Five years have passed since the Return of Godzilla, and Japan has steadily rebuilt itself since then. A Japanese scientist, still mourning the passing of his daughter however, has decided to mix the DNA remains of his daughter with a Rose bush, and a collection of Godzilla cells!
Released in 1989 and directed by Kazuki Omori; Godzilla vs Biollante is the 17th film in the Godzilla series, and the second in the Heisei series. The film is a direct sequel to the 1984 film; The Return of Godzilla, and is one in very few films in the series that could genuinely be considered as a direct sequel to the previous installment! Whilst non of the human characters from that film return to this one, the events of the film act as a latching on point for this film’s story.
The story so far: In 1954; a giant nuclear monster called Godzilla, rose out of the sea and destroyed Tokyo. The creature was defeated with the use of a doomsday weapon called the Oxygen Destroyer. Japan has since lived in harmonious peace for 30 years.
At this point you may be thinking: “Wasn’t there some other films released during this period?”, and you are right, there were: 14 to be exact. The series though was sort of rebooted in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla acting as a direct sequel to the 1954 original. So, the stories of those 14 films and related, didn’t happen from the perspective of Return. So, there were no Cockroaches building a tower to resemble the series title monster, and there was no Moon Base constructed in 1999!
Anyway: in 1984, three weeks after a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island, a new monster also called Godzilla awakens, and levels most of the Shinjuku District of Tokyo, whilst combating a weapons platform designed to kill him. Godzilla is then lured and entombed into Mt. Mihara.
From the start, Godzilla vs Biollante introduces some interesting ideas, whilst also mirroring major disasters which hadn’t happened yet! The film from the start reports on the destruction caused by Godzilla, and shows the clean-up operation in the rebuilding of the city. As time continues, areas of the city are turned into monuments and memorials of the disaster, whilst the country remains on edge at the possibility of the disaster returning.
Whilst the title greatly suggests a film in which the titular monster will fight another; the creature Biollante is used rather sparingly throughout the film. It’s creation is a major feature at the start of the film which helps drive the plot, but; after the initial fight; you don’t really hear anything else of it for a great portion of the film. At this point the focus is on trying to halt Godzilla’s rampage through Japan once more. The focal point then becomes a sparring battle between Japan’s defense forces, and a new version of the same weapons platform used in the previous film. After a time of jabs being thrown, Biollante then returns to the fold for the film’s climax. Now while it can be argued that Godzilla does fight Biollante a couple of times hence the title of the film, it can also be argued that Biollante doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to drive the plot early on, and bring the film to a swift conclusion at the end!
Kazuki Omori listed directing a Godzilla film as second to wanting to direct a James Bond film. On this note he incorporated some spy thriller pieces into the film. Whilst the film continues to work on the anti-nuclear message of Godzilla, as well as the story of the effects of bio-engineering (four years before Jurassic Park); in the middle of all this there is a story of a bio-terrorist group who are planning to release Godzilla from his volcanic tomb; and the story of a lone hitman on a mission to gather resources for the fictitious country of Saradia. This creates chase scenes for a scientific researcher and an army colonel looking to get back stolen government properties. Once Godzilla is released though the story shifts gears.
As there is a great portion of peace time in this film with the lack of any giant monsters from the start; it allows the film to do some things differently to other films in the series. It creates moments of new directing styles that haven’t been used before, and sparingly since. It features the story of a bored army colonel; who is in charge of a government department whose sole responsibility it is to keep an eye out should Godzilla return. At this point however, Godzilla is still stuck in the volcano. Mt. Mihara does become a note in the early parts of the story as the volcano is going through some activity and becomes a worrying subject. On this note; it creates a great scene where the erupting volcano is seen in the far off distance, creating a great panoramic view of the area, and also creating a somewhat cool piece of foreshadowing. When Godzilla returns we are then treated to some other cool pieces of film making. Godzilla walking out of the volcano is a majestic sight; plus the film uses some of the visionary tactics from films such as Jaws, creating scenes as if we were looking through the eyes of Godzilla himself.
It’s not all good stuff though. There are some issues in how the film is presented and filmed. Whilst it continues to show off amazing new footage of real life military vehicles on maneuvers to stop Godzilla, we are treated to images of continued nothingness. Small clips of helicopters ascending through the air can feel like a real age is passing by, and such shots just slow the film down, instead of increasing the adrenaline. Other times can show repeated imagery used from this same film too such as a late shot of Biollante moving, which was used less than a few seconds before, creating head scratching moments of confusion.
For the films more serious tone, there are elements of comedy here and there. One of these moment is early on when a group of psychic children all share the same dream and draw a picture of what they saw; all of them then hold up pictures of Godzilla. Another more interesting piece is the inclusion of a popular song and artist from the time. In one scene where Godzilla surfaces, and the audiences looks upon a vision of Japan; a strange piece of music begins which in this case is unique to this entry. The music is not a piece written or produced for a Godzilla film, but is rather a song performed by Japanese singer and actress Yuki Saito. The song is pretty generic in tune, but the opening is pretty cool and funky. The song though is of course ended abruptly as the arena has to be evacuated due to a nearby sighting of Godzilla.
The rest of the film’s soundtrack is an interesting bag. The pieces were more modern takes on pieces originally composed by Akira Ifukube, with new material composed by Koichi Sugiyama. Ifukube was said to have been a bit annoyed with some of the films soundtrack as he thought parts such as a the Saradia music sounded ridiculous. The soundtrack can at times sound a bit silly. New pieces of note such as Bio-Wars does incorporate some stylings of the spy thriller genre, whilst also featuring samples of earlier tracks from Godzilla films. Then there is Countdown which at the start sounds pretty fast and serious, with a comedic laugh, but toward the end can sound a bit camp and ridiculous, and can sound like a trombone player having a panic attack whilst playing.
The film does benefit from more up to date uses in special effects but does continue to use suits. Some scenes look a bit outdated, such as using a model at one time, but the city destruction scenes still look amazing. The use of miniatures really does convey as if Godzilla is right there destroying the city, and actually having people go into the real life buildings, does help convey this too. The final monster fight whilst brief is pretty good, especially the shots with Biollante in which shows some great deal of real-time movement, instead of a static display.
Godzilla vs Biollante does have it’s issues story wise. Whilst it does help set-up the future of the Heisei series with the introduction of Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), the ending of the film does feel a bit rushed and a bit anti-climactic, as if they were running out of tape to provide a much more satisfactory ending, or more likely to allow an opening for a further sequel.
Godzilla vs. Biollante as a film does have it’s issues, and though while it’s early set-up is pretty interesting, it can feel like a real shame that this plot device is used very sparingly, and the creature of Biollante just as much! But; for all it’s issues, it has an equal number of opposing positives. Things ranging from new and well designed scenes unique in their presentation to this film, creating some really memorable moments. For all these reasons and more; Godzilla vs Biollante stands out as a truly unique entry in the series!