THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984)
aka. Godzilla 1985
After a nine-year hibernation, Godzilla returns to the big screen in both Japan and America for a much-hyped reboot of the Godzilla franchise. Presented as a direct sequel to the original Gojira (disregarding every other Godzilla film after 1954), The Return of Godzilla aimed to take the King of the Monsters back to his dark anti-nuclear origins. The Return of Godzilla may not have been the international box office smash Toho was hoping for, but it did well enough to launch a brilliant series of Japanese films in the 90s that have yet to be rivaled. More importantly, it made Godzilla scary again.
30 years after the first Godzilla attacked Japan and was defeated by the Oxygen Destroyer (as depicted in the original 1954 Gojira), a second monster emerges from the Pacific to threaten Tokyo. The appearance of a second Godzilla and its attack on a Soviet nuclear sub is kept secret from the public to avoid a mass panic while, behind closed doors, the creature's existence pushes Cold War diplomatic tensions to the breaking point. When the new Godzilla finally arrives in Tokyo Bay, all hell breaks loose. During Godzilla's attack, a Soviet Nuclear Satellite is activated and sends a suborbital nuke at Japan. The Japanese government must race against time to avert nuclear disaster while the pilots of a secret VTOL ship called the Super X attempt to keep Godzilla at bay with experimental cadmium shells. In the face of nuclear annihilation from both Godzilla and the wayward Russian missile, it's up to reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka), scientist Professor Hayashida (Keiju Kobayashi), and the professor's student (Yasuko Sawaguchi) to deliver an experimental sonic machine they hope will lure Godzilla away from Tokyo and into a trap.
|Hide your cocaine! Godzilla comes stomping into the 1980s.|
|Domo arigato, Godzilla Roboto.|
|Oh, cardboard cityscape. How I've missed you.|
In an attempt to make Godzilla scary again, the suit designers opted to reference many of the features that were part of the original 1954 Gojira suit but had become disregarded over time. Therefore, the new Godzilla has long fangs, pointed ears, feet with four toes apiece, and staggered rows of dorsal plates. For a new twist, the head was also outfitted with mouth animatronics allowing the upper lip to curl into a nasty snarl. Despite its muscular, stocky legs, the upper body was curiously less defined, giving Godzilla a pear-shaped silhouette owing to the lack of shoulder and arm musculature.
Although Return of Godzilla did reasonably well in its native Japan, it was savaged by North American critics when New World Pictures released it the following year under the title Godzilla 1985. Like the original Gojira in 1954, which was recut, combined with new American footage, and re-titled Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Godzilla 1985 was also radical re-cut and spliced with new American scenes. In particular, R.J. Kizer was hired to direct new scenes that brought back Raymond Burr as Steve Martin from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. As in Godzilla, Burr's character is extraneous to the plot and has nothing to offer but hamfisted ruminations on the nature of humanity's insignificance. Despite the addition of these terrible new scenes, the American Godzilla 1985 still runs a whole 16 minutes shorter than the Japanese version! Essential story elements are completely excised or re-edited and key thematic points are completely altered. Godzilla 1985 is also infamous for its blatantly shameless Dr. Pepper product placement shots.
It's unfortunate that American audiences were subjected to Godzilla 1985. Despite Toho's attempt to revitalize the international appeal of Godzilla by eschewing the campy silliness of the previous decade and the hilariously horrible dubbing and editing their films received when released to North America, Godzilla 1985 only reminded everyone of the silly and cheap monster movies of the past. Perhaps if North Americans had been allowed to see the original cut, things would have been different. Regardless, Godzilla 1985 bombed in North America, ending any plans Toho had of screening its Godzilla films in America until the release of Godzilla 2000.
|I'm a pepper, he's a pepper, she's a pepper|
|We're a pepper. Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?|
Following the box office flop of Godzilla 1985, Godzilla was once again dead as far as North Americans were concerned. However, unbeknown to most North American monster fans, Japan continued to produce a series of increasingly impressive Godzilla movies throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. The new series, known as the Heisei series, would follow Return of Godzilla with strict continuity and would feature a number of Godzilla's classic foes as well as new kaiju. For tomorrow's installment of 30 Days of Godzilla, we look at the first chapter in this exciting new saga. Join us for 1989's GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE