BLU-RAY REVIEW /FRAME SHOTS
3-D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy; 2014; PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence; Streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple TV, FandangoNOW, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu
Best extra: "Godzilla: Force of Nature" in HD.
THERE ARE TWO types of monster movies: Those that aim for realism and those that don't. Less than five minutes into director Gareth Edwards' reboot of the famed Japanese "Godzilla" franchise, we know he's crafted a monster movie that delivers a plausible scenario of what would happen if a giant reptilian creature stepped out of the Pacific Ocean and into our, well, reality.
And while nearly every summer blockbuster director will rap about how he/she aspires to create a world we can relate to – no matter how obtuse the subject – Edwards actually succeeds by treating his film like a disaster flick, where a monster takes the place of an earthquake, tornado or Armageddon. When Godzilla wrestles with a giant insectoid creature on a Hawaiian island, the destruction and resulting frenzy look and feel like something we'd actually see on a live news feed – but with much more detail. When Godzilla swims across the Pacific toward the doomed California Bay Area, the accompanying U.S. Naval "escort" feels legit – as if the Navy has a giant monster protocol. Despite an overt conspiracy bait motif, "Godzilla" plays with such strong logic and rational that there are times we forgot we were watching a movie about the "King of Monsters." At times, it felt real enough to make us wonder if monsters do hibernate in the ocean floors.
Credit Edwards' approach for this "realism." In the Blu-ray's batch of extras, the British director talks about how he doesn't like placing cameras where they can't naturally go. It's a simple idea, but one that plays to great success as we don't see Godzilla, for instance, from the mouth of his MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) enemy. Every shot of the great monster is shown from a human perspective, allowing it to be scaled beside everyday items.
So we see Godzilla towering over a building or dwarfing a nearby aircraft carrier, and we instantly understand his size and, with it, his physical impact. We can listen to Edwards and his team talk about drafting the backstory (prehistoric creatures lured out by atomic energy) or the detail that went into merging CGI effects with real world locations, but the most successful aspect of "Godzilla" is that human vantage point. It allows us, the viewers, to see a world like our own where monsters roam (Edwards mined this same motif in his 2010 flick "Monsters.")
Now, that's not to say the remaining extras aren't worth exploring. They are. A set of fictionalized conspiracy files play like natural programming for the History Channel, and featurettes about the MUTOs and stunt sequences aren't boring filler. But it's "Godzilla: Force of Nature" that exposes the flick's DNA. It's where Edwards talks about perspective. Here we see the specific early computer models morph into the finished products. It's a peek into the transformation of idea to film, although it rarely feels overly technical.
One thing the production team doesn't discuss, however, is 3-D. That may not be an accident as the 3-D visuals just don't pop – regardless of whether you see it in a neighborhood multiplex or your home theater. The biggest offender is the continual dark and gloomy scenes, which rarely play well for 3-D. Plus the filmmakers framed most of "Godzilla" with compressed long lens with out-of-focus backgrounds; the technique misses the opportunity to experience the action with a natural, wide-eyed perspective.
The standard Blu-ray picture is first-rate, providing additional sharpness (you can see Godzilla's "fat" jiggle) and the darker scenes are filled with much more clarity. So avoid the 3-D. It's the only negative on this home release of one of the most "believable" monster films in recent years.
― Robert Morast and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer