If humanity can’t kill Godzilla, they may as well join ’em
Godzilla bumps his human co-stars from screen time, beginning a stretch of briskly frantic monster action which is amongst the series’ elite. Wataru Mimura’s first script (of five) for Toho’s Godzilla is spurred on by a diamond coated resurrection of Mechagodzilla, a towering walking spire of illogical construction. Tip the battle into a threesome with the addition of Rodan and it’s a fan-centric melee.
The cost is undoubtedly character, losing the adorable Azusa (Ryoko Sano) who serves as caregiver to a miniature newborn Godzilla and the curious ‘Pteranodon enthusiast’ (?) Kazuma Aoki (Masahiro Takashima). Psychic Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) is but a plot sliver and Godzilla regular Kenji Sahara returns to stare at bunker screens as Minister Takayuki Segawa.
Mimura’s work is softer, gentler until cities fall under kaiju fights. Baby Godzilla’s insertion into the fray is a feminine touch, as is a flat romance between Azusa and Aoki. English actors – speaking in pitiful dialects – hardly draw tension to the situations, although their purpose for Japanese theatrical viewers is to merely add UN flavoring, not delivered authenticity.
This leverages added pressures on Koichi Kawakita’s effects, and with some bleeding from Rodan’s flubbed wire work aside, much of the miniature imagery is astoundingly well crafted. Situational cheats are applied to composite the true stars amongst real world foregrounds, effective, if robbing an audience of viewing hand crafted and crumbling balsa wood structures.
Origin changes are non-damaging, switching Mechagodzilla from alien world destroyer to protector after scientists bond together to form the machine from Mecha King Ghidorah parts. It’s rather superfluous; Mechagodzilla is awaiting activation in his bunker as the feature’s credits begin their roll call. From this aspect, it’s easier to launch rather than spend time padding bunk science into the exposition. This entry is primed.
Colossal battles enter into a stream of beam firing choreography. Mechagodzilla turns to engage with the proper robotic grace, courtesy of suit actor Wataru Fukuda. Physical contact would be shunned throughout the Heisei series, Mechagodzilla amongst the most egregious offenders, if still proving competent in its sparky, flashy dollops of color.
As it nears a close at an unusually long 107 minutes, Mimura’s work becomes desperate, beginning to unearth whatever unseen, unheard of powers suit the scenario, and thus building on the live action comic book style which permeated Godzilla’s second cinematic film cluster. Although, aside from those dangling misgivings, Mechagodzilla is a giant monster treat with limited critical inconsistencies.
Sony’s Blu-ray edition is likely sourced from the same master used in distribution of their late blooming DVD. While much of the Heisei series launched on the format alongside 1998’s American Godzilla, Mechagodzilla remained an outlier until 2005 brought it Stateside. This Blu-ray appears a decade old at least.
While a smidgen sharper than Sony’s King Ghidorah/Mothra Heisei Blu, Mechagodzilla struggles with the idea of fidelity. Too often images are smashed by low resolution processes, and limited grain is left for the encode to handle. Instead, compression routines bide their time with other strewn particles, such as the glitter effect which became forever linked to this second series. Impressively, no faults are discovered as the screen becomes overloaded.
Being increasingly fair, black levels are also astonishingly flawless. Certain shots depict the creatures backed by pure black, and such images are striking given their boldness. Some crush will hammer shadow detail, particularly within the cockpit of Mechagodzilla, if a minor visual deterrent considering how crummy the rest is.
Fading color saturation deflates the once evident energy, lifted only by the sheer will of multiple beams which force a burst of contrast. Otherwise, primaries sit around without any chance of leaping from the frame. A shift toward warmer hues, particularly in the first act, is of no help.
Mechagodzilla’s blistering 5.1 mix is best related to an excited child. Theatrically dumped in Dolby Stereo, the surround mix can be sourced from Toho’s DVD – and it’s loud. Back channels are inflated to pick up Rodan in mid-flight or other machines, including a jet assault. Missiles and machine guns travel through the space with emphasized rears, while stereos – despite a significant spread – sound dimmed in comparison. This track goes far enough to spread dialog into the rears as Aoki break into a facility holding baby Godzilla’s egg.
It misses some LFE marks, gurgly instead of tightened. While intended rumbles are notable, subwoofer support too often drifts away without stable impact. Like the video, low-end support comes through faded.
Four trailers serve as bonuses without any of the Japanese DVD extras offered.
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.