Thursday, July 24, 2014

Franchises: Godzilla. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

GodzillaBiollante.jpgLike all good merchandizing, those Godzilla toys that Trendmasters released in the 1990's came in packages that had images of other figures you could buy on the back, which is how I first became aware of monsters like Mecha-King Ghidorah, Battra, and SpaceGodzilla. One of them was Biollante, a character that I had never heard of up until that point. Along with the images of the action figures were short explanations of what the monsters were and whether they were friend or foe to Godzilla. The one for Biollante was quite interesting, stating that it was a cross between a plant, Godzilla himself, and a human being! It also stated that when Biollante came into being, it became determined to destroy everything in its path, including Godzilla. It sounded like a cool idea but since I had never heard of this creature or any movie that it was featured in (although the film was available on video in the U.S. by that point), I actually thought it was just something that was made up to sell toys, as was how I felt towards those other monsters whose debut films I had never even seen. It wasn't until Christmas of 1997 when my mom got me Godzilla vs. Biollante along with Godzilla 1985 that I learned that this wasn't fake, that there actually was a movie where the concept described on the back of that packaging was played out to some extent. As I said back in my introduction to the previous film, I was allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve when I was a kid and this ended up being the one I chose that year. Since I had never even known that Godzilla vs. Biollante existed before, and also because the story described on the back of the VHS box intrigued me even more than what was said on that packaging, to say nothing of the cover art, I decided to watch it first, even though I learned within the first couple of minutes that I should have watched Godzilla 1985 first since this is a direct sequel to that film. This one... eh, I don't know. It's definitely one of my least favorites of the Heisei series and, in my opinion, is a big comedown from its predecessor. There is some great stuff in it, such as some interesting ideas, nice monster scenes, and, undoubtedly, the most realistic special effects seen in a Godzilla film at that point. I also appreciate that, like the previous film, the story is taken seriously and is not turned into all-out campfest, which it very easily could have been (let's face it, this movie is about Godzilla going up against a giant plant monster). Unfortunately, while it is serious, the film doesn't have the darkness or the atmosphere of its predecessor, the story is very complex (I apologize in advance if I get some details wrong) and often tedious, and you, or at least I, feel every single second of the movie's 104-minute running time. It moves quite slow and is sometimes not as enthralling as it should be. Ultimately, this movie is a very mixed bag in my opinion.

After Godzilla's return and attack on Tokyo in 1984, a team of scientists working under the military finds some pieces of the monster's flesh amongst the rubble. At the same time, a group of American agents are retrieving their own samples and, after a bit of a firefight with the Japanese, manage to get away, only to be ambushed and killed by a lone gunman who then takes the samples himself. He takes them to the Middle-Eastern country of Saradia, more specifically to the country's Institute of Technology and Science, where the Godzilla cells within them are to be experimented on by Japanese scientist Dr. Shiragami in the hopes that they will be useful in creating edible plants that can be grown out in the desert, thereby ensuring that the country will no longer have to depend on their oil wells for their livelihood. However, before the experiment can get underway, the institute's laboratory is destroyed in a terrorist attack and Shiragami's daughter, Erika, is killed and the Godzilla cells destroyed as well. Five years later, Shiragami now lives as a recluse back in Japan and, as revealed later, merged some of Erika's cells with that of a rose, hoping that her soul lives on within the plant. He even enlists Asuka Okouchi, who runs a psychic institute, and a young psychic woman, Miki Saegusa to help him find out if Erika's soul is indeed within the plants. At the same time, seismic activity around Mt. Mihara, the volcano that Godzilla is still imprisoned within, as well as a psychic experiment conducted around the mountain with the aide of Ms. Saegusa, leads to concerns that Godzilla may soon manage to escape. In response, work begins on creating Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, a substance that is hoped can be used as an effective weapon against Godzilla. Shiragami is asked to participate in the project but he initially refuses since he's vowed to never again work with Godzilla's cells, which are needed to create the bacteria, after what happened to his daughter. However, when a powerful eruption rocks Mt. Mihara and the resulting tremors badly damage the plans containing Erika's cells within, Shiragami realizes he must do something to save Erika's soul and agrees to join the project, under the condition that he be allowed to keep the Godzilla cells in his lab for a week. When his request is granted, Shiragami merges the plant cells with the Godzilla cells, hoping that the latter's regenerative abilities can reconstruct the damaged rose. When it's soon discovered that Godzilla is indeed and alive well within the volcano and growing restless, the Super-X2, a more powerful, remote-controlled version of the aircraft he fought previously, is readied. At the same, two agents working for the American biological corporation Bio-Major, the same organization who bombed Shiragami's lab five years earlier, break into the doctor's lab to steal information on the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria but are ambushed the Saradian agent, who has been sent to retrieve it for his country's own purposes. The three of them are attacked by the rapidly-growing plant mutation, with one of the American agents being killed in the process. The creature then escapes to a nearby lake and grows into an enormous, flower-like form that Shiragami names "Biollante" after a tale from Norse mythology. At the same time, Bio-Major faxes an ultimatum to the Diet in which they threaten to destroy Mt. Mihara and release Godzilla if they're not given the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. The exchange is attempted but when the Saradian agent spoils it and steals the bacteria, the explosive charges go off and Godzilla is freed. With the King of the Monsters heading back to Japan, it's hoped that the Super-X2 can hold him off until the Saradian agent is tracked down and the bacteria recovered.

After nearly a decade away from the silver screen, Godzilla had returned in a serious, dark film that took its cues from the tense political situation of the time and had ended up becoming the second highest-grossing domestic film of 1984 in Japan. So, why did it take another five years for the next film to arrive? It was due to a little bit of reluctance on the part of Toho and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. Although The Return of Godzilla was a hit in Japan, it wasn't as successful as everyone thought it would be, and the out-and-out critical and commercial failure of the American version didn't help matters either. Feeling that Kazuki Omori, a brash young filmmaker who would end up directing the new film, was right when he said that the films needed to change it up in order to break new ground and not become permanently old hat, Tanaka decided not to commission a script himself but rather resort to a story contest, which Toho had successfully done before. The winner, which was chosen by Omori himself in early 1986, was written by a dentist, of all people, who had also worked as a writer on one of the later versions of Ultraman. After he picked the story, Omori, who had also been chosen to direct the new film by this point, set about turning it into a screenplay. He completed the first draft by the summer of 1986 but had to get to work on another film he was developing, Young Girls in Love, which was released that December. After that film was completed, Omori continued to revise his screenplay for Godzilla vs. Biollante. At the same time, while Toho did have confidence in him, they felt that he needed to prove his mettle a little more and make some more movies for the studio before being handed the keys to Godzilla. Omori did so by directing three movies, Totto Channel, Goodbye to the Girls, and Afternoon When Flowers Fell, in 1987 and late 1988 to early 1989, before being formally given the job as director on Godzilla vs. Biollante, whose production was announced in May of that same year. By that time, Toho had found a replacement for the retired Teruyoshi Nakano and said person had proven himself on some other films so things were finally set for Godzilla's first official film in the Heisei era.

Kazuki Omori was born in Osaka and actually managed to become a licensed physician while studying at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. It was while he was in school when he became interested in pursuing filmmaking as a career, making his first independent film in 1969 and making three more, one of which was a short, before directing his first professional movie, Orenji Rodo Kyuko, in 1978. He went on to write and direct films like Disciples of Hippocrates and Kaze no uta o kike in 1980, and Sukanpin walk in 1984. It was after the release of The Return of Godzilla when he first made himself known to Tomoyuki Tanaka in a very brazen way that should have actually destroyed any chance he had of directing the next Godzilla movie. He actually berated Tanaka for what the Godzilla franchise had become, which was, in his opinion, a film series that was still stuck in the past and hadn't yet successfully changed with the times, with The Return of Godzilla being a major example of this to him. Amazingly, though, as I mentioned, Omori's brashness, rather than getting him reprimanded, really struck Tanaka and made him think that maybe the franchise did need shaking up, which prompted him to hold the story-contest and allow Omori to put his money where his mouth was and pick a winning story from the five finalists. When he was then allowed to turn the story into a filmable screenplay and direct the film, Omori very aggressively set about reshaping the Godzilla series in the way he felt it should be.

And this is where Omori becomes something of a controversial figure because, for better or worse, his influence would stay with the series for quite a while, on up into the 2000's. Omori felt that the Godzilla series, as well as all Japanese films, for that matter, needed to start emulating the big, action-packed films that Hollywood was churning out in order to stand a chance against them, which led to him packing his films with enormous special effects scenes that were meant to replicate that feeling of spectacle, with big explosions, lots of firepower being exchanged between the two warring parties, be it Godzilla and the military or Godzilla and his opponents, and such. Also, Godzilla would, from now on, fight both the military and other monsters, while military and government officials watch the action on big video screens in a control room (although, to be fair, that had already been seen in the previous film, so Omori can't be entirely blamed for that). This becoming the norm for Godzilla movies from here on out is why some feel that the newer films fell into a rut all their own, and Omori is often blamed for it, referred to as a hack by many. As for myself, I'm kind of mixed on Omori. While I do appreciate him for trying to update the Godzilla series for a new generation, which is necessary for anything that's been around this long, and doing everything he felt he could to make them more competitive with big-budget Hollywood movies, I think that trying to emulate those same movies to the extreme that he ultimately did (getting to the point where, in later entries he either wrote or directed, he out and out copied concepts and scenes from them) was not the best way to go about it. He especially liked the James Bond movies and you can see many touches of that here, with a lot of action scenes that just involve the humans, subplots involving foreign agents fighting with each other to get their hands on valuable information, and the like. While I like James Bond quite a bit myself, and this certainly wasn't the first Godzilla film to have Bond-like elements and action scenes involving the humans, the overabundance of it here causes the story to deviate from the plot concerning Godzilla and Biollante, making the story feel like it has too much material for its own good. And that's another thing: with the script for Godzilla vs. Biollante especially being a prime example, I think he often went way overboard in terms of the stories he wanted to tell and the issues he wanted to address. Again, I applaud him for the serious, issues-concerned approach to the series but he really laid it on thick here and in the next film, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, to the point where it's kind of like, "Guy, you only have so much you can do in one movie." It's the main reason why Biollante isn't one that I go back to that often.

