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Godzilla (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

In the time since 2014’s Godzilla hit theaters, I’ve only come to appreciate the film more. Set against other Hollywood tentpoles in the years since, while there have been some truly wonderful highlights (Mad Max: Fury Road is the clearest example), it’s the top tier blockbuster filmmaking and unique vision that easily guides one of the oldest of franchises to the top in terms of well-staged delivery. Now the film has finally received its 4K UHD Blu-ray, just in time for the release of Legendary’s epic monster event, Godzilla vs. Kong, and this release does not fail to impress. So, once again, let them fight.

Film:

Given my previous review of the film’s Blu-ray, I’m done recapping the plot beyond the basics. Essentially, mankind finds an ancient spore, and it hatches 15 years later, releasing a massive monster that threatens the existence of mankind. Fortunately, another ancient creature emerges from the depths of the ocean to restore balance (that would be Godzilla). As this is all happening, several characters are all caught up in the activity of what’s happening, including U.S. Navy EDO LT Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), monster scientists Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), and Ford’s father, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a man with every right to believe the governments are hiding something.

If one’s priority in a Godzilla film is to spend the most time focusing on the human characters and whether or not they are intricately designed and fully realized, I’m not sure you’ve come to the right place. While every Godzilla film has a higher percentage of human-based storytelling than monster fights/destruction, it’s not as though there’s a prestige level of effort in the humanity of it all. Watching humans maneuver through exposition and personal relationships is a means for building up the spectacle when it comes to movies like this. Fortunately, director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) has a particular vision for bringing Godzilla back to America.

Citing Alien, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind as primary influences, it easily shows when looking at the way Edwards builds tension throughout the film. Relying on a grounded perspective, while these characters are dealing with gigantic monsters, there is a wonderful sense of patience in delivering on major beats related to the huge moments of spectacle. This is Godzilla by way of Spielberg, and given the 60-year history of the King of the Monsters, it’s a real treat to see a filmmaker find a creative way to deliver something for kaiju fans and younger audiences that grew up with films like Jurassic Park, which also know how to pick their moments.

When the action does kick into gear, it’s pretty glorious. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography finds various ways to negotiate these creatures’ scale in relation to humans, leading to a lot of evocative imagery that plays with light and shadow. Using flares to show off portions of Godzilla, letting the collapsed buildings create a dusty atmosphere for the monsters to poke through, and even the use of colors coming from these creatures all make for interesting choices to better compel the viewer. Plus, a few knockout sequences reliant on visual storytelling, such as a wonderfully-staged HALO jump, do plenty to show how much control is in place in knowing when to ramp up for the fun stuff.

And there is fun to be had. While some bristle at the way the action cuts away in earlier moments, I find so much pleasure in the clever uses of location and characters to help the audience come to an understanding of what’s taking place. Given the eventual throwdowns going on, I also respect the sense of restraint as far as holding back from delivering too much of a good thing yet still finding interesting ways to deliver on spectacle throughout the film’s two-hour runtime.

That sense of awe really does come through as well. Oscar-winner Alexandre Desplat is not the first name one thinks of when it comes to monster movie scores, yet he developed what is essentially the score for a horror film, with added moments to create distinct motifs and really deliver when it comes to playing into the film’s grandiose moments of monsters mashing.

I could go on about this film. There are wordless subplots that deserve scene-by-scene breakdowns to indicate just how much thought went into developing a rich world that a modern Godzilla could exist in while proving how much characterization can come through in certain moments that don’t require intense one-on-one actor interactions. There’s also Ken Watanabe telling a room full of important people that letting Godzilla do the heavy lifting is the best course of action – that’s funny stuff. Godzilla is a terrific blockbuster that allowed Gareth Edwards the chance to show off his kaiju love through a film that could balance the tone effectively enough, without forgetting that it’s also a Godzilla film.

 

Video:

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: As much as I can talk about the creative filmmaking on display, this doesn’t take away from the fact that Godzilla is a very dark film. Night and day both seem dark in various instances. With that in mind, the 4K upgrade does what’s necessary to have the film represent its theatrical presentation over the (quite strong but) darkened Blu-ray transfer. Relying on the same 2K master from that Blu-ray, this is an improved film presentation, even if it’s not a complete overhaul. It’s the HDR-enhancement that really helps overall. Subtle changes to moments set in interiors or outdoors against dark scenery and fire look much more detailed. And there are so many wide shots that are allowed the chance to clearly show the level of destruction caused by Godzilla and the MUTOs.

