The Return of Godzilla Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review: The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1984)
Distributor: Kraken Releasing
Street Date: September 13th 2016
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Believe it or not, a case of the chicken pox is responsible for bringing Godzilla into my life. I was 12 years old, and home sick from school all week with those itchy, miserable, pox. Flipping through daytime television was proving quite tedious, with nothing but Jerry Springer or infomercials to choose from…that is until I happened upon a satellite channel that was showing a 48-hour marathon of the Godzilla films. Like a serendipitous encounter that was truly meant to be, the marathon began with the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956). This was, of course, the Americanized version with Raymond Burr, and I wouldn’t see the true original Japanese Gojira film until many years later, but nevertheless, I was hooked! The marathon continued all day, with short breaks in-between films for chamomile baths and chicken noodle soup, but I sat and watched this massive green destructor in amazement through every film from the Showa period (1954-1975). Even at 12, and though I certainly enjoyed them all, it was clear that the Godzilla franchise went from dark and menacing to goofy and kid-friendly as the series stretched on (as a side note, the MST3K episode of Godzilla vs. Megalon is a particular favorite of mine). But then, it happened: Godzilla (1984) a.k.a. The Return of Godzilla reared its head as the next film in the marathon. This was something…different. It was a dark return to the franchise roots, as envisioned by the parent company Toho in order to keep up with the morbid cinematic mood of the time (think Alien & John Carpenter’s The Thing). Godzilla was actually scary again! That roar was trembling to the core and the destruction was vast and devastating. This was no longer the “hero” kaiju from previous films, but fortunately for us, a much welcome return to form.
The Return of Godzilla essentially retcons much of the franchise and takes place after the events of the first Gojira film. When a Japanese fishing vessel witnesses a volcanic eruption that coincides with what seems to be another Godzilla unleashed in it’s aftermath, the information is withheld from the public by the government. The vessel’s only survivor, Hiroshi Okimura, remains insistent on what he saw and seeks to warn those he loves of the impending doom. Professor Hayashida, having lost his parents in the original attack on Japan, seems to be the only one who believes him (or doesn’t want to suppress the morbid news). Soon enough, a Soviet submarine is destroyed by Godzilla, unbeknownst to all world powers except for Japan, which prompts accusations and threats of nuclear war. To avoid mass destruction and unnecessary conflict, the Japanese government admits that Godzilla has returned and devises a secret weapon, known as Super X, to take him down once and for all. But can this manmade weapon of destruction be strong enough to defeat the King of the Monsters?
The Return of Godzilla is a welcome return to form for the franchise, with a darker and more serious tone than many of the Showa period entries, and plenty of fantastic destruction and mayhem featuring our favorite kaiju himself. Though, as a fan of the goofy camp quality of many of those Showa entries, it all depends on your taste. Being the first film in the Heisei series, Godzilla has a different look this time around, echoing the terror of his original design with some added scales, texture, and fangs. In addition, much like the original film, The Return of Godzilla tries and mostly achieves to echo the anti-nuclear sentiments of its spiritual predecessor (this was released during the Cold War after all). There’s a bit too much of a focus on the political tension between countries, but when Godzilla finally emerges, it’s all worth it. With plenty of action, a campy 80’s retro style, and a more serious tone than it’s predecessors, The Return of Godzilla comes recommended for fans of the franchise!
Kraken Releasing has given Godzilla 1984/The Return of Godzilla a superb high definition video transfer! From the opening Toho logos to the end credits, the now 32-year old film looks impressive on the format. The natural film grain is luckily intact without any obvious signs of digital manipulation. Black levels are relatively inky and solid in most scenes, and colors look natural and true to both the filmmakers intent and time period. I was very pleasantly surprised at how clean this presentation is! There are some slight specks and scratches here and there, but overall, this film looks incredibly solid on the format!
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track for Godzilla 1984 offers viewers clean and clear dialogue (in Japanese or English, your preference), an immersive soundtrack, and some impressive sound design for the destruction sequences that audiophiles will surely enjoy! It certainly doesn’t sound like a modern movie’s HD track, but the 5.1 certainly breathes new life into the original audio on Blu-Ray. There is auditory detail to the presentation here that I don’t remember experiencing on prior DVD releases thanks to the lossless upgrade. It’s all in the details…little sound effect nuances and minor details in Godzilla’s destructive mayhem that warrants a solid recommendation!
Kraken Releasing has given Godzilla 1984/The Return of Godzilla limited bonus features for this Blu-Ray release, including only a theatrical trailer for the film (English subtitles, Japanese Audio). Though I would have welcomed some fun vintage bonus material from the Toho vaults, the lack of special features seems to be a trademark on the majority of classic Godzilla releases on the High Definition format thus far, with the Criterion release of the original film being the only exception. Frankly, I’m OK with this, as Kraken Releasing has given the film superb video/audio treatment, and they even have the Godzilla: Love Theme sung by the Star Sisters playing throughout the main menu. It’s such a catchy and campy song, and a welcome little “bonus” on this release.
- Theatrical Promo- The Japanese theatrical trailer for the film. Clocks in at 3:03.
- Also available from Kraken Releasing- A menu slide showing the distributor’s other available Godzilla releases including: Ebirah- Horror of the Deep, Godzilla vs. Gigan, & Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
This brand new Blu-Ray edition features the same great design as the other Kraken Releasing Godzilla titles, which is welcome news for home video fans that like their collections to remain uniform. The original Japanese poster design is the central focus, along with the same, green, scaly texture surrounding it. The Godzilla 1984 title font rests above the poster, and alternative The Return of Godzilla title sits below. On the back of the case you’ll find production stills, technical specifications, and a basic plot synopsis. You also get that nice little Godzilla and Toho logo with their stamp of approval. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc itself, which also features the same style as the other Kraken Releasing discs. There are no reversible cover art or booklets within.
I never thought that I would have to thank chicken pox for much of anything (besides a few scars), but the experience did make me a lifelong Godzilla fan thanks to a 48-hour marathon of the franchise. The Return of Godzilla harkens back to the original concept of the series, serving as both an enjoyable monster movie with plenty of destructive kaiju mayhem, and as an anti-nuclear metaphor for our modern world. This upcoming Blu-Ray edition from Kraken Releasing features fantastic video and audio quality but is a little light on bonus content. Luckily for Godzilla fans (like me), having the film to own in High Definition is a treat in and of itself. Recommended!