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Following the successful release of the majority of their Heisei (1984–1995) and Millennium series (1999–2004) Godzilla films, Sony is trickling out the final three era movies they own the rights to release (do note that the studio also owns  Showa series films Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) – Godzilla 2000, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla – under their Toho Godzilla Collection banner.

Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

Godzilla 2000

(aka: Godzilla 2000: Millennium, 1999)
An egg-shaped UFO lands in Tokyo and reveals itself as a massive alien monster with awesome destructive powers. The monster heads straight for the behemoth Godzilla, who has just crushed the entire city for the battle of the millennium. But Godzilla’s furious heat beam may not be enough to destroy the death-dealing alien, and the future of humankind is in jeopardy. Now, it’s a bang-up, three-way, no-holds-barred brawl as Godzilla, the alien monster, and the courageous citizens of Japan fight an unprecedented battle for survival. (From Sony’s official Synopsis)

Toho retired Godzilla for the second time when he exploded at the end of Godzilla vs. Destroyah in 1995, but left the door open for the further adventures of a younger Godzilla, who survived the catastrophe and grew to the appropriate size to wreak havoc and fight other kaiju. A few years later, Sony/TriStar and blockbuster director Roland Emmerich (coming off the overwhelming success of Independence Day) attempted to reboot the franchise for American audiences. Godzilla ‘98 (the first American Godzilla movie to not be a re-edited Japanese Godzilla movie) wasn’t a flop, but was generally disliked and regarded as a failure. Meanwhile, Toho, who had originally planned on holding off another Japanese Godzilla movie until Big-G’s 50th anniversary in 2004, hired Heisei era director Takao Okawara and writers Wataru Mimura & Hiroshi Kashiwabara to jumpstart a new series that was divorced from the Heisei films (sorry, Godzilla Jr.). Reeling from the disappointment of Emmerich’s failed experiment, Sony decided to re-edit, re-dub, and release Godzilla 2000: Millennium in US theaters, just like the first film in the previous reboot, Godzilla 1985 (original title The Return of Godzilla, 1984).

Sony’s Blu-ray release of Godzilla 2000 includes that shortened US release (99 minutes) and, for the first time with English subtitles, the original Japanese version (107 minutes). I was eager to see the Japanese cut, but was also keenly aware that a longer version of this already slow-moving and predominately dull movie might prove problematic. In some regards, I was correct, because, in any form, Godzilla 2000 is one of the more badly paced films in the entire series, but the longer cut solves more problems than it creates. Okawara dives right in to the fray, skipping over excess exposition to quickly reintroduce the giant lizard in his man-in-suit guise to the audience. His imagery pays homage to the original film and Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, and evokes a sense of mystery that had been missing throughout the Heisei era. The longer version sets up more interesting lead characters and a less campy tone, which fits the story better, but doesn’t fix the bland army sequences. Patient viewers do have a cool climax to look forward to, however, as Godzilla’s face-off with Orga (a definitively inventive, Rancor-like monster that evolves from a UFO shape) instills a genuine sense of awe, despite the presence of ugly digital effects.

The three Millennium Godzilla films are presented in 2.40:1, 1080p. None of Sony’s Toho Collection releases have been particularly well-maintained, but the newest titles certainly get the better end of the Blu-ray treatment. The American and Japanese cuts look generally the same throughout, including the same grain and CRT noise artefacts (the US cut is a little lighter and a hair noisier). Okawara and cinematographer Katsuhiro Kato’s use of smoke, fog, and diffused lighting, all of which compound grain issues and make even gradations difficult on the particularly vivid colour schemes. These imperfections are also comparable to ones that appear on the US DVD release. Details are sharper, colours are warmer (except those incredibly blue nighttime interiors), elemental separation is tighter, and black levels are deeper this time around, but I suspect that this is merely a less compressed version of that transfer, which seems in keeping with the other Toho Godzilla Collection titles. The fuzziness of some scenes is certainly forgivable, but the overall darkness and edge enhancement effects are problematic.

