Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

The Return of Godzilla had been a box office success in Japan, even if its American version, Godzilla 1985, didn't do so well in the U.S.  Immediately Toho decided they needed a sequel and, to promote it as well as get some good ideas for what to do next, they ran a national competition to write the script for the next version.  The winner was Shinichiro Kobayashi and his script for Godzilla vs. Biollante, based heavily on a script he had written, and had been used, for Ultra-Man back in 1971.  

The problem is Toho was still skittish after the poor performance of Godzilla movies in the early 1970s.  The American film, King Kong Lives, which was a sequel to the 1976 remake of King Kong, was a box office failure.  Toho interpreted that as a lack of interest in giant monster films rather than the truth, which was that King Kong Lives was just a bad movie that received little interest in the U.S. as well.  Thus, Godzilla vs. Biollante was delayed until 1989 when it was rushed into production for Godzilla's 35th anniversary. 

After Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo in 1984 the race is on to collect pieces of the monster left over from the battle in order to extract "Godzilla cells" to use in experiments.  Japan wants to use them to find ways to defeat Godzilla when and if he shows up again, knowing he is merely trapped in the volcano and not dead.  The U.S. company Bio-Major wants them for biological warfare, while the Republic of Saradia wishes to acquire them so expat scientist Dr. Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) can use them to accelerate plant growth in the Middle Eastern country.  When Bio-Major blows up Saradia's lab, killing Shiragami's daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) in the process, he returns to Japan and pledges not to work with the cells in the future.

Five years later eruptions in the volcano in which Godzilla is trapped cause concerns that he will once again pose a danger.  The Japanese government decides to use their cells to help create a bacteria that eats nuclear material in an attempt to destroy Godzilla.  However, both Bio-Major and Saradia wish access to the bacteria as well.  Shiragami, at first reluctant to participate, decides to do so after a psychic named Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) senses that Erika's spirit may still exist in cuttings of a rose bush from the scene of her death.  Shiragami combines the Godzilla cells with those of the rose creating Biollante (Masashi Takagumi), a giant rose creature that takes up residence in a lake and, when Godzilla (Yoshitaka Kimura) inevitably awakens, calls to him.  The battle is swift with Godzilla the victor, but the exhausted creature heads to Osaka in order to get feast on a nuclear plant.  Meanwhile, Major Sho Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima), now head of the force that includes the Super X-2, attempts to stop him, while Shiragami and fellow scientist Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) work with the Godzilla task force to administer the bacteria.  Meanwhile Miki, after psychically linking with Godzilla, becomes aware that Biollante survived and is on her way back. 

That explanation barely covers all the plot in this movie.  The Return of Godzilla was straightforward, ignoring all the Showa movies except for the first and presenting a new Godzilla creature that had not been affected by the Oxygen Destroyer in the first movie.  The first series of Godzilla films had some general continuity, mainly through the ones featuring Mothra, but by the end it didn't matter much.  Godzilla vs. Biollante, on the other hand, is a direct sequel to Return, and sets up some situations and characters that will carry through the rest of the Heisei series. 

What many viewers will notice is that means much more plot than is perhaps necessary.  Director Kazuki Ômori was not thrilled with being asked to make a Godzilla movie and so he sought to add an international spy subplot, something not included in Kobayashi's original script.  Thus we have three competing powers trying to get Godzilla cells, adding an entire layer of plot on top of getting two monsters together to fight.  The problem with even the best of the Godzilla films is that the scripts often feel like they were written by a couple of eight-year-olds on the playground, with no thought given to real science or even logic.  The same applies here, as in addition to bacteria that eat nuclear waste there is an "artificial thunder" device meant to heat Godzilla up like he's in a microwave oven and synthetic diamond mirrors on the Super X-2 that reflect his breath back at him in amplified form.  As the movie goes along it has the feeling of, "Well, why don't we use the super-duper-secret shield?"

As for the monsters fighting, there are only two battles.  I was afraid this would go back to the last of the Showa days where Godzilla barely made a cameo in his own movies, but there is plenty of the big guy here.  Problem is Biollante is only on screen for a short time.  The design, especially the original rose form, is amazing, and it is too bad neither that or the more grotesque animal/plant design at the end wasn't used more.  This does have a legitimate complaint of having a truly unique monster and not doing a whole lot with it while concentrating far too much on the whole spy plot. 

Still, despite its flaws, it is still quite a bit of fun and is absent many of the more annoying human aspects of some of the films.  Godzilla is still a villain, Biollante is neither and this has some great effects for the time.  In Japan it often ranks as one of the favorite Godzilla films of all time, while it is still largely unknown in the U.S.  Miramax bought it, somehow didn't butcher it, but had HBO release it direct to video after the Weinsteins threw one of their usual tantrums over Toho enforcing their rights and thus punishing them by not putting it out in theaters.  Thus, the rights to it are a mess, and Blu-Ray copies are rare as hen's teeth.  If it can be found, however, it is worth seeing, as a lot more of the later movies throughout the '90s branch from this film, although its initial poor performance in Japan led Toho to bring back the more recognizable monsters to fight the big guy.  

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Time: 104 minutes
Starring: Kazuhito Kirishima, Kôji Takahashi, Yoshiko Tanaka, Megumi Odaka, Tôru Minegishi, Masanobu Takashima, Yoshitaku Kimura, Masashi Takagumi
Director: Kazuki Ômori



  1. Too bad the complicated rights issues are keeping it off streaming.


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