Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Class: User
Author: Godzillawolf
Score: (4/5)
August 13, 2009 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla vs. Biollante was, to the best of my knowledge, my first Godzilla film, and it still stands as one of my favorites. The espionage angles mixed surprisingly well with a Godzilla movie, and these devices intertwined wildly well as they led directly to the creation of the titular monster, Biollante. The film has a lot of heart, from the plight of the main characters all the way to the emotional impact of the massive Biollante. Introducing some of the most recognizable staples of the Heisei Era, this proves to be one of the better films of its timeline, and even one of the better Godzilla films as a whole.

The film picks up exactly were The Return of Godzilla (1984) left off, with a news report concerning Godzilla's raid on Tokyo and his plummet into the heart of Mt. Mihara. As Japanese hazmat teams recover samples of Godzilla cells, it is discovered that factions in other nations are also seeking this precious biological material. A lone agent from the Middle Eastern nation of Saradia absconds with the cells. Enter Dr. Shiragami, a Japanese scientist working for the Saradian government in an attempt to utilize these "G-cells" in order to genetically create an immortal plant species. A clear challenge to the crop exports abroad, an American organization called Bio Major bombs the laboratory, destroying the G-cells and killing Shiragami's daughter Erika in the process.

Several years later, Shiragami lives in Japan in seclusion. A young psychic named Miki Saegusa is visiting, on Shiragami's request, in an attempt to try and communicate with the roses he keeps in a greenhouse near his home. When asked why he's interested in such things, he merely says his years of seclusion can give him some strange ideas. However, when Miki leaves, she hears a girl's voice calling out to her friend Asuka...

The events pick up when a group of children at the ESP Research Institute begin having the same dream regarding an awoken Godzilla (Miki included). Meanwhile, Shiragami, an expert in the field of genetics, is called upon to create the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria (ANEB) in order to destroy the beast. He hesitantly accepts on the condition that he can keep the cells in his libratory for seven days. Once he has the G-cells in his possession, Shiragami begins to combine them with his roses with which he has amalgamated the DNA of his daughter. In his mind, he rationalizes this as an attempt to make the roses immortal and keep his daughter alive.

Meanwhile, a scan of Mt. Mihara reveals Godzilla is in fact awake and very much alive. Now that Godzilla is confirmed to still be a threat, the Super-X2 is introduced, designed to combat Godzilla with a weapon called the Fire Mirror (built to reflect and enhance Godzilla's heat ray). As production of the ANEB continues, a duo of Bio Major agents break into Shiragami's lab to steal the research, but are attacked by the Saradian agent. The resulting fight awakens Shiragami's creation, which attacks all three, killing one of the Bio Major agents in the process. The other intruders escape.

Shortly thereafter, Bio Major attempts to force Japan to turn over the ANEB by threatening to detonate explosives on Mt. Mihara, which would free Godzilla from his volcanic prison. The situation escalates as Shiragami's creation turns up in Lake Hashi, having grown to enormous size. Shiragami dubs his creation Biollante, and Miki confirms that Erika's spirit is alive within the massive plant-like monster. Meanwhile, the ANEB is set to be exchanged to Bio Major, but the Saradian agent attacks. The ANEB is stolen, the explosives at Mt. Mihara go off, and Godzilla rises from the caldera, free to wreck havoc on a hapless populace.

The plot is what really shines here. The G-cells are the central factor, which are rare and very valuable; so wealthy countries are willing to do whatever it takes to control them. They are the driving focus of the plot, they are the impetus to Erika's death, Shiragami's desire to resurrect her, and her eventual incarnation as Biollante. They're also the reason Bio Major "inadvertently" unleashes Godzilla. The Saradian agent, one of the film's primary antagonists, is the wildcard whose employer is a nation bent on diversification of their exports. The dialogue between Kazuhito and Asuka is riddled with references to the horrors that tampering with the cells might cause, mostly by Kazuhito due to his distaste for reckless genetic engineering. In the end, the Godzilla cells are the driving force of almost every aspect of the plot, and the idea should have come into play in the closely following Godzilla movies.

As earlier emphasized, this film introduces several staples of the Heisei Era films, among the most important is the character of Miki Saegusa, played by Megumi Odaka. Her character is one that would reappear in most of the remaining Godzilla films of this timeline, but here is one of her larger roles. She is pivotal, proving to be the only one capable of locating Godzilla underwater when the military fails to do so. Miki is one of the more recognizable characters of the Heisei Era, as she's one of the few that reappeared again and again in an main role. Her only flaw is a modest amount of emotional distance she seems to portray.

