Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. / Godzilla: Final Wars

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. / Godzilla: Final Wars (2003)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara,
Extras: Featurette, B-Roll Footage, Trailers

When it was released 10 years ago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise, "Godzilla: Final Wars" was also reportedly the last Godzilla movie to be made. As we all know, this has changed and the recent Hollywood-made blockbuster proves how lucrative the kaiju business can still be. To celebrate the new movie and the 60 years of legacy, Sony Picture Home Entertainment has prepared a number of double-feature Blu-Ray releases, bringing many of the classic Godzilla films to high definition for the firs time. I took a look at the release featuring "Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S." and "Godzilla: Final Wars," the last two films in the franchise made by Toho.

Both, "Tokyo S.O.S." and "Final Wars" are great examples how far the kaiju movies had come. Sticking to their tried-and-true man-in-a-rubber-suit approach rather than CGI monsters, both films still have the charming feel of old-school Godzilla movies, yet tat the same time the overall production design and the use of CGI for other elements in the film, give them both a distinctly polished feel. At the heart of both films, still lies some good city-smashing and monster-bashing, reminding us how much can still be had from the traditional approach to the genre.

"Tokyo S.O.S" is without a doubt on of the best of all Godzilla films. It offers a solid storyline that is captivating and helps prop up the monster action. It never feels like a crutch but instead really creates a sense of cohesiveness that was missing from many others of the films.

Featuring the most sophisticated incarnation of Mecha-Godzilla, as well as Mothra, the film is filled with rampaging monsters and destructive mayhem without ever plodding into silliness. The backstory of mankind trying to use Mecha-Godzilla to destroy Godzilla is filled with setbacks so that the final climax of the movie becomes incredibly satisfying. While the characters may be two-dimensional, and the English dub still hideously inept, I enjoy "Tokyo S.O.S." every time I see it, because there is some sparkle in the film that is hard to describe.

By the same token, "Godzilla: Final Wars" is a true celebration of kaiju, and as a result a wonderful free-for-all monster mash, in which you will get to see many of the most memorable creatures that Toho Studios created over it 50 year legacy. There is Rhodan, Minilla, Gigan, Ebirah, Hedorah, Manda, Mothra, and many others, and, of course, Godzilla himself. For its 125-minute running length the film consists mostly of these creatures colliding and fighting it out, laying waste to countless acres of real estate until in the end what remains is a bleak, shattered landscape of ruins, battered people and a final farewell to Godzilla and his son Minilla. And this time the destruction is not limited to Tokyo only, it spans the entire globe as the monsters walk right over the Sydney Opera, Paris Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks the world over.

No less than 15 monsters make their appearance in this movie, each of them updated, fierce and better-looking than ever. The final battle between Godzilla and the mutating Monster X is a true highlight and epitomizes all that has been so great about the Godzilla franchise.

The story itself is spiced up by aliens unleashing the creatures to destroy mankind and man's fight against them. A surprisingly big martial arts battle is also part of the film as the aliens fight it out with the humans. Overall, this is battle galore!

The first thing I noticed when opening the release was the Sony gave each film in the double-feature its own disc. I had honestly expected that the studio would try to squeeze both films on a single disc to save money, but fortunately for all fans, this is not the case and as a result, both films are presented in wonderfully clean high definition transfers. Presented in their original 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the transfers may not be as stellar as those of a high end Hollywood production, but they are a definite improvement over the DVD presentations, which tended to look a little muddy at times.

The transfers are free of blemishes or defects and holds a solid level of detail. Every subtle texture in the monster suits and models is evident and with their gorgeous cinematography, the filmmakers really pulled all the punches to make these films memorable entries in the series. It is great to see that Sony remastered the films to ensure the best possible home presentation that also features deep, solid blacks.

Audio tracks in Japanese and English are provided on both films, both presented in the lossless DTS 5.1 HD Master audio format. The tracks are dynamic and rich in both English and Japanese, making good and constant use of the surround channels to heighten the experience of destruction and power emanating from the monsters on screen. This is particularly true for "Final Wars," for which which Keith Emerson – of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame – provided the soundtrack. Standing out among the traditional Godzilla soundtracks, the score is a complete throwback to the 70s with is analog synth arrangements. Sounding almost like a Dario Argento movie at times, "Godzilla: Final Wars" is a surprising experience on many levels and Emerson's score certainly adds to it.

As extras, the double-feature release contains the extras that were originally part of their respective DVD releases. As such you will find the "Making of Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S." featurette in the release, as well as the "B-Roll" footage segment that allows you to take a look behind the scenes and see how some of the film's shots were created on set. You will see many alternate takes from "Godzilla: Final Wars" as they lead up to the final versions shown in the movie.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment makes "Godzilla" even more accessible with these double-feature releases, giving fans two movies for the price of one. But what's best about it is that the studio didn't skimp and made sure each film has its own disc, allowing for a solid presentation, stemming from a remastered high definition transfer. You know, you want it, so don't wait up…