A big issue with talking about Japanese movies is that, since they're often made up of enormous ensemble casts, usually with each or, at the very least, most of them taking on the role of a main character at one point or another, it's hard to figure out which character start with. Godzilla vs. Biollante is a major example of this, which makes it particularly tricky. Let's start with the characters on the science side of things. Dr. Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) is an idealistic young scientist whose characterization kind of harkens back to that of Dr. Serizawa. The difference is that, while Serizawa was horrified by the advancement of his own experiments and the implications they would have for the international balance of power, Kirishima feels this way about modern science in general, including his own research. When we first meet him, he talks about how playing around with the Godzilla cells in genetic research would create a chimera, a horrific, alien life-form that wasn't meant to exist on God's Earth. His feelings about the scientific aspirations of the head of the Okouchi Foundation, the very company that funds his lab, often put him at odds with his girlfriend, who happens to be said founder's daughter. While he does agree to make the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria when it's believed that Godzilla may soon escape from Mt. Mihara and head back to Japan, he still doesn't like the idea of the stuff being made in the first appearance and actually hopes that Godzilla does indeed show up, stating that if he doesn't, they would have made a monster far worse than him. He's also, like I said, talking about the shift in the balance of power, feeling that they have a responsibility and the bacteria, which could completely neutralize nuclear missiles, would result in too big a shift in it for any country, including his own. This is also why he also doesn't like it when it's decided to hand the bacteria over to Bio-Major in order to keep them from releasing Godzilla. He's also particularly at odds with his older colleague, Dr. Shiragami, whose feelings on the matter result in the creation of Biollante, which enrages Kirishima to the point where he angrily exclaims at Shirigami, "What kind of science do you call this?!" Unfortunately, while the points that Kirishima brings up throughout the film are interesting and important ones, that's really his only purpose aside from taking part in the race to get back the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria in order to use it against Godzilla when he is indeed released. He also manages to give the Saradian agent a run for his money after the latter kills Shiragami but, still, Kirishima's role in the film is to act as nothing more than a representation of idealistic scientists. It gets to the point where, at the end of the film, he decides not to accept an offer to go work in America, saying that it's the same no matter where you go. Honestly, if he feels this strongly about the repercussions of his profession and that he won't be able to work anyplace in the world where his principles aren't compromised, then I can't see any future for him other than unemployment.

On the flip-side of this whole issue is Dr. Shiragami (Koji Takahashi), the older and more experienced scientist who, initially wants nothing to do with the project to create the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, since he feels that his research with them is what led to his laboratory in Saradia getting bombed and his beloved daughter, Erika, being killed. Ultimately, the only reason he does agree in helping Dr. Kirishima in creating the bacteria is so he can have access to the Godzilla cells and use their regenerative properties to repair the damaged roses that contain Erika's cells, which results in the creation of Biollante. He honestly couldn't care less about the shift in the balance of power that the bacteria's creation could result in, feeling that scientists have to look to the future and berates Kirishima for his ideals, telling him at one point, "I have a feeling that you don't understand science very well." In fact, we get a sign early on in the movie that he's not too fond of people with these types of attitudes in general, saying that the same opposition that the Okouchi Foundation is currently receiving for its radical experiments are why he was forced to relocate to Saradia years before and that things haven't changed. He's also pretty cynical about his entire profession, telling Kirishima when it's learned that the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria is to be turned over to Bio-Major, "So you see, science is just another host of politicians." Like I said, he doesn't care about the political implications at all; all he's concerned with is what his experiments have led to, which, in this case, is Biollante. However, the writing of Shiragami's character gets a bit muddled at points, which is the result of Kazuki Omori's constant rewriting of the screenplay on into filming. When Shiragami finds one of Biollante's severed tentacles at his lab when the two Bio-Major agents were killed by the creature, he seems unsure of what he's created, saying, "I think now I may have made a mistake." However, that attitude quickly changes when he sees the full-grown Biollante at the lake. He seems to have a sense of wonder and even pride about what he's created, at one point angrily berating a news reporter about how people like her criticize scientific advancement without considering its value. He's also fascinated about why Godzilla would come to see Biollante, wondering if he himself knew they were made from the cells, and is forlorn when Godzilla apparently kills Biollante. But the statement of his that really confuses me is when, at the end of the movie when it appears that the bacteria has finally finished Godzilla off, he sternly tells Okouchi that he won't continue his work because Biollante has inspired him to do so and that the real monsters are scientists who create creatures like her and Godzilla. Um, did I miss something? Where did that attitude come from? There was not one scene from when he first saw Biollante to the big climactic battle between her and Godzilla where we got any hint that he was beginning to have second thoughts about his work. He didn't even have that feeling after he was told that the spirit of his own daughter was present within Biollante. It makes that statement, which is one of the last things he says before he's killed, feel like it came completely out of nowhere and dilutes the intended tragedy of his death after reaching this conclusion. Someone more insightful might be able to explain it to me but I don't get it.

Okouchi (Ryunosuke Kaneda), the head of the foundation whose work Dr. Kirishima and many others staunchly oppose, is an interesting character in that he feels that many scientists don't understand what he's trying to do, although he himself knows that there are risks involves. His reason for wanting to fund the development of the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria is a pure nationalistic one, as he says to Kirishima when he shows him the Godzilla cells, "Japan has suffered devastation brought on by nuclear bombers, and now there's Godzilla. It's only right we should have a weapon that can protect us from our enemies." Okouchi never waivers in his feelings on this manner, later telling Kirishima later on that, "If we don't produce the bacteria, then somebody else will do it." He's also looking ahead towards the future, not just about the current situation with Godzilla, stating that once he's been killed by the bacteria, they would have enough cells to put the bacteria into mass production, which is what he also tells Shiragami at the end of the movie when it looks as if Godzilla has been brought down by the by both the bacteria and Biollante. He himself looks baffled at Shiragami's inexplicable decision to end his experiments, again asserting to him, "You've got all the cells you'll ever need!" While we should be on the side of Shiragami by this point, I can't help but respond like Okouchi in confusion at the doctor's inexplicable change of heart. I also simply like Okouchi as a character because he's almost never not in a jolly mood or hopeful mood. When he first meets Kirishima, he's constantly chuckling even when the young scientist is confirming to him what he's heard about his critical attitude toward his work. He does get serious at points, like when he tells Kirishima that, his principles aside, they must create the bacteria, but for the most part, he's a pretty happy guy, which makes me like him, even if some of his projects, such as preserving the sperm of Nobel Prize winners to ensure the birth of further geniuses down the line (I'm not kidding about that), are a little out there. And plus, I kind of agree with his reason for wanting to develop the bacteria: after all that Japan has been through, they should have something readily at hand that they can use to defend themselves.

Unfortunately, like the previous film, the two lead female characters in this movie don't have much to do. Asuka (Yoshiko Tanaka), Okouchi's daughter and Kirishima's girlfriend, has little to do except work at the psychic center with Miki Saegusa, tag-along with her whenever her psychic abilities are called on by the military, and feel like she's caught in the middle of the opposing viewpoints between Kirishima and her father, telling the former early on that she has no intention of being a Juliet to his Romeo. It's a shame that latter situation isn't built upon because that could have made for an interesting human conflict, with Asuka being severely torn about which of the two men in her life she should support. Obviously, there's enough conflict jammed into this story already but it would have been interesting nevertheless. Another missed opportunity is some sort of connection that the spirit of Erika within Biollante appears to have with her. In the same where they're both introduced, Miki tells Asuka that she head a female voice calling her name, a voice that's later revealed to be that of Erika when Biollante takes root in the nearby lake. It seems as if Erika is asking for Asuka's help but it doesn't go anywhere other than that. Nothing Asuka does helps Erika, or Biollante, for that matter, and it seems like Miki has more of a connection with the creature than her non-psychic friend, save for one moment when Asuka says that she can now hear Erika's voice calling her. Again, potential for interesting elements, but nothing ever comes of them.

This movie is very notable for the introduction of Megumi Odaka as Miki Saegusa, the young psychic girl whose powers of ESP are called upon several times in this film. She would end up becoming the longest-running human character in the Godzilla series, appearing in every entry of the Heisei series from here on out. However, while her character would gradually become more developed and have more of a role in the films as they went on, here she doesn't have much of a role. She's initially called on by Dr. Shirigami to see if she can detect any psychic energy from Erika's favorite roses that might be a result of her soul inhabiting them and while it doesn't seem to work at first, she does claim to hear a voice calling out to Asuka. Later on, she serves as the first sign of Godzilla's impending return when she and all of the children at the psychic center dream about him. She's then able to detect that Godzilla is indeed stirring within the volcano and when Biollante first appears, she's able to communicate with the bit of Erika's soul within the creature. That, however, ultimately goes nowhere and she proves to be more useful in helping the military keep track of Godzilla when he's moving beneath the ocean where they can't find him. Her biggest scene is when she actually engages in a psychic battle with Godzilla and although it leaves her completely exhausted, she does manage to slightly delay his advancement on Osaka. That, and her being the first one to sense that Godzilla is capable of escaping from Mt. Mihara, are the only noteworthy things she does in the film. Otherwise, she doesn't serve much of a purpose.

One of the best characters in the movie by far is Colonel Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima), the tireless young man who's part of the youth elite corps and is put in charge of the operation to stop Godzilla. This guy proves to be as unbeatable an adversary for Godzilla as the monster himself is towards the country of Japan. He comes up with one plan after another to take down Godzilla and while a lot of them do fail, he never gives up, even when their best bit of defense against the monster, the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, appears to have no effect on him. He's not only smart enough to have confidence in Miki Saegusa's psychic ability in tracking down and even possibly stalling Godzilla's advance on the mainland, but he's also not above resorting to drastic measures, like when he suggests that the military not give an all-clear, even though the situation warrants it, in order to close some nearby airports and keep the Saradian agent from escaping the country with the bacteria samples. Also, when they realize that raising Godzilla's body temperature may be vital in getting the bacteria to have an effect on him, Kuroki suggests that they use an experimental system that creates heat using artificial lightning and numerous large microwave plates. It really is inspiring to see someone as young as him (Takashima was just 23 at the time) take on such a huge responsibility where he's asked to come up with one strategy after another to be used against Godzilla and, even more impressive, you never see any sign of it personally getting to him. There are moments where he's shocked that something he was sure would be effective failed but you never see any sign of burn-out, save for when he's taking a nap while he's being flown to the site of the TC System to wait for Godzilla to arrive. Even then, as Dr. Shirigami remarks, he has a very peaceful, unstressed look on his face, which makes the scientist suggest that it's perhaps time for the new generation to take over. It also doesn't hurt that Takashima is very cool and confident in the role, never coming across as a jerk or an order-barking tyrant but just as a determined young man who has a job to do and won't rest until it's accomplished. Finally, I really like that he's the one who ultimately kills the Saradian agent after he guns down Shiragami and almost Kirishima by using the TC System. It's an awesome cap on a character who's been nothing but awesome throughout the film.