Another key player in the plot is Major Sho Kuroki, who would later return to pilot the Super-X3 in Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995), playing a pivotal role in destroying the sadistic antagonist of that movie (although in the latter film, the character is portrayed by the actor's brother). Kuroki is interesting as he differs from most military characters in the Heisei Godzilla films, who usually serve as token brass. His major mistake in launching an all out attack in the wrong location shows a fallible side to his character, which lends a bit more to his humanity; he's young and inexperienced. However, he also shows his insight by not only formulating a plan to trap Godzilla, but also by using the M6000 T.C. System to kill the Saradian agent. Speaking of the Saradian agent, he is a most intriguing character, though his lines are few. He made for a superb human villain to the movie, being a very skilled assassin, and a major contributor to the vibe of espionage that permeates this film. Of the remaining characters, the most dynamic character was Dr. Shiragami, played by Koji Takahashi. His relationship with his daughter is obviously very strong. There is little time to build it up prior to her passing onscreen, but there is still a lot of emotion to be had from the audience, especially as the grief drives her father to the brink of madness. At first, his belief that he can store his daughter's spirit in roses makes the doctor seem a bit crazy, in fact his own words seem to point that even he believes he may have lost the sharper edges of his sanity. It is through Miki that the truth behind Shiragami's hypothesis is proven, as she can sense the spirit of Erika with her powers. This adds not only to the mad genius of Shiragami's strange insight, but also humanizes Biollante, adding a likeability factor to the otherwise alien creature. Despite the more than decent characterization in several areas, there is a lingering problem. There are too many characters in the allotted 104 minutes to develop, and some of the supposedly major players are overlooked.

The special effects are realized quite impressively in this film. Godzilla's feral appearance truly gives him the presence of a living natural disaster. His atomic ray is rendered very well, and the rotoscoping effect utilized when Miki attempts to use her psychic powers on Godzilla is quite a head turner. The massive Biollante is an amazingly realistic creation; her rose form is a grotesque corruption of the beautiful plant from which she originally derived. Nevertheless, there is a certain unmistakable beauty all the same. On the other hand, her massive and hideous final form is well fitting for a representation of genetic science gone horribly wrong. Her acidic sap spray is believable, both disgusting and amazing at once. What makes Biollante's suit special is that she appears wonderfully organic and lifelike; it doesn't look fake in the least, even the tendrils (which could have easily proven to be a visual nightmare if handled improperly). One scene that many unfairly seem to gloss over in discussion is the "flytrap" tendril that bursts out from under the dock near Shiragami. This may seem like sheer aggression, but when one analyzes the film, its easy to imagine Biollante noticing her father becoming upset by the reporter's nagging inquiries. This, along with other subtle hints, shows there is a very tangible human inside the beast. It is quite sad that Biollante was never again called to duty for a future Godzilla film, even if she supposedly had a role in Space Godzilla's genesis. The character had much more potential than one movie can fill and she should have been reused.

Finally, as for the musical score, Godzilla vs. Biollante vaunts several solid themes. One recurring track features a haunting, dramatic melody; very fitting for this kind of film. Naturally, Akira Ifukube's original Godzilla theme once again appears in all its glory during the recap of The Return of Godzilla (1984). As always, it's a brilliant and ominous accompaniment for the appearance of everyone's favorite atomic saurian. There is one very different theme that features an 80's style metal remix of classic Godzilla themes, which is quite unprecedencted. Dubbed "Bio Wars" in the official soundtrack, it parallels a lot of the human action, and the intense rock vibe reflects a bit of the chaotic conflicts that spark between the warring factions out to obtain the valuble genetic treasure.

While the film failed to make a large impact at the box-office, Godzilla vs. Biollante is clearly one of the better Godzilla entries, possibly because it was partially conceived by a fan, Shinichro Kobayashi, a dentist and part-time screen writer. This was my first Godzilla film and I still have the original VHS tape, so I‘ll admit I might be a little biased due to nostalgia, but this is still a powerful Godzilla film even under subjective analysis. The flaws are few and can easily be overlooked if you're simply watching the film for pure enjoyment, which is the real reason that most of us watch G-flicks, after all.