“Godzilla vs. Biollante” Review
I first saw this movie on home video back in 1996. I had heard of Godzilla Vs. Biollante before watching it, so I was a bit familiar with the opposing kaiju. How well does Godzilla Vs. Biollante hold up? Before we get to the review, let’s have a synopsis:
Synopsis: Shortly after Godzilla’s rampage on Tokyo, Americans, the Japanese government, and a Middle Eastern country, known as Saradia, are after Godzilla cells. These cells will be used by either faction to create weapons to destroy anyone who gets in their way. However, the Japanese government is more concerned about creating cells to destroy their host: Godzilla.
After several American soldiers are murdered, a Saradian agent takes some cells to his home country. There, Dr. Shiragami, along with his daughter, Erica, begin work on studying wheat in order to genetically engineer it to produce higher yields. An explosion goes off at the laboratory and Erica is among the fatalities. Later on, Dr. Shiragami reluctantly agrees to work with the Japanese government on creating a new weapon to fight Godzilla. The end result is a giant plant known as Biollante. In it’s early stage, Biollante is a giant rose.
Little does Shiragami know that his former Saradian supervisor has a hit out on him and our Saradian agent is sent out for the job. Not to be outdone, the Americans have rigged Mount Mihara with explosives. Godzilla is still alive in the volcano after his fall in Godzilla 1985. Lt. Gondo and Kirishima are out to prevent an American spy from letting Godzilla loose. It’s too late, though. The Saradian agent kills the spy and Gondo and Kirishima are helpless to stop the countdown. Godzilla is now loose.
Godzilla faces Biollante, in rose form, at a lake inside Japan. After a few tussles with Biollante’s vines, Godzilla quickly disposes of Biollante. According to Shiragami, Erica’s soul is inside Biollante. The Japanese Self-Defense Force is scrambling to stop Godzilla after the supposed demise of Biollante. A new biological weapon is produced: ANEB (anti-nuclear energy bacteria) and Super X-2 is sent out to do battle. The Super X-2 proves only mildly effective until it’s called back after its reflecting fire mirror begins to melt. As Godzilla continues his advancement in Japan, ANEB is placed inside rockets to be launched at the kaiju.
As Godzilla stomps through Osaka, the Super X-2, after repairs, is sent out to battle the King again. This time, it’s put out of commission for good. Gondo and four other soldiers strategically place themselves in skyscrapers to launch the ANEB at Godzilla. After shooting his rocket, twice, Gondo is killed as Godzilla destroys the skyscraper Gondo was in. The bacteria seems to have no effect on Godzilla until Kirishima realizes Godzilla’s body temperature is too low for the bacteria to work effectively.
Major Kuroki decides to unleash the M-6000 TC System (Thunder Control) on Godzilla outside of Osaka to raise his temperature. After a while, it seems that the bacteria now has an effect on Godzilla as he becomes sluggish. But the fight isn’t over…Biollante shows up once more, this time in its final form with a crocodilian-like head and a vicious attitude to boot. Biollante entangles Godzilla with her vines and shoots a stream of acid at him. She even attempts to bite off Godzilla’s head! But Godzilla proves too much and Biollante is defeated fairly easily once again.
Godzilla makes for the shore where he collapses due to the effects of the ANEB. Biollante goes up in flames and we see a picture of Erica as Biollante’s spores head into the heavens. The Saradian agent assassinates Shiragami and Kirishima chases after the agent. After a brief skirmish, Koruki kills the Saradian agent by activating one of the TC pads. Godzilla awakens; the ANEB had no effect on him after all. In space, we see a giant rose glowing near the earth as credits role.
Story: Godzilla Vs. Biollante has a very unique story that really wasn’t, nor has since, been written about or explored. We get international assassins and spies at work to recover the valuable Godzilla cells as well as a bio-engineered kaiju in Biollante. The story is enough to keep you entertained, but it does feel more like a crime thriller than a Godzilla movie at some points. When Godzilla shows up about 40 minutes into the movie, he becomes the focal point; which is extremely nice!
The story has a few slow points and, quite frankly it could have been cut down a bit. The movie runs at 1 hour 44 minutes. But it could have been cut down about fifteen minutes. Throughout the story, we are told that Erica’s soul inhabits Biollante, however none of this is fully explained. How did her soul get there? Did Shiragami put some of Erica’s cells into Biollante? Or did her soul enter the kaiju upon its birth? We are never told.
