I'm a lover of movies; in fact, I love all kinds of movies. Amongst them all, action movies especially are my passion. However, I also do enjoy sci-fi, drama, comedy, and horror. As for romance? Eh, if the babe is hot it might be deemed possibly watchable for me. Though even then, that so did not help me when I watched The English Patient (1996). Otherwise, I rather watch Batman & Robin (1997) for 24 hours straight than see a cheesy romance flick. Still, I cannot see every movie known to man when they come out, or only hear good stuff about them. Therefore, I'll put my behind down and review the flick. Enter this column, where I finally state was the movie truly worth the price of viewing or not.
Oh Godzilla films how I love thee. You’re mindless entertainment has provided me amusement since I was a wee one. If there was a Godzilla film I hadn’t seen I HAD TO WATCH IT no matter the quality (*cough* Son of Godzilla what was I thinking?*cough*). Throughout the years only five Godzilla films had eluded me in watching in their original Japanese language and not English form (most of them where cut and a totally different movie). They were: the original Gojira (1954), Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Return of Godzilla (1984), and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). Well, of the first two thanks to a recent anniversary release on DVD I’ve crossed those from the list. Before someone can say, “Zechs what about Destroy All Monsters (1968)?” Again that too is very rare to find in its original format here in the US. Well, to answer bluntly, I found a way and that's all I have to say about it. But amongst them all two of them: Return of Godzilla (1984) and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) seem an almost impossibility to see an actual release here in the US. In the movie I review today’s case, Return of Godzilla (1984) the reason is due to the ownership of rights to the film. The original distributor of the film when it was released and retooled in the United States as Godzilla 1985 (1985), New World, has long since been out of business around the early 90s. The rights then where gathered up by Anchor Bay (which is listed as the distributor of my VHS copy of Godzilla 1985). However, recently it’s come to my attention that ownership of this film is in the hands of Turner Broadcasting. There is a chance that Turner could release the American film given it is listed as a film if given enough voting they will release (see here for the actual link to the site with Godzilla 1985 currently at 101).
So how different is Return of Godzilla to Godzilla 1985? A LOT. There was sixteen minutes cut from the American release and replaced with scenes with Raymond Burr reprising his role as reporter Steve Martin and the American side to this. Also the Americans were made to be awfully nice guys in this, while the Soviet Union where made into bastards. Oh and a ton of Dr. Pepper product placement. A TON. In the original film, there are no Dr. Pepper ads, and the Soviets here are portrayed in a far more fair light with the Americans, with both demanding Japan to use nukes to stop Godzilla, yet allowing the nation to deal with the problem itself.As such the plot is still very much the same as its American counterpart just very little to do with the Americans. Godzilla sightings start flaring up with them slowly getting toward Japan, meaning it’s only a matter of time before he arrives inland and the events of the past (aka the original movie) repeat themselves. A survivor of one the sightings, joins up with a doctor who has spent his whole life studying the beast. The pair attempt to figure out a way to save Japan. Though their plan is secondary to Japan’s main one: which is pitting Godzilla against their latest weapon, the Super X. That’s Return of Godzilla in a nutshell. And it works so very well into returning Godzilla into the rampaging form of nature that was created thanks to the folly of man. Unlike the latter half of Godzilla films from the 60s and 70s, Godzilla is a creature, not some savior. He reacts as any animal would. From simplicity of appeasing his hunger down to curiosity and his brain functions. This is one of the few Godzilla films besides the original in portraying that fact. Even more this also shares the lone fact this film is all Godzilla. No other Toho monster appears in the movie and it works just so well anticipating when the Big G will make his grand appearance. I still get goosebumps when we first see Godzilla in this movie. Also much in the nature of the first two Godzilla films, this movie is going for a more serious tone. In a way, that’s where a Godzilla movie works best. This series is the cream of the crop when it comes to giant monsters. There’s a damn clear message in this film (as such was with first two): where the sins of the past will come back to haunt you, no matter how hard you try and forget them or spin them into a lie to make you feel better.Though besides this message there’s another thing about Godzilla films that are always fun to watch: destruction. We get that plenty in this film as the effects vary in corny (big feet smashing stuff) and some particularly awesome (the robotic head used to highlight Godzilla when he roars and the jet fighters that fly in attacking him). Regardless, nobody knows how to destroy a miniature detailed city like Toho does.
