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‘Godzilla’ 4K Ultra HD review

May 15, 2019

Japan’s famous monstrous export debuts in the ultra-high definition format as one of his least-popular iterations in Godzilla (Sony Picture Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 139 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $30.99).

The great news is that Sony has done an exceptional job digitally restoring director Roland Emmerichs and producer Dean Devlin’s blockbusting disaster flick from 1998.

Unfortunately, all of the enhanced color and crispness afforded to the movie can’t fix the shallow character development, marginal story, idiotic science and unwelcomed radical redesign of Godzilla that ultimately delivered a disserve to this legendary Kaiju.

The meek Matthew Broderick stars as a nuclear radiation scientist, Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, as he helps tracks a mysterious asexual multistory lizard that eventually nests in the Big Apple.

When Godzilla arrives, New York City pays the price in the grandest of destruction literally laying waste to the Metlife and Chrysler buildings and Brooklyn Bridge in the finest special effects traditions of Mr. Emmerich’s “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

Best part of the film is not only the large lizard’s offspring hatching in Madison Square Garden but the cheap shots the director tosses at film critic Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel by creating obvious doppelgangers of the two as a closely named mayor and campaign manager.

However, the directors and writers’ ultimate fatal flaw throughout the story was treating the King of All Monsters like a simple beast with a predictable survival instinct and not a sentient creature with a larger purpose, be it heroic or evil.

4K in action: A testament to the upgrade that involved a full 4K remastering of the film from the original camera negative is lighting clarity defined in a variety of locations such as atop a dark stormy sea; a dreary, rain-soaked Chernobyl; a drizzled, foggy evening in New York City; and contrasted by the vibrant bright blue skies highlighting lush greenery in Panama.

Moments such as Godzilla caught in a suspension bridge as cables rip from concrete pillars felt like I was watching the event from the shore and, best of all, a scene when Mr. Broderick is nose to nose with Godzilla allows viewers to appreciate the creatures serrated teeth, glowing green eyes and scaly, dark-green skin.

And, let’s not forget the enveloping sound upgrade to Dolby Atmos that will shake entertainment rooms as the beast roars and stomps across the Big Apple.

Best extras: With the exception of a trio of trailers on the 4K disc, all of the bonus content, duplicated from the 2009 high-definition release, resides on the included Blu-ray version of the film.

The most worthy of the extras first includes an unusual optional commentary track starring only the visual effects supervisors Volker Engel and Karen Goulekas and not the director or producer.

The insight never disappoints, although dominated by Mr. Engel, as they cover the technical magic and location shooting behind the creature film.

Next, a multimedia, stand-alone trivia game has a viewer answer either 10, 15 or 20 multiple-choice questions about the mighty Godzilla using the 4K player’s controller.

A solo player (the multiplayer is tied to old Blu-ray technology and does not work) gets 15 seconds to answers a question based on text or video clues that cover many of the Godzilla films as well as the actors and scene details from the 1998 film, such as “Which modern-day country is Chernobyl in?” or “Who directed ‘Godzilla versus Megalon?’ ”

Finally, check out a 10-minute compilation of all the best Godzilla fight scenes from 14 films covering three decades of his cinematic existence. The compilation is often cooler than the movie.