A new Godzilla is stomping back into theaters - and, hey, what do you know? Sony's releasing double-feature editions of the Green Giant's Japanese films as The Toho Godzilla Collection!. Along with the previously reviewed Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla/Godzilla Vs. SpaceGodzilla and Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah/Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for Earth, this package presents two of the city-stomping icon's Toho films in widescreen, Region 1 high-def for the first time.
Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah (1995; 103 minutes)
After watching a couple of campy Godzilla entries from the '70s, the unrelentingly grim tone of Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah came on like a spash of ice water to the face - what a difference, yet many of the clichés that Toho had in place for decades are present here. It may have a grander visual scope than earlier Toho productions, but the special effects essentially haven't progressed much - CGI is used sparingly in favor of traditionally crafted models, puppets and (yep) rubber bodysuits. Many Godzilla fans seem to prefer this one for its brooding atmosphere, but I found that the cheap-looking effects detracted from the story to a conspicuous degree. Most annoyingly, the film gets needlessly weighed down with a byzantine story, excessively glum and interchangeable characters, and endless sequences like the rah-rah introduction of the film's state-of-the-art military aircraft. That part - inexplicably done twice - comes off like an old Thunderbirds episode (was Gerry Anderson involved?). On the plus side, I enjoyed the various clips and story references to the earliest Godzilla flicks, which extended to having actress Momoko Kochi reprise her role from Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Toho promoted this as Godzilla's final film, taking a page from the comic book industry by (mild spoiler here) hyping up an iconic character's "death".
Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus (2000; 105 minutes)
Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus counts as total cheese-o-rama - ineptly made, but lots of fun. This, despite the fact that it succumbs to many of the '90s-action clichés that befell Destoroyah (both films use the ridiculous "enlarge an indistinct dot on a computer monitor so it reveals a crystal clear image" storytelling device, for instance). Unlike Destoroyah, Megaguirus sports a mildly intriguing, easy-to-follow storyline with a few nice set pieces like the flooded city and the Meganula swarming around Godzilla's body. It's also populated with an interesting, varied cast of flawed characters - and, for once, the token little boy character isn't an annoying brat. I liked that most of the humans were interested in destroying Godzilla for purely selfish reasons - including the feisty G-Graspers officer who myopically becomes obsessed with G. after the monster killed her superior (let it go, lady). The special effects are as cheesy as ever, and the final battle with Destoroyah (one of G.'s lamer adversaries) drags on too long, but surprisingly it ended up being the more satisfying outing of the two. The film also sports a nifty little post-end-credits scene.
The Blu Ray:
Although the 1080p mastering brings out a lot of fine detail in the picture, the grainy, under-saturated 1.85:1 image on Destroyah is underwhelming at best. The film stock doesn't have too many examples of pin holes or aging, but the picture has an overall flat, washed-out look typical of many '90s films pressed on DVD. The 2.35:1 image on Megaguirus fares much better, although this feature's routine cinematography isn't all that inspiring. At least it sports a pleasant picture with good color and pleasant light/dark levels.
Both films supply the Japanese language and English dub soundtracks in decent DTS-HD Master Audio mixes with clean delineations between dialogue, sound effects and music. Megaguirus uses a 5.1 mix, although I didn't notice much of a difference between it and Destoroyah. Each disc also includes optional English, English SDH and French subtitle tracks.
Each film includes its original Japanese Trailer and a few Teasers. It should be noted that the Megaguirus teaser includes a promo for tie-in action toys (a missed opportunity for Sony!).
Magically timed to the latest big-screen reboot, Sony's Blu Ray double feature Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah/Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus offers up two Toho features with wildly different feels - despite being released only five years apart. The grim vistas of 1995's Destoroyah and escapist kiddie-action of 2000's Megaguirus both appear to be cut from the same boring cloth, however. Rent It.