The Godzilla Blu-ray onslaught continues this year due to the theatrical release of the new Godzilla movie. In addition to Kraken Releasings’ trilogy of Godzilla films from the Showa era, Sony Home Entertainment has also released eight films in their library on Blu-ray for the very first time. They are presented in four double feature Blu-ray sets.
GODZILLA VS KING GHIDORAH has the King of the Monsters facing off against his three headed arch rival. The plot has to do with three time travelers from the future who along with a book writer, Kenichiro Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara, who will write a Godzilla book in the future), a telepathic (Miki Saegusa, a regular in the series) and Professor Mazaki (Katsuhiko Sasaki, GODZILLA VS. MEGALON), go to Lagos Island in1944 to remove Godzilla from history. In 1944 Godzilla was a (fictional) dinosaur, called Godzillasaurus. He had not mutated yet due to nuclear explosions and nuclear waste. The theory if they moved the Godzillasaurus away from Lagos Island where nuclear explosions occurred, Godzilla would never be created. Godzilla would never have existed and thus, would not ever attack Japan. However the Futurians do not have Japan’s best interest in hand as they bring King Ghidorah to destroy Japan, rather than Godzilla. It seems that in the future, Japan becomes too great a power and King Ghidorah is summoned to destroy Japan to prevent the country from becoming too powerful. While King Ghidorah is flying the countryside causing mass destruction, Godzilla is actually being created under the Bering Sea. The Futurians’ plan was a flawed on right from the beginning; they believed that they were removing the original 1954 Godzilla from history, which was not the case. The idea that this was the original Godzilla had come from a book they had read in the future from Kenichiro Terasawa(the fiction writer). The first Godzilla was nowhere near Lagos Island at that point in history. What they did do, however, was to create the second Godzilla. All those years Godzilla was under water absorbing nuclear energy and nuclear submarines. This Godzilla was the monster for the entire Heisei series starting with Godzilla 1985. Godzilla, now larger than ever after absorbing modern nuclear energy, defeats King Ghidorah, and then continues onward to destroy Japan. One of the Futurians, Emmy, goes back to the future (no pun intended) to revive King Ghidorah to stop Godzilla. This time, King Ghidorah returns with a twist; the monster is now a cyborg with a robotic middle head, metal body and wings. Godzilla, after a fantastic battle, is dumped into the sea, along with Mecha-King Ghidorah in the grand finale. Not only does this film bring back a classic Godzilla monster, but some of the actors who appeared in the classic Godzilla and other Kaiju films from the 1960s. Kenji Sahara (KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, GODZILLA VS. THE THING) has a recurring role as Minister Takayuki Segawa in the Heisei series, plus another Showa era regular, Yoshio Tsuchiya (DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO) plays a wealthy corporate business man and the World War II veteran Shindo, who is saved by the Godzillasaurus in 1944.
GODZILLA VS MOTHRA was the next film in the series. In this film, Godzilla faces off against another popular Kaiju from the 1960s, Mothra and a new monster named Battra. A meteorite lands on Earth which causes Godzilla to rise again from the ocean, and also releases Battra. As with most of the Mothra movies, part of it takes place on Infant Island and has the twin one inch girls, here called the Cosmos. Along with the Cosmos, we also are treated to those beautiful “Mosura” songs which are just as wonderful to listen to in this film, as they were in the Showa era. Mothra is here to save the planet from all the environmental harm caused by humanity and by the monster Battra. Godzilla engages in battles with both Mothra and Battra, separately and also at the films’ climax where the two creatures unite to stop him. Akira Takarada , who was in many Godzilla films, including the first one as well AS GODZILLA VS MONSTER ZERO and MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA from 1964 ,also returned in this movie.
GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II brings back another arch rival from the Showa series but with a different origin. The original Mechagodzilla from the 1970s era was created by spacemen; this time Mechagodzilla is created by the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center, an organization whose mission is to kill Godzilla. Rodan also makes his triumphant return to the series and we are introduced to baby Godzilla. A group of scientists discover a prehistoric egg, and bring the egg to Japan thinking it’s a pteranodon egg, but when it hatches it’s actually baby Godzilla. Baby’s cry summons both Godzilla and Rodan at different points in the film and each one battles Mechagodzilla. What makes this film so fascinating is that Mechagodzilla is supposed to be the hero defending Japan, but all the while Godzilla just wants to find his son as opposed to causing countrywide destruction. Godzilla is depicted as the enemy; the military have built Mechagodzilla to kill him, but we root for Godzilla who just wants his child. Masahiro Takashima the lead actor in this movie was also in Yamato Takeru and later appeared in GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH as Major Sho Kuroki.
GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, considered a lesser Kaiju film in the Hesiei series pits Godzilla against a monster who is made of Godzilla cells that drifted off into space as well as Biollante cells and Mothra. He builds a fortress made of crystals while trying to take over the Earth. Godzilla, more or less a hero in this movie, teams up with the giant robot Mogera (the same name of the monster from THE MYSTERIANS but created on Earth’s scientists) to defeat Space Godzilla. At this point in the series Godzilla was living on Birth Island with baby Godzilla.
GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH was the finale of the Heisei series. This film caused quite a stir among the media when it was announced that they were killing Godzilla. In this gripping tale, Godzilla is infected with nuclear fission; causing his temperature to rise to meltdown levels. It’s up to scientists to come up with a way to kill Godzilla without burning up the entire planet. They want to create another oxygen destroyer, which killed the first Godzilla forty years earlier, to do away with him again. Unfortunately, a new deadly monster is created from the oxygen destroyer, named Destoroyah. This creature is a micro-organism that grows both gigantic and in several stages from the Earths oxygen. Meltdown Godzilla, as he’s referred to in the Godzilla community, has red/orange colors on his dorsal fins and on parts of his body. Godzilla, Jr. has a major role in the powerful, emotional climax. In some major references to the very first Godzilla film, two of the characters are the grandchildren of Dr. Yamane. We also see are framed photos and flashbacks of Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata, who was in many Kaiju films up until the 1970s) who created the oxygen destroyer. Momoko Kochi returns as the same character she played 40 years earlier, that of Emiko Yamane.
GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS is the second feature in the Millennium series. For some reason, the initial film in this series, GODZILLA 2000, wasn’t included in the Blu-ray line up by Sony. Godzilla faces a giant insect that comes from a new dimension that scientists created to send Godzilla into. In this series, almost every film was a sequel to the first Godzilla movie. The millennium era Godzilla suit had a different look to it with larger sized dorsal fins that were partly lavender color. Godzilla also was a lot smaller than he was in the Heisei series. Also missing in this series were the great musical scores of Akira Ifukube. The movies were good but not as intense or powerful as the Heisei series. This series, just like the Heisei series are only connected to the very first Godzilla movie.
GODZILLA TOKYO SOS is the first and only sequel to the Millennium Godzilla series. The prequel, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, also was not one of the titles selected to be part of the eight Blu-rays released by Sony. Godzilla battles yet a third version of Mechagodzilla (also created by scientists) as well as adult and two larvae Mothras. Mechagodzilla was created using the bones of the original Godzilla. Mothra and the twin fairies involvement in this is to have the military return the bones to the sea. According to the fairies, humans are not supposed to touch the souls of the dead. Hiroshi Koizumi, who was in the original Mothra film 43 years earlier, reprises the very same role. Akira Nakao, from the Heisei era, also returns to this series. Mechagodzilla is called Kiryu in this film and the prequel. If you watch the Japanese version, he is referred to as Kiryu, but the English subtitles say “Mechagodzilla”, which is considered a big flaw.
GODZILLA FINAL WARS, the last Godzilla movie from Toho is very reminiscent of Destroy All Monsters. In this, the grand finale of the series, Godzilla saves the Earth from Aliens called Xilians who have control over Earth’s monsters. And this film is just loaded with Kaiju including Rodan, Mothra and the 1998 ‘Zilla (of the Devlin-Emmerich “Godzilla”). But also returning to the screen after nearly or over three decades are Anguirus (GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN), Kumonga (the giant spider from SON OF GODZILLA), King Caesar (from GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA in 1974), Manda (from ATRAGON), Gigan (from GODZILLA VS. GIGAN), Kamakiras (also from SON OF GODZIILA), Ebirah (GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER), Hedorah (GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH) and Minilla, the original SON OF GODZILLA. Godzilla’s main nemesis in this, his 50th anniversary film is Monster X, who transforms into Keizer Ghidorah. Not only do the monsters of yesteryear return but so do classic Godzilla film actors Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara and Akira Takarada. GODZILLA FINAL WARS references almost every Kaiju movie made, even GORATH. There is a sense of fun to be had here but the story is just over packed with plot, padded with endless scenes of Matrix-style clashes. It is a much different from than the rest of the entire Millennium series. And the soundtrack is very much out of place.
