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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"Why must it fight Godzilla when they should be friends?"
DVD ReviewFamous last words: It seemed like a good idea at the time. What else can be the justification for fighting a giant monster running amok in Tokyo by building another giant monster to run amok in Tokyo? Granted, that wasn't exactly the plan, but that's pretty much how things predictably work out in this installment of the 21st-century edition of the Godzilla saga.
As usual, all previous Godzilla films except the 1954 original are conveniently discarded. Having destroyed that monster, Japan nonetheless remains ready with its Anti-Megalosaurus Force, even though there are no more megalosaurs on the horizon until one suddenly appears in a 1999 typhoon. Hotshot pilot Akane Yashira (Yumiko Shaku) freezes at a critical moment, resulting in the death of some of her comrades under Godzilla's stomping feet. But it's not entirely a waste, since in the fracas the bones of the 1954 Godzilla are discovered and samples taken. A cybernetics scientist, Dr. Yuhara (Shin Takuma), succeeds in cloning some tissue and constructs the next generation of defensive force: a cyborg version of Godzilla, or Mechagodzilla, complete with the devastating Absolute Zero Ray. But things don't go quite as planned, for Godzilla's roar awakens some primal racial memory in Mechagodzilla's cells, sending the cyborg on an even more destructive rampage than that of the original.
Yumiko Shaku is very appealing in a strong female lead, even if she is saddled with a hackneyed backstory. Shaku convincingly gives the audience a sense of desperation rooted in guilt, as well as a substantial loneliness that is frequently moving. The other notable character is Sara, the daughter of the cloning scientist, who talks to her mother through a sensitive plant that she carries with her everywhere she goes. Unlike the 1960s version of Godzilla, however, little Sara is not smarter than the adults, but mostly serves as a cheerleader and empathetic ear. The rest of the cast is pretty much cardboard, and Sara's father, Dr. Yuhara, is a caricature of a socially inept nebbish.
But anyone watching a giant rubber monster movie isn't particularly interested in character. Destruction of tiny model cities and giant monster mayhem is what's called for and this installment provides a satisfactory assortment of monster rampages and battles. The Godzilla suit this time around has a redesigned head that's much smaller than usual, with a decidedly evil leer on its face, a far cry from the "friend of all children" model of the Big G popular some 40 years ago. Of course, this Godzilla also stoops to attacking a hospital, so he's clearly in a bad temper. The suit is effective and quite detailed, and the model work is excellent, allowing the camera to use models in the foreground without calling attention to them unduly. The Mechagodzilla design is nifty, with a wild assortment of guns and rays bristling from every part of its body. There are a few good comic moments as well, such as Mechagodzilla walking straight through a building.
Directed at a brisk paced by Godzilla veteran Masaaki Tezuka, this addition to the mythos is a good deal of fun and one of the better entries in the series. New York Yankees fans will be interested in the brief appearance by their right fielder, Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, in his old Yomiuri Giants uniform, apparently coaching some Little League kids as Godzilla stomps into Tokyo.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The wide Tohoscope frame is used to its extremes by Tezuka, and this disc does an admirable job of representing the film. Color is excellent, and very difficult detailed patterns are rendered very well. Black levels are have good strength and solidity. Very little artifacting is noticeable, other than some mild edge enhancement, which is par for the course with Columbia.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: I'm still finding it difficult to believe, but yes, Toho continues to license the original Japanese audio track for these new Godzilla films for American DVD. For those not inclined to read subtitles, there's an English track too. Both are presented in 5.1, and it's a very aggressive mix in both cases. Deep bass is thunderous, with Godzilla's footsteps crashing in at house-shaking levels when the disc is played at reference. The opening battle in particular will have the pets running for cover. Hiss and noise are nonexistent, as one would expect for a fairly new film. Music has excellent depth and presence, with only the slightest shrillness to the trumpets that play the main theme. Surround activity is frequent and vibrant. Nothing to complain about at all here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Medallion, Returner, Tokyo Godfathers, Tube, Vampire Effect
Extras Review: The sole extras are some trailers with only the vaguest of connections to the feature (apparently the disc producers are under the delusion that Jackie Chan is Japanese). The English subtitles don't appear to be dubtitles; they often diverge significantly from the spoken English, which gives certain events a different meaning in the two languages. The usual 28 Columbia chapter stops are plenty adequate, though they're bunched toward the beginning, making it a bit more difficult to find favorite moments in the climactic battles.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsA superior entry in the series, with a very nice transfer and booming audio, but very slight on extras.
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