Case Number 17746

GODZILLA (1998) (BLU-RAY)

Sony // 1998 // 139 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 20th, 2009

The Charge

Size does matter.

Opening Statement

Roland Emmerich + beloved Japanese intellectual property = Matthew Broderick?

Facts of the Case

Indeed it does. Broderick (The Producers) stars as a frumpy earthworm biologist who find himself roped into a full-fledged monster movie. Thanks to the French -- those historically violent warmongers -- and their nuclear shellacking of some Polynesian islands, a gigantic, mutant reptile emerges from the depths, tears apart some boats, and heads over to Manhattan to drop the hammer on the Big Apple.

Worse, it appears Godzilla -- if that is indeed his real name -- crapped out a bunch of eggs and, if they hatch, the world will surely be overrun by 100-foot killer lizards.

The Evidence

I remember the hype for this mofo. It was huge. Fresh off his success from Independence Day, Emmerich was toting some serious geek credibility and when that teaser of the giant foot crushing the dinosaur skeleton first aired, brother, you could slice the anticipation with a talon. But when we got a peek at the creature, and the movie transformed into Jurassic Park about two-thirds of the way through, suddenly life didn't seem so exciting anymore.

This is the first time I've seen the movie since 1998 and, while still laughable in spots -- a far cry from the charm of the Toho Gojira movies, -- it's really not a bad brain-dead, popcorn movie. Would we expect anything else from Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich? Of course not. Thankfully, what could have been a ponderous, preachy experience about the dangers of nuclear power (okay, there's a little bit of bellyaching about Chernobyl) is a straight-arrow disaster movie. Instead of aliens, global warming, or Mayan mojo wrecking @#$%, it's this huge Murdersaurus that happens to be named Godzilla even though he's far more agile and primal and less lumbering and laser-breathed than his Toho counterpart.

So gone is that man-in-suit charm, replaced with all-out special effects and flying boat wreckage. When viewed through the Just-Show-Me-Some-Exploding-Helicopters lens, Godzilla comes out as manageable entertainment. The baby Godzilla plotline, however, is derivative and poorly thought out (hey, Army, it might be worth investigating the wreckage of Madison Square Garden to make sure all of the killer lizard eggs were torched). I would have been more than happy with straight-on Godzilla-versus-the Military tomfoolery and having the whole goofy asexual reproduction story angle pitched. Plus, you'd be looking at significantly leaner picture than the two-hour-plus behemoth that Godzilla currently clocks in as.

You would think a huge, loud, sensory-exploding motion experience like this would be tailor-made for Blu-ray, but the finished high-def product underperforms. The 2.40:1 widescreen is not the sleek update it should have been, pushing out a soft transfer that looks more like an upconverted standard-def DVD. When Godzilla appears, it looks flat out messy; part of that is the questionable CGI, but most of the blame lies at the feet of a flat, unimpressive visual rehab. Audio fares better (DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio), providing and active, hard-hitting mix that supplements the chaos well. Extras: commentary from the visual effects supervisors, a Blu-exclusive trivia challenge that's way too easy, a vintage making-of featurette, a music video, and a disappointing old-school Godzilla fight montage.

Closing Statement

Loud and stupid, Godzilla may not have ingratiated itself with fans of the original city-crusher, but there is empty-headed fun to have. The Blu-ray, alas, is a disappointment.

The Verdict

Ship this one off to Monster Island for a tune-up.

Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 75
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 75
Story: 70
Judgment: 72

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* English (SDH)
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 139 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Featurette
* Trivia Challenge
* Music Video

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120685/combined