Sunday, May 4, 2014

GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 18


Often overlooked because of its obscurity, Godzilla vs. Biollante is one of the freshest, most imaginative, and most technically advanced Godzilla films to emerge in over 20 years. Set directly after the events of The Return of Godzilla, the King of the Monsters returns with a jaw-dropping new look to battle one of his strangest enemies ever.

Following the events of The Return of Godzilla in which Godzilla laid waste to Tokyo before being lured to his apparent death in the fiery pit of Mt. Mihara, cleanup crews are sifting through the rubble of Tokyo collecting Godzilla skin cells for scientific study. However, Japan's not the only world power interested in the world-altering potential of Godzilla research. Some are even willing to kill for it. Armed agents employed by the US genetic engineering firm Bio-Major attempt to steal one of the samples but are in turn gunned down by an assassin and mercenary named SSS9 who is working for the Middle Eastern nation of Saradia. In Saradia, Japanese geneticist Genshiro Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) and his daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) are tasked with using the stolen Godzilla cells to breed a species of vegetation that will grow in the harsh Saradian deserts. Their work is cut short, however, when a bombing orchestrated by Bio-Major destroys the research facility and kills Erika.

Agent SSS9: License to Rock Driving Gloves
Five years later, psychics Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) and Asuka Okochi (Yoshiko Tanaka), from an institution and research facility for children with ESP and psychic abilities, begin to have terrible premonitions about Godzilla's return.Colonel Gondo (Tôru Minegishi) and Colonel Sho Koruki (Masanobu Takashima) of the Japanse Self Defense Force takes their warnings seriously and discover that Godzilla is indeed alive and active within the volcano. Having barely defeated Godzilla in 1984 time, the government fast-tracks a plan to use Godzilla cells being held at the Okochi Foundation (a scientific foundation run by Asuka's father) to genetically engineer a nuclear-eating bacteria as a weapon against the Godzilla. Shiragami, who has been despondent and reclusive since the death of his daughter, agrees to help create the bacteria in exchange for the chance to study the Godzilla cells in his own laboratory. Despite the protest of Asuka's geneticist boyfriend Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura), the government agrees to Shiragami's unusual stipulation. What they don't realize, however, is that Shiragami has been secretly experimenting with plant and human DNA. In a deluded attempt to keep his daughter somehow alive, he's engineered a rose that contains Erika's DNA. He then splices his plant/human hybrid with Godzilla cells in hopes of making his plant/daughter truly immortal. Instead, the plant mutates into a giant mobile plant monster: Biollante.

Now that's what I call "Flower Power"
As predicted, Godzilla rises from his volcanic prison and all hell breaks loose. He battles the army, cuts a swath through Japan on a collision course with Biollante and the JSDF's brand new aircraft -- the Super X2. Meanwhile, agents from Bio-Major and Saradia battle one another and our heroes for possession of the coveted Godzilla cells. It's a complicated story line with lots of action involving a large cast of characters intertwined with monster battles. Godzilla vs. Biollante not only has fresh new sci-fi ideas, but it also has one of the most exciting and involved Godzilla plots in several decades.

Bigger and Badder than Ever
The monsters in Godzilla vs. Biollante look AMAZING. Godzilla looks the best he ever has, in my opinion. The new suit built for Godzilla vs. Biollante is a complete marvel. With a triangular build and developed chest and shoulder musculature, Godzilla looks incredibly powerful. Retaining the fangs (albeit smaller than in 1984), ears, and four-toed feet of the 1954 Godzilla design, this 1989 Godzilla had a brand new face design. With cunning eyes, a cat-like lip, and double rows of shark-like teeth. In closeups, Godzilla's tongue even has movement. Unlike in 1984, Toho built the 1989 suit to fit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma, so Godzilla has a fantastic range of movement and expression. Biollante, too, is an impressive specimen of monster special effects. In her first form, Rose Biollante, she resembles a giant plant stalk with a giant rose bud concealing teeth in the center. Flanked by vine-like tentacles that end in small mouths, she battles Godzilla until he burns her down and she regenerates into her second form. Biollante then develops a large crocodile-like head full of razor sharp teeth and lined with tusks. Both Godzilla and Biollante are beautifully and intricately designed and acted/puppeted. Even down to the slime on Biollante's mouth and the waggle of Godzilla's tongue, Godzilla monster suits have never looked this detailed.

What big teeth you have!
Directed by Kazuki Ohmori, Godzilla vs. Biollante was released in Japan on December 19, 1989. In so many ways, Godzilla vs. Biollante is a great Godzilla movie. The only real detraction is the score by Kôichi Sugiyama which, except for excerpts from Akira Ifukube's original Gojira score, sounds more at home in a 70s Superman movie than a Godzilla film. Sadly, very few people got to appreciate Godzilla vs. Biollante on a large scale in 1989. It was never released to North American theatres. Instead, it aired on HBO and went directly to video in 1992. It was the last Godzilla movie to be released in North America until Godzilla 2000. Now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray, however, many new Godzilla fans are discovering this overlooked gem for themselves.


Since Godzilla vs. Biollante didn't do well enough at the box office in Japan, Toho was hesitant to put Godzilla up against anymore new monster creations. In order to improve the marquee value of its sequel, Toho decided to revive some of its classic monster characters. The first to get a modern upgrade would be everyone's favorite three-headed dragon of destruction. Next time for 30 Days of Godzilla, we'll look at the 1991 monster spectacle GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH

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