Another awesome character on the military side of things is Colonel Gondo (Toru Minegishi), who, like Dr. Kirishima, is actually hoping that Godzilla does show up but for a completely different reason... so he'll have something to do! He's been put in a charge of an Anti-Godzilla section of the Defense Force that was created just in case Godzilla does reappear (after what happened before, they're not taking any more chances) and, as a result of things being quiet for five years, this has proven to be one of the most boring jobs imaginable for him since, as he himself says, "It's real exciting waiting for a lizard who never shows." He only half-jokes with Colonel Kuroki when he says that the military was probably just trying to get rid of him by giving this position and says, "The most exciting thing that happens around here is betting who can kill the most mosquitoes." That's why he's actually a little bit enthusiastic when Asuka comes to him with the idea of flying Miki Saegusa over Mt. Mihara to see if she can sense Godzilla stirring from within, even if he is rather skeptical of her abilities. But, even though he tells Kuroki that the prime minister most likely didn't believe Miki's story because, "She's just a nobody," and that he wouldn't stay prime minister long if he started putting credence in stuff like dreams and ESP, Gondo admits that he hopes Godzilla does show up, "Because if it turns out to be a false alarm, I'll be out of a job." He becomes more excited when they see visual proof of Godzilla moving around within Mt. Mihara and when he visits the hangar that houses the recently completed Super-X2, you can see that he's starting to get something of a zeal for life back, commenting that the aircraft's Fire Mirror is pretty powerful, although I like his comment in the English dub better: "Hot stuff." Since it deals with Godzilla, he's also part of the project to create the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, although I think mainly just to keep it within military jurisdiction since he himself is not a scientist, and when the bacteria is stolen by the Saradian agent, he joins up with Dr. Kirishima in tracking the guy down and getting it back. It's interesting to note how his enthusiasm starts to dim when Bio-Major makes their ultimatum to release Godzilla if they're not given the bacteria, especially when he and Kirishima reluctantly head out to make the exchange. Even though Godzilla does end up getting released, Gondo isn't as happy as you'd think he'd be since they just lost their best chance against him (I like how, when the timer reaches zero on the charges, he just goes, "Amen,"). As I said, he and Kirishima spends most of the time after Godzilla is released trying to get back the bacteria and when they finally do, he personally takes charge of the team that's sent to fire it into Godzilla. This is what Gondo has been waiting for and he seems to relish every minute of it. Unfortunately, he gets too cocky for his own good, firing a shell right into Godzilla's mouth, prompting to retaliate by destroying the building Gondo is in. But, regardless, Gondo is a memorable and likable character due to his charm, sarcastic wit, and his relishing finally having something to do. I wish he got in on more of the action and got to show his military skills more than he did but still, he's a cool guy and has some great lines, with his best one being right before Godzilla kills him, especially in the American dub: "All this intravenous stuff's no good for you. Stick to smoking."

While this film is where the new generation of actors and filmmakers began taking the Godzilla series over, there are some actors here who have ties to the old generation, some of them in a rather interesting way. Although I can't clarify exactly where he is, Katsuhiko Sasaki from Godzilla vs. Megalon and Terror of Mechagodzilla has a brief appearance here somewhere (I think he's in the scene where the Super-X2 is first introduced). The Prime Minister representative who meets with Gondo and Okouchi to tell them of Bio-Major's ultimatum is played by Yoshiko Kuga, a veteran actor who has the most interesting connection to the Godzilla franchise, despite having never appeared in a single entry in the series before or since: she was married to Akihiko Hirata. And while she's not exactly part of the old guard, Yasuko Sawaguchi, who played Naoko in the previous film, appears very briefly at the beginning as Dr. Shiragami's daughter, Erika. One last actor of some note is Koichi Ueda, who hasn't been in a Godzilla film before but who will become a frequent, familiar face, popping up in every movie from here on out (think of him as the Kenji Sahara of the Heisei series). Here, he plays General Hyodo, an older and more experienced military guy who is often vocally critical of Colonel Kuroki's decisions, probably because of his being younger and, in his mind, not experienced enough to make such decisions. While he's not fond of when Kuroki suggests that they lie to the press to keep them from giving an all-clear or when he suggests the use of the experimental TC System in order to raise Godzilla's temperature to get the bacteria to work, Hyodo gets especially angry towards him when he says that they have to send the troops to Wakasa to prepare for a counterattack rather than sending them to Osaka, where Godzilla is currently heading, and when he suggests allowing Miki Saegusa to face the monster herself. But, despite all of his criticisms toward Kuroki, Hyodo shows him some respect at the end of the film when he hands him his youth elite corps hat. Ueda would play this particular character again down the road in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II and Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla.

This film does not at all project a good image of the United States or the Middle East for that manner. Here, they're characterized as being willing to resort terrorism and murder in order to obtain something that will tip the balance of power in their favor, which, in this case, is the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. The fictional country of Saradia is so jealous of Japan's current upper-hand that, when the bacteria is taken back from them, the plant director we met at the beginning of the movie (Manjot Beoi) orders his assassin to make sure that the Japanese will never be able to produce any more of it by killing Dr. Shirigami, which he eventually does. By the way, note that the Saradians, except for one guy who appears in one scene at an office building in Osaka owned by the country, never speak Japanese but resort to English, like the American agents working for Bio-Major. I guess this movie's logic is that if someone is speaking English in Japan, they shouldn't be trusted! Speaking of which, that's a non-narrative strike against these particular people in the film: not one of them can act to save their life! I give leniency to actors like Beoi and Brien Uhl, the latter of whom plays the Saradian assassin, since it's more than likely not their first language. It's painfully obvious that they're delivering their lines phonetically, as well. However, that's no excuse for the actors who play Bio-Major agents John Lee (Kurt Cramer) and Michael Low (Derrick Holmes). These guys are absolutely terrible in their deliveries and don't seem to know what kind of movie they're in or what they're even doing. In fact, Holmes, who plays the Caucasian-looking agent (and the only one who speaks Japanese at one point, I might add), doesn't sound American at all. These actors are so obscure that I couldn't find any information on their nationalities at all but this particular guy sounds a bit Middle-Eastern himself. In any case, they just suck. As the Saradian agent (whose called SSS9 in synopses of the film, although that's never said aloud in either version), Uhl does manage to come across as bad-ass and deadly, particularly with the dark sunglasses he's almost always wearing, but when he talks, which, mercifully, is rare, it's absolutely cringe-inducing to listen to, as it is with Beoi. That's why I suggest listening to the English dub instead because, while those voices aren't great, they're infinitely better than what you have in the Japanese version.

As I mentioned in the previous review, Godzilla vs. Biollante is technically the start of the Heisei series of films because The Return of Godzilla, which is the actual inaugural film, was made during the Showa era. And, even though it is a direct sequel to that film, opening right on the heels of its conclusion, I do consider this the beginning of a new period for the Big G. The Return of Godzilla, despite its going for a darkness and complexity that hadn't been seen in the series in a long time, was still a production that involved many members of the old guard behind and in front of the camera; Godzilla vs. Biollante, however, is really where the new generation begins to take over and put its own stamp on the series. Kazuki Omori's approach to the film and the franchise at large would remain with it even after he was no longer involved; helping Tomoyuki Tanaka produce this film is Shogo Tomiyama, whom Tanaka would hand the producing duties over to starting with the next one when his age and health became to catch up with him; Koichi Kawakita takes over from the retired Teruyoshi Nakano as the special effects director; starting here, Kenpachiro Satsuma would begin to create his own characterization of Godzilla; and finally, this film introduces some new actors who would become frequent faces in the coming films, especially Megumi Odaka as Miki Saegusa and Koichi Ueda. It's also noteworthy that Masanobu Takashima, who plays Colonel Kuroki, is the son of Tadao Takashima, who starred in King Kong vs. Godzilla and Son of Godzilla, and that his brother Masahiro would go on to star in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II and have a supporting role in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. So, while this is not the story that the new series of films began with, it's actually somewhat appropriate to look at Biollante as the start of a new era of Godzilla movies because, just as Japan got a new emperor and a new period for the country began in 1989, the series got a new creative team that would eventually take over completely. In short, a torch had been passed.

According to David Kalat, a prime example of the new creative team's approach to Godzilla was the handling of a subplot in the film that was very similar to one in the original Godzilla. Like the Oxygen Destroyer, the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria is a weapon that will really tip the balance of international power in Japan's favor, creating a lot of tension between it and the former superpowers of the world, and, at the same time, it's Japan's only chance to defeat Godzilla. And like the death of Dr. Serizawa, the assassination of Dr. Shiragami at the end ensures that this weapon will never be replicated since the good doctor took the secrets of it to his grave (despite his involvement, it's hinted that Dr. Kirishima didn't have much hand in the actual creation of the bacteria since he asked for other scientists to help him with it, including Shiragami). However, despite the surface similarities, the treatment of scientists and the field in general in the two films is very different. Ishiro Honda viewed scientists in the same he did reporters: as people who sought ought the truth, unlike politicians. In his very pacifistic mind, having a duty to the truth was much more important than any political or even nationalistic allegiances, and, to that end, he felt that scientists could be able to unite across those boundaries in order to save mankind from enormous threats. Kazuki Omori, on the other hand, had a much more complex opinion on the matter. He writes science as nothing more than another business, as a way to benefit the corporations who fund laboratories with their research, as well as to do what they're told by the government, be it create new, powerful weapons or turn over their research to terrorists in order to avoid an even worse crisis, as Dr. Kirishima is forced to do when Bio-Major threatens to release Godzilla if they're not given the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. It's what Dr. Shirigami is talking about when he tells Kirishima, "Science is just another host of politicians."

