Stomp the yard with the new 4K release of 2014’s ‘GODZILLA’

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As movie theaters slowly begin to open back up and streaming services continue to hold their ground in an ever-changing industry, Warner Bros. is building up the hype for the upcoming blockbuster GODZILLA VS. KONG—which is set to release in theaters and stream on HBO Max on Friday. To gear up for the big showdown, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has re-released the first film in the franchise, 2014’s GODZILLA, for the first time on 4K UHD.

Movie Grade: B

After Roland Emmerich’s GODZILLA (1998) failed to live up to its franchise potential, the great beast would have to lie in wait for nearly twenty years before studio execs felt like giving it another try. What we got in 2014 from director Garreth Edwards (ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY) was definitely an improvement, even if it was not without its flaws. GODZILLA is in many ways Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that it lays the groundwork for subsequent giant monster films in the aptly named Monsterverse. Whether or not it will ever live up to its competing cinematic universes is yet to be seen.

The film follows Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a demolitions expert for the U.S. Navy who must leave his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) at their home in San Francisco to track down his estranged father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), in Japan. Joe is determined that Japan’s leaders are responsible for covering up the true reason his wife was killed in a nuclear accident years earlier. 

As it turns out, of course, the government was covering up what really happened because the accident was caused by none other than a giant four-legged monster referred to as a M.U.T.O., which literally feeds on nuclear radiation. The M.U.T.O. is eventually awoken once again, leaving humanity utterly helpless to its unprecedented destruction. That is until another monster known only as Godzilla reveals itself to take on the M.U.T.O. and bring balance to nature once again.

The film’s human characters do their best to give the audience reasons to care about their survival. The marriage between Ford and Elle feels grounded and believable despite just a few scenes that actually feature these characters in the same room together. This is undoubtedly due to the existing chemistry between Taylor-Johnson and Olsen as they’ve worked together in other films before. 

However, the rest of the cast is more of a mixed bag. Bryan Cranston is, unfortunately, left to a minor supporting role for the film’s first act, which is a shame because the man is clearly invested in his character and doing his best to add depth to a relatively straightforward character with limited screen time. Similarly, Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa is given little purpose to exist other than spout exposition about Godzilla’s history. Yet, in spite of some characters feeling more shallow than others, the film as a whole is effective in creating at least some stakes and a genuine sense of danger for the audience to sink their teeth into. 

Edwards takes a cue from another classic monster movie, JAWS (1975), in that he constantly teases the audience with barely a glimpse or two of the film’s titular big baddie. It’s only when we’ve arrived at the climactic showdown in the third act when Godzilla can fully be seen and appreciated. This technique is certainly effective for first-time viewers. It builds tension as we are able to see just a little bit more of the action as the film goes on until we’re given an all the more cathartic payoff when Edwards stops holding back and lets his monsters fight. The problem is that this method tends to feel more annoying and less suspenseful upon repeat viewings, but it cannot be understated just how much fun things become once things finally get going.

GODZILLA is ultimately a perfectly fine and entertaining monster flick. Edwards’ effective use of suspense and excellent visual effects make for a vast improvement over its 1998 predecessor and effectively lays the groundwork for what could be an enjoyable series of sequels to come.

A screenshot from the 4K release.

Video/Audio Grade: B+

Because GODZILLA was captured in a 2.8K source format and mastered as a 2K Digital Intermediate, we are left with an upscaled 4K presentation. The visuals in this higher resolution version are certainly an improvement over the 2014 Blu-ray release, but there’s hardly anything to be considered reference quality. Computer-generated effects are serviceable and make excellent use of the darker environments to mask any trace of aging. Godzilla’s presence as a computer-generated character feels excellently realized among live-action elements. Textures for creatures and humans alike are given a pleasant boost in clarity and interior scenes are a great showcase in detail for set design. The bombastic showdown between Godzilla and the M.U.T.O. is chaotic in all the right ways and is undeniably enjoyable with the added visual clarity.

One major criticism from the film’s theatrical and initial home release was that this is just a very dark movie. With the majority of its runtime taking place at night (and lit in a mostly naturalistic style), there were many times when it would feel like an absolute chore to understand what was going on. Things are definitely way easier to make out this time around, thanks to the inclusion of HDR10. With virtually no clouding instances or noise to speak of, this is far and away from an improvement and the best way to watch the film. That being said, black-out curtains are still practically a requirement to make out the darkest of scenes. 

As for the audio side of things, the 4K disc comes packed with a new Dolby Atmos mix which does not disappoint. The 2014 Blu-ray already had a fantastic DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix, and the Atmos track makes for an even more immersive viewing experience. Godzilla’s thundering roar will shake the rafters, helicopters zoom through the overhead channels, and crumbling buildings make excellent use of the side and rear channels as well. Dialogue comes through perfectly clear in the quieter character-building scenes, and Alexandre Desplat’s score is mixed wonderfully throughout. 

Extras Grade: D+

There are no special features included on the 4K disc. The included 2014 Blu-ray has all the same features it did upon its initial release, so first-time buyers may enjoy the extras, but they’re hardly worth a second visit. A digital copy is included for Movies Anywhere or Vudu. 

Special features listed below:

  • MONARCH: Declassified (1080p):
    • Operation: Lucky Dragon (2:44)
    • MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File (4:29)
    • The Godzilla Revelation (7:25)
  • The Legendary Godzilla (1080p):
    • Godzilla: Force of Nature (19:18)
    • A Whole New Level of Destruction (8:24)
    • Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump (5:00)
    • Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s (6:49)

Final Grade: B-

If you’re like me and haven’t given GODZILLA another look since it first hit theaters, there’s plenty of reason to pick this one up. Fans of the film will definitely appreciate the increase in resolution and improved brightness in this new presentation, but the lack of new bonus material to build up the hype for GODZILLA VS. KONG is particularly disappointing. Extras aside, GODZILLA in 4K may just be the B-movie audiences need right now.

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