DVD Review: Godzilla (1998) - Monster Edition

It's impossible to describe the sheer hatred Godzilla fans have for this American adaptation. While there are a small number of closet fans, they would be wise to keep their thoughts to themselves. Dean Devlin's own admittance to not liking the previous films, a cheap shot at Godzilla fanzine G-Fan's editor JD Lees, and the abomination of the creature itself doom this film into the lowest depths of summer blockbuster history.

While the mainstream looks at a typical Godzilla film and laughs at their cheapness, fans look and see charm, effort, and the heart of the creators working with minimal budgets to create some incredible scenes of destruction. While no one will try to defend disasters like Godzilla vs. Megalon, the original purpose of the monster was obvious.

As a stand in for the nuclear horror Japan suffered, Godzilla meant something. He had a purpose as his indestructible hide marched through Tokyo. That's the reason Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's concept failed miserably. It has no sense of being, no purpose, and most importantly, no real horror. This is a cheap monster film on a ridiculously oversized budget with little thought as to why it was being made.

It's a shame too, because the time spent creating it was obvious. The special effects squad created some mesmerizing action at times, but missed out on the real reason we love Godzilla in the first place. This is a giant iguana that runs from the military, an inexcusable disgrace to a cinematic icon. This knock-off monster doesn't even cause much in the way of damage, preferring to stick to the side roads to avoid smashing through buildings.

You can sit back and call the original Japanese films cheap garbage with men in suits and cardboard buildings. The fact is the amount of care taken in those "garbage" movies is incredible, and should be obvious to anyone who enjoys special effects. This American bastardization lacks heart, and its cold, rainy presentation seems perfectly appropriate. (No stars out of *****)

As if this film needed more butchering, this latest "Monster Edition" DVD is a sure sign of why DVD sales have failed to grow. Slapped with a "Mastered in High-Definition" info box on the case, this is the same transfer the original DVD in 1998 had. It's a nice presentation with sharp black levels, stunning color where needed, and only minor compression issues. Grain is the key problem on minor occasions. (****)

Back in 1998, this was a showcase disc for home theater enthusiasts. Given that this is the same 5.1 mix from that previous DVD, it's obvious that this hasn't changed. This is film that deserved some recognition for its sound design, aside from the ridiculous and unnecessary change to Godzilla's trademark roar. Bass is simply outstanding, and the aggressive and constant use of the surround channels is unmatched. There's no need to buy this for the audio if you have the original. (*****)

Here's where things head straight downhill for this release. For the most part, the menu presentation is exactly the same. The chapter stops have been tweaked to give the appearance of something new, but Godzilla's foot no longer comes down to smash the screen during transitions.

Everything contained on the 1998 is here, including an excellent special effects oriented commentary, short promotional making-of, weak stills of the minor damage the creature caused, and a music video. Nothing has been removed, save for a trailer. The question then is obviously what makes this worth $14.99?

Absolutely nothing.

In fact, this could be one of the worst double dips of all time. The new "extras" are almost all geared towards promoting Sony's other Godzilla products. A section called "The All-Time Greatest Godzilla Fight Scenes" is nothing more than an extended trailer. It seems awfully suspicious when these fights only occur on DVDs Sony has out in stores, and they even toss in battle from the '90s Mothra updates, which they also have on DVD.

The three episodes from the far better animated series based off this terrible film is again teasing for the multiple sets of DVDs for sale. They even go as far as putting in a single episode of a three-part mini-series of sorts. Finally, a new production art gallery contains about 20 photos total, and most of these are shots of the submarine. There's nothing on the failed (or alternate) designs of the creature, which may have added some value to this absurd re-release. (*)

Sony is literally asking their customers to pay for their advertising. The new, sharper box art is nothing more than a visual punch to get people buying this DVD, not the indication there's any added value. Anyone who was suckered into buying this expecting something worthwhile has every right to bombard Sony Pictures with e-mails. There's simply no excuse for something like this.

At the least, they could have brought over the SuperBit edition release in Europe. The upgraded video and DTS audio should be an amazing experience, like most of Sony's SuperBit line. Apparently, we don't deserve that here in the U.S.

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