Godzilla vs. Biollante

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Godzilla vs Biollante
Godzilla and Biollante (left) face off.
Before Godzilla vs Biollante, the last Godzilla movie in which Godzilla fought another monster was 25 years before, Terror of MechaGodzilla. As such, Godzilla vs Biollante helped to determine the course later Godzilla movies would take, even if it was largely an example of what not to do. That's not to say it's a bad movie, just that it was somewhat different from the films that would follow it.

The films opens right after Godzilla (1984) as the Japanese military cleans up after Godzilla's rampage. As it turns out, Godzilla's discarded cells are coveted by numerous international groups. the movie opens with a group of armed commandos from an American company called Biomajor making a gun-crazy escape with some cells. Then they are shot down by a secret agent working for the Saradian government. We can tell he's an evil person by the black coat and driving gloves he wears, and the fact that he wears sunglasses at night.

Once the cells arrive in the fictional-but-real-sounding country of Saradia they are handed over to a Japanese scientist named Shiragami, who is going to do some sort of bizarre experiments with plants. Then his daughter Erica is killed in his lab by a bomb, apparently planted by Biomajor. Somehow, Shiragami determines that his dead daughter's spirit has taken up residence in a rose bush.

Godzilla vs Biollante
Mrs. Krabappel's psychic preschool
predicts the return of Godzilla
Cut to years later. Shiragami has returned to Japan and is working there. He has cut a deal with a Japanese company to work on the Godzilla cells. And what does he do? What any scientist would do: He tries to combine Godzilla's cells with the haunted rose bush in some mad hope of ensuring that his daughter's spirit will live forever, even if it is as a flower.

Of course, this results in a huge honkin' rose bush with a bad attitude. Shiragami dubs the monster "Biollante," which he claims is a plant creature from Norse mythology. We've never heard of this character, but our knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty much limited to old Thor comic books. However, we would guess that the word Biollante is an japanization of the word "violet," so that might give some enterprising reader a place to start if they want to figure this little mystery out.

Shiragami is roughly equivalent to the character of Serizawa from the original Godzilla -- a driven scientist who creates stuff that may not be totally kosher. Unlike Serizawa, however, Shiragami never has any moments of introspection when he asks, "Am I doing the right thing?" Instead, Shirigami presses forward with whatever happens to strike him as a good idea at the time, while making profound pronouncements like, "Scientists can not know the future." Gee Shiragami, you've just combined a mutated monster's self-regenerating cells with a haunted rose bush. You don't have to be Nostradamus to figure out that doing something like that will result in a giant monster. Shiragami has also created the Antinuclear Energy Bacteria (ANEB), another invention greatly coveted by everyone.

Godzilla vs Biollante
"Some day I want to be in
a Tim Burton film!"
Godzilla re-enters our story when Biomajor plants a bomb on Mt. Mihara, basically to blackmail Japan with the threat of releasing Godzilla unless Japan hands over the ANEB (though in an example of some of the bizarre dubbing in the English version, one character states that Godzilla is the "hostage" in this situation). Because the word "Godzilla" is in the title you know that the bomb goes off and Godzilla is free to stomp the heck out of the portions of Japan he missed the last time around. (If any.) The Japanese military goes through the motions of attempting to keep Godzilla from making landfall, even employing the Super X2, a new weapon which is flown by remote control. The scenes where we see the people piloting the Super X2 provide a lot of unintentional humor to the proceedings because the controls of the Super X2 make the same sounds as such classic console games as Centipede and Galaxian.

"Sir, the Super X2 is inoperative! We just ran out of quarters!"

"For God's sake, man, send someone down to the laundromat!"

A lot of intrigue revolves around the ANEB, and its subsequent use against Godzilla, Godzilla also fights the flowerlike Biollante in the middle of a lake, and later fights a reincarnated monster-form of Biollante at the film's climax.

While Godzilla (1984) took place in a more-or-less realistic political universe, Godzilla vs Biollante pays only lip service to the realities of politics. The details are strictly out of old episodes of Mission Impossible, with fake countries, ruthless companies that are ridiculously willing to send highly armed soldiers into foreign countries, and scientific super creations that are bartered around like poker chips. As in earlier Godzilla films, these plot elements increase the fun factor, but make it impossible to take the film seriously.

Godzilla vs Biollante
Our First Lady of Biollante.
Godzilla vs Biollante hearkens back to its predecssors in other ways, most notably in the dubbing. After a few phrases like "sure as eggs is eggs," and "reality is reality," we were checking the video box to see who exactly thought they had command of the English language. In addition, the attempts by the 4 or 5 voice actors to sound like the 30 or 40 different people in the film resulted in some pretty weird combinations. One of the Japanese business tycoons ended up sounding like a Texas oil magnate, and kept referring to Godzilla as "Godziller."

Fortunately, the special effects involved are totally modern, at least for 1989. Godzilla has never looked better, thanks to a new redesign that adds mammillian traits to the big G, such as little ears and a dog like nose. In some of his finer moments, our nuclear friend looks like a not-so-sweet Rottweiller who wants to chew your leg off. It's a far cry from his superhero days of the 70's.

Biollante, too, looks pretty good, especially when you consider that it's a flower. The addition of little Venus-flytrap-tipped tentacles gives this greenhouse escapee more character. Toho's careful use of military stock footage (helicopters, etc) completes the illusion. The days of little plastic tanks melting on the miniature landscape are nearly gone.

Godzilla vs Biollante is most important as the first engaging movie since the franchise was resurrected in 1984. Despite the disappointment of its immediate predecessor (Godzilla 1985), this movie showed the world that updated, entertaining Godzilla movies could be made in the revised Godzilla continuity. In addition, it taught Toho a lesson: realistic politics and intrigue-laden storylines aren't nearly as important to a Godzilla film as the appearance of giant monsters and their battles immediately thereafter. An extremely nice copy of this film in widescreen format is widely available in video stores (and at a discount from reel.com); aspiring Godzilla fans must take a look.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 7/23/98

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