Speaking of which, there's hardly a unification between scientists present here. In fact, Shiragami and Kirishima themselves are like if Dr. Serizawa split into two very different people. While Shiragami can be seen as representing his brilliance in developing a bio-weapon that no one else can, taking the secret with him to the grave when he's killed, Kirishima is clearly the representation of his morally conflicted feelings upon the matter, often talking about nothing other than the implications that creating such a thing would have. Shiragami, however, is not all concerned with this bigger issue that his younger colleague seems obsessed with and even berates him for it. As shown by his aforementioned statement to Kirishima, he understands full well what science means in this day and age and after he develops the bacteria, he lets Kirishima and the others worry about the consequences, as well as trying to get it back from the Saradian agent. His only concern is ensuring that Erika's soul lives on within the roses and studying the incredible creature that his experiments with Godzilla cells cause those roses to transform into. While Shiragami does come to respect Kirishima more by the end of the film, telling him that it's time for his generation to step aside, the two of them never seem to resolve their personal conflict (some may say that statement is when Shiragami realizes that his experiments with the Godzilla cells were wrong but I don't believe that since he's not saying that he regrets his work but rather that the new generation should take over with their own methods and ideals). It's a much more morally complex view of the situation than the optimistic one Honda always had.

Also according to Kalat, Omori's idea of scientists being used as little more than a means to create weapons for the country is also indicative of a more nationalistic attitude that had arisen in Japan by that time. Honda always liked for his heroes to put international brotherhood and the common good over patriotism, which was akin to the feeling in Japan in the 50's and 60's of nationalism being something of a taboo. That attitude began to crumble in the 70's, which was when in the films, you saw the Japanese military acting independently from the rest of the world in defending the country from monsters. That's certainly the case here, where you have the Japanese doing everything they can to stop Godzilla by themselves, while the rest of the world either does nothing or tries to steal the one weapon that will ensure his defeat in order to make sure that Japan doesn't become more powerful. And there's another side-effect of this strong, nationalistic attitude: the negative depiction of the United States. Now, I'm not saying that Omori is anti-American or anything, and also, let's not forget how in the previous film, America was just as willing to detonate atomic bombs near Japan as the Soviet Union was, which led to the reediting in order to depict the U.S. are more moral and heroic in the stateside version, but it is a little disconcerting to see us being characterized in this way. Granted, the Middle East isn't shown in such a good light either, seeing as how they have an assassin running around Japan, gunning down everyone in his way to get the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, as well as to make sure that more of it can't be produced by the Japanese, but they don't resort to bombing, as Bio-Major does at the beginning of the film when they bomb Dr. Shiragami's Saradian laboratory. You could say it's a tradeoff since the Bio-Major agents don't ever shoot at people (although they could) and, what's more, Okouchi himself admits that he would be willing to use force to recover the Godzilla cells if another country ever got its hands on them, so at least everyone's equal here. But still, that, coupled with the really bad, stilted acting of the American characters does make you go, "Hmm." It's also interesting to note how this film didn't much create any controversy due to its content, even though it came out in the United States in 1992, a year after footage from the next film, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, caused quite a firestorm over here when it was shown on late-night talk shows. I guess this film's lack of any major publicity, both in Japan and over here, during its release, coupled with it being brought over to America direct to video, prevented that from happening but I still find it interesting, especially since King Ghidorah wouldn't make it to America until 1998.

Kenpachiro Satsuma was never completely satisfied with his performance as Godzilla in the previous film. He felt that, as a result of how physically demanding the job was, particularly because of the suit he was stuck with there, the only thing he could think to do was try to imitate Haruo Nakajima rather than come up with his own way of playing the character, a mistake he was determined to correct with Godzilla vs. Biollante. As much as I love the way Godzilla looked and was portrayed in The Return of Godzilla, there were moments where I felt his movements came across as a bit awkward. However, I have no complaints with Satsuma's portrayal of him here. His goal was to make Godzilla come across as nothing less than an enormous animal, and avoid any human-like movements as much as possible. And I think he succeeded. Like before, Godzilla is characterized as a creature of instinct who only causes death and destruction either due to his sheer size in a confined area like a city or when he's under attack and defending himself, like when he battles the military and Biollante. But, also like before, there's a sense of some real intelligence behind that instinct, like when Dr. Shiragami suggests that Godzilla came to Biollante because he knew that they were made from the same cells. Of course, when Biollante attacked him, Godzilla had no choice but to defend himself but, regardless, it does seem like Godzilla knows that there's a connection between the two of them, particularly when he's able to sense Biollante calling out to him while he's battling the Super-X2. He's also able to sense when Miki Saegusa is sending a lot of psychic energy his way and, while he may not completely understand, he wades up to the platform she's standing on and actually engages with her in some sort of psychic tug-of-war, which leaves Miki exhausted and Godzilla so confused that he temporarily stalls his advance on Osaka. I think my favorite part with him is when, after he's been shot with the shells containing the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, he sees Colonel Gondo through the window of a nearby building and begins approaching, knowing that he was part of the attack on him. He roars at Gondo, who responds by firing another shell right into his mouth, which really angers Godzilla. He then acts like, "You son of a bitch!" and smashes the building that Gondo is in, killing him before moving on. Satsuma's movements within the suit help even more in conveying the idea of Godzilla being a real animal. Not only does he indeed succeed in avoiding any human-like motions but there's not a bit of awkwardness to be seen in Godzilla's much more graceful and fluid movements here. When you add to that the fact that Satsuma is wearing one of the most realistic, well-designed suits that had ever been made for the series, it's not at all hard to believe that what you're seeing is a huge, living and breathing creature. (There are actually two other people credited with having played Godzilla here: Shigeru Shibazaki and Yoshitaka Kimura. However, I'm not sure who played Godzilla in which scenes and so, since Satsuma is the main actor who played him here and throughout the entire series, I'm going to assume that he did the majority of the work.)

Godzilla is one of the first things you see in this movie when it begins and when I first saw him as a kid, I went, "Hey, that's how my action figure looks!" I was referring to the Trendmasters action figure that I'd had since I was around eight-years old, which I had thought looked cool but whose design I had never seen in action in a film until then. This was the first Godzilla suit they had created from a mold, one they would continue to use throughout the Heisei series. As a result, this would be the most consistent look Godzilla ever had up to that point, with only minor changes and tweaks added from film to film, which makes it easier to believe that you're seeing the same creature. It's also yet another reason why this particular film can be considered the real start of the Heisei series. While he looked strong in the previous movie, there were also shots where Godzilla looked rather fat; not so with this design. Every bit of Godzilla's body here is nothing but pure muscle, especially the thighs and chest. While he still looks convincingly massive, he never comes across as fat. His front is fairly trim and strong, yet not so much to the point where he begins to look humanly athletic. And because this suit was tailored specifically to his measurements, Kenpachiro Satsuma was able to move around much more freely and fluidly, as opposed to some of the more stiff movements the suit in the previous film forced him to make. Like before, the most notable aspects of this Godzilla design are the head and face. The head is much smaller and more reptilian in appearance, with a long, narrow snout as opposed to the short, broad one of the previous suit. What's most amazing about his face, though, is how cat-like it looks when you see it from straight on. The contours of his upper lip make it look like he's got whiskers, which I always thought when I was a kid, the nose looks cat-like as well, and when you combine that with his more animalistic eyes and small ears, he has an almost lion-esque appearance. By the way, I must say that I don't care for the amber-colored eyes he has in this film and in the next. I know that having no whites around the pupils makes him look more believably animalistic but it also makes him look less alive to me. It's just a personal preference, though. They also gave Godzilla multiple roles of teeth in his mouth, which brings to mind a shark. As Teruyoshi Nakano had done in the previous movie, Koichi Kawakita and his effects crew also built some animatronic torsos and heads of Godzilla for close-ups but, unlike the cybot, these were integrated with the shots of the suit much more believably since they were made from the same mold. In fact, the transition is so seamless that if you didn't know any better, you'd swear that the shots were all accomplished with just the suit. I'm sure that the major close-ups of Godzilla's face when he's roaring and his facial muscles are going through a bunch of gyrations are the animatronics but there are other shots of his upper body where I'm not even sure if what I'm looking at is the suit or the animatronics! That's great special effects work. As for his voice, they use the deep, growling roar from the previous movie but modify it a little bit to have a more gravely, rattling sound at the tail end of it at some points, as well as to sometimes have a more high-pitched start akin to his screeching roar from the original series. They also give him some short growls that he typically lets out when he's curious about something, some rather ferocious snarling and hissing that he does a few times, and he also makes frequent use of the roar he had in the original film that sounded like a deeper precursor to the screeching one. While I miss the distinctive sound his footsteps had in the previous movie, I do like the loud, concrete-pounding ones he has here when he's walking through cities, which we'll hear more of in the next movie.

Even though her name appears in the film's title alongside Godzilla's, Biollante is actually a small part of this very large, complex story. There's no buildup whatsoever to her creation. In fact, since the film seems more focused on the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria and as to whether or not Godzilla will escape from Mt. Mihara, the scene where she's first conceived by Dr. Shiragami's splicing together the plant cells with Godzilla's cells and her first appearance when she attacks the Bio-Major agents and the Saradian agent in the doctor's lab feel almost like afterthoughts. When she appears in her first, flower-like form at the lake and we keep cutting back to Shiragami's studying of her while Miki Saegusa attempts some psychic communication, it's like the real action, which is Godzilla's escape from the volcano and subsequent battle with the Super-X2 on his way back to Japan. It's only when we're told that Biollante is calling to Godzilla and when he arrives to confront her that it feels like she now has a purpose in the story. And after that first battle, Biollante disappears from the movie and only shows back up at the end to have a second fight with Godzilla. If you were to remove everything else involving Biollante except for that scene of Shiragami first creating her and some occasional shots of her beginning to come together, and just have her suddenly pop up at the end to battle Godzilla and to cause the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria to finally take effect (which is the only important thing she does in the film, I might add), nothing would be lost. The only real purpose she serves dramatically is to act as the mutated aberration that Dr. Kirishima feared would come to be with the advancement of genetics and to give Shiragami something to obsess over, especially since it's believed that Erika's soul is somewhere within her, but even that doesn't carry much weight in the overall story.

It's a shame that Biollante is so underutilized because I think the concept behind her, a plant monster with Godzilla's cells as well as the cells and possible soul of a human being, is a cool one and could have made for an interesting story. In fact, you could have a whole subplot about the creature's consciousness being taken over by that of Erika and she grapples with what she's been turned into, her lost humanity, and how she's ultimately forced to battle Godzilla, as well as how her father deals with it too. Unfortunately, though, they don't do anything like that and you don't get much of a sense of Erika's soul being present within Biollante, although we're told, and even see at the end, that it is. Moreover, Miki Saegusa says at one point that she can't communicate with Biollante anymore, that it doesn't appear to Erika's spirit anymore, which suggests that there's an internal struggle going on within her. Again, there's another cool concept, which is Biollante's two genetic halves from Godzilla and Erika battling each other within and trying to dominate each other, that's not expanded upon. Therefore, when Godzilla and Biollante fight, we don't know if Biollante is attacking because Erika is trying to save Japan or if she's just being territorial, like Godzilla himself is. And if the latter is the case, why did Biollante call Godzilla to the lake? Since we an image of Erika appear after the climactic battle, I'm going to assume she was the guiding force behind Biollante's attack on Godzilla there but I'm unsure of her motivations between then and when Miki said that she had been shut out while trying to communicate with Biollante. I know Shiragami says that Godzilla and Biollante are the same creature because they're made from the same cells but, again, which side of the latter is the dominant one? See, that's the problem. It's an interesting idea but the way it's played out is very muddled. Again, Biollante is a cool creature but I think she needs to be put in another movie where she's given more of a role in the story and fleshed out more too because there's potential for some good stuff that they didn't run with here.

Since I had an action figure of her, I knew what Biollante looked like, or rather, what she was supposed to look like, before I even knew this movie actually existed, which made it all the more surprising when the VHS cover showed an enormous flower-like creature with a toothy maw in the middle of its petals. Indeed, that's the form that Biollante takes when we get our first real look at her when she appears in a lake. It makes sense given that she started out as a normal rose before Dr. Shiragami combined the flower's cells with Godzilla's but still, I must say that it was quite disappointing to see it turn out to be nothing more than a giant flower, especially when we got a nice bit of suspense as to what she looked when all we saw attacking the agents in Shiragami's laboratory were some huge vines. It's a well-designed and realistic-looking creature, and I understand that they wanted to start Biollante as looking very fragile and feminine before the Godzilla cells completely took over her genetics, but I can't help but find the whole idea a little bit silly. It's small wonder that she gets easily fried by Godzilla during their first confrontation since in that form, all she can do is grab him with her vine-like tentacles and bite and spit poisonous sap with the ones that have tooth-filled mouths at the end of them. However, after she's seemingly killed, you get a glimpse of what she's to become before she disintegrates into a shower of spores and disappears. The second form that Biollante takes at the end of the film was the one I was waiting for and is why I wish she were in the movie more because this design is an absolute beauty. It's still clearly a plant, with the same toothy vines and glowing, pink center that the rose form had within the torso but you can tell that the Godzilla cells have now fully awakened within Biollante given the enormous head that kind of looks like Godzilla. It's not so far-fetched to think that Godzilla might not win this fight when you see that Biollante is much bigger than he is, to the point where she can put her mouth (which is literally all-teeth on the inside) completely around his head, her vines are now sharp enough to pierce his skin, she can travel quite quickly on those stump-like legs, and she has her own version of his atomic blast, which is a shower of acidic sap that she spew out of her mouth. The sheer size of that prop is what's so amazing about Biollante's second form (CGI has nothing on this thing) and you don't even have to read behind-the-scenes stories to know that it was pain to deal with, especially with all those vines the technicians had to control and keep from tangling up. While there was indeed someone within both versions of the monster (Masao Takegami), I don't think he did anything other than control the head (or, in the case of the first form, petal) movements and maybe some vines here and there. Hell, maybe he really didn't do anything other than support the weight of the props! As for her vocalizations, in her first form, Biollante makes some eerie wailing sounds (they sound human, that's what's so freaky), as well as some screeches that come from both her main mouth as well the vines that have Venus flytrap-like mouths on them. Her second form has a really nasty, snarling roar that ends with a bizarre, echoing sound and actually starts with the high-pitched screeching noise she uttered earlier. She also growls quite ferociously when she gets Godzilla's head in her mouth and when she's dissipating after the battle, she wails again, this time in a more mournful, sad way.

Godzilla's second adversary in the film is a modified, more advanced version of the Super-X from The Return of Godzilla. Unlike its predecessor, the Super-X2 is a remotely-controlled aircraft and was built specifically to battle Godzilla, while the original was only meant for nuclear accidents. It has a broader, wedge-like shape to it, its armor is twice as strong as the already pretty tough, titanium-alloy armor on the original Super-X, and it's submersible, enabling it to battle Godzilla both above and beneath the water. Like the original, it has an armada of missiles (no cadmium missiles this time, which they should've had), torpedoes, and Gatling guns, but its main weapon is the Fire Mirror, made up of synthetic diamond and designed to absorb Godzilla's atomic blast and fire it back at him 1,000-fold more intensely. When it's first deployed against Godzilla, the Super-X2 proves to be quite effective against him with the Fire Mirror, forcing him to dive beneath the waves at one point when its firepower proves too much for him. However, repeated exposure to his atomic blast eventually proves too much for the Fire Mirror, causing the synthetic diamond, which we then hear is not as heat-resistant as the ship's armor (why the hell not is my question), to melt. Once that happens, the Super-X2 proves to be about as effective against Godzilla as the original one was when it ran out of cadmium missiles: not even a challenge. They manage to use its missiles to get Godzilla in position for the bazooka squad who have the shells containing the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria but when the missiles run out, they have no choice but to resort to the Fire Mirror again, which the engineers were unable to repair due to its advanced damage. This proves disastrous for the aircraft, causing it to crash and explode when Godzilla blasts it, but it works well enough to get him in place for the bazooka team.

Koichi Kawakita is often credited as being a much more talented special effects director than Teruyoshi Nakano and, while I do think Nakano did some great work during his tenure as director, I have to agree that Kawakita's stuff blows his out of the water. Both men learned their craft from Eiji Tsuburaya and worked for him on a number of films (Kawakita has actually been involved with special effects as far back as King Kong vs. Godzilla, where he worked as a matte artist at the age of 19) but Kawakita is the one who really took what he learned from Tsuburaya and ran with it. The Return of Godzilla may have had Nakano's best work in the series but the stuff that Kawakita did for Godzilla vs. Biollante makes those effects look like something from the ultra-low budget 70's films. There is not one shot in this film that looks fake. Besides the awesome and totally realistic monster designs, particularly Biollante's second form, the miniature buildings and vehicles look as real as you can get (the buildings were built at varying sizes in order to create a convincing feel of forced perspective), the pyrotechnics would have made Nakano proud, and they actually fired plastic missiles at Kenpachiro Satsuma in order to increase the impact of the battle sequences between Godzilla and the armed forces. Kawakita wanted to accomplish as many special effects as he could live on-set and not rely completely on matting and opticals. To that end, he put light bulbs in Godzilla's dorsal plates in order to make them light up without using animation, as had been done in the past, and it's also why he had them fire actual projectiles at Godzilla and such. He also employed a lot of different camera angles in order to keep the action fast and exciting, which was helped even more in the editing room. The optical and matting effects that he was forced to use create, and there's no other way to say this, virtually perfect. Some are a little hazy and are clearly composited but the mattes for scenes like when the camera pans up from a crowd gathering at the lakeshore to a shot of Biollante's first form on a miniature set and when Godzilla is wading in the water while Miki Saegusa stands on a helicopter platform in front of him are so seamless that you'd swear there was no photographic trickery taking place there. The same goes for the optical effects, particularly for Godzilla's atomic blast, which would look more plausible and powerful in the Heisei series than it ever had before. Finally, there are brief uses of early CGI a couple of times in the film to illustrate wireframe computer graphics created by the Japanese Self-Defense Force uses to map out an operation involving Godzilla. Make no mistake, when Kawakita took over as special effects director, save for some exceptions here and there, you could no longer accuse the Godzilla movies of having cheap, cheesy effects work.

The film starts up with a rundown of the properties of four different Godzilla alarm systems, each of will come into play as the movie goes on, before cutting to a shot of cells and then pulling back and back until we soon realize once we come out of his skin that what we were looking at were Godzilla's cells. After a small recap of Godzilla's rampage in Tokyo in the previous film, ending with the shot of him falling into the heart of Mt. Mihara, and a look at the cleanup operation that follows, we get into our first major scene, which starts with both scientists working under the military and some American agents whom we later learn are working for Bio-Major finding pieces of Godzilla's flesh amongst the rubble. The three Americans are just about to leave when the Japanese come upon them and when they're questioned as to who they are, they immediately open fire on them. They then take off running amidst the rubble, with the soldiers who were aiding the scientists right behind them, and after shooting down some more, one of the Americans blows three of them away by tossing a grenade. The chase heads down into the subway, with a brief firefight occurring on the stairs, before the Americans trick the Japanese troops by having one lead them down the hallway pass the turnstiles, which is where his buddies pop up and shoot them down. With that done, all three of the Americans regroup and manage to make it to the actual train tracks, where they slow down to a more leisurely pace since they feel that the coast is now clear. However, little do they know that the Saradian agent is lying in wait and he immediately makes short work of them before crossing the tracks and taking off with their Godzilla cell samples, which he takes back to Saradia via an oil freighter. After that is when we're introduced to Dr. Shiragami and Erika, which leads into the brief scene where Shiragami's Saradian lab is blown up by a terrorist bomb and he finds that his beloved daughter has been killed as a result.

