Toho stumbles at the source and Sony fumbles the Blu-ray as DoBlu’s “Summer of Monsters” continues
Takayuki Hattori supplies his first professional film score for Godzilla vs Space Godzilla, and Hattori’s work is the lone savior of this pitted drudgery of non-energy (along with being arguably the best non-Ifukube score of the franchise). Almost nobody returns from the regular Heisei work force outside of special effects designer Tetsuzo Osawa, who hoists his limited scope miniatures in this embarrassingly dire and wholly unnecessary entry.
Within fandom circles, Space Godzilla is derided for an abysmal outer space collision between Mogera – Japan’s latest robotic piece of weaponized firepower – and Space Godzilla, all amidst foam rocks meant to be passed off as asteroids. It’s rough. There is also a lingering issue of a “plush toy in disguise” Little Godzilla, supposedly the the next form of Baby from Mechagodzilla II. Only Godzilla’s previous son, Minya, was more awkward.
While both instances of fan ire are decidedly crude, Space Godzilla’s structure is its undoing, not the effects. Front-loaded with science gobbledygook about Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) trying to mind meld with Godzilla, the staggered pacing is not building toward any conclusion. All of this manipulation is running headlong into a wholly unnecessary infusion of mobsters and jarringly out of place mad scientist routine from Yosuke Saito, all discarded for a third-act monster clash.
Birthed from either Mothra or Biollante cells (not even writers Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Kanji Kashiwa’s can make up their minds), Space Godzilla’s villainy sulks as he stands around, sucking electrical juices from a nearby tower. When he does move, it’s an awkwardly stiffened state of flight, preposterous even for Toho’s series. Godzilla stands back and fires off nuclear vapor while standing in dark, under-lit, and crummy miniatures. There is no choreography, only sparks and noise.
Space Godzilla’s menial savior is some sharp cinematography, including unique angles for dialog exchanges and absolutely beautiful sunset draped conversation on a beach. Monster action is likewise given a lift, as even when a Godzilla seaside arrival grows tiresome, perspective is sharp in creating scale with human characters buzzing around the beast.
It is somewhat odd that Mogera returns to Toho canon here, decades beyond his first showpiece in 1957’s The Mysterians. Both films suffer from lack of conscious editing, seating themselves ringside for the climactic skirmish wherein beams are traded ad nauseum in a reach for excitement. While Mysterians built to its closure, Space Godzilla’s work is for naught. All of its plot threads and narrative design are inexcusably lost without payoff. It’s not even fun.
Sony admirably pairs Space Godzilla with Mechagodzilla II in the same package, but on separate discs. What seems like a positive turns unfortunate when this master first reveals itself. While avoiding the edge enhancement of Sony’s early DVD release, afforded resolution is limited and print damage is often depressing considering the age. On its own disc or combined, Space Godzilla would be a soft and murky presentation.
Pinpointing advantages over DVD editions (localized or otherwise) is difficult. Film grain is lost, but not by tinkering. Rather, the performed mastering processes are so feeble, there is no room left to display the film stock’s natural structure. Fidelity wanes anywhere other than close-ups, and even if zoomed, detail is sparse.
First act beach scenes are the only highlight. Shot with natural exterior lighting, contrast has a perkiness which will be lost naturally as night falls and hosts the citywide battles. There, black levels are dulled without substantial depth. Color appears reserved for back and forth beam shots or explosions. Otherwise, saturation pushes toward mild blues.
Sony’s work is notable, with high bitrates spread around the disc with space to spare. Compression is forcibly denied entry without much in the way of benefit. At least it’s one less problem to consider.
Despite being paired with the sonically fierce Mechagodzilla II, these films share little of their audio prowess. Space Godzilla seems to often ignore the existence of surrounds. Even in the front channels, there is contained spread without breaching far to the sides.
Considering the sheer volume of beam weapons and lasers fired, tracking between rears is negligible. Mogera’s flight mode is a limited engagement as Space Godzilla seems to be adhering to its stereo roots. DTS-HD audio make overs can only provide so much.
Three trailers are the lone 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.