Sony offers up a pair of nineties era Godzilla movies on Blu-ray for the first time in North American and each on their own disc. Here's a look!
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah:
Directed by Kazuki Ohmori and released by Toho in 1991, Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah is a pretty decent entry in the pantheon of nineties era Godzilla films. The story begins when a ship from the year 2204 travels back in time to early nineties era Japan. Why? So that its inhabitants can warn the people of Japan that in the future Godzilla will eventually decimate the island and lay waste to the entire nation. To eliminate this problem for good, the aliens offer a solution: travel even further back in time and prevent the mighty Godzilla from ever having been born!
And so that's what they set out to do. An expedition lead by Emmy Kano (Anna Nakagawa) an her android assistant brings together a writer named Kenichiro Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), a dinosaur expert/paleontologist type named Professor Mazaki (Katsuhiko Sasaki) and a pscyhic named Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka, reprising her role from the earlier film Godzilla vs. Biollante made two years prior). Together they travel back in time to 1944 where they see a familiar looking monster save a battalion of Japanese soldiers from American forces. Emmy is able to transport the dinosaur out of the area, hence preventing the exposure to radioactivity that would give birth to Godzilla, but three little critters called Dorats are left behind and when the radiation affects them, they transform into King Ghidorah. When the time travelers get back to the modern day, King Ghidorah is demolishing their country and without a Godzilla around to do battle with the three headed beastie, things look bad. Terasawa figures that their futuristic visitors may have had some ulterior motives and soon he and his colleagues realize that their only hope is to try to bring Godzilla back to stop Ghidorah before it's too late…
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah moves at a good pace and actually manages to pose some interesting questions about Godzilla's role in the history, and subsequently the defense, of Japan. While there are some definite (and sometimes painfully obvious) flaws in the whole ‘time travel' aspect of the story we, along with some of the character in the movie, are left questioning the merits and values of bringing Godzilla back to defend the country from King Ghidorah. This makes for a more intelligent entry than what you might expect, even if you do have to look past those aforementioned time travel plot holes to get there. The movie is also interesting in that it expands a bit more on the origins of Godzilla, building on what came before courtesy of the earlier films in the run.
We get some interesting characters here to latch onto as well. Emmy Kano is interesting in that she's got to wrestle with what those from the future have really been up to here as well as her role in that plot, while both Kenichiro and Professor Mazaki make for good, noble heroes. Having Miki the psychic return (she'd pop up in a few other entries throughout the nineties) is also a fun touch as it helps to build off of some of the continuity that came before this particular movie. Of course, the real reason anyone is going to watch this one is for the monster action and the movie delivers on that level as well. Godzilla is in fine form here, the suit looks pretty cool and is occasionally pretty threatening, but King Ghidorah really steals the show, particularly once Mecha King Ghidorah is brought into the mix, even if some of the scenes in which he flies aren't quite so effective. It all culminates in a fantastic battle between the two foes with some killer miniature work and set design and some effects that hold up quite well, even by modern standards.
Godzilla And Mothra: The Battle For Earth:
Made just a year later, Godzilla And Mothra: The Battle For Earth begins when a meteorite slams into the Earth setting into motion a string of natural disasters. Of course, this awakens the slumbering Godzilla but it also causes a landslide on a remote tropical island where a mysterious egg is found. An evil corporation was planning on taking over the island but the egg has caused them to rethink things a bit. As such, they hire an intrepid man of action named Takuya Fujita (Tetsuya Bessho) to go check things out for them. He enlists the aid of his ex-wife Masako Tezuka (Satomi Kobayashi) and corporate lackey named Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) to help him out. Shortly after they arrive on the scene, they meet two tiny twins who explain that the egg is belongs to their protector, Mothra, and that they are the last survivors of a race exterminated long ago by pollution. They also warn them of Battra, Mothra's arch-rival.
When Takuya's corporate employers learn of his findings, they have the egg and the twins sent back to the mainland but the arrival of both Godzilla and Mothra throws a wrench into their plans. The Mothra larva hatches and flees back to the island while the other two monsters continue their battle. When the twins get kidnapped, a fully developed Mothra arrives on the scene just as Godzilla reappears and Battra transforms into a flying monster. Needless to say, it all hits the fan and a whole lot of stuff gets trashed under the weight of an epic monster battle. Oh, and Miki (Megumi Odaka again) returns too. Neat!
This one takes a little while to get going and the spoiled domestic bliss of Takuya and Masako's failed marriage really doesn't add much except unnecessary scenes of characters arguing to the movie (meaning these scenes feel like padding), but Godzilla Vs. Mothra makes up for a lackluster beginning with a pretty fantastic final half. The story is a bit predictable and at times, yeah, it feels like it's really just there to string together the monster-centric set pieces but it works even if we don't care about the human element of this one as much as we do in some of the other entries.
Once we get past the scenes of the exploratory team digging around the jungle and the backstory offered up by the tiny twins, the monster action kicks into high gear and delivers all of the chaos and mayhem you could ask for. Battra makes for a pretty interesting foe and like Mothra we see the creature evolve from a larva form into a fully formed monster, the kind that can and does pose a serious threat for Godzilla. He's colorful, dangerous and seeing him go at it with better established creatures like Godzilla and Mothra is a highlight of the movie. The effects, miniatures and creature design as just as strong here as in the first movie in this set, so there's little to complain about there. This one works and it works well.
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla And Mothra: The Battle For Earth arrive on Blu-ray from Sony in 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition with each film on its own 50GB disc. Unfortunately both movies are fairly grubby looking and pretty flat and it's probably a pretty safe bet that these are the same transfers used for the DVD releases years back, albeit in legitimate 1080p. Colors should pop a lot more than they do here and while there are moments where they shine, for the most part they're pretty lackluster. Detail does rise above those DVD releases but very erratically, meaning some shots look quite good and show solid texture and detail while others get murky, even muddy looking. Black levels are closer to a dark grey than to a true black. To Sony's credit the encoding here is good. Bit rates are high and there no obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues to complain about but that's where the praise more or less has to end. Yeah, these are better than the DVD releases, but not by a huge margin.
Each film is given English and Japanese language options in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio with optional subtitles (which seem to translate the English language track, so call them dubtitles if you prefer) in English, English SDH and French. There isn't a whole lot of channel separation here to note but the levels are properly balanced. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and while more depth and surround activity certainly would have been welcome (and probably made some of the bigger set pieces a bit more fun), there aren't really any problems here with the audio even if it's a bit underwhelming.
Extras are limited to trailers for each of the two movies and a few promo teaser spots. Menus and chapter selection are included on each disc and inside the keepcase you'll find a download code for a digital copy of each film.
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla Vs. Mothra are both legitimately fun movies. They offer up some great action, some awesome monsters and some really memorable set pieces and creature effects. The Blu-ray release, however, is a disappointment in terms of its transfer and its supplemental package. Are these better than the DVDs? Yes. Are they as good as they could be? Not even close. Recommended on the strength of the movies, rather than the presentation.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.