severe case of the flu at 12 years old, I’m not sure I would have ever crossed paths with Godzilla. It’s likely one of the only times in my life I would say I was thankful that I became ill! Director Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla film is blockbuster entertainment on a grand scale that pays tribute to Toho’s legendary creature in truly captivating fashion, and remains one of my favorite films of 2014 thus far. The Blu-Ray edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features superb picture and audio quality. The special features included are very informative, but as a Gojira fan, I would have really enjoyed seeing a documentary on the franchise itself and the journey from Toho’s beginnings to Edwards’ latest vision. But for what it’s worth, the content here is well presented and fun! This Blu-Ray release comes highly recommended.
-Pete Macabre (“Film Fan” Pete)
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