4-K Review: “Godzilla” (1998) STEELBOOK

Matthew Broderick takes on the biggest beast of his career with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s 1998 special effects creature feature Godzilla. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the film is still a delightful collection of 90s blockbuster ideas and a lot of the visual effects haven’t aged well, but it’s still a good hunk of hammy fun. Secondly, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray yields a new SteelBook, a slightly improved Dolby Vision transfer, but otherwise the same package as before. If you didn’t buy it already. However, 25 years later this film remains a piece of good dumb summer movie fun. From Broderick and his earthworms to Jean Reno’s chewing gum to every New Yorker reminding everyone they’re from Newe Yawk, it’s an entertaining show even if it doesn’t always succeed at hitting what it’s aiming for. Watching it again after all these years I almost wish we got those sequels! But considering all of the great kaiju action we’ve had the last few years, it’s probably for the best the franchise moved on.


Godzilla is released onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the second time thanks to Sony. Celebrating the film’s 25th Anniversary, we get a new SteelBook packaging for the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs to sit in. The 4K is again pressed on a BD-100 disc while a BD-50 showcases the 1080p picture. The 1080p disc is the same old disc that’s been on the market for a while now. Also included is a digital copy slip. The disc loads to Sony’s standard static image main menu with bonus features panel along the right side.


At Sony, the motto seems to be “If we did it great in HDR10, let’s do a new Dolby Vision disc with SteelBook packaging!” Similar to some of their previous efforts in this arena like Air Force One. The Dolby Vision grade is sharp and clear as before and film grain still retains its natural cinematic appeal with just a little extra barely discernable improvement. I did feel like depth was a little improved for this disc, but that largely extends to live-action sequences. I now have both the older 4K release and this new Steelbook version. Bitrate has a healthier average overall but not so high as to blow the doors off what we saw before. Dolby Vision adds a little extra refinement most felt in the black levels and shadows. This film is fairly dark, rainy, and steeped in shadows and that little extra nuance in the HDR grade is appreciated. The third act where they’re trying to find Godzilla’s nest and the full sequence in Madison Square Garden really felt better there. However, as before, the film’s heavy CGI use has its visual drawbacks. The entire chase scene through the city or any of the CGI babies still feel weightless or just outright soft or poorly rendered. Not even Dolby Vision and a higher bitrate can compensate for that. So yes, this presentation is technically better, but the mileage isn’t going to get most viewers far enough to warrant a double dip purchase.


On the audio scale we get the same very aggressive Dolby Atmos audio track. Playing back through several sections on both discs, I didn’t notice any difference. Now I liked this mix better than the previous release, however my biggest issue with this Atmos track was more with volume than element placement. While height channels hear plenty of action and the whole surround soundscape is quite expansive, I also felt like volume was used to compensate for nuance. When big action set-pieces kick in, big explosions do still sound a little distorted or tinny. In the end, that’s a fairly mild complaint. It’s a big loud movie and this audio track matches that effort. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is an alternate option but in all honesty, flipping between the two sounded rather silly. If you’re rolling Atmos, stick with that.


Bonus features are pretty much the same bag as before. Sadly, nothing new was added for this film’s 25th Anniversary effort. Once again, the audio commentary is still only available on the Blu-ray disc. However, on the 4K disc we get all of the teaser and theatrical trailers.


Coming off the high-flying intergalactic success of Independence Day, Devlin and Emmerich were the go-to filmmakers for big-money special effects summer blockbusters. 1998’s Godzilla seemed like the perfect fit for their sense of cinematic destruction and mayhem, but the film was savaged by critics and longtime kaiju fans, and was ultimately profitable but still underperformed. 25 years later, we have Toho punching out their own new Godzilla flicks while Warner Bros. keeps cooking up new ways for the big beast to fight Kong or some other giant creature. Now celebrating its anniversary milestone, 1998’s Godzilla scores a new 4K UHD SteelBook release. The new Dolby Vision transfer offers up a slightly better image but probably not enough of an improvement to push for a double-dip. However, if you haven’t already bought this on 4K disc, this is the set to snag.

Movie ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Special Features ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of five stars)

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