Columbia Tri-Star Home Video
Length: 133 mins.
Format: 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Languages: English, German
Subtitles: English, Polish, Czech, + 12 others
Extras: Trailer Commentary Track Featurette Photo Gallery Music Video
“Godzilla” got a bum rap. Not the monster – the
film. Any large mutant
lizard that regularly stomps densely populated urban areas deserves a little bad
The multi million-dollar budget Roland Emmerich /Dean Devlin feature did not get a good press either, and although the box office take was not all that bad (it had a US opening weekend of $44,047,541 and a final gross of $136,314,294) it was not enough considering the cost of the film. Only on home video and DVD did it finally earn a return.
Frankly, the film wasn’t all that bad.
The announcement that Columbia and Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin were going to “reinvent” Toho Studios’ much-loved monster was greeted with scepticism to say the least. There’s only one Godzilla. A man in a rubber suit trashing a model Tokyo. He (or maybe she, since the original had a son) was a charming cad: sometimes the bad guy, sometimes the good guy. But somehow the succession of actors who filled that suit always brought him to life and gave him personality.
Following the success of “StarGate” and “Independence Day,” the producer/writer Dean Devlin and director/writer Roland Emmerich were willing to spend many millions to recreate a much loved series. The original rubber suit that was Godzilla probably cost less than the Evian bill on the new production. They weren’t going to make a “fun” Godzilla no theirs would be, in the words of Devlin, “scary”. No rubber suit. No campy space aliens. No giant lobsters. Just a lot of CG designers creating an entirely new Godzilla, one that was more clearly a mutant iguana. He was sleek and fast, in fact looking quite a lot like the 1955 original – with few of the traits from the later films. He didn’t stomp large buildings: he bumped into them. He had radioactive breath, but he decided not be a show-off and used it only once in the film. And though he had offspring, it wasn’t a talking child’s doll puffing smoke-rings, but a bunch of refugees from Jurassic Park. In truth, though, the problem with Godzilla was, as it so often is, with the people.
“Godzilla” begins with a good traditional scene of a Japanese fishing boat being torn apart. The beast has surfaced for the first time and begun to make his way around the world towards New York, for no readily apparent reason. Although I still am not at all sure how he managed to swim from the Pacific to New York – and with improbable speed. Along the way he picks up some trackers. Matthew Broderick plays Nick Tatopoulis, an expert in mutant worms called in to analyse the as-yet-unseen beast. Jean Reno is a French secret Service Agent who needs to stop the monster, since it was probably created by French nuclear testing. Hank Azaria is the news cameraman looking for great footage. Maria Pitillo is an aspiring reporter trying to earn some kudos even if it means betraying former boyfriend Nick. The problem is that these characters are not at all convincing. Broderick seems puzzled and lost. French star Reno is adequately stalwart but little more. In a film like “Godzilla,” character is hardly the key but we do need a little more than we get.
Director Roland Emmerich has a sure hand with action and effects scenes but is not quite as good with characters, but as I said “Godzilla” is not about characters; It is just fun. Godzilla is simply an action/effects film that rolls along, casting character and logic aside as fast as possible to get to the next big scene. Godzilla himself is brought on the scene slowly and in pieces: a horn here, a tail there. The build up is well-paced, so you never feel at all cheated by not seeing him, especially since some of the scenes and images are so good: Godzilla from the opening with the Japanese fishing boat – to tearing up a pier when coming ashore then shaking boats off his back as his stomps across the road. Not until 45 minutes into the film do we get a good look at the new Godzilla, and though he’s not the Toho “Godzilla,” he’s a pretty sharp looking beast, with plenty of claws and teeth and nice way of knocking over buildings with his tail.
This Godzilla IS the character of the film.
There is no problem with this Godzilla’s passivity. Instead of thoroughly and deliberately stomping the Chrysler building flat, he merely hits it with his tail. A misguided missile actually destroys it. Ditto for the Flatiron Building. Most of the destruction is either caused by humans or by Godzilla’s attempt to avoid humans. After all all he is is a lizard on an island wanting a place to lay some eggs – not too much to ask surely? Only in the end does he start stalking the heroes with a purpose. The films set pieces, particularly the helicopter chase through the canyons of Manhattan, are pretty effective, but trained pilots would have flown upwards away from the beastie – not along the street and into the waiting mouth.
The computer generated Godzilla looks good and moves well. Most of the effects shots are pretty well integrated, and the dark, rainy New York provides a good backdrop.
The Columbia Tri-Star DVD of “Godzilla” delivers this high-tech feature in pristine quality and with some decent extras. The anamorphic widescreen image is flawless, with no pixelation or chroma noise. The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is very effective, particularly in the chase scenes. There’s a wide dynamic range with plenty of all over sound. The extras are, for the most part, pretty good. There is an interesting commentary track from the special effects team describing how they brought “Godzilla” to life. Several teasers and trailers are offered, including the very clever one with Godzilla’s foot crushing the dinosaur skeleton in the museum of natural history (a joke on a certain other monster film). The photo gallery, including production stills and before and after shots of the monster against New York locations, is okay, but the mini-documentary is a poorly produced promo piece hosted as a fake news story by Harry Shearer. Overall, however, “Godzilla” fits the bill for a good DVD, with excellent sounds, sharp images, and plenty of opportunities to show off the capabilities of your home cinema set up. Though utterly devoid of good human characters, it is a fast paced, slickly made action film that keeps your interest, and more than serves its purpose of offering a couple hours of mindless entertainment.
To read to review of the Superbit version click here
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