Sony has done good, but not stellar job with the presentation of these films. The packaging is decent with the covers that were used for the DVD releases have been made smaller so that both can fit on the Blu-ray sleeve. The covers are reversible, however, as you can have one of the Godzilla movies’ full cover art on one side while having the other one the back. Each movie is on its own Blu-ray disc. The video quality of these eight Godzilla movies, overall I would definitely call it mixed bag.
GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH looks very good overall, the best it’s ever looked on home video in the USA, daylight scenes look really good overall. The image quality wasn’t overwhelming mind you but this looked very good. At the very least for the first time in the USA the film is presented in its original aspect version, 1:85:1, 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen. The original DVD from Columbia was full screen and only had the English dubbed version. The HD masters Sony used for this film, as well as Godzilla vs. Mothra seem to have come from Columbia as the original end credits are absent, just as they were in the DVD. In its place again are the Columbia Tri-Star end credits. For those who were hoping for the complete version of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah in this release this could be considered a cross between a pet peeve and a disappointment.
GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA to me is a subpar presentation. There are some scenes that do shine out but overall the image was either dull or too dark. The colors were not vibrant and it seems that no remastering had been done to make the film look the way it could have in HD. The only really positive thing about this release is that the movie is in its original aspect ratio, but once again the end credits are replaced by Columbia Tri-Star’s own. To some it may not be a big deal but for those that love listening to the wonderful scores of Akira Ifukube when the movie is over, you are deprived of that.
GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II was also subpar in its HD image quality. Once again, everything was rather bland looking and lacked that sharpness and clarity we see in many Blu-rays. The Toho transfers for some reason all tend to be flat and very dull to look at. The colors just are not robust and do not leap out at you.
GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA looks remarkably very sharp as the film elements seems to have been preserved very well. Colors and contrast do look quite sharp and is very attractive overall.
GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH also boasts an impressive HD transfer, again not overwhelming but better than passable. The image is clear, crisp but some scenes seem too dark and colors have that same blandness that the other films have.
GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS was really attractive overall. It’s a very nice but not outstanding letterboxed transfer. This one has good contrast, and good color. Still not great, not completely breathtaking, but it should satisfy.
GODZILLA TOKYO SOS, a film made only eleven years ago, is a very unimpressive HD transfer. Contrast is really bad in some scenes; characters are also somewhat hazy at times. There are some very nice details in the daylight scenes, but at times shift to something that looks like VHS quality. This one was inconsistent at best.
Last, but not least, GODZILLA FINAL WARS’ image quality for a ten year old film is above average. Like the other transfers, colors are more or less flat. The daylight scenes tend to most attractive and serviceable. I feel that if time and more effort were given to this and the other films, the image quality could have looked a tenfold better.
The audio quality on all eight releases are passable. You have both English and Japanese language options. The audio options are Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or in English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for seven of the films. The only film with a different audio is GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH which has Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Why 2.0 was used in DESTOROYAH instead of 5.1 is anyone’s guess but none of them had any real audio issues. The audio really peaks when the monsters roar or when there are explosions, crashes of buildings. Dialogue for all the films, whether you watch the films in Japanese or in English can be heard clearly without adjusting the volume much.
The extras are probably the biggest disappointment to those who like a lot of supplements with their Blu-ray releases. We get the options of watching the film in Japanese with easy to read English subtitles or the English dubbed version. All the films have original Japanese theatrical trailers. Both GODZILLA TOKYO SOS and GODZILLA FINAL WARS have behind the scenes, making of features. We get to see some raw footage of Godzilla destroying miniatures with the special effects crew on hand. After we see a scene, it turns into how the finished product looks. The dialog is in Japanese, and only FINAL WARS has subtitles.
Overall these eight films are better than a “this will do” but certainly these could have been better. It seems as if the movies were given the Blu-ray releases more to cash in on the new Godzilla movie. I feel that Godzilla and his loyal fans really deserve much better treatment than what we have gotten in these releases. This is something we can possibly hope for in the future, but for now we do have these Blu-rays. Despite them being a mixed bag, they are at the very least serviceable and are worth owning. (David Steigman)
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