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A Blu-ray Review to Destroy All Blu-ray Reviews: Godzilla 2000

September 17, 2014Ben Mk


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Putting the 'Kaiju' in 'Y2K'...

Nobody does Godzilla like Toho. And in 1999 — amid the wake of the critical derision levelled at director Roland Emmerich's interpretation of the legendary Kaiju — that's exactly what the iconic Japanese film studio set out to remind us of. But unlike Godzilla's North American debut, Toho's twenty-third Godzilla film, Godzilla 2000 (or, as it's known in Japan, Godzilla 2000: Millenium), doesn't set out to reinvent the Big G. Rather, its aim is simply to do as Toho has always done: deliver on all of the epic, man-in-a-rubber-suit Kaiju action that we've come to know and love.

   

The Film Director Takao Okawara's fourth foray into the Godzilla franchise sees the beloved monster squaring off against a fierce new adversary known as Orga, an extraterrestrial lifeform that's recently been awakened from its 60-million-year slumber deep beneath the ocean's surface. Naturally, the first thing the alien wants to do is conquer the Earth, and of course, Godzilla is the only force on the planet that can stop it. But the twist this time around is that Orga's also succeeded in absorbing some of Godzilla's genetic structure, thereby gaining it Godzilla's strength and abilities and making it a formidable opponent for our gargantuan protagonist.

Watching helplessly from the ground are our human protagonists: Professor Shinoda (Takehiro Murata), his daughter, Io (Mayu Suzuki), and news reporter Yuki (Naomi Nishida). As the founder of the Godzilla Prediction Network, Shinoda, along with his daughter, is always on the move, tracking and studying Godzilla from his van (or GPN mobile unit), much like storm chasers track tornadoes. However, his position as strictly a scientific observer frequently puts him at odds with his arch-rival and former colleague, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe), the head of Crisis Control Intelligence, an agency whose primary agenda is to annihilate the King of the Monsters.

As Godzilla and Orga march towards a destructive showdown in the streets of Tokyo, Shinoda and Katagiri butt heads over how to best deal with the inevitable mayhem. But ultimately, there's little they can do but watch as the two behemoths engage in a brutal fight to the death and hope that when the dust has settled, there's still something of Tokyo left.

Arriving under Sony's "Toho Godzilla Collection" banner, the Blu-ray contains two separate cuts of the film: the original 107-minute Japanese version (Godzilla 2000: Millennium) and the 99-minute English version. To attain its shorter running time, the English version jettisons certain sections of dialogue and plot exposition; however, the storyline and the action are kept largely intact (save for a few editorial rearrangements and some slight modification of musical cues and sound effects). As for which cut of the film is superior, that's a matter for debate. The English version is a slightly more streamlined movie; but either way, Godzilla fans will be pleased, as both versions fulfill the expected quota of classic Kaiju action.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Godzilla 2000 makes landfall on Blu-ray with a relatively pleasing A/V presentation that's without a doubt the best the film has ever looked or sounded on any home media format. Both cuts are treated to their own Blu-ray transfer, with the differences being primarily relegated to color-timing and framing (the Japanese cut is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio whereas the English version is 2.40:1). Otherwise, the hi-def image quality of the two versions are comparable, with a fair amount of detail showing on-screen that makes the intricacies of the miniature sets and models appreciable. Cinematographer Katsuhiro Kato's color palette leans towards the drab side, but nonetheless, colors are well-saturated and bold for what they are (moreso on the English version and especially when the screen lights up with the fiery glow of Godzilla's atomic breath). Black levels are also decent, however black crush is an issue at times and contrast, on the whole, is somewhat flat (particularly whenever visual effects compositing is involved).

The audio presentation of the two versions also differs, with the US cut of the film benefiting from a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack while the original Japanese cut has to settle for a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Of the two of them, the 5.1 track (unsurprisingly) reigns supreme, bringing sonic depth and resonance to the Kaijus' roars and lending plenty of low-end support to the accompanying sounds of destruction (such as explosions, crumbling buildings and the rumble of tank engines). In contrast, the 2.0 track lacks that same LFE "oomph", but it still does a commendable job prioritizing the dialogue and reproducing composer Akira Ifukube's iconic Godzilla theme.

Special Features Sony's Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy of the film, as well as a few brief extras. The main attraction is the Filmmaker and Crew Commentary, which is available only on the English version of the film and features participation from Mike Schlesinger, the "uncredited writer/producer" of the US version, as well as editor Mike Mahoney and supervising sound editor Darren Paskal. In this commentary track, the trio step through the film scene by scene, conveying various noteworthy tidbits of information concerning the differences between the US and the Japanese cuts, such as dialogue, editing, music and sound effects. Otherwise, the only other two special features on the Blu-ray are a 2-minute Behind The Scenes featurette (consisting purely of standard definition fly-on-the-wall on-set footage) and a 1-minute HD Original Trailer for the film (presented in Japanese, with optional English subtitles).


The Bottom Line No matter how many times you try to knock him down, Godzilla always gets back up. That's the beauty — and certainly part of the charm — of this iconic character. And although what started out as a cautionary tale about the atomic age has evolved into a symbol of resilience, it's great to see that the filmmakers behind Godzilla 2000 haven't forgotten the franchise's roots. Sony's Blu-ray release isn't the be-all-and-end-all for this title, but with both cuts of the film (available for the first time ever in North America), an admirable A/V presentation and a handful of extras, Godzilla 2000 on Blu-ray is nonetheless recommended.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  








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