Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Godzilla vs Biollante

Keep circulating the tapes.

We've reached a sad point in the Godzilla series. Up until this point it was tradition for Godzilla films to get theatrical releases in America. The only exceptions include Godzilla vs The Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla, which instead went straight to TV. That all changed with Godzilla vs Biollante. This film didn't get a theatrical release in America, instead going straight to VHS.

Godzilla vs Biollante is a direct continuation of the previous film, picking up right where it left off. Godzilla returns, as does the Super-X. Their battles aren't quite as spectacular as they were before, but that's okay because they're not the main attraction this time. Instead the film gives us a monster we've never seen before, Biollante. Biollante's like nothing we'd seen before. She's a giant plant, and I mean giant. She ends up being the biggest kaiju to make it into a Godzilla film (sorry Bagan). She's notable for having a highly elaborate origin for a kaiju and for having a non-standard design. She has no arms, no legs, and no tail. She is an utter abomination and it's an shame that we never got another monster like her. She's one of the most interesting monsters in the entire series.

This film also introduces Miki Saegusa. While I don't particularly care for the character and her psychic abilities, her recurring presence does help tie the Heisei films together. The strong continuity between the films is one of the things I like about the Heisei series, and I know I'm not alone.

Godzilla's design in this film deserves a mention, as it's one of the most important looks he's had. This design is an improvement over his previous design in every way. The previous design was trying to look mean. This one succeeds. Toho realized it too, as Godzilla's look would change only slightly over the rest of the Heisei series. Even in America this suit became Godzilla's default look, even though most Americans hadn't seen the film it was from. VHS manufacturers may have been in love with the previous design, but this is the design that appeared in toys and books. I'll return to this point when I talk about the Trendmasters toys. Remember those? I'll be giving them their own post.

Thanks to the complex story and Godzilla's multiple battles with both the JSDF and Biollante, this film ends up having a very rapid pace. Perhaps it's even a bit too quick at times. The final fight does feel a bit short and relies a bit too much on breath attacks (welcome to the Heisei series), but it remains interesting thanks to the sheer size of the Biollante prop. It's always interesting to watch Godzilla fight someone bigger than he is, and it helps that the monsters look nothing alike. This film manages to be a lot of fun to watch even while maintaining a serious tone. This is a great film and every Godzilla film should see it.

So what happened? Well, there were a few things working against this film. Firstly, Godzilla 1985 did poorly in theaters despite all the publicity it got. Secondly, Godzilla vs Biollante didn't do particularly well during its run in Japanese theaters. Its numbers weren't horrible, but they were disappointing enough for Toho to rethink how they wanted to approach the next film. Distributors had no hope that Godzilla vs Biollante would do well in American theaters, so instead of going to theaters it went straight to VHS in 1992. As Godzilla was in a lull at the time, the VHS was released to little fanfare and was quickly forgotten. Future Heisei films would not be released in America in any form until several years after the series ended. Thus began Godzilla's dark age in America. While the Godzilla series would recover, it has never been the same for American fans.

If you want the old VHS, Amazon has surprisingly many copies. However, you may want to hold off as it's been revealed that Echo Bridge has obtained the rights to the film and is working on a DVD release. If nothing goes wrong it should be released this December. After 20 long years, Godzilla vs Biollante will finally be available again. This leaves only Godzilla 1984/85 waiting to get a DVD. That one will be a challenge because of rights issues, but perhaps the upcoming American reboot will generate enough hype for someone to finally do it. Until then, keep circulating the tapes.

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