GODZILLA vs. BIOLLANTE (1989)
With Legendary’s reboot on the horizon, I thought I’d try to take a look back at some of my favorites over the years. Godzilla vs. Biollante, along with Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, ranks as one of the more original and stranger Godzilla films in the series. The film takes place 5 years after The Return Of Godzilla (known as Godzilla 1985 here in the U.S.) and has the Big G still trapped within the sealed volcano at Mt. Mihara and being monitored by the military who know he is alive inside. Meanwhile a Dr. Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) has been doing work with plant cells and not only creates Anti-Nuclear Bacteria, which can neutralize nuclear energy…don’t ask…but also creates a hybrid creature using Godzilla cells, plant cells and human DNA from his dead daughter…again, don’t ask. When a sinister corporation decides to get it’s hands on the A.N.B., they hold Japan ransom by planting explosives atop Mt. Mihara threatening to release Godzilla unless it’s turned over to their thugs. Things go awry when a mysterious agent from the (fictional) Middle Eastern country of Saradia turns up also seeking the A.N.B. and Godzilla is released upon Japan to resume his destructive reign of terror. Even the Japanese Self-Defense Force with all it’s military hardware is helpless to stop the radioactive juggernaut. But Shiragami’s mutated experiment has grown to massive size and ‘Biollante’ now calls to Godzilla to set the stage for a showdown between mutant monsters that may leave nothing and no one standing.
I like Biollante, it goes places and adds elements that previous series entries haven’t, but still provides what fans love about these movies. And that was the idea, as the story, by Shinchiro Kobayashi, was picked from many submitted during a contest held by Toho for new plot ideas for this classic series. The screenplay is by Kazuki Omori, who also directed with a darker tone than most entries, despite the far-fetched story and also gave the film some nice atmosphere and a different visual style than G fans where used to. Though the atmosphere could have been even better with a livelier score as Koichi Sugiyama’s score is adequate at best. We had a new and unique foe for Godzilla in Biollante (named after a Norse plant spirit according to Shiragami, but apparently there is no such name in Norse mythology) who changes form, so it almost is like there are multiple creatures. We also get corporate espionage, sinister spies from fictional Middle Eastern countries, DNA experiments and psychic girl Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) who would become a regular in the 90s (Hensei) Godzilla series. The SPFX are quite good by Kohichi Kawakita and crew. He would provide some really impressive FX for this series and for all the Hensei features, up to and including Destroyah and the city destruction and military battles are really well orchestrated here under his guidance. Kenpachiro Satsuma would play Godzilla again from the previous film and would become a worthy successor to the legendary Haruo Nakajima, giving Godzilla a real presence of power and menace throughout the Hensei series installments. The Godzilla design makes him look quite vicious and powerful and the suit is of far better quality then seen before. Thankfully gone are the big ping pong ball eyes instead he has smaller reptilian eyes and a mouth full of lethal looking fangs. His dorsal fins actually light up from inside when he blasts his radioactive fire, making it look far more impressive then the basic animation of previous entries. I also liked that Godzilla is not a good guy here and would remain a menace in these later films who would only battle an adversary to defend his turf. A true anti-hero. He wouldn’t be seen as more of a hero till the series finale (for now) Godzilla Final Wars in 2004.
Sure there is some silly stuff and the plot is nonsensical at times, but there is a lot of action, the battles and monster suits are impressive and it is one of the fresher entries in this long running series. The film brought some new ideas and was the first film to examine the notion that Godzilla’s DNA might have some value or power as the key to his almost invincible ability to regenerate himself. We also got one of his most original and unique opponents and a refreshingly different directing style from Omori. And with all that, it’s still a traditional Godzilla film through and through. A fresh and fun installment in this beloved movie series. Godzilla and the inventive and original touch of writer/director Kazuki Omori would return in 1991 with one of my all time favorites of the modern installments, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah along with the legendary Akira Ifukube on scoring duties.
3 rampaging Godzillas.