After the transition to five years later and meeting some more of our main characters, we learn that a series of tremors has shaken Oshima Island lately and that smoke has been seen coming out of the crater, which we're shown. It's the first sign that Godzilla is restless within the volcano and the second one comes when it's revealed that Miki Saegusa and the children at the Psychic Center have all been dreaming about him lately. With that, Colonel Gondo and Kuroki fly Miki over the crater at Mt. Mihara and, after getting a bizarre-looking vision that's impossible to describe, she says that Godzilla is awake. That's when the first alarm system, which is meant for when any sign of him other than a physical one is confirmed, goes into action. There's a lot of talk after that until we get to the scene where Dr. Kirishima meets with Okouchi for the first time and their meeting is interrupted by an earthquake that's caused by a powerful eruption at Mt. Mihara. The tremor is strong enough to shatter the glass container that houses the roses Dr. Shiragami combined Erika's cells with, severely damaging them. We then get some really awesome shots of Mt. Mihara erupting, while Shiragami realizes that he must do something drastic in order to save Erika's soul, leading him to agree to work on the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. That's shortly followed by the scene where Shiragami unknowingly puts Biollante's formation into effect by combining the rose cells with the Godzilla cells. After a rather eerie moment where we see that Biollante's genetic structure is forming, we get another pass over Mt. Mihara in a helicopter, and as a lot of thick smoke billows out of the crater, Gondo and Kuroki are able to actually see Godzilla moving around within the bowels of the volcano with a special telescopic device. The second warning system, which is for when a physical sign of Godzilla is confirmed, then goes into action.

After that, with Shiragami working at the institute with Kirishima, two Bio-Major agents break into his house and, after ransacking his lab and office, find the information on the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. But, before they can leave with it, they're ambushed by the Saradian agent, who forces them to take cover behind a desk when he shoots a power circuit near them. A shootout then breaks out within the lab, with the Saradian agent managing to pin the other two down near one of the doors leading to the lab. But, before the firefight can continue, the ever-growing Biollante attacks the two Bio-Major agents, grabbing Michael Low, the African-American, dragging him back into the lab, and strangling him to death (even in Godzilla movies, black guys aren't safe). The other one, John Lee, runs and jumps straight through the glass window when another vine-like tentacle explodes out of the floor after him. The Saradian agent, not realizing what just happened, walks down the hallway, where he's then grabbed by a vine, lifted up off the floor, and drug through a glass window into the lab. The vine ends up letting go of his torso but before he can run, another grabs his legs from behind and starts pulling him backwards. However, just when it looks like he's doomed, the agent manages to pull a knife out of a holster on his shoe and cut through the vine. After he's released, the agent gets out of there before Biollante can attack again. The severed piece of vine flails around on the floor like a lizard's tail does when it falls off before falling dead. Kirishima and Shiragami are then informed of what happened and that's when both versions of the film make a huge error. They say that both Bio-Major agents were killed but in the following scene, Michael Low's body is the only one being taken away and, what's more, John Lee appears alive and well later on to take the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. When I was a kid, I assumed that he was killed by getting cut when he smashed through the window and that the guy who appears to take the bacteria from Kirishima and Gondo was another agent that we hadn't seen until then. However, now I know for sure that's not the case and that Lee did survive the scene at the lab, making for a major blunder on the part of the film.

Biollante then makes her first real appearance at the nearby lake, making that eerie wailing sound, while Shiragami, Kirishima, Miki, and Asuka arrive to see her, along with a crowd of astonished onlookers and reporters. Shiragami then gives the creature her name and then, realizing that it is the work of his colleague, Kirishima berates him for what he's done before stomping off to join Gondo in taking the bacteria to the waiting Bio-Major agent. They meet up with Lee in a clearing near a busy freeway but, just when they're about to make the exchange and Lee is about to disarm the explosive charges around Mt. Mihara with the controls inside his container truck, the briefcase containing the bacteria samples is shot out of his hand and after he throws it out of reflex, the three of them are fired upon and are forced to take cover. Lee thinks he's been double-crossed but Gondo tells him that he needs to throw the switch since there's not much time left. After a couple of more shots, Lee sees that the gunman is the Saradian agent and that he's been shooting at them from a nearby walkway. Panicking upon seeing him reload his assault rifle, Lee runs into the container truck's cab and attempts to escape but the agent fires at him once more, causing him to turn the truck over on its side when he drives it to the top of a hill. Now, there's only two more minutes left on the timer and Lee is hanging dead from a shot to the head in the overturned cab. Kirishima and Gondo attempt to open the back of the container in order to get at the explosive controls, with the latter going for the keys hanging from Lee's belt. While waiting for Gondo, Kirishima has to get out of the way when the Saradian agent rushes past him in his car. Realizing that he's going for the bacteria, Kirishima tries to stop the agent but he's too late and the man takes off with the briefcase. Gondo, meanwhile, manages to get inside the container but he then sees that the equipment inside has been badly damaged by the crash. He fumbles around with some switches near the timer, which has now reached 30 seconds, but he's unable to make it stop. Kirishima joins him and the two of them frantically try to stop the countdown. However, it soon becomes apparent to Gondo that it's useless and, as the timer reaches zero, he just stands there and goes, "Amen!" At Oshima Island, a series of explosions rocks the crater of Mt. Mihara and it's not too long before Godzilla comes walking out, roaring as the charges continue detonating around him. It's quite a spectacular entrance for him. With that, the third alarm system, which is in case he actually appears, goes off.

The Japanese people are soon warned of Godzilla's escape via an emergency news broadcast and after a brief scene at the lake where Miki tells Dr. Shiragami and Asuka that she can hear Biollante crying, and she indeed does so, we see more of the broadcast, where we learn that the Coast Guard is evacuating residents in the Tokyo Bay area as Godzilla has left Oshima Island and is heading in that direction. A big battle then breaks out between Godzilla and the Japanese navy as he's fired upon by battleships and helicopters. As I described earlier, the action here is quite good, with a lot of different camera angles, including some POV shots from the helicopters as they fire at Godzilla, and fast editing, and the miniature battleships and helicopters all look very realistic. Surprisingly, Godzilla doesn't retaliate right away but rather just continues wading forward, bristling underneath the onslaught of missiles and shells. But, after a bunch of shells explode in the water in front of him, sending huge geysers up into the air, his patience runs out and he lets his atomic blast loose, hitting the water beneath the helicopters and creating enormous blasts of water that dispense with the aircrafts. He then turns it on the battleships as they continue approaching and firing at him, turning them into massive fireballs. With the navy failing to stop Godzilla, the Super-X2 is then deployed to intercept him and as the aircraft lifts off and heads out, Colonel Kuroki arrives in the control room and introduces himself to General Hyodo as the person whom Super-X2 was assigned to. Traveling at Mach 1. the Super-X2 quickly makes it to Godzilla's current location and Kuroki orders the Fire Mirror to be engaged. The aircraft's front opens up to reveal the mirror as it comes around and heads straight at Godzilla, who doesn't waste any time in firing his atomic blast at it, only to be surprised when it gets fired back at him. He tries it again a couple of more times but gets the same result and is clearly shocked by what's happening. As the Super-X2 comes around for another pass, Godzilla watches it and then fires again, only to suffer two more direct hits from the returned blasts, the first of which really shakes him. Buckling from the onslaught, Godzilla quickly dives beneath the waves but the Super-X2 uses its submersible qualities to continue the attack. Back in the control room. Kuroki is informed of the theft of the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria and advises Hyodo to not give an all clear just yet but to instead tell the press that they're still battling Godzilla in the Yuraga Channel in order to have an excuse to close all the airports and prevent the Saradian agent from escaping back to his home country. After Dr. Kirishima and Gondo learn that the agent has been seen heading west on the Tomei highway, Okouchi informs that he's probably heading to the Saradia Oil Corporation's office building in Osaka in order to try to make it out of Japan on an oil tanker leaving from Kobe.

Back at the lake, Dr. Shiragami gets irritated with a female news reporter when she tries to interview him, berating her and her type for criticizing scientific experiments without recognizing their true value. Biollante, however, decides to interrupt the interview by smashing a part of the dock from underneath with one of her Venus flytrap-like vines. A couple of troops run at the vine as it screeches at the onlookers but it pulls back into the water before they can do anything. That's when Miki tells Shiragami that she can't sense Erika's spirit within Biollante anymore. Then, she says that Biollante is calling out to Godzilla and we cut to a shot of him sticking his head out of the water as he apparently hears her calls. Kuroki then orders for the Super-X2 to keep Godzilla out in the ocean and away from the coast. The controller commences with an underwater attack, having the craft fire a couple of torpedoes, which explode right in front of Godzilla. He then angrily blasts the surface of the water, trying to find the Super-X2, which then immediately blasts out of the water and activates the Fire Mirror. Clearly not learning from his mistakes, Godzilla fires at the Super-X2 yet again, only to receive another return blast from it, which you can tell really hurts him from the way he recoils upon getting hit. However, upon returning that blast, we see that the Fire Mirror is beginning to melt and when Godzilla blasts it again as it comes around for another pass, it manages to return the blast one last time before it suddenly malfunctions with some sparks and a loud, hissing sound. The Mirror's reflection rate drops down to 40% and with the mirror melting, they're forced to switch to missile attack. As expected, this proves to be completely ineffective against Godzilla, who blasts the Super-X2 again, singeing the left side of its front, and as it comes around him, he whacks its backside with his tail, crippling it and forcing them to call off the attack and bring it back to base.

With Biollante waiting for him, Godzilla makes it to land and heads straight for the lake. Military regiments set up on the south side of the lake, while Godzilla walks through the forest and towards the water on the north side. As Biollante calls to him, Godzilla steps into the water and wades towards her. The two of them then square off for a few seconds, with Biollante whacking the water with her vines and tentacles, before she immediately goes on the attack. Some vines shoot out of the water, grabbing Godzilla's neck and tying up his left hand. Godzilla rocks back and forth, trying to get loose, as Biollante sends more and more vines out towards him, grabbing him and tangling him up even further. Godzilla then begins struggling with all of these vines holding onto him, trying his best to get free, as Dr. Shiragami, Miki, Asuka, and the military watch from the nearby command center. After he's unable to get loose using strength, he fires his atomic blast directly at Biollante, which causes her body to spark and sap-like blood to begin falling out around her soft, swollen center. An explosion occurs at her head, causing some of her petals to fall off and prompting her to let go of Godzilla. Upon seeing this, Shiragami theorizes that Godzilla's atomic blast must have had an abnormal effect on Biollante's cell division. However, Biollante isn't done yet and she grabs Godzilla's feel from beneath the water with her vines. Godzilla tries grab them with his own hands but he's unable to bend down far enough to do so and Biollante manages to pull his feet out from under him, causing him to fall. Godzilla gets back up and snarls angrily at Biollante. A number of her toothy vines then shoot up out of the water and Godzilla immediately blasts at them. More of them come at him, with one grabbing onto his left hand with its mouth, drooling all over it with the acidic sap. Another flytrap swings around back and does the same to one of his dorsal plates, while gets right in front of his spews some acid sap right in his face, causing him to blindly fire his atomic blast up into the air. One vine swings around in front of his face but he manages to grab it with his mouth and hit it with his blast, burning it in half. He then blasts one flytrap that's right in front of him and, after grabbing hold of the one that was attacking his dorsal plates from the right, blasts it right in the head. Biollante pulls her damaged vines back to her body and Godzilla unleashes another onslaught of atomic blasts, hitting the shoreline behind her and the water in front of her. Godzilla then roars and sees Biollante creating a makeshift shield with her vines, which he very easily blasts through before managing to score a direct hit on her body, causing her center to burst open and for her body to catch on fire. With her body engulfed in flames, Biollante disintegrates into a shower of spores but not before we see a brief, obscured glimpse of what she'll become when she reappears at the end of the movie. As he watches her burn, Shiragami then suggests that maybe he was wrong about Biollante being immortal.

