It might be the drugs talking, but I really enjoyed my revisit with 1998's accidentally hokey Godzilla. Allow me to backtrack a bit. I was diagnosed with Strep and a viral sinus infection this past weekend and the meds might have made me a bit loopy.
I remember seeing Godzilla in theaters when it first came out. Directed by Roland Emmerich, it promised to do to monster films what Independence Day did to alien invasion movies. Spoiler alert: it did not.
No, the critics and audience both turned Godzilla and its place in cinematic history was cemented in farce and comedy. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and when I sat down to watch the film for the first time in decades, I was curious how it would play in a world where realistic monster films are dominating the landscape.
The 1998 version of Godzilla starred Matthew Broderick as a biologist that specializes in nuclear radiation and its effects on wildlife. He is brought to offer his opinion when French atomic tests in the South Pacific have created a humongous irradiated lizard known as Godzilla. Naturally, Godzilla makes his way to Manhattan and begins to lay wastes to New York City.
As I mentioned before, my expectations were literally on the floor and Godzilla surprised me. While the film still has that hokey nostalgia aspect that so many of Matthew Broderick's early work has, the movie works on a level that I never realized before.
The late 1990s were far removed from the classic "man in a rubber suit" variety of Godzilla films and still a long way from the late 20-teens revival, and yet, it was a valiant attempt to present the character in a serious manner fitting his robust following. I think the filmmakers' errors tended to lie in the way they handled the comedic aspects of the script and most of the third act.
What worked brilliantly for Independence Day two years earlier, fell flat for audiences this time. I think part of it was oversaturation and the overuse of CGI. You only have to look as far as Wild Wild West that came out a year after Godzilla to realize that audiences had completely moved on. Of course, there was also a little film called Titanic that came out between them and suddenly audiences were less interested in big bangs and more excited about story.
This would mostly play out for the next decade, but thankfully, they returned in time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In many ways, you can almost draw a line between the airy action films of Devlin and Emmerich and the fun Marvel films and see how the two subgenres are connected. In other words, you don't get to the Hulk smashing things in The Avengers in 2012 without Godzilla blazing the path a decade and a half earlier.
I told you that the prescription drugs were really good.
So, with the assistance of hindsight, I was able to simply enjoy Godzilla for what it was and I was surprised that it was a big hit with my five-year-old son. I think the more recent Godzilla films are too dark and violent for my children, but this campy version was right up his alley. He now knows about Godzilla and when he's old enough to enjoy the more grownup version, we will be able to enjoy them together.
Speaking of, the timing of this release isn't a shock either. With Godzilla: King of the Monsters set to release in theaters at the end of the month, it is only natural and wise marketing from Sony to release the 4K UHD version of Godzilla to capitalize on that box office drafting. I think that the latest installment looks amazing and it will have fans feeling nostalgic for the earlier version and should lead to decent business for this item.
So, how does the 4K UHD measure up to the competition? Well, let's just say that it earns the "King of the Monsters" moniker honestly.
Sony has been on a roll lately by going back to the original camera negative and remastering in 4K. A few weeks ago, Black Hawk Down shined on 4K and now it's time for Godzilla to do the same. The HDR is spectacular and gives the film the richness and texture that it fully deserves. There are several scenes set at night or during a gloomy, rainy setting and the depth and breadth of the blacks are spectacular in presenting a vivid picture.
The real steal here though is the brand new Dolby Atmos audio track. The existing DTS 5.1 track on the Blu-ray is fine, but when you compare it side-by-side next to the Atmos track, there's no competition. The new audio track gives the action a richness that the film hasn't had since the original theatrical release. The added channels give the scenes in which Godzilla is terrorizing New York a whole new level of detail that truly makes you feel as though you are there experiencing it for yourself. For me, the Dolby Atmos track alone is worth the purchase.
While the bonus features are the same ones currently available on Blu-ray, it's nice to have them on this collection as there's a pretty good bet that you didn't buy Godzilla when it released on Blu-ray. But, don't let that fool you, this movie deserves to be seen on 4K UHD and if you do, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how good it actually holds up to the test of time.
Godzilla is now available on 4K UHD.