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In this gritty, realistic sci-fi action epic, Godzilla returns to its roots as one of the world's most recognized monsters. Directed by Gareth Edwards and featuring an all-star international cast, this spectacular adventure pits Godzilla against malevolent creatures that, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence. (Taken from the press release.)

I received this set very late, so I’m afraid this review is shorter than I originally intended. As such I’ve focussed on the technical elements of the set, but I’ve offered a few thoughts about the film at the end of the review for those remotely interested in hearing yet another armchair opinion…

Video


As with most recent blockbusters Godzilla arrives on Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D variants. I had the opportunity to watch both for this review, and they present similar viewing experiences in all but one key area: brightness. The regular two-dimensional version of the film boasts a clean, fantastically detailed image with a well-rendered, if almost monochromatic colour palette. It's quite a dark, muted film overall, particularly during the two major set-piece battles between Godzilla and the MUTOs, but excellent shadow detail is such that you can still see the action in even the murkiest of scenes. Indeed, I noticed things which simply eluded me during the theatrical viewing, and the reason for that would seem to be the oppressively gloomy nature of the 3D presentation.

Now I'm not the world's biggest 3D fan, but even I can begrudgingly admit that a handful of films have used it to great effect. Unfortunately for every Gravity we seem to get five Clash of the Titans, which is to say needless and often sub-optimal post-conversions that are detrimental to one's enjoyment of a picture. Unfortunately Godzilla falls into the latter category. The picture is so dark that I struggled to see what was occurring during the daylight scenes, let alone during the pitch-black, dust-filled battles between the monsters. The image simply lost all of its impact. To make matters worse, the 3D effects are so underwhelming I might as well have been watching a 2D presentation for most of the running time. Thankfully the encodes are solid regardless of which version you choose to watch, with no obvious banding or filtering (high or low-pass).

In good old fashioned 2D Godzilla looks pretty great, but in my considered opinion the 3D version is a bit of a lame kaiju… That’s not me 3D bashing, it’s just the way it is. I honestly don’t believe that the third dimension brings anything to the table, and even if it did the chances are that you wouldn’t be able to see it… My advice is to stick with the superior 2D version, which looks fabulous.

Audio


Simply put, marvellous! The DTS-HD Mater Audio 7.1 track is, if you'll excuse the rather obvious pun, a real monster. It’s constantly engaging, placing you in the middle of the action right from the opening credits with its use of directional effects. Dr. Serizawa’s arrival in the Philippines provide an early opportunity for the mix to demonstrate its impressive immersive qualities, as the sound of his helicopter whizzes from the rear of the soundstage to the frontal array, where it pans with the camera movement. This fairly innocuous sequence sets the tone for what is to come, with the mix offering up some nuanced environmental effects to balance the more obvious spot effects like gunfire, rockets, chunks of falling debris, and the roars of the massive kaiju.

Speaking of the kaiju, there’s some particularly wonderful sound design employed to lend character to the hulking CGI creations. Godzilla’s thunderous roar is familiar yet fresh, and the clicking, humming calls of the MUTOs are reminiscent of the old Toho monsters like Gigan, Hedorah and King Ghidorah while still offering something new. Human dialogue is generally centred in the mix but is always intelligible, and Alexandre Desplat’s tonally appropriate musical score is also well-represented.

Although I've heard criticism on various forums about the bass filtering on this one I can't imagine the average viewer having much cause to complain. It’s true that there are one or two moments where you’d expect to feel more of a vibration from the footfalls of the gargantuan monsters, but for the most part it does a good job of reinforcing the on-screen carnage. It might be a case of loud bass over truly deep low end, but I found it to be effective enough (audiophiles may disagree). In any case it doesn’t really detract from what is a very enjoyable audio presentation.

Extras


Another Warner Blu-ray, another batch of adequate but unremarkable bonus features. Here’s what you can expect to find in the package:

  • MONARCH: Declassified
    • Operation: Lucky Dragon: This is an expanded edition of the Bikini Atoll nuclear testing footage seen during the opening credits, complete with narration.
    • MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File: A brief history of the MUTO creatures designed for new MONARCH recruits.
    • The Godzilla Revelation: This presents facts about the Godzilla/MUTO incident in the form of a faux news piece intended for the general public.
  • The Legendary Godzilla
    • Godzilla: Force of Nature: A behind-the-scenes piece that examines Godzilla’s history and this latest instalment in the franchise. It’s not really long enough to offer a particularly in-depth analysis, but it’s one of the more substantial features in the package.
    • A Whole New Level of Destruction: This featurette concerns both computer-generated and physical set design elements used to show the devastation wrought by the kaiju.
    • Into The Void: The HALO Jump: A short featurette about how the filmmakers brought the film’s high-altitude parachute sequence to the screen.
    • Ancient Enemy: The MUTOs: A look at the design and realisation of Godzilla’s kaiju nemeses.

Overall


Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is a bit of a mixed bag. It eschews the campy tone of the numerous Japanese sequels and the first American remake in favour of something more serious, treading tonally similar ground to the 1954 original and Edwards’ own Monsters. Unfortunately it’s let down by some weak characterisation, and while I understand that there had to be some sort of framework upon which to pin the monster-on-monster action I’m not convinced that family drama was the way to go. I felt that the script wasted actors like Brian Cranston and Juliette Binoche (and even Elizabeth ‘infinitely more watchable than her sisters’ Olsen to some degree) to instead concentrate on Aaron Johnson’s Ford, who makes for a weak lead. Then there’s Godzilla himself, who gets relatively little screen time in his own film. Edwards spends a long time teasing the audience, with events often viewed on television screens or from the point of view of the characters, rather than as pure spectacle. Still, I defy anyone to remain unimpressed when the monsters meet in the climactic showdown. Godzilla is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, and my feelings towards it have remained largely consistent across the three viewings I’ve had thus far. It’s a more thoughtful kaiju film than I was expecting, but it’s a solid foundation or future instalments to build upon.

Warner Brothers’ Blu-ray 3D release delivers a limited, but entertaining supplemental package and an exceptional audio-visual presentation in two dimensions, but viewing in 3D is akin to watching shadow puppets fight in a coal mine. Based on this it’s hard to recommend the 3D version to anyone but hard-core fans of the technology, but it’s very easy to recommend the regular version to everyone else. It may not offer the joyous, heady exhilaration of something like Pacific Rim, but Godzilla himself is a different beast and the tenor is appropriate for the big-screen return of the King of the Monsters.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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