The two versions of the film have comparable video quality, but different audio options. The Japanese version includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack, while the American cut is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The effects work throughout the two versions is actually quite similar, including plenty of stereo enhancements and rear channel support, but the lack of a discrete center channel occasionally sets the Japanese track back. The ‘ghost’ center is pretty well-maintained, but dialogue still tends to wander into the side channels without any warning or purpose. The 5.1 track has extra ambient effects in addition to the dubbed dialogue. These are pretty well integrated into the stereo and surround channels to create a better sense of depth and scale. The discrete LFE adds quite a bit of oomph to Godzilla’s destructive actions and patented roar as well. Takayuki Hattori’s original score takes some inspiration from John Williams (especially in a number of gentle choral arrangements) and uses parts of Akira Ifukube’s original series cues to beautiful effect. The score sounds great in the 5.1 remix, but is flattened on the 2.0 track.

Extras include:
  • Commentary on the US version with producer/writer Michael Schlesinger, editor Michael Mahoney, and sound designer Darren Paskal.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage (2:20, SD)
  • Japanese trailer


 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2


Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

(aka: GMK, 2001)
Fifty years ago, the Japanese Defense Forces killed Godzilla …or so they thought. When a series of terrifying natural disasters begin to plague Japan, including the inexplicable offshore sinking of a U.S. submarine, a mystic old man warns his nation that Godzilla has come back to destroy Japan as revenge for all the souls lost in the Pacific War. When mere military might cannot squash the monster, the mystic man awakens the Holy Beasts of Yamato - King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Baragon – sleeping giants that protected Japan in ancient times. These untamed mammoth beasts take on Godzilla with frightening supernatural brute power that has been 2,000 years in the making. Tradition and technology collide in this chilling, high-tech, cutting-edge fable. (From Sony’s official synopsis)

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a fan favourite and, as my affection for the outrageous extremes of Godzilla Final Wars cools, it gets my vote as the best of the Millennium series. In fact, it’s probably my third favourite film in the entire franchise, behind the original and Yoshimitsu Banno’s brilliant and transcendent Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971). Giant Monsters All-Out Attack was directed and co-written by Shuske  K a n e k o (with help from anime writers Kei'ichi Hasegawa and Masahiro Yokotani), who had just directed a very successful reboot of the most famous kaiju property not owned by Toho, Gamera. His Gamera Trilogy Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996), and Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys (1997) – had a violent, pulpy edge that is missing from most of the modernist and anime-infused Millennium movies. Kaneko also brings his mean streak, lending Giant Monsters All-Out Attack a tasty exploitation movie edge without being inappropriate for children.

As a fan that grew up on the Showa series, I initially found Kaneko’s unique choices jarring, but have grown to appreciate the many ways Giant Monsters All-Out Attack streamlines and reinvents the series’ conventions. Besides using a very different Godzilla design than the other Millennium films (most of which feature a slimmer, more flat-headed creature), the writer/director portrays the long-time monster protagonist as a definitive bad guy. This certainly wasn’t a first, but Kaneko really bucked series trends by portraying all the other monsters, including King Ghidorah (who is given a new, Earth-based back-story), as heroes trying to stop Big-G’s destructive rampage. Fans willing to embrace the change in guard can enjoy one of the most likeable, fast-moving, and funny films in the franchise. Kaneko’s occasionally sick sense of humour fits like a glove (King Ghidorah is accidentally discovered by a salaryman attempting to hang himself in the forest), even if some of the effects sequences appear a bit flimsy.

