Saturday, January 15, 2011

Every rose has its thorn: Godzilla Vs Biollante(1989) - revisited

I first saw Godzilla Vs Biollante(1989) back in 1993 on the cable channel Cinemax. It struck me as odd that this film would show up on Cinemax since Godzilla movies usually were broadcast on AMC, TNT or TBS. After watching a preview of this movie on Cinemax I was fairly excited to watch it. I would see the original Toho version two years later in 1995 after ordering a bootleg VHS tape of the film from a now defunct NYC catalog order company.

The background of Godzilla Vs Biollante is interesting because the story line for the film was chosen among submissions from fans in a contest in Japan aimed at promoting interest in the film itself. From what I have read at various internet message boards this 1989 Godzilla film is generally well liked and is mentioned as a favorite "Heisei" G film among serious fans of Godzilla. Some observations, some positive and some not:

Thumbs up:

1. the Godzilla suit: the head of the monster is considerably different from the previous film, 1984's The Return Of Godzilla, the monster now also able to turn its head and with more subtle facial expressions. The physique of the monster is impressive, the chest large and the shoulders appearing more prominent than in the 1984 G film. This suit receives generally high praise from fans and it absolutely should!

2. the defense forces in this film, who come across as capable and hard working, especially the young man put in charge of the operations to deal with Godzilla: he's smart, decisive and keeps an open mind to using Miki Saegusa's ESP ability against the monster, something the elder JSDF officer is unwilling to do

2. Godzilla's entrance scene in this movie is terrific, the huge monster thundering out of the volcano(which he had been "imprisoned" in, of sorts at the end of the '84 film). The scene looks marvelous as Godzilla walks towards the sea, the volcano erupting behind him

3. humor in these Godzilla films is always welcome by me albeit in moderation. Colonel Gondo is brave, fearless and somewhat arrogant. Still, in crunch time Gondo led his team into battle against Godzilla and got the job done, managing to fire the ANB rocket into Godzilla's mouth. Gondo also had one of my favorite one liners in all Godzilla films, present in the English dubbed version of the film. After firing an ANB rocket into Godzilla's mouth while inside a top floor of an office building, and with the enormous, 80 meter tall monster standing perilously close to the building itself, Gondo remarked to the monster: "That intravenous stuff will kill you...stick to smoking". lol

5. the Super X2: obviously someone got the bright idea, based on the 1984 G film, that a "Super X" airborne defense weapon could fight Godzilla effectively without pilots, remotely controlled from a JSDF command center, thereby putting no pilots at risk of death. It works, the Super X2 a cool weapons platform that attacks Godzilla either from the air or underwater and is capable of supersonic speeds. This government built airborne vehicle is armed to the teeth with guns and rockets and even deploys a "fire mirror" which can reflect Godzilla's own oral beam back onto him. The Super X2 is the coolest weapon I've seen since the atomic heat cannons in 1961's Mothra and the masers used against Gaira in 1966's War Of The Gargantuas.

6. Godzilla's daytime battle with the naval flotilla: very well rendered with lots of explosions. The pyrotechnic effects used to render the ships exploding after being impacted by Godzilla's primary weapon, his oral beam, are outstanding. Godzilla's oral beam, like in the 1984 G film, is absolutely devastating in this movie. 

7. the final form Biollante, a much larger and more reptilian looking monster which dwarfs Godzilla. I also liked the roar of the giant plant-Godzilla hybrid monster. The creature's acid which it spewed from its mouth onto Godzilla was a good effects shot. The final battle between Godzilla and Biollante is, while not spectacular, solid given that Biollante doesn't appear capable of moving very much because of it's colossal size

Thumbs down:

1. the Saradian agent's use of profanity in the English dubbed version of the film, the bearded character muttering "goddamn" and "goddamnit" in different scenes. In particular one scene where, seeing Godzilla thunder by from the window of his hotel room, the Saradian assassin nonchalantly reacts out loud with "Goddamn, it's Godzilla". Maybe this scene was supposed to convince the viewer this fellow had ice in his veins. Me, his oblivious disdain for the menace of the nearby monster suggested arrogance bordering on stupidity. After repeated viewings of the English dubbed version this guy's potty mouth just seems unnecessary and a bit out of place.

2. the first form of Biollante: in essence the huge creature is a giant rose with teeth and tentacles. I did like the jaws at the end of the tentacles which snapped at Godzilla. Godzilla never seem challenged much in the lake skirmish and rather easily incinerates Biollante with his oral beam.

I own a DVD-R copy of this film copied from a Region 2 with English subtitles and also own the "Universe Laser" Region 3(Hong Kong) DVD which includes English subtitles. Godzilla Vs Biollante(1989) has been
released on VHS(Miramax) but has remained in Region 1 DVD release "limbo". Hopefully one day, and sooner than later, we'll get a quality Region 1 DVD release.