Godzilla head backs out to sea and completely disappears after this battle. After some helicopter search units sweep Saraga Bay and the surrounding area for a while but come up with nothing, Colonel Kuroki contacts Asuka to see if Miki can use her psychic powers to help them find Godzilla. As they're flying to Osaka, Miki is indeed able to sense him in the water below and we get our first ever shot of Godzilla actually swimming underwater (I say swimming loosely because it looks like he's just sort of drifting with the current). After finding out where he is, Kuroki suggests that Godzilla is probably heading for a nuclear plant to recharge his energy. Feeling that he's most likely to come ashore at Nagoya, Kuroki orders an enormous attack force to be sent into the nearby Ise Bay in order to intercept Godzilla. The attack force, which consists of battleships, helicopters, and Super-X2 in the bay and ground troops on the peninsulas surrounding the bay, goes into action, heading into the area to wait for Godzilla to arrive. However, this operation proves to be a huge miscalculation on Kuroki's part because Godzilla emerges near Osaka Bay, miles away from where everyone is stationed, instead. Kuroki immediately orders for Super-X2 to be sent after him and decides to send all of the ground troops to nearby Wakasa to prepare for a counterattack. He then realizes that they need to stall Godzilla's advance on Osaka in order for the city to be evacuated and once again calls Asuka to see if Miki can do anything. The military helicopter carrying the two women is then contacted and they land on a small helipad in a bay in Kansai. Upon getting out of the helicopter, both women see Godzilla approaching and Miki immediately begins using her psychic powers as a way of battling the monster herself. Asuka then tells the soldiers accompanying them to get back into their helicopter and fly away, despite the fact that they've been ordered to stay with the women. After they do so, Asuka takes cover in the office beneath the helipad, as Godzilla gets close enough to sense the psychic energy Miki is putting out and turns in her direction. As Miki continues challenging him, Godzilla wades up to the helipad and looks at her, letting out a curious growl/bark. While sitting there, Godzilla begins to glow red from Miki's psychic assault but it doesn't seem to do much other than cause Miki to collapse from exhaustion (truth be told, I'm really not sure what just happened but that's the most concrete interpretation I can give). Asuka runs back upstairs to see if Miki's alright, while Godzilla lets out a roar, turns around, and continues heading in the direction of Osaka. While General Hyodo finds out that the navy has entered the channel, Kuroki tells him that Godzilla's now too close to Osaka for him to be fired upon with cannons. The fourth and final alarm system, which is in case it becomes clear that Godzilla is going to come ashore in a specific part of the country, goes into effect.

With Godzilla now having entered Osaka Bay, the city is quickly evacuated, while an off-camera news anchor spouts off how he's expected to arrive in the city from the bay and that civilians are to evacuate calmly and not panic, as if that's really easy given the circumstances. As the evacuation progresses, Dr. Kirishima and Gondo arrive at the building containing the offices of the Saradia Oil Corporation and they make it to the office just as a lone worker there is about to evacuate and take the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria with him. They guy doesn't put up much of a fight against Gondo, who manages to overpower him and hold down onto the floor while Kirishima comes up behind the guy and whacks him on the head with some sort of board, causing his hardhat to make a loud, "BONG!" sound as a result. Kirishima then takes the briefcase with the bacteria samples away, while Gondo punches the guy's lights on when he protests about it. We then cut back to the actual country of Saradia, where the director of the Institute of Biotechnology is informed of what's happened and tells his assassin in Japan that he is to kill Dr. Shiragami to ensure that the Japanese won't be able to produce any more of the bacteria. Back in Osaka, the assassin puts the phone down and, upon hearing an explosion outside, opens the blinds to see that Godzilla has come ashore and is beginning his attack on the city. After watching him blow up a building, the Saradian agent heads out of the building. Outside, some military troops run for cover as Godzilla looms over a small building. Heading into the heart of Osaka, Godzilla smashes the side of a building with his tail and downs some power lines and another building as he walks forward. He heads into a canal and walks right through a large bridge, smashing the mid-section to pieces and causing the section of it that stretches over to the shore and into the city to collapse while some cars are on it. He causes more havoc as he continues walking through the city, smashing more buildings and bridges, blowing up a couple of gas stations, causing more bridges to collapse, and forcing some stragglers to run for cover. We get a nice, moving up-shot of him as he walks amongst some more exploding buildings, pressing on into the business district. While the effects are great here, I've never found this city destruction scene to be that exciting or impactful, especially when compared to Godzilla's initial attack on Tokyo in the previous film. It just feels really run-of-the-mill to me. In any case, Super-X2 hovers into the business district to wait for Godzilla, while a helicopter carrying Gondo and a bazooka team armed with shells containing the recovered bacteria arrive nearby. Upon landing and disembarking from the helicopter, the squad heads into the district via a small bridge in the nearby park, just as Godzilla makes it into the district himself. The four men split up upon making it to the main plaza, heading into the four surrounding buildings, with two of them being Osaka's Twin Towers. After Gondo and his partner make it inside one of the towers and proceed to their positions, we then see that Godzilla is walking down a shallow canal off to the towers' left, which is where he is soon faced with the Super-X2. The craft's controller is now faced with the task of getting Godzilla into position for the bazooka team by using only missiles and Gatling guns.

As Godzilla watches, the Super-X2 unleashes a flurry of missiles upon him, first hovering in place while doing so and then moving forward towards him. Godzilla then fires a couple of shots himself but only manages to blow up some of the surrounding buildings rather than hit the Super-X2, which then unleashes its Gatling guns upon him. The controller then maneuvers the Super-X2 over to the towers while continuing to fire at Godzilla. The craft continues blasting him with the Gatling guns as it hovers around the buildings, prompting Godzilla to take the bait and chase after it, plowing right through a smaller building as he does. He's almost in position but the Super-X2 is now out of ammo. While this is going on, the members of the bazooka squad get into position, with Gondo detonating a window in order to have a clear shot at Godzilla. But, even though the team is in place, Godzilla still isn't in the right position. With no other options, Kuroki orders the still damaged Fire Mirror to be activated, which the controller reluctantly does while piloting the Super-X2 straight at Godzilla. This proves course of action proves fatal for the craft. Godzilla does indeed fire his atomic blast and the direct hit onto the Fire Mirror completely cripples the Super-X2, causing the mirror to burst into flames and the craft to crash into the park right in front of Godzilla, blowing up in a massive fireball. But, despite the Super-X2's destruction, it worked well enough to get Godzilla in position. All four members of the bazooka team fire their shells, with two hitting their marks on either one of his legs and burrowing into his skin to inject him with the bacteria. With their mission completed, Gondo orders the team to pull out. However, as the colonel's getting his stuff together, Godzilla approaches his tower while looking straight at him with a rather unhappy-looking face. Gondo doesn't appear to hear the warnings that immediately come over his radio and only realizes what's happening when he turns around and actually sees Godzilla, who proceeds to roar at him. Gondo responds by firing another shell right into Godzilla's mouth, prompting him to clamp it shut and snarl angrily as steam seeps out of his lips. Furious at Gondo for that, Godzilla completely demolishes the side of the tower, killing Gondo instantly, before moving past it and leaving the city.

Once they realize that Godzilla's body temperature may need to be raised in order for the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria to take effect within him, Kuroki suggests using the experimental Thunder-Control, or TC, System and, despite General Hyodo's protests against it, a trap is set for Godzilla in the Tappa Mountains near Osaka. We then get a montage of the TC Field being set up, with the clouds being seeded with silver iodine to ensure a rainstorm and the plates that will generate the artificial lightning being installed on the ground, while ground troops that will keep Godzilla within the field when he arrives move in (note that among the weapons that will be used against him are advanced versions of the maser cannons that first appeared in War of the Gargantuas). We then get a shot of the helicopters carrying the officials, including the sleeping Kuroki, heading for the site, which is when Dr. Shiragami tells Kirishima that he thinks its time for his generation to step aside. They arrive a couple of hours later, when the rainstorm has begun and all of the troops not essential to the upcoming battle are taking shelter within the command center. Upon entering the center, Kuroki is told that all that's left is for the generators to be charged and after we're shown how the field is set up via a computer, wireframe model, Godzilla arrives and the battle begins. The maser cannons begin blasting him in order to lure him into the TC Field and, sure enough, he does so, heading straight for the mines in the B-Section. He steps on four of them in a row, getting zapped by artificial lightning and raising his temperature up a few notches. He wanders outside of the field and he immediately gets hit by a flurry of lasers and missiles, which causes him to stumble back in the field. He then enters the G-Section of mines and gets zapped with more artificial lightning, which prompts him to blow up the vehicles that shot at him moments ago with his atomic blast. Upon seeing this, Kuroki and the others begin to wonder if this idea will work. Asuka and Miki then arrive to tell Kirishima and Shiragami that Miki can sense that Biollante is still alive. Everyone's attention is then diverted back to Godzilla, who is beginning to show symptoms of the bacteria taking effect. His movements become more sluggish and as he continues walking, he seems to stumble a little bit. Kuroki then orders the helicopters to attack, which they immediately do. They fly in and pelt Godzilla with round after round of missiles, with one barrage from a far-off distance causing him to almost lose his balance. But, this is when Godzilla appears to shrug off the effects of the bacteria and blasts one helicopter before turning and blowing up another, making Kirishima wonder if he's somehow immune to the bacteria. With the operation to raise his temperature having apparently failed, Godzilla wanders around freely and begins approaching a nearby nuclear plant, looming over a ridgeline that's right behind it. It's a nice-looking matte shot but I've always found it strange that this particular plant is dwarfed by Godzilla, whereas the one he attacked before was just about as big as he is.

