Alright, everyone: WHO IS READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMMMMMBBBBLLLLLEEEEE????!!!!! (Copyright Michael Buffer.)
On March 31st, the fight kaiju fans have been waiting for is going down: Godzilla Vs. Kong. In the run-up to the glorious smackdown in which Kong will sucker punch and blade chop Godzilla to the curb, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing the 2014 Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla on 4K UHD for the first time. While I tend to agree with those who pontificate on the over-emphasis of humans versus the under-utilization of Godzilla in Edwards’s film, the modern mythology that began here has carried forward beautifully in the 2017 Jordan Vogt-Roberts-directed prequel Kong: Skull Island and the 2019 Michael Dougherty-directed Godzilla: King of the Monsters via the secret organization MONARCH. This group serves as the connective tissue between each film, doing a fantastic job of dropping just enough scientific jargon to be believable without overtaking reason. Then again, these are kaiju films, why are we looking for reason? We’re (mostly) not. We’re looking for bombast and with the newly remixed soundtrack, specifically for home viewing, Godzilla’s never sounded better.
In 1999, a nuclear power plant in Janjira, Japan, suffered a meltdown after a series of seismic disturbances breached the reactor. This incident not only impacted the populace, but took the life of Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) and her team who were investigating the reactor early into the disruptions at the behest of her husband, Joe (Bryan Cranston), who led the engineers at the plant. Fifteen years later, Joe returns to Janjira with his now-adult son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) only to discover Monarch and the cocoon of a MUTO (Massive Underground Terrestrial Organism), a parasitic Titan from the prehistoric era. The truth comes too late as the MUTO escapes, hunting for another meal before it reproduces, and nothing on Earth seems to stop it. Nothing, that is, except a creature that hasn’t been seen since the 1950s: Godzilla.
Alright, it must be said: keeping Godzilla hidden from the audience for the majority of the film is a bold move by Edwards. He and screenplay writer Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island), who adapted the film from a story by David Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984), wanted to increase tension by prolonging the reveal of Godzilla for as long as possible. Armored plates pierce the water as Godzilla swims toward the U.S.S. Saratoga and, after diving underwater, some scales are visible as the light from surrounding aircraft illuminate the surface of the water for us to see. Later, when Godzilla makes landfall at Honolulu, it’s the flares of the military that offer more detail of the size and scope, but we still don’t get a full picture until Edwards shifts the perspective to what Ford sees through his protective googles. It’s titillation with no payoff until close to the final act. Instead, the audience is given humans to follow, which we should care about but it’s hard to when there are kaiju walking the Earth. King of the Monsters suffers from this problem too, while Skull Island gave us interesting characters brought to life by dynamic performers, so there appeared to be balance in focus. That, and the audience is given far more of a personality in Kong than we have received in Godzilla thus far. Atomic breathe is AWESOME, but that only goes so far. The point being that the ideas within Godzilla are solid and, no matter what we think of them, created a solid basis for future stories.
So let’s talk about this 4K UHD release.
Let’s get one thing clear before going further: there are no new bonus features. None. If you’ve owned this on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray (Just me?), or digital, then you’ve already had access to everything that’s included. So if something other than new art and an upgraded feature are what you need to make this purchase worth it, sorry to disappoint you.
What is new is the presentation. As mentioned, the 4K UHD release includes remixed audio, specifically Dolby Atmos. While my 5.1 Dolby system doesn’t include Atmos, the audio from the disc is far superior than the previous iteration. I began watching the film via streaming and found the dialogue a little muddled. Switching to the 4K UHD disc, dialogue comes through nice and clear so when Elizabeth Olsen’s Elle Brody shuts down Ford’s idea of “cake every day,” I could actually understand what she said. But it’s not just the dialogue, the sound is far more enveloping. It’s not loud with a capital L, it’s immersive, pulling you into the action. I’ve been reviewing films for some years now and I’ll never not be surprised by a new audio mix where I don’t stop with shock, point at the speaker, and say, “Did you hear that go past us?” So if you’ve got a 5.1 system, or are lucky enough to have Atmos, you’re certainly going to notice the retreatment here.
Where the upgrade gets a little dicey is in the visual presentation. HDR allows for a wider spectrum of color, which frequently translate to a more natural, lifelike look. The red of the flares as they fly past Godzilla: a gorgeous red. The green of the lights inside the military planes Ford tends to travel in places a sickly green across the characters. The red-orange-yellow flashing of the MUTO cocoon brightly stands out against the darkness of the Janjira Monarch facility. This also means that, in the absence of light, things are *super* dark, just like they might be in real life. So if you think things were hard to see before in all that nighttime action, it’s a little harder now. Things weren’t impossible to follow, especially if you reduced ambient or excessive light in the viewing space (I did this for the halo jump sequence to try to get the full effect), but it’s worth having this in mind before you press play.
All in all, if you’ve been enjoying the modern MonsterVerse created in partnership between Toho, Legendary, and Warner Bros., then you’ve likely already made up your mind as to whether you’re adding this to your collection or not. Each of the three films certainly improve with expectations out of the way, though I’d argue that Skull Island is the best of them all to revisit. For transparency, as I’ve gotten older, photosensitivity has developed and the near-constant flashing lights of King of the Monsters makes enjoying it a chore despite some truly magnificent kaiju fights, though there’s just something about the presentation of Kong that makes him a king to me. That said, take the above into consideration before pulling the trigger on the 4K UHD release. Expectations are everything when it comes to enjoying, well anything, but especially in the comfort of your home.
Godzilla Previously Released Special Features
- MONARCH: Declassified – Discover explosive new evidence not contained in the film that unravels the massive cover-up to keep Godzilla’s existence a secret.
- Operation: Lucky Dragon
- MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File
- The Godzilla Revelation
- The Legendary Godzilla – Go behind the scenes with filmmakers and cast for an even deeper look at the larger than life monsters in the film.
- Godzilla: Force of Nature
- A Whole New Level Of Destruction
- Into The Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump
- Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo Pack and digital March 23rd, 2021.