So you did do it. You amalgamated one of Godzilla's cells together with the plant's cells. Are you proud of this? What kind of science do you call this?
Godzilla vs. Biollante is directed and written by Kazuki Omori and stars Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, and Toshiyuki Nagashima.
A natural question to ask Toho about the Heisei Godzilla series following the release of The Return of Godzilla is, "Now what?" They got their infamous kaiju back on the big screen after a near-decade long slumber, and now was the time for Toho to jump their creative noggins into high gear and start thinking up some ideas about where to take the series next. One good sign is that Toho didn't make it a priority to start making annual Godzilla films, with Godzilla vs. Biollante coming out a a full five years after The Return of Godzilla. Never again would the Godzilla series return to the cheap stock-footage tactics of the late 60's and early 70's that largely stemmed from Toho's desire to get a Godzilla film out in theaters every year. The path that Toho tried to take with Godzilla vs. Biollante was one that continued the grim tone brought back by The Return of Godzilla, in which Godzilla maintains his presence as a villain and his rampage through Tokyo is treated like a horrific disaster. Unfortunately, choosing this path led to disappointing box office numbers for Godzilla vs. Biollante, prompting Toho to shift gears and start bringing back familiar monsters from the Showa series.
As the poster shows, Biollante is a giant plant monster, one with razor sharp teeth and who attacks with killer vines. Now, I would like to say that a plant monster seems like a decent idea for a new monster to fight Godzilla, except that Biollante has some close similarities to Audrey II, making Godzilla vs. Biollante seem like Godzilla meets Little Shop of Horrors. There's also not a whole lot of Biollante in the movie, though boy do characters love to talk about genetics and other science terminology that relate to the creation of Biollante.
The story takes place some time after the end of The Return of Godzilla. Godzilla is trapped inside Mt. Mihara, but several of his cells are discovered and taken to the Saradia Institute of Technology and Science. The cells are to be merged with genetically modified plants with the hopes of replacing Saradia's deserts with fruitful land, thus ending the country's dependence on oil. Dr. Genshiro Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) and his daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) are sent to aid in the cell project, but a terrorist bombing destroys the laboratory, killing Erika in the process.
Five years later, Dr. Shiragami tries to keep Erika's spirit alive by merging some of her cells with the cells of a rose. Scientist Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) and Colonel Goro Gondo (Toru Minegishi) approach Dr. Shiragami, hoping that he can assist them in developing a weapon called "Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria", which will be used in case Godzilla returns. However, Dr. Shiragami refuses to assist. Meanwhile, an explosion occurs right outside Mt. Mihara, sending tremors that damage Dr. Shiragami's home. One night, strangers break in to Shiragami's lab, but they are attacked by a massive plant creature that eventually escapes out to Lake Ashina. Not long afterwards, Godzilla is released from Mt. Mihara. Godzilla sets out to replenish his nuclear energy, but instead comes across the plant creature (given the name "Biollante" by Dr. Shiragami), where a massive battle ensues.
Basically, Biollante is a plant version of Godzilla. Y'know, because he's made from Godzilla's cells and all. That part is no problem. What I do have a problem with is how everything else just isn't all that interesting. There's a lot going on with the plot, and good luck trying to keep up with all of the names, places, and motivations crisscrossing in ways that make it hard to believe that this movie's title promises that a giant lizard will be facing off against a giant plant. Godzilla vs. Biollante complicates itself far more than it needs to, and there is a mighty sigh of relief when the monsters finally step into the frame.
- The monster action is pretty stellar, enhanced by a blood-pumping musical score by composer Koichu Sugiyama. Godzilla's atomic breath makes the fight just a little bit unfair, but how director Omori makes up for this is choreograph the fight in a way that has Godzilla not so much go in to the fight headfirst, but stand back and study Biollante. Godzilla watches how Biollante positions himself, and then launches an attack when he sees an opening. Biollante's main method of attack is using vines with chomping mouths, but Godzilla destroys them with ease. The climactic fight also has one of the most grotesque moments of violence in the entire Godzilla franchise: Biollante sends a vine straight through one of Godzilla's hands, with green ooze splattering everywhere. Better to not watch the fight while eating a snack.
- What makes Godzilla vs. Biollante quite a chore to watch is how incredibly unfocused the film is, contributing big time to how uninteresting the plot becomes. Characters come and go with no rhyme or reason; you'll see a character one moment, and then there's no mention of them until 15-20 minutes later. Not helping matters is how many characters we have to keep up with: the good guys, the villains who are after the Godzilla cells, and, oh yeah, two giant monsters. Omori's clumsy handling of the characters and plot make it that much harder for us to get engaged with the story and not start saying, "When are the monsters gonna show up and start fighting?" Might I also mention how ridiculous and illogical the bit about Dr. Sagiyama trying to keep his daughter's soul alive is? For starters, we learn he's trying to do this FIVE YEARS after she's killed, which throws into question how in the world does he have functional cells from his daughter. I've never worked in a morgue or a funeral home, but I sincerely doubt that after FIVE FREAKING YEARS that your body still has living cells intact. I don't know, maybe he got the cells shortly after she died and found a way to preserve them. But even after you look past that bit, the whole, "keeping her soul alive in a rose" part is schmaltzy as all get out. Good thing the movie is too unfocused to dive too deep into that plot point.
I wouldn't feel right in saying that Godzilla vs. Biollante is bad. It's mostly that its good parts are overwhelmed by its inability to stay focused and maintain a progressive approach to the story. Characters are all over the place, with the monster action feeling like a reward we receive after completing some long, laborious task, as opposed to being an exciting spectacle that we've been building up to. Like Terror of Mechagodzilla, this is a Godzilla film that I know I watched at a younger age, but can't for the life of me remember how I felt afterwards. And also like Terror of Mechagodzilla, I came away far more disappointed than I thought I would. Despite retaining some of what worked well in The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Biollante is a sequel that manages to do somewhat worse. Don't let your hopes wilt, though. I promise the series has much better to come.
Recommend? No. For any Godzilla fans, don't make this a priority to watch.
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