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

(2002)
After four years of scrupulous preparation, a new invincible robot, Mechagodzilla, has now reached completion. Armed with various weapons, including the most powerful gun in history that can destroy anything in the world. Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) is transferred to join the Mechagodzilla team as an operator who controls the mechanical monster. As soon as Mechagodzilla starts on its test run, the huge shadow of Godzilla begins to rise from the depths of the ocean. The battle of the century is going to take place between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. (From Sony’s official synopsis)

For whatever reason, Sony chose not to couple their Heisei and Millennium double features in any particular order. This is particularly frustrating in the case of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), because they are the only two concurrent movies in the Millennium series (which was otherwise a series of reboots). First-time viewers confused by the serialized parts of Tokyo S.O.S.’s storyline now have the chance to view its prequel on Blu-ray, but the separation is still weird. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla saw the return of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) director Masaaki Tezuka, who vastly improved as a filmmaker between the two films (and who would improve again with Tokyo S.O.S.). Both the Millennium Mechagodzilla movies represent a shift towards Sentai (think Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) tropes and modern anime imagery, something that would be carried through to the extreme in Ryuhei Kitamura’s gonzo Godzilla Final Wars. Similar themes were problematic throughout the Hensei series, where obsessions with weaponized, anti-Godzilla vehicles overtook the man-in-suit charms at the core of the kaiju concept, but Tezuka captures a lot of the necessary kinetic energy missing from those films.

Returning Giant Monsters All-Out Attack writer Masahiro Yokotani and Godzilla 2000 writer Wataru Mimura recycle basic plot elements from the original films and include a number of direct, on-screen references to other Showa era Toho kaiju movies, including Mothra, War of the Gargantuas (itself a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World), and Space Amoeba. The screenplay is often overly sentimental and trips over too many intersecting ideas, but moves along pretty quickly and includes a number of likeable characters. Yokotani and Mimura also score points for creating a strong female lead, Lt. Akane Yashiro (portrayed by Yumiko Shaku in both movies), whose place as a woman in a major military role is never called into question. Dissent among her fellow soldiers is related to the fact that she was scapegoated by the military after a previous loss to Godzilla, not her sexual origin (she is also trapped inside a malfunctioning Mechagodzilla during its first test run). The male lead still flirts with her and his daughter desperately looks to her as a mother figure, but she maintains her place as the central heroic figure into the sequel.

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

 Toho Godzilla Collection: Part 2

Both 2.35:1, 1080p transfers have the same issues seen on Sony’s other Millennial release discs while still being big upgrades over the supposedly HD versions available on Crackle’s streaming service. Giant Monsters All-Out Attack – the crown of the collection as far as I’m concerned – has possibly the best transfer of any of these multi-film releases. It’s a bit too dark and the grain levels are inconsistent (sometimes particularly ‘pulsy’), but also features cleaner, softer tonal gradations, less digital noise, and tighter details. The colours are quite vivid, especially the lush greens of the Japanese countryside and the bright, warm wardrobe choices (some of which have minor banding issues). Against Mechagodzilla looks pretty nice, too. It has similar issues with grain and clarity inconsistencies between scenes, including more blown-out highlights and some incredibly fuzzy establishing shots, but, overall, includes the sharpest details in the entire collection – specifically the darker images, which are supported by nice, rich black levels. The colours are a bit more muted and moody than Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, but the natural hues have nice, clean tonal gradations. The uptake in sharpness does lead to some minor edge enhancement.

Both films feature the original Japanese and English dub DTS-HD 5.1 soundtracks. The options tend to be similar enough that it’s really a matter of taste as to which one the viewer picks. I sort of enjoy the added camp value the dub offers, myself. The music and effects of the English tracks are louder and more dynamic, but have problems with dialogue overwhelming the fun stuff, like monster roars and crumbling buildings. The Japanese tracks sound more consistent, but are somewhat more compressed and don’t have as much obvious element separation between channels. Kow Otani’s Giant Monsters All-Out Attack score is particularly unique among the Godzilla films. Its keyboard-created symphonic melodies seem more suited to an American-made STV horror film from the ‘90s, but are strangely apt, considering the film’s wacky tone. Against Mechagodzilla composer Michiru Oshima sticks closer to traditional symphonic motifs. His heroic marches are often lost beneath the effects and dialogue, especially on the English language track.

The only extras on both discs are original Japanese trailers (though, in the case of Against Mechagodzilla, someone has mistakenly included the trailer for 1993’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla). Note also that, despite the availability of the Japanese audio tracks, both Giant Monsters All-Out Attack and Against Mechagodzilla feature static English titles superimposed over the animated Japanese titles.

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


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