- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2019

The latest cinematic grudge match between legendary kaiju stomps over to the ultra-high definition format in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, 181 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).

Director Michael Dougherty builds upon his Monsterverse by escalating a war between multistory creatures bringing back the days when Toho’s “Destroy All Monsters” thrilled fans around the globe in the late 1960s.

This story finds the secret cryptozoological science organization Monarch still monitoring the existence of the giants called Titans that include Godzilla.

An ecoterrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) attempts to find and awaken as many of the beasts as possible to rain destruction upon mankind.

After he kidnaps Monarch paleobiologist Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her young daughter Madison (“Stranger Things’” Millie Bobby Brown), he uses the scientist’s invention (that attracts and alters kaiju behavior) to help control Monster Zero (aka Ghidorah, a three-headed winged dragon) and set his plan in motion.



Monarch researchers such as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), the ex-husband of Emma and father to Madison, locate Godzilla and trigger a fight against rival Ghidorah that will find him struggling to remain the King of the Monsters.

The half-baked plot letting humans know that Mother Nature will eventually fight back just acts as a balsam wood framework to highlight some beautifully concocted computer-animated monsters and some stunning battles.

Scenes such as the massive pterodactyl-like fire demon Rodan emerging from an active volcano or Godzilla transforming into its Atomic Meltdown form are pure pop perfection for the kaiju lover.

And, imagine Boston acting as a final arena for the mighty Godzilla to challenge Ghidorah while Mothra and Rodan simultaneously go wing to wing.

Forget those angry and bewildered humans with their soap-operatic problems running around avoiding being stomped on this is glorious monster mayhem at its finest.

4K in action: Even though we get a 2160p visual presentation only upscaled from the 2K digital intermediate, viewers will want to watch the 4K version for the numerous battles and kaiju appearances set amid visually challenging conditions.

Specifically, rain, dust, snow, fog, storm clouds, underwater haze, and plenty of smoke add to screen clutter but the format’s high dynamic range and clarity allow our monsters to shine.

For example, fans will relish watching Ghidorah awaken in Antarctica as explosions crackle through ice amid a pool of flames. Detail to each spike on the tail and heads remain crisp, as does its conjuring of tentacled lightning strikes and using its glowing yellow throats to unleash a golden gravity beam blast.

It’s also hard not to get giddy during a moment when Godzilla scaly head appears in front of an illuminating full moon (pause the image and admire liberally) or as each spike of his tail, back and head begin glowing, like a countdown, to trigger his plasma blue atomic breath.

Equally impressive were the 4K visuals when Rodan and Ghidora fight that often looks like a colored-chalk painting due to the weather conditions, or when Mothra emerges from a waterfall with full wings spreading

And let’s get ready to aurally sweat as the Dolby Atmos sound mix and its monstrous bass allows every roar and growl, especially from Godzilla, to completely overwhelm a room. Often rumbling glass and furniture, the noise assault will cause viewers to nearly cower in terror.

Extras: An optional commentary track on the 4K and included Blu-ray disc features Mr. Dougherty, producer Zack Shields and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. (soldier Jackson Barnes).

The director dominates the lighthearted discussion and has plenty to offer about the legacy of the monsters and their re-creation, the casting, the acting and script choices. He also explains the digital motion-capturing of humans to help create the monsters.

He calls it “the modern way of doing a man in a rubber suit,” referring to how the original Godzilla and his buddies were seen in Toho films.

Move exclusively to the Blu-ray to find a towering collection of featurettes.

Serious fans will first dive into a five-minute primer on the key Titans (Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah and Rodan) and immediately appreciate another pack of segments (28 minutes in total) covering the reimagining of each creature for the film including clips of motion-capturing human actors.

Next viewers get a 33-minute look at the five major locations in the film — the Yunnan temple, the Castle Bravo underwater base near Bermuda, the Antarctic base, Isla de Maro volcano and Godzilla’s ancient undersea lair — all deconstructed via interviews, concept art, behind-the-scenes clips and plenty of production information.

Additionally, I appreciated a 15-minute, more scholarly immersion into humans’ fascination with monsters examined by professorial types such as Stephen T. Asma (author of “On Monsters”), Liz Gloyn (University of London) and Richard Freeman (zoological director of the Center for Fortean Zoology) as they discuss topics on cryptozoology, dragons and what makes a monster.

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