Sony’s Toho Godzilla Collection Blu-rays once again let us down
Patriotic mad science is at the heart of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, the fourth of five Toho-produced features to leverage the marketable Godzilla doppelganger. The 2002 production blends genetics and ideas of artificial life to build cozy, lean metaphors before dumping it all for a pro wrestling-esque behemoth scrap in one Japan’s commercial centers.
In some way, this follow-up to the grizzled might of 2001’s GMK is a retreat to comfortable normalcy. Despite an undercurrent of discussion surrounding the definition of life, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (or Godzilla x Mechagodzilla – GxM) is perkier as it brings the material lower to connect with children. Some animosity concerning Mechagodzilla’s stout female pilot – one more Millennium Godzilla offering feminine bite – is whisked away by playful romance before the climactic rumble.
Another restructuring of Godzilla history means GxM carries no weight or allegiance aside from the events of the monster’s 1954 mainland visit. Bones of that nuclear being become harvested for another Mechagodzilla, introducing an ingrained spiritual twist which can excitedly (for the audience anyway) turn the chunk of futuristic metal against its creators. A bevy of missiles and explosives ensures a swell of action, even as Godzilla dunks himself into the Pacific for rest.
Threaded politically, ’60s era pin-up girl Kumi Mizuno and gracefully aged Akira Nakao return to the franchise as two specific Prime Ministers, keeping a somewhat jumpy narrative in motion. This one feels enthusiastic, even passionate. GxM is quick to accelerate, managing to duck under the 90-minute mark and thus allowing some generous pacing.
GxM is a physical romp, whether kaiju sized or on the level of its named Japanese stars. Director Masaaki Tezuka will have none of the tiresome beam weapons exchanges which often corroded the Heisei portion of the series. Instead, suit actors Tsutomo Kitagawa and one-timer Hirofumi Isigaki’s tussle in a supremely organic, limited distance fight. While Isigaki lacks the robotic subtly of previous Mechagodzilla incarnations, the fluid motions build upon the idea of this construct being alive.
Some flubbed special effects aside, GxM’s short run is successfully hyper active and allegorically firm. No, this Mechagodzilla takes no extraordinary risks and may even be viewed as pedestrian. However, it’s brisk. There are few wasted minutes, striking a Godzilla picture with astute editing while merging an influx of story fattening characters. Wataru Mimura’s script, his fourth of five for the franchise, is also his best.
Sony’s Stateside treatment of their Millennium Godzilla features has been consistently bitten by shameful, low resolution masters. Almost by some default, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is a superficial winner in this closed off Blu-ray transfer war. That’s not to say this debut is acceptable. Even from a source standpoint, this presentation is swarmed with inconsistent moments of specks or dirt. It’s a shame.
As a hold over from a previous generation of media, edge enhancement will make itself noted with glaring halos. Dark outlines and analog-esque highlights appear ancient, presenting a sense of age rather than natural clarity. Processing crushes medium shots while making those appearances of unusually harsh burned-in text worse.
Overall resolution feels stunted, if not cloudy enough to inhibit fidelity. Some close-ups punch up facial definition, and special effect scenes are frequently clear from harm. Sony’s localized AVC encode works hard to manage a grain structure which is needlessly aggressive given the edge enhancement, leaving enough clarity to satisfy. While it may only be a BD-25, giving the film its own disc is certainly appreciated.
Elsewhere, the transfer is merely unremarkable. Colors are usually in the midst of a blue haze and black levels are superb to expectations. Intense contrast allows explosions and beam weapons to sizzle on screen. There is some definite beauty here. Shame it flunks because of outdated techniques.
While this DTS-HD mix may be slightly lacking in raw channel separation, the pleasingly boomy LFE track will forcibly earn a place at the forefront. Opening scenes whip up a typhoon. Waves slam the shore with what appears to push the subwoofer until Godzilla rises with emphatic growls and roars. The explosiveness kicks in as missiles and tanks begin a barrage of low-end work, with each Godzilla step pushing for scale. This sense of mass never quits.
Surround use ends up being peppered throughout, managing some Mechagodzilla-related aircraft during the key battles. As they fly across the frame, the limitations are made known. Stereos flatten out and only weakly offer their tracking abilities. Crumbling buildings spread debris without aural pizazz.
As usual, the dub features dialog which is over extended in terms of volume. Subtitles appear to be all over the place in terms of accuracy, sometimes representative of the dub, and sometimes not. On the other hand, some clear utterances of “Godzilla” (amongst others) are heard, yet never translated in text.
In a show of embarrassing carelessness, Sony includes a single trailer as a bonus… and actually uses one for Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 1993. Classy.
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.