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Return of Godzilla

Section 23 // PG // September 13, 2016
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted August 25, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

The Return Of Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla 1984) was made almost a decade after the last film in the series, The Terror Of Mechagodzilla but rather than follow that film, Toho instead opted to make it basically a direct sequel to the original film from 1954.

When the film begins, a Japanese newspaper reporter is looking into the mysterious disappearance of a fishing boat. He heads out to sea and, pretty easily, finds the ship. When he does, he boards it and after poking around a bit, finds that everyone onboard is dead, the victims of a giant sea louse mutated in size by radiation… save for one man who managed to save himself by hiding in a closet. As it turns out, the ship was attacked by… Godzilla!

The Japanese government wants to contain this news so that the population doesn't freak out. As such, they keep the lone survivor squirreled away from the press, but our intrepid reporter obviously knows he's alive and he teams up with the guy's sister to save him. Meanwhile, a submarine patrolling the area belonging to the Russian military is destroyed, and the Russians assume it was the American Navy that did it. Thankfully, before the Russians launch a retaliatory attack, the Japanese uncover evidence that it was indeed Godzilla that sunk the sub, thus preventing a full scale war. However, this still leaves the not insignificant issue of Godzilla's arrival to deal with… and it's only a matter of time until the big G arrives on the shore and heads inland. Thankfully scientists and military types alike have been working around the clock to develop… Super X!

The Return Of Godzilla does a lot of things right and it makes for a pretty entertaining watch. The human element isn't particularly spectacular, but the plot is surprisingly solid and the way that the storyline works in elements of late era Cold War nuclear fears and international politics is quite clever. If the characters aren't really all that interesting or really very well developed, at least the situations that they find themselves put into are interesting enough to hold the audience's attention without any real pacing issues.

But being a Godzilla movie and all, obviously the main draw is the scenes of monster mayhem and rampant destruction. Godzilla doesn't get another monster to square off against here, there's no Mothra or King Ghidorah or even a Smog Monster, so we don't the awesome ‘guys in rubber suits' battles that a lot of the entries made between the 1954 picture and this film featured. Thankfully, it doesn't matter. We get a lot of great footage of Godzilla attacking Tokyo, taking out a train full of passengers, dealing with tanks and military weapons sent out to defend the city and, of course, some pretty cool footage of Godzilla going at it with the Super X team. These are all done really well. The miniature work, which really is a unique art form, is still obviously miniature work but there's a lot of great detail worked into it. The cityscapes that get trashed by Godzilla have movement and lighting and depth and they look great. The Godzilla design employed in the movie is also impressive, there's a lot of facial movement here and a bit of ferocity to the appearance. It's all played straight, Godzilla, in this incarnation, is a threat and not a friend to children or a savior of the planet. Bringing the concept back to its darker, more serious roots was the right call to make and this film manages to pull it off quite well.

It's worth noting that the American version, Godzilla ‘85, is not included here. To Kraken's credit, they make that clear on their packaging for this release, and also made it clear in the press release leading up to this release, so there's no deception here on their part. As to that cut? New World Pictures picked up the North American rights to the film and put in some newly shot Raymond Burr footage (highlighted by a fun final speech), created a different dub, and made some edits to the movie (the sea louse attack, for example, is shorter). The end result was about twenty minutes shorter and quite a different movie. Rights to that cut are dicey at best and they just simply couldn't be properly sorted out. The version of the film on this disc is the full length original Japanese edit and it is presented with Japanese titles. Neither version of this movie was ever made available in North America on DVD, let alone Blu-ray, prior to this release from Kraken Releasing.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Return Of Godzilla arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in transfer that would seem to mirror the Japanese release (Kraken were very likely made to use this master by Toho, unfortunately). Colors look fairly flat here, they don't pop the way they might on a better transfer although there are moments where they do shine. Detail is better than a standard definition offering but it's not a massive upgrade, the image is somewhat soft. There's barely any print damage at all, the picture is definitely ‘clean' in that regard but it's a tad on the hazy side. Those familiar with some of the Toho releases that have come out in Japan will know what to expect, those not familiar with those releases should temper their expectations accordingly.

Sound:

Audio options are provided in Japanese and English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio with subtitles provided in English only (they are forced during the Japanese version). The quality of both mixes is fine, though the Japanese track seems to have more depth to it. As to the voice work? The English dub (which is the ‘international version' and not the Godzilla ‘85 dub) is kind of goofy, so unless you've got an aversion to subtitles, stick to the Japanese track. The score has nice range and the effects have decent presence but there's not a load of channel separation here, it's a front heavy mix. Levels are well balanced and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. The disc defaults to the English track when played and you can't switch between tracks on your remote, you have to go back to the main menu screen to do that.

Worth mentioning is how well the subtitles are done. Kraken have gone the extra mile here, not just translating the dialogue but also a lot of what we see in the background: signs, newspaper articles, etc.. It's a nice touch that more companies dealing with foreign properties would do well to consider. However, during the scenes where Japanese subtitles are burned into the image (such as scenes where characters speak a language other than Japanese), English subtitles appear over them.

Extras:

Aside from menus and chapter stops, the only extras on the disc are a three minute Japanese promo spot/trailer and trailers for the three other Godzilla movies that have been put out on Blu-ray thus far by Kraken Releasing. Ideally the (admittedly bastardized) American version of the movie would have been included here, but that didn't happen due to rights issues.

Final Thoughts:

The Kraken Releasing Blu-ray of The Return Of Godzilla isn't going to blow you away with amazing audio or video nor is it stacked with extras. It does, however, give fans the opportunity to own the original Japanese version of the film at a more than reasonable price point. It would have been nice to get the American cut of the film, obviously, but rights issues are rights issues and it's not always easy to have those done away with. Ultimately, for Godzilla fans, this is definitely worth picking up for the strength of the movie alone and as such, it's recommended.

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.

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