A Rose Is A Rose Is A Monster: A Godzilla vs. Biollante Blu Ray Review

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) is finally available on DVD and Blu Ray thanks to Echo Bridge Entertainment!

Mark your calendars and get your wallets ready, kaiju fans; this upcoming Tuesday (Dec 4th) one of Godzilla’s most-difficult-to-track-down movies is coming to not only DVD, but also hi-definition Blu Ray courtesy of Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. Godzilla vs. Biollante was originally released on VHS and Laserdisc by HBO Video in the early 1990s and hasn’t been seen on the US home video market since. In fact, since Godzilla’s 50th Anniversary in 2004, almost every other film has been released on DVD – the other two recent holdouts have been Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and Godzilla 1985. Thankfully Godzilla vs. Megalon was released on DVD earlier this year and now Echo Bridge’s release of Godzilla vs. Biollante brings fans closer to having every film in their collection. Additionally, this marks the third Godzilla film released in high definition – the original film in the series, simply titled Godzilla (1954 – Criterion) and Destroy All Monsters (1968 – Media Blasters) preceded this release.

 

Movie: 7 out of 10
Shot by Toho in 1989 as a direct sequel to Godzilla 1985, Godzilla vs. Biollante is the seventeenth entry in the series and the second film in what fans call the Heisei era of Godzilla films. The film picks up immediately after Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo in the previous film and follows scientists obtaining cells from the monster in order to utilize their reproductive qualities for an array of uses, one of which ends up creating the opponent for our beloved king of the kaiju, Biollante. Like many films in the series, this one has both high and low points, from the basic story to the special effects to the pacing and even character development.

Despite the uninteresting love story and the unchallenging foe that Biollante becomes, the movie follows many of the tenets of kaiju films that tend to enthrall this reviewer: foam rubber behemoths, imaginative military weaponry, pseudo-science and, of course, some excellent city destruction. Compared to the rest of cinematic history, Godzilla vs. Biollante isn’t very good, but in comparison to the other films in the giant radioactive monster genre, it is a lot of fun and surprisingly holds up quite well after twenty-two years.

Video Quality: 8 out of 10
Being shot on film stock in 1989, viewers today should not expect a crystal clear transfer of the original materials. Godzilla films are often shot grainy and this entry is no exception. The look of the film, however, does not seem out of place and the transfer of the materials from Toho look quite good. One thing to watch for in a visually dark film as this, would be the quality of the dark expanses of black which can often become overly blocky during the compression process. Thankfully, there appeared to be no visual flaws with the video quality. Of course this isn’t going to look as crisp and clear (and in focus) as the Avengers Blu Ray, but hopefully one would not be expecting that level of quality. Regardless, the picture looked clean and even throughout the entire film.

Audio Quality: 5 out of 10
The release has three options for your aural enjoyment: Japanese DTS HD 5.1 SurroundJapanese DTS HD 2.0 Stereo & English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. I wish I was an audio guru, but I am not. What I can tell you about my home theater setup is that I am running my Blu Ray player through a receiver. The video fires off to my projector and the audio to a 5.1 surround sound DTS compatible system. It makes sense that I would use the 5.1 Surround option when watching this film, but I was unable to hear anything out of my rear speakers. In order to rule out the fact that I might not know what I am doing, I threw in the Avengers Blu Ray and heard my rear speakers responding normally. Perhaps something went wrong during the process of importing the raw Japanese materials, but I heard nothing at all in the rear channels throughout the viewings of this movie.

The English dub is presented in Mono and is the same International dub used in the version fans have seen on VHS and Laserdisc. Unless you want to bathe yourself in nostalgia or have a friend/family member that simply will not watch subtitled films, I suggest sticking with the Japanese language tracks.

Special Features/Extras: 8 out of 10
Like the video quality, there is only so much you can hope for in a domestic release of a Japanese film from the late 1980s. While the disc only contains two special features, keep in mind that Toho created both of these features many years ago. According to TohoKingdom.com, the “Making of” featurette was initially released in Japan on it’s own VHS and was later put on the Japanese DVD release followed by the Japanese Blu Ray. The video shows some really amazing behind the scenes footage including some deleted scenes and effects. Two notable entries are the attempts at stop-motion animation and the 2D animated death of Biollante. The second and much shorter “Behind The Design” feature shows several sculpted designs for the monster.  Both features are subtitled in English and presented in 4:3 instead of 16:9.

Overall score/rating: If you are a Godzilla fan, BUY IT!
I have made a habit over the years of buying every kaiju-related release as soon as (or shortly after) it is available. Obviously, that’s the reason I have such an expansive collection of these movies. But consider that in the grand scheme of home video consumerism, these films attract a small clientele. They will never be as mass-produced as the next Hollywood blockbuster. All to often, I hear from listeners about the eBay and third-party sellers that are price gouging because kaiju films are produced in such low numbers. If you are a Godzilla fan, the most important rating that I can give this is to just tell you to buy it. If you have a Blu Ray player, buy the Blu Ray disc. If you only have a DVD Player, just get the DVD. If you buy the film now, you won’t be out of luck in the future when the film is long out of production and it cannot be found for less than five times the original price of the disc.

The good news and bottom line: it’s actually a great disc – you’ll get to see one of the films fans have been dying to see for years. It’s presented in its original language in widescreen and with some bonus footage that many fans have never seen. Plus, with the suggested retail price of $14.99, the Echo Bridge presentation is worth every penny.

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