Takao Okawara’s first directorial spot under Godzilla spawns a feature cramped stylistically between the ’80s and ’90s, dragged into being as a downplayed remake of 1964’s Mothra vs Godzilla. In the decade time gap, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg spawned Indiana Jones, the setting stone for this monster-riffic (sorry) global destruction parable.
As much as Takuya (Tetsuya Bessho) pulls from Jones’ canon – introduced through an artifact theft and crumbling underground structure – Godzilla vs Mothra splinters into the visage of King Kong vs Godzilla. Jungle explorations, business expeditions, maritime monster escapes; structurally, the films are partly identical.
It’s there, post-Mothra escape and the introduction of a second insectoid kaiju Battra, where Kazuki Ohmori’s scripting collides with weakly established characters. A flimsy corporate CEO in Takeshi (Makoto Ohtake) is discarded as action presides over the screen, hardly a presence of gross capitalistic abuse as Kumayama (Yoshifumi Tajima) was in the ’64 original. Takuya and Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) are belittled by a cartoonish divorce battle, softened by their child’s presence. Franchise regular Akira Takarada is wasted by staring into CRT screens from a nondescript government center, a hallmark of Ohmori’s often lost scripting.
Instead, it’s a monster slugfest. Godzilla is screen frequent and Koichi Kawakita’s effects reach their Heisei series climax as multiple grand cities tumble in the midst of kaiju march. The fierce ecological stance which permeates behind the beam slinging brawls is played out on the face of actors who become indifferent to the shallow narrative, leaving this three-way, debris slinging tussle to do things on its own.
Of Ohmori’s four ’90s scripts, GvM is the most sufficiently grounded. Avoiding the time twisting and thoughtless time travel in King Ghidorah, disregarding the jumbled international mayhem of Biollante, or the poignant if messy send-off in Destroyah, this is a colorful display of miniature bashing power. Mothra’s song-lobbing Cosmo twins, from their now ruptured Infant Island, layer the piece with a touch of concentrated fantasy for the feminine audience, but otherwise GvM is a smash and grab. Smash buildings, grab cash.
Energy is GvM’s source of entertainment power as creatures are persistent – no human face hogging here. Pyrotechnics are ample and military confrontations are fattened. Lasers and missiles construct a rainbow of explosiveness until the trio of kaiju fighters converge on Yokohama for a seaside war to close this one out. It’s splendidly and fiercely fun, avoiding many of the ‘anything goes’ comic book tropes which slowly strangled this second series of films.
Sony’s marketing team slathers the front of their Godzilla Blu-ray releases with a neon green swatch which states, “Mastered in High Definition,” which may be true. For cable. In the case of Blu-ray, these masters are gross in their inadequacy. While stomping the pitiful 4×3 cropping of the lone DVD release, this release is still not fair to the format.
While never uber budgeted, sparkling classics in terms of their cinematography, the Heisei features still produced some visual marvels. Here they’re trounced under the weight of pitifully low key resolution – certainly not 1080p – and smacked with compression problems. Softness steers toward the abhorrent term “upscale,” and it’s a believable term too.
Film grain is lost in the mush except for peaks during multi-pass effects which require added care to process. Said care was not given. Digitized ruts of compression (not grain) run uncontrolled over the images and banding will step in to create distinct separation between colors. Otherwise, the cringe worthy resolution will absolve the often scratched print of any natural film quality.
Fidelity is poor, black levels are faded, colors are dulled, and, well, it doesn’t matter much after those faults. Sony’s encoding is a champion of bitrates (30+ Mbps at all times), providing how unsubstantial numbers are.
Ignoring the awful and faded mono dub which is besieged by age defects, the Japanese stereo effort is an audio pleasantry. While it lacks the voluminous 5.1 mixes which began defining Hollywood sound, stereo work performs a deep split between channels. Action set pieces flare up with missile firing and beam tossing goodness. Monster roars are specific in their placement and destruction spreads through the fronts.
Akira Ifukube’s powerhouse score is likewise a gem, stout as it pours from the speakers with force. Horns are beautiful and drum assistance is clean. It’s awesome.
Five Japanese trailers, some of which use footage from the original Mothra film as placeholders, are included as bonuses.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.