Depth: Many great moments abound, especially when framing the monsters against the human perspective, getting a great sense of not only depth but the scale Gareth Edwards was going for. This is especially the case when looking at the establishing shots of the various locations, which is even grander when spotting a monster in the distance or at the center of attention.

Black Levels: Despite the moody atmosphere, it is easy to see lots of darkness, and the blacks are inky and wonderful throughout. There’s some minimal crushing given all the extended nighttime scenes, but hardly something hurting the film. The use of shadow and dark scenes now have an improved look, as various elements pop so much better against them, like the glow of the monsters, flames, and more.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is certainly quite muted when it comes to huge monsters and city-wide destruction, though certain sequences do feature several elements that look great when they occur.  Given the tone of the film, the lack of a lot of great colorful moments makes sense, but when it does take place, this upgrade is now able to really highlight certain scenes featuring a broader spectrum.

Flesh Tones: Whether regarding the humans or Godzilla’s CGI flesh, the flesh tones are lifelike and highly detailed throughout. It would only get better in the Monsterverse from here regarding the monster effects, but this still satisfies.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing in sight.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Francais 5.1 (Dubbed in Quebec), Español 5.1, German 5.1, Portuguese 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Francais, Español

Dynamics: If you have the truest of Dolby Atmos setups, there will be a bit of a difference from the Blu-ray’s terrific DTS-HD 7.1 track. Outside of this, most of my thoughts remain the same. Godzilla roars onto 4K, putting the viewer right in the thick of all the action taking place. The use of sound is incredibly well-rounded, allowing for plenty of chances to take in all the different elements utilized to make this film so effective from an auditory perspective.

Height: Thanks to the level of scale, there’s plenty to enjoy in listening to the destruction on display. One scene features a character falling from a great height, with a flaming train right behind them, allowing for one of the more impressive auditory moments, given the changing perspectives.

Low-Frequency Extension: Just the foot of Godzilla will make a room rumble, given this track’s effectiveness. Buildings being smashed, roars and monsters’ sounds being heard, gunfire, explosions, yelling, and plenty of other things keep the subwoofer busy.

Surround Sound Presentation: All the speakers have a chance to shine here.  As the film builds its mood, there is still plenty for the viewer to take in, with the monsters playing well on the center and side channels and all the results of their battles playing well to them and the rear as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Audio is loud, clear, and crisp throughout, even as Godzilla makes his presence known.

 

Extras:

The new cover art and matching slipcover are nice. The extras are all located on the Blu-ray disc within this package, which is identical to the original 2014 release. Yes, I still wish there was more offered, given the history of Godzilla. A commentary would have been great, let alone some more looks at the design of this film. However, the features offered are worthwhile for fans looking to learn more about the production.

Features Include:

  • MONARCH: Declassified – A series of featurettes that take the form of pseudo-documentary footage chronicling these massive monsters.
    • Operation: Lucky Dragon (HD, 2:44) – A look at older operations in the Pacific.
    • MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File (HD, 4:29) – A report on the M.U.T.O.s featured in the film.
    • The Godzilla Revelation (HD, 7:25) – A report on the presence of Godzilla.
  • The Legendary Godzilla – A series of featurettes focused on different aspects of the film’s production.
    • Godzilla: Force of Nature (HD, 19:18) – A look at bringing Godzilla into modern times.
    • A Whole New Level of Destruction (HD, 8:24) – A look at the making of disaster zones caused by giant monsters.
    • Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump (HD, 5:00) – A look at one of the more iconic scenes in the film and the thought process that went into it.
    • Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s (HD, 6:49) – A look at Godzilla’s challengers.
  • Blu-ray Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

Some may be ready for a rewatch to see if their opinions have shifted on Gareth Edwards’ (well-reviewed) take on Godzilla. It finds a solid balance between the Japanese original’s grim seriousness and the destructive mayhem found in the many sequels that followed. It’s also just a well-staged blockbuster that is out to do more with the filmmaking than just dial the monster footage up to 11 at every point. As for this 4K upgrade, it’s solid. It’s not a game-changer for the film or the format, but for a film that could use better representation in a home theater, this does a lot of good for the film. As a strong entry in what I see as a very entertaining cinematic universe full of monsters, Godzilla remains king.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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