NOVEMBER 30, 2012
Confession time: apart from the (edited, revised dialogue) US version of Godzilla 2000 that played theatrically (which I know I went to see, but that's my entire memory of it), I've never seen a real Godzilla film in its entirety. I remember one of my local stations seemed to show them often on Sunday mornings when I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure I never watched one start to finish, and even if I did I certainly don't remember it. So, for all intents and purposes, Godzilla vs. Biollante is the first TRUE* Godzilla movie I've seen, and I tell you - I want to see more.
Now, for all I know this is the worst of the lot, and/or radically different from the others and thus I'll never like another one again. That's the problem with watching what is essentially part 17 of a series instead of going in order, now my perspective of what a Godzilla movie should be is forever skewed (I promise I'll make the original one my next stop, at least). But how much different could it be? It actually skewed pretty closely to what my idea of what one of these movies was like - a monster is formed, Godzilla comes back, fights it, there's some downtime, and then they fight again. And throughout the film, humans try to kill them both.
But there was stuff I wasn't so sure about, like lengthy scenes of human antagonists fighting over bio-samples, and psychic children that can temporary distract Godzilla away from destroying a city so that he will wander off and destroy something else. As with the Transformers films, I'm kind of only hear to see giant things destroying stuff and don't really care much about the humans, but after 17 movies I'm guessing that even if this wasn't usually the case, they'd have no choice but to open it up a bit.
Especially considering that the history of "G" attacking the area isn't ignored. Not that I expected people to be like "Wait, WHAT? A giant lizard? Preposterous!" at this point, I WAS surprised at how far in the opposite direction it went - the people of Japan are actually kind of blase about him at this point. There's a Godzilla alert system, where level 1 means that they just heard him or felt a rumble, but didn't actually see him, and level 2 means a sighting. Level 4 (the highest, I guess? No 5?) is when they know exactly where he will strike, so of course every 15-20 minutes in the movie they raise it another level. And when they figure out where he's headed, the emergency broadcast kicks in and the announcer is basically like "Godzilla's coming, everyone follow the usual instructions." And folks are a bit worked up, of course, but there's no real panic - they're filing out of their buildings and such the same way an LA resident might for an earthquake. It's pretty amusing.
I also like how they use the poor bastard as a guinea pig for their ridiculous weapon tests, more or less. At one point in the movie they think they know how to stop him, but when it doesn't work someone theorizes that he needs to be warmer first, so they ward him off into another area so they can bake him with radioactive shields first. This after he's been shot at by them multiple times, not to mention puked on by Biollante. Just put a bullet into his brain and put him out of his misery! Otherwise, I enjoyed how the scientists were used here; the guy who created it was a grieving scientist (his daughter was killed by a terrorist bomb), and thus had conflicting views on what was happening since Biollante actually took out a few of the terrorists. And there's even a good "Godzilla isn't the monster - the scientists who created it are!" speech somewhere in there, so it hasn't forgotten its roots as a warning on the dangers of meddling with science (hey just because I haven't seen it doesn't mean I don't know what it IS).
As for Biollante, I found it to be a pretty cool villain, one who went through a couple stages to keep it fresh. At first we just see its tentacles that have little mouths on the end (kind of like Little Shop Of Horrors' little singing "buds"), and then its basic form in the first fight. But after it is taken down/reborn, it's bigger and more mobile, with more tentacle legs and a far more monstrous body/head. Apparently the movie didn't do too well in Japan back in 1989 and it was attributed to the fact that it was a new monster instead of one of the classic "kaiju", but if so you 80s Japanese folks were silly - this is a damn cool monster. Luckily, while it never appeared in another movie I guess, it has been in a few of the subsequent video games.
This is the first time the film has been available on DVD or Blu-ray in the US, and Echo Bridge has offered some bonus features to make up for the delay. A 49 minute making of piece is actually pretty good, focusing on the creation of Biollante, some new techniques in shooting the Godzilla scenes (a guy in a suit, if you weren't aware), and other typical production type stuff. It doesn't include anything about the movie's post-production or reception, but it DOES have some deleted footage, including part of the nutty original ending, where Biollante would eat Godzilla and absorb his energy (and this would be depicted via anime, as if it wasn't out there enough). There's also a separate 3 minute look at some original designs for Biollante. Both are given subtitles, and the film has TWO subtitle options - the original translation and revised to match the original Japanese. EB has given a few audio options as well - you can choose between the English dub or two Japanese versions (5.1 or 2.0). Not a bad package; the transfer itself is nothing mind-blowing, but compared to the other barebones blus (with terrible transfers0 I've seen from the company, I am quite pleased with this package. Hopefully it's an indicator of things to come.
But I don't expect too many more Godzilla releases from them; this was the only one picked up by Miramax to the best of my knowledge, and that's the library all of their newer releases seem to be taken from. So I'll have to poke around for the others; I know the original has a Criterion release but the other sequels I'm sure are scattered among several companies. I don't have much time left for HMAD, so if you're something of an expert and you want to offer 2-3 must-sees, feel free to post them below! I'd like to see at least that many more before I wrap things up in March.
What say you?
*Fuck Roland Emmerich.