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.
Ah Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), a Godzilla movie that has long alluded me for most of my life. I never even knew it existed until 1998 almost ten years after it was made. How is that possible you ask? Well I’ll show you. You see much like Return of Godzilla (1984)/Godzilla 1985 it has a sort of distribution problem.
Though it isn’t as horrible situation as its precedcesor, Godzilla vs. Biollante was originally distributed in America by Dimension Films (the fellows who made the Scream trilogy and other out there indy flicks) in the early 90s. From what I read, the movie was dubbed in English and aired on HBO and Cinemax around that time period until the very reason why the movie became so rare a find.
In the latter half of the 90s, Miramax bought Dimension Films and in turn Miramax is owned by Disney. So technically Disney owns a Godzilla film and refuses to distribute it here in the states. So yes this movie just rots in the dust pan in some vault over at Miramax, while the movie gets to be released and shown in Japan, Italy, Germany, France, and Thailand.
So how can one view it in the states unless of course hell freezes over and Miramax gives Godzilla fans in the US an actual release? Well, four ways. The first getting your hands on a region DVD player of said country above and buying it from over sea’s. The second is purchasing the VERY RARE VHS English dub Dimension put out in the early 90s when releasing it. The third is if you have a laserdisc, Dimension did release it via there as well. The last option, well is if you buy it off someone who burnt a copy on a DVD with English subs. I will not say which of these four did I employed in viewing this film, other than I have seen it and let’s get onto the full review.
Now Godzilla vs. Biollante begins right where Return of Godzilla left off, with Japan reeling from the latest attack by the radioactive dinosaur. However, it soon revealed that a piece of the Big G’s skin has been found amongst the wreckage. Soon numerous rival companies of foreign nations (The Americans, Japan, and some Middle Eastern Power) begin fighting over such a rare sample. Eventually the Middle Eastern Company wins out though not soon after, tragedy befalls the lead researcher Genshiro Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) of the project.
Flash to five years later with Shiragami now working for Japan on the same project though with plants and a weapon to use against Godzilla. Soon the other two rival companies from before take notice of what’s going on and once again a blood bath ensue. All of this reaches toward Godzilla being freed from his volcanic tomb and a new beast unleashed into the world called Biollante.
Wow, as you can tell Toho was trying something new with their Godzilla films with this particular entry on the human side of things. This plot I describe above is the focal point for about fifty of the film’s minutes before Godzilla is unleashed upon the world again. On the plus, his presence when even trapped is always felt which makes the payoff of his escape all the better. Heck there’s even a timer in this counting down to the second of the arrival of the King of the Monsters.
To the film’s credit it does an excellent job making the viewer anticipate this inevitably. Until then, it fills some actually well constructed action scenes and an actually interesting idea of several companies wanting to study the heck out of a living tissue sample of the Big G. All three rivals for this are given a good amount bit of time and some good fleshing save for the silent and bad ass Middle Eastern mercenary out to get the sample.
4 out of 5
That said again this is a VERY rarity of seeing a Godzilla film with a more global presence. Continuing the global issues of where Return of Godzilla left off on, this time we get American and Middle Eastern corporations who’re trying to control the market of whatever this sample can bring them. To that end, this film doesn’t feel as dated compared to its predecessor given elements such as this could still occur today.
However, this film has all the points that would follow it and eventually become Heisei Era of G films. For example, this movie introduces us to Miki Saguesa, a character as played by Megumi Odaka, who would be the primary link between all these Godzilla films of this era. As such she gets a nice portion of the film to her character which cultivates in a stare-down between her and Godzilla.
Honestly, I had a real love/hate with the whole psychic angle of her character throughout the series. I loathed it the most when it was overplayed with cheap effects and ruled most of the plot (damn earring lifting up and her controlling Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla I’m talking about you!). However when they downplay said effects, it can lead to some good moments (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II and Godzilla vs. Destroyah easily come to mind). Here it doesn’t bother me as much just because she’s a means to an end and doesn’t annoy me as much. But you can really see the formation of her character’s views here and why she rather keep Godzilla alive than see him dead. The other players in this movie are actually quite descent for a Godzilla film. Koji Takahashi does a great job making you feel for the poor doctor who at first just wanted to get his hands on studying the cell sample to just wanting his child back after losing her.
However, this being a Godzilla film all other talk ends when concerning the other major player of this film, Biollante. She’s an intriguing idea for a monster being that technically she’s cut from the same cloth as Godzilla is being both radioactive creatures whose life only exists thanks to said nuclear power. Her actual creature designs are really quite memorable and awing to look at. The only regret I have of Biollante would be we never truly have a clear shot of her final form. Instead, just quick shots of her head and bare glimpses of her actual mass being cover by rain and darkness. All and all I have to give Toho props for such a unique creature design.
As for the King himself, well again this follows a new design that would remain throughout the Heisei Era. It’s not a bad design, though Godzilla seems just so darn bulky in his feet and stomach area. However, I do so enjoy the head design of this era and the fact that Toho kept it for the remaining six years shows why it was so darn good. Even more under the right light and camera angle the suit just seems so darn imposing.
Thus is the greatest credit I can give in that the direction in this film is just fantastic. The set pieces, mood, action, and camera angles are just awing. Of all the Godzilla films, I’ve never seen so many beautiful shots of him rampaging through Japan or his confrontation of the opposing monster as there are here. So big props to Kazuki Omori for such great visual
Now about the only real bad negative I have truly of this film would be its musical score. The music is just flat out is awful. The score just SCREAMS 1980s techno music. About the only good I can say of this film’s score would be the opening music it uses and that it retains Akira Ifukube’s iconic themes for Godzilla and the Japanese armed forces. Other those select musical samples, the score is tame compared to Return of Godzilla’s and has nothing on anything Ifukube’s ever done in a Godzilla film. We get numerous recycled themes that are played over and over again thus becoming tiresome after hearing it for the fourth time (save for Ifukube’s G themes). Also the score just doesn’t sound right with the dark tones of the film save for the comedic moments. Thankfully after this, Akira Ifukube would return to score four of the remaining five Heisei Godzilla films and end his musical legacy on quite the high note).
Still, I have to give Godzilla vs. Biollante kudos for trying some new possibilities of where to take the Godzilla franchise. Not to mention the visual angles. Though it is lacking in the score department it makes up for in creature effects and actual characters. So is it truly worth all this trouble to track this movie down? I would say quite easily the answer would be yes.
4 out of 5