As for the actual Godzilla suit itself, I have to admit this is probably my second favorite one (with Godzilla: Final Wars being #1 and Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: All Out Monster Assault being my third choice). There’s just a very lively thing with how Godzilla acts in this one. Plus the look he gives at the conclusion of his battle with the Super X just show’s so much. There’s just something REALLY scary about this Godzilla suit that sets it apart from the others.
Acting wise, alas to say other than Yosuke Natsuki as the Doctor Hayashida, there’s nobody really of the cast worth mentioning save for him and the poor brave Soviet who tries preventing an accidental nuclear assault. They all do their job though really the only thing I truly detest of this film is the robber who while gets his do reward is as annoying as he was in the American Version as he is here. However, Natsuki does what’s required as a scientist who is torn at the fact of the assignment of finding a way to destroy the creature and yet also being a scientist is no less in awe and so wants to study Godzilla more. As for the tragic Soviet naval officer I truly wish some more time was spent on him, just for the fact that it would have better built up his fate later on in the film.
The one true aspect that I really did enjoy above anything else in this film was its score. Done by Reijiro Koroku, he gives the film a very unique and dark beat to match the story. Godzilla’s main theme in this I have to confess is my favorite Godzilla theme of all time. Yes, even beating Akira Ifukube’s iconic themes.
The reason I adore it so it’s just so unrelenting and awing much as Godzilla itself. Plus there’s an almost Jaws like build up with it slowly blowing over until it explodes into full theme. The only problem I have is how poorly the opening and closing of this film is compared to its American opposite. In that regard I believe the US clearly has the edge. It make’s WAY better use of Koroku’s opening theme and it wisely cuts out the crappy romantic theme. Speaking of which I have to ask why the heck does a Godzilla movie have a love theme? Screw this; give us more of Koroku’s Godzilla theme! What is this? James Cameron’s Godzilla?! Also of note I really also love his Super X theme which is so damn heroic. Whenever I hear it, just brings so much giddiness and makes me want to feel proud.Inevitably, I have to compare both films. Which one did I enjoy more? I have to honestly admit that I enjoy the American version more. There’s just something about having an actual character from a past film (something sorely lacking in the Japanese version) that makes you connect more to the past. I mean sure the Professor sort of has this, but we can’t connect a face while we can with Burr’s Martin in the original American version.
Also as stated before even with the Soviet being “evil” bastards it doesn’t bother me. Neither is the English dub, which is alright and way superior to other Godzilla movies that have been dubbed in English. I probably say why I have so much loyalty to this, is because it was my first Godzilla seen on the big screen. Again, the opening and ending to the American is just so damn better too.
But again there are massive flaws with it as well. I absolutely HATE the young American army officer who just hams it up whenever he was on screen. I love the fact everyone around him just gives him a “SHUT THE HELL UP!” up look. So in that fact along with said drunk robber from earlier it’s a very nails on the chalkboard experience with me just screaming for them both to meet their untimely end or cut to a scene without them.
On the flip side, the original does give a better more realistic view on current events (such as the Cold War) and with maintaining a very serious dark tone for the most part. Even with some of the flaws it does have, they aren’t as numerous or eye rolling with the American version (save for maybe the big fake feet of Godzilla crushing stuff).
So what is my final verdict? I did truly enjoy this film for the fact it tried to stay with the original and keep a very dark tone than to go with anything campy or have any children screaming for Godzilla to protect them. And in the end, this is a Godzilla film. Screw whatever flaws you have with a dude in a giant rubber suit rampaging through a plastic city. In a society that is currently in love with alien Smurfs, that negates all such chatter of corniness. This was a fantastic re-introduction of Godzilla to a movie audience of a new generation. That said I give this a full point more than Godzilla 1985. It's far from flawless, but is a fantastic Godzilla film nonetheless.
4.5 out of 5