This past week likely marks the most important North American home video release for the Godzilla franchise since Classic Media distributed the original 1954 film in 2006. Finally, for the first time ever, the original Japanese version of Godzilla 1985, known internationally as The Return of Godzilla, has officially come stateside. Thanks to Kraken Releasing, fans who haven't seen director Koji Hashamoto's original cut can easily obtain it.
To be clear though, the American cut, known as Godzilla 1985, is not included on this set. Due to legal issues surrounding unions, music and the number of times the Raymond Burr version has changed hands, it was simply not possible to include it on this set. However, given the fact that the original cut has waited thirty-two years to be officially released in the States, it's a forgivable omission.
So how does Godzilla's original reboot stack up? Lets see how well Kracken Releasing pulled it off. (This review specifically covers the Blu-ray version.)
The packaging is standard for Kraken Releasing. Like their previous Godzilla releases (Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Gigan) it features original Japanese poster art surrounded by a scaly, green border. Personally I prefer the poster art by Noriyoshi Ohrai, but the image used here is more widely recognized.
The international title (The Return of Godzilla) is featured at the bottom, while a faux American title sits at the top: Godzilla 1984. This is clearly meant to turn the heads of those who only know this film by the American cut. It has a slight air of dishonesty to it, but I suppose it's less confusing than using the literal Japanese translation: Gojira or Godzilla—No different from the 1954 film.
THE RETURN OF GODZILLA
The Return of Godzilla is something of a fan favorite, even if many remember it as Godzilla 1985. Koji Hashamoto's take on the King of the Monsters feels less like a kaiju film and more like an apocalyptic disaster epic--Its overall tone sets it apart from the rest of the series. Although its flat characters drag it down from being truly great, the Cold War setting adds an unexpected layer of humanity to the story. Even with its flaws, the sequels had a hard time living up to Return's visual and political minutiae.
Like the rest of the Heisei Godzilla Blu-ray discs, The Return of Godzilla is plagued with image issues. Using Toho's low-quality remaster, there's massive grain inconsistency, with some darker shots looking like they exist in a star field. Daylight shots fair better and much of the film's effects heavy final is spared of the grain field.
Much of the film is fairly soft, but that's par for the course with the Heisei series. Quite frankly though, with only sub-standard definition versions of this film having been available for so long, this is likely the best fans will ever get to see the movie. It's very far an exhibition disc, but even with the flaws the film's gorgeous photography still pops.
Both the dub and Japanese language versions are presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and both are fairly disappointing. Dialog levels are low for both the Japanese language version and the dub. Meanwhile, Reijiro Koroku's magnificent score is drowned out by the sound effects which, considering the other sound issues, are certainly the highlight.
It should be noted the dub is something of a rarity for fans. Instead of the 1985 English dub by New World, this disc includes Toho's international dub recorded by the Hong Kong company Omni Productions—The same company that dubbed the rest of the Heisei movies and the Millennium series. Fans familiar with those dubs might recognize some [terrible] voice actors here.
Unlike the Sony discs, The Return of Godzilla features some of the most accurate subtitles of a North American Godzilla release. Everything flows well and is explained clearly--There are no “dubtitles” here. In fact the subtitle script used by Kraken Releasing is so elegantly written it makes me cringe that they weren't in charge of Sony's cache of Godzilla titles.
Like previous Kraken Releasing and Sony titles, The Return of Godzilla only features the original Japanese trailer. Additionally, it includes the Japanese previews for the other Kraken Releasing Godzilla films. (For any who may have missed out on those.)
Toho's strict mandates for releasing these films overseas continues to cause issues. It's a shame more couldn't have been put on this disc, especially considering the wealth of b-roll and behind-the-scenes material out there for this film. On the other hand I suppose we're lucky to be getting the movie at all.
The menu uses Kracken Releasing's usual option buttons from previous Godzilla releases and a screenshot of the title character himself. The film's ending theme song, “Goodbye Godzilla”, serenades us as we scurry to hit the play button. It's a curious choice to introduce us to the film with this song considering how charming Koroku's score is. We just popped in the disc and it's already singing “sayanora Gojira” to us? Someone hit the play button before he leaves!
There's no getting around it—The long wait for this film yielded a fairly mediocre result. The magnitude of this movie finally hitting North America should have been celebrated with more features and stronger technical quality. Additionally, some fans will undoubtedly miss the Godzilla 1985 cut. A lot of this can't be helped, but it's still a shame The Return of Godzilla's official North American debut didn't come with all the bells and whistles. Although I don't think fans should settle for less, it's hard not to be grateful that it's finally here. Just don't expect a release on par with Kraken's previous Godzilla titles.
Check out other Blu-ray Reviews of Godzilla titles:
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah / Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth Blu-Ray Review
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II / Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla Blu-ray Review
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah / Godzilla vs. Megaguirus Blu-Ray Review
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This article was written By G. H. (Gman) and published on 2016-09-19 20:39:43
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