As the rainstorm stops, Miki, clearly sensing something, wanders outside and runs up a nearby hill, followed by Asuka and Kirishima. Upon reaching the top of the hill, Miki sees a strange, bright flashing amongst the clouds in the sky, which catches the attention Asuka and Kirishima, as well as everyone else, with Kuroki, Hyodo, and Shiragami, along with many others, heading outside to see what's happening. A rain of golden spores begins descending from the clouds, spores which manage to short out the military's equipment and makes Shiragami realize that it's Biollante. As the spores rain down around him, Godzilla looks up at the sky and roars, not exactly sure what's going on. Once the spores dissipate, the ground around Godzilla begins shaking and cracking, with Biollante's vines exploding out of the crumbling earth and smashing the nearby military vehicles. Biollante herself then emerges from the ground, revealing her new, more Godzilla-like, form. She immediately howls at Godzilla, who turns his head and roars back at her. Faced with this much larger foe, Godzilla roars a challenge instead of backing down, with Biollante roaring it back at him. Godzilla then goes into a fighting stance, as Biollante whips her toothy vines around in front of her. She sends a flurry of vines in Godzilla's direction, which he immediately shoots down before they can reach him and he also manages to blast some sticking out of the ground in front of him as well as hit Biollante's body, which does send some sap flying into the air but doesn't appear to really hurt her. She sends more vines at Godzilla but when he blasts them too, Biollante pulls herself up out of the ground and begins heading straight for him on her large, root-like legs, as Godzilla watches with an expression that clearly says, "Jesus Christ!" Unable to shoot them down this time, Godzilla is swarmed by more of Biollante's vines, one of which is sharp enough to go completely through the palm of his left hand, while another jams through his shoulder, with a green liquid gushing out that I'm not sure is meant to be either Godzilla's blood or the acidic sap that was used before. Roaring more in anger than in pain, Godzilla manages to pull the one vine out of his hand, and when one flytrap vine wraps around his body, he then attempts to fire his atomic blast but it ends up exploding within him, creating a powerful pulse that blows up the vine (this isn't the only time he'll do this). Clearly reeling from the onslaught, Godzilla fires at Biollante, causing an explosion around her torso. Biollante retaliates by spewing a shower of acid sap out of her mouth and onto Godzilla, covering his face and left shoulder in the stuff. Unable to see straight because of the sap in his eyes, Godzilla stumbles towards Biollante, who then puts her enormous jaws around Godzilla's head, snarling as she does so. Godzilla retaliates by blasting her lower jaw and after backing up out of her mouth, fires again, this time with his ray going straight through her mouth and exploding out of her back. That's when Biollante does... something. Energy begins shooting up from her center to her mouth, which somehow also effects Godzilla even though she doesn't hit him with anything. Godzilla bristles under the red, glowing energy output and then, turns and stumbles towards the sea, suddenly seeming very weakened. He falls headfirst into the shallows of the water and then just lies there, barely moving. Kirishima says that the bacteria is finally taken effect, although I don't know if Biollante herself caused it do so or if she just weakened him to the point where he couldn't fight it off any longer.

Biollante then disintegrates into spores again, this time accompanied with a vision of Erika, before the spores head out into the sky in a comet-like contrail. Miki tells Shiragami that Biollante said thank you and, just as he's realizing that his departed daughter spoke to him, the doctor takes a shot right to the chest and falls to the ground. Kirishima then sees the Saradian agent brandishing a rifle from a nearby hill and when he takes off in his car, Kirishima commandeers a nearby jeep and chases after him. Traveling across country, Kirishima manages to cut the agent off on the main road and in trying to force him off it, both of them crash into a nearby section of the TC Field. Both me make it out of their vehicles unscathed and the agent points his rifle at Kirishima but before he can shoot, he loses his footing in the slick mud, giving Kirishima the opportunity to run at him and shove him down to the ground. The two of them then grapple with each other as Kirishima attempts to take the agent's rifle away. He manages to throw it and when the agent tries to run after it, Kirishima grabs him and the two of them grapple a little bit, with Kirishima managing to punch his hand off of him. However, the agent manages to clock him in the jaw and with the scientist stunned, he runs to his rifle and stands on one of the mines, ready to take a shot at him. However, before he can do so, the mine activates and the agent is immediately disintegrated by the artificial lighting, with a cutaway showing us that Kuroki was the one who activated it. As Kirishima walks away from the field and onto the road, Asuka pulls up beside him and after giving him something to wipe the mud off his face, lets him know that Shiragami died during his battle with the agent. Suddenly, Godzilla emerges from the water in front of him, no longer sick from the bacteria's effects. Kirishima realizes that the water lowered his temperature, rendering the bacteria ineffective. Godzilla then turns and heads back out to sea as the military watches, with Kirishima then telling Asuka that he's decided not to go work in America. The film ends with the shots of Godzilla wading off into the ocean (I think is the first time that characterizes Godzilla as an antagonist where they just let him leave and don't do anything to temporarily stop him) and a shot of Biollante having taken the form of a large rose hovering above the Earth.

Another major strike against Godzilla vs. Biollante is the music score, composed by Koichi Sugiyama. Kazuki Omori could have gotten Reijiro Koruko, the composer of The Return of Godzilla, back but decided not to since he wanted the wanted new generation of Godzilla movies to have a distinctive new sound to it and went with Sugiyama, who had mainly done music for video games at that point, as well as commercials and anime. While Tomoyuki Tanaka was able to make them include some of Akira Ifukube's themes, like the main Godzilla theme and march, as well as the very memorable military march from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, the rest of the music is completely original stuff by Sugiyama and, while it's not as obnoxious or bad as some of the stuff Riichiro Manabe had done in the 70's (oddly enough, Sugiyama had worked with him on the score for Godzilla vs. Hedorah), it's not ideal either. A lot of it is very old-fashioned and over-the-top in the way it sounds and, thanks to an American orchestrator who never actually saw the movie and adapted the written music for what he felt it would like, it often comes across as inappropriate to what's going on. I've never liked the Super-X2 theme, which is very upbeat and chipper in a corny way, and it's played far too often in the film, even when things begin going wrong for the aircraft or when it's not on-camera (it's the music that plays over the closing credits). A bit of music that plays during some of the action scenes, like when Biollante attacks the agents in Dr. Shiragami's lab and when Kirishima chases after the Saradian agent at the end of the film, often doesn't fit with the action, coming across as rather cartoonish. However, I don't mind the eerie, haunting theme that's composed for Biollante, like when she's being formed in Shiragami's lab, as well as the more somber, mournful theme when she's apparently been killed by Godzilla after their first battle and another, more freakish, nightmare-sounding bit of music that you typically hear during her battles with Godzilla. The same goes for the fast-paced, electronic version of Godzilla's march that you hear at the beginning of the film as well as during a couple action scenes, like when Osaka is being evacuated, and a military-oriented bit of music that you hear when they're searching Ise Bay for Godzilla and when they're moving into the TC Field. But, the rest of the music just doesn't right or that good, for that matter, sounding more appropriate for cartoons and, Sugiyama's specialty, video games. The inclusion of some of Ifukube's far superior music alongside it only helps to highlight the low quality of the original music here and makes you wish that Omori had gone with Koruko. It's the worst music score of the Heisei series, by far.

The VHS that I owned.
After Godzilla 1985 was a critical and commercial failure at the American box-office and only made a profit on home video, releasing another Godzilla movie to American theaters seemed like a complete waste of time, particularly when Godzilla vs. Biollante only did modest business in its own country. Miramax and HBO eventually bought the film's home video rights in 1992 and released it late that year (according to Wikipedia, it was originally going to be released in 1990 but a lawsuit that resulted between Miramax and Toho resulted in the release being delayed for two years). Not a single frame of the film, except for a shortening of the shot under the ending credits, was touched, the widescreen format was kept, and the international dub was the one used, making this the most faithful American release of a Godzilla film to date. The dubbing of the film is about what you'd expect; not the best but not horrible either, and the voices fit the characters that they're given to. In fact, I prefer the English dubbed version to the Japanese one since it fixes the performances of the surprisingly large number of actors who speak English in the film. Characters like the two Bio-Major agents, the Saradian agent, and the Saradian Bio-Technology Institute director, as well as a reporter at the beginning of the movie, are given much better voices and line-readings. Plus, the lines themselves, like the banter between the two American agents when they're spying on Dr. Shiragami and the others, are occasionally rewritten to sound better, especially in the case of the Saradian agent when, after shooting the Bio-Major agents and taking their samples at the beginning of the film, he says, "Well, thanks, you guys," as opposed to the nonsensical, "Kiss, you guys," in the Japanese version. They also really improve a conversation between Shiragami and the institute director at the beginning of the film that, in the Japanese version, was spoken in English by both actors in such thick accents that it was nigh impossible to understand what they were saying (the only reason I knew because I was familiar with the dialogue of the English dub). In case you can't tell, I recommend seeing the English version of this film above the Japanese one.

I apologize if this review wasn't the best. It's just that Godzilla vs. Biollante isn't one that grabs me. It certainly has good aspects, like some noteworthy, likable characters, interesting ideas and concepts, themes that are worth discussing, some nice scenes involving the monsters, and the special effects set a new standard for the series, but there are a lot of negatives to be found here as well. Biollante herself, while a cool monster, is underutilized and has a lot of potential that's never explored, the film's story is so complex that there are times where it almost collapses under its own weight, the seriousness of the story and the lack of comic relief gets a bit hard to take after a while, especially since it doesn't have the darkness of its predecessor, an often plodding pace that makes a film that's already 104 minutes long feel even longer, city destruction scenes and military battle scenes that don't have the impact that they should, and a music score that is often too upbeat, over-the-top, and chipper for what's happening onscreen. It's ultimately a very average, "okay" film that makes for an unsteady bridge between The Return of Godzilla and what the Heisei series would become. Many of the following films would vastly improve upon this one but regardless, this was not the best way for Godzilla to enter the 90's. It's worth at least one watch just so there's not a big gaping hole in the Heisei series for you but don't expect anything absolutely amazing or impactful. It's a Godzilla movie that's just kind of there.

No comments:

Post a Comment