4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Hong Kong was nearly destroyed during the battle between Godzilla vs. Kong and the appearance of Mechagodzilla.
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“GODZILLA VS. KONG”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; PG-13 for intense sequences of creature violence/destruction and brief profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with director Adam Wingard
LOOKING FOR the ultimate monster slugfest? You've got to see “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the fourth installment in the Warner/Legendary Entertainment “MonsterVerse” franchise.
Indie director Adam Wingard (“Death Note,” “The Guest”) helmed the film. The story opens peacefully in 2024, with Kong waking up and strolling along a river scratching his backside before hitting a waterfall shower – just like any beastly male. He’s confined to a giant “Truman Show” – a domed environment (Monarch Outpost #236) – on Skull Island that’s continually ravaged by storms. Kong is monitored day and night by Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), and her charming adopted daughter, Jia, a native of Skull Island, who is deaf and has developed a special bond with Kong. She’s played by first-timer 10-year-old Kaylee Hottle, who’s actually hearing-impaired. Kong and Godzilla are the only active Titans left on the planet.
Kyle Chandler reprises his role as Dr. Mark Russell, now acting director of Monarch, and father of Madison the go-getter, played by the older teenager Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”). She still believes in Godzilla, and is captivated by conspiracy-theorist podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), an Apex employee who’s positioned himself inside the company to get the inside scoop.
(1) Rich bold HDR colors dominate the domed environment (Monarch Outpost #236) where Kong resides on Skull Island. (2) 10-year-old Kaylee Hottle plays the charming Jia, a native of Skull Island, who is deaf and has developed a special bond with Kong. (3) “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the first post-pandemic blockbuster with a $442 million worldwide box office.
New to the series is Alexander Skarsgård as academic Nathan Lind, an author who’s written a book about Hollow Earth, a mirrored world at the center of the earth, and possibly the original home of the Titans. Mexican actor Demián Bichir plays Walter Simmons, a tech giant who recruits Lind for an exploration using aerial vehicles to locate the Hollow Earth.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” gets a definitive 4K release on physical disc using HDR in all three formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision & HDR10+) to deliver the best color/contrast in whatever HDR format your 4K setup uses.
Filmed in the jungles of Hawaii for two months, this is an immediate visual upgrade in Warner’s MonsterVerse since “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the first in the franchise to get TRUE 4K mastering. Non-VFX shots captured on 6.5K and 3.5K ARRIRAW digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) are superb. There’s no question it’s been mastered in 4K, as it fills the screen with fine facial detail and plenty of clarity in distant objects during wide-angle shots. The FX shots were handled by three different production companies, Scanline VFX, Weta Digital, and MPC, but we question if the imagery was rendered in 4K or possibly a lower resolution 2.8K.
Scanline, the lead production house, created nearly 400 shots spread over 17 sequences, including the creation of Kong, Mechagodzilla, and the Hong Kong finale. The big ape alone has over 6 million digital hairs on his body. Weta, based in New Zealand, worked on “Skull Island” and “Hollow Earth.”
A side-by-side comparison with the VFX shots shows the 4K has more definition and clarity in Kong’s face and fur. Clouds are more dramatic, and overall contrast from shadows, mid-tones and highlights are striking. Colors are also richer, while overall resolution on the Blu-ray is down several notches, but fine watching on smaller setups.
(1-3) The Apex Cybernetics facility in Pensacola, Florida is attacked by Godzilla. (4) High school go-getter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) still believes in Godzilla even after the attack. (5) Her father Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) is now the acting director of Monarch. (6) Academic/author Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) recruits Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and Kong for an exploration to locate the Hollow Earth.
All of the formats (4K disc & digital, and Blu-ray) include the intense, rockin’ eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Kong’s breathing alone gives subwoofers a good rumble. (Just wait till he roars!) The battle sequences, which make up half the film, will shake the furniture. If you share walls, be a good neighbor and invite them over for a fun night at the movies. Everything from front to back, and top, bottom and sides are nicely balanced.
The intense music score from Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL (“Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”), keeps pounding, while Wingard inserts some lighter tunes: “Over the Mountain” by Bobby Vinton, “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest, “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies, and his personal favorite, “Loving Arms” by Elvis. “I saw Kong as an old Elvis, a little out of shape and not doing so well,” Wingard says. In the extras, he also reveals he has an Elvis film in the works.
“The Legendary approach has always been sort of that Godzilla is a good guy, you know, he’s misunderstood. Well, this is our version of the bad Godzilla…re-occurring motif of him sort of being equitable to Jaws.” — Adam Wingard, director
(1&2) Madison and her best friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) meet up with conspiracy-theorist podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). (3) Kong is transported by a U.S. Navy ship toward Antarctica for the adventure to Hollow Earth. (4&5) Jia and her mother Dr. Ilene Andrews escort Kong.
There are ten featurettes (disc & digital) broken into four main categories: “The God,” “The King,” “The Rise of Mechagodzilla” and “The Battles.” Wingard says, “Godzilla is partially the villain this go-round. He’s a different character.” He regrets they didn’t make Godzilla’s head a little larger: “It does hurt some shots.” He and his digital effects teams used the same Godzilla design from “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” But, Kong looks old and worn-down since the story picks up decades after the 1970’s “Kong: Skull Island” storyline.
Eventually, Godzilla and Kong “become a WWE tag-team” as they face off with Apex Cybernetics’ mechanized daikaiju Mechagodzilla, Wingard says. In rounds one and two it’s the battle between mythic adversaries Godzilla and Kong, with a big dose of PG-13 horror. “Our target was kids,” Wingard says.
He also provides an informative director’s commentary, with plenty of backstories and the reason he made the movie: “I wanted to shoot Godzilla tearing things up, and I wanted Kong to be ferocious. This is what it’s all about.” He also reveals during production a number of his crew was hit with the Swine flu; he lost 30 percent of them for a couple of days.
“My absolute favorite thing that I was always looking forward to in the movies was Godzilla using his breath. I thought that was the coolest thing.” — Adam Wingard, director
Round One: Godzilla vs. Kong
Before COVID-19 hit globally, the sci-fi/adventure was scheduled for a theatrical 2020 Memorial Day weekend release. Warner Brothers pushed its date up to early March, but the pandemic hit and “Godzilla vs. Kong” was reshuffled for November 20, 2020. When the second COVID wave hit, Hollywood scratched everything. Then, as vaccines became available, Wingard’s first big-budget film finally premiered in 3,000 American theaters March 31, 2021, with tandem 30-day streaming on HBO Max.
I saw “Godzilla vs. Kong” with my son in a Southern California theater with 50 other socially distant/mask-wearing moviegoers during its debut. Reaction was positive, with the film making $31 million in the first weekend creating the first post-pandemic box office hit. It topped $100 million in the U.S. and $442 million worldwide. Surprisingly, it surpassed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (2019), which only made $386 million worldwide without any health risk. “Kong: Skull Island” (2017) has been the most successful earning $566 million, with “Godzilla” (2014) ranking a close second at $524 million.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” is a perfect popcorn flick with its striking 4K visuals and earth-shattering soundtrack.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
The Adventure to Hollow Earth