Despite a few of these areas, the story is fun and we are treated to a rare moment when Godzilla is the center of the story.
Special Effects: The effects are phenomenal! The new Godzilla look is more reptilian and has become a fan-favorite. This look will go on to be the main look of Godzilla in subsequent Heisei entries.
The model work is spectacular! Whether it’s the Super X-2, battleships, flying aircrafts, or even Osaka, the models are awesome! One of the highlights of the film is watching the Super X-2 battle Godzilla in Osaka. Seeing how the vehicle maneuvers around skyscrapers as it’s battling Godzilla is a real treat.
The look of Biollante, in either form is exceptional! The final form is the most impressive, however, with it towering over Godzilla and all of its tendrils and its massive head moving about. There are even two brief moments where the large kaiju moves towards Godzilla. Biollante looks fearsome in its final form and its execution is one of the best executed kaiju I’ve seen in the genre!
Acting: Just about everyone brings out a terrific performance in the movie. The only exception would go to the two American spies and a few of the JSDF controllers who are in charge of flying Super X-2. Toru Minegishi, in my opinion, stands out from the rest of the cast as his acting really brings out the squirrely and, sometimes, aggressive personality of Lt. Gondo.
Megumi Odaka, as Miki Saegusa, turns out an okay performance here, but her character, and acting skills, will become more prominent as the Heisei series progresses. Masanobu Takashima, as Major Koruki, brings a decent performance, but his character spends most of the time in a stoic state of presence. Whether this was needed from him for the character or if it is how he approached the character is unknown. It would have been nice, though, if he brought more vibrancy to his character.
Battles: We are treated to numerous battles in Godzilla Vs. Biollante, albeit many of them are between the JSDF and Godzilla. However, watching the JSDF launch numerous vessels and aircrafts at Godzilla is a sight to behold, but we all know they stand no chance against him. Once again, the battle between Godzilla and Super X-2, both times, are impressive. The Osaka battle has to take the cake between the two battles, though, because of the awesome miniature work for that scene.
The Godzilla-Biollante battles are intense but, sadly, terribly short. This is the film’s major drawback. While Biollante, strangely enough, looks to be a more-than-worthy opponent, in all actuality, it isn’t a worthy opponent to Godzilla. Biollante is on screen for about ten minutes, tops, throughout the whole film; and the battles are about three to four minutes in length at best.
Both battles are pretty much the same in terms of how they’re executed: Biollante fires out her vines, Godzilla gets entangled a bit but manages to get himself free, Godzilla repeatedly fires his breath at Biollante to defeat her. The only part that manages to be interesting is the moment when Godzilla’s head is inside Biollante’s mouth. Although Godzilla easily survives, I have a hard time believing that Biollante either couldn’t have severely wounded, if not, killed, Godzilla.
It is very disappointing that Biollante isn’t in the film more, but, especially, that the battles aren’t any more vicious and prolonged. These two battles would officially begin the “beam wars” that would fill up most of the Godzilla battles in the Heisei era.
Human Drama: We get some fantastic human action in the movie! We are treated to a handful of gun battles and a few intense moments such as the timer that sets off Mount Mihara and Gondo’s demise in Osaka.
I would go so far as to say that this may be the most violent of Godzilla films as far as conflict between people goes. I can’t think of any other movie where there are hitmen or other people going after others for one reason or another.
The only problem this area of the film suffers is from a bit of a lack of memorability of some of the characters. While some of them, like Dr. Shiragami and Lt. Gondo stand out, much of the characters are easily forgettable.
Overall: Godzilla Vs. Biollante is a fascinating film. Only when I saw it recently did I begin to really appreciate it. That’s not to say I didn’t before. When I saw this when I was younger, for the first time, I wasn’t all that impressed. I wanted to see Godzilla and Biollante really go at it. While it was nice to have Godzilla be the center of the film, not seeing him battle it out with Biollante for a while was a huge disappointment (and, to a certain degree, it still is).
But after not having seen it, literally, in years, I can start to see why many fans love the movie. There is a really nice, adult story along with good acting, and great effects. It is a worthy sequel to Godzilla 1985.
Godzilla is the focus for much of the movie.
Terrific human drama.
Suits and miniatures are beautiful.
Godzilla and Biollante battles are too short.