After The Return of Godzilla in 1984 it took 5 years for Toho to make a direct sequel to their reboot of the franchise. There was a desire to create a new monster for Godzilla to fight so there would be no reliance on previous creatures. After receiving around 5,000 scripts in a competition to find a new writer for Godzilla they eventually settled on a script by a Dentist/Science Fiction Writer called Shinichiro Kobayashi which would involve Godzilla fighting a giant plant. Well, it hadn’t been done before so why not? The script was reworked by director Kazuko Omori into the film we have today and one of Godzilla’s most unique opponents was born. Always fun to have a little bit of film history at the start of a review. But how is the film I hear none of you ask? Shut up, I’ll tell you after the link below.
In order to fully convey the core premise and plot of this film in the opening paragraph I shall be using the entire plot description from imdb.com. It’s kinda beautiful. Here it is: “After rising from his volcanic grave, Godzilla is threatened by a mutated rosebush”. I always struggle making my plot synopsis paragraphs concise and focused. Too into the details you see. But that is about it. There’s some sub-plot involving a made up nation sending terrorists to steal Godzilla cells and the scientist that made Biollante decided it would be a good idea to put some of his dead daughter’s DNA in the plant but really, “Godzilla is threatened by a rosebush” pretty much sums this all up. Actually, it says threatened. I’d say mildly irritated.
This is the first of the Heisei era Godzilla films to introduce one of the few reoccurring human characters in the series in the form of Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka). She runs an institute for psychic children that Dr Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) hopes will be able to communicate with plants. Specifically with the rosebud he has cross bred with his daughter’s DNA. He is asked to help develop a bacteria that will break down radiation, thus giving Japan a weapon to use against Godzilla. Because Dr Shiragami is doing a pretty decent job of not coming across as crazy they lend him some Godzilla cells for his work and he goes and cross breeds that with his human/rose hybrid plants. You’d think that, in a world where a 50 metre tall giant monster created by man’s meddling with nature, the average scientist would be a little bit more careful about meddling with nature. Especially when it involves using DNA from the very nature meddled creature that has a habit of destroying large portions of Tokyo from time to time.
This isn’t one of those near brain dead stupid Godzilla films but it does skirt around the edge of that realm of lack of thought a few times. For example, the team of leading scientists that make the anti-radiation bacteria don’t take into account the possibility that Godzilla, a giant dinosaur, may be cold blooded. This has the effect of not making the bacteria work and so they have to find a slightly silly method of heating him up. This involves a secret weapon of giant octagons that can channel lightening. Why not just napalm Godzilla? Really though, this is the sort of silly that only exists to allow for set piece sequences such as the lightening weapon field. Without a certain amount of idiot plot they probably would have written themselves into a wall. Unless they didn’t bother with the cold blooded thing and just had to find a way of dealing with Godzilla whilst it takes effect.
By the way, Godzilla has defeated Biollante once by this point. Like, completely burnt to a crisp with her spores being sent into space. Most of the film, once Godzilla is freed from his volcanic grave, involves him attacking Tokyo or wandering into traps. Miki tries to slow Godzilla down with her brain waves, and it works for a little while, but that’s about the end of that sub-plot. The plotting really is the main trouble with this film. There’s so many separate characters, we also have government agents and military types to follow along with the villains and the previously mention Doctor and his psychic friends, that you really don’t get much of a sense of character. Shiragami is so stoic in his demeanour that you can it barely registers, until much later, what he feels about the monster he has unleashed. In essence his part in creating Biollante and his part in creating the anti radiation bacteria puts him in an odd pro/antagonist role. He’s responsible for the monster Godzilla fights and the method to defeat Godzilla. Do we root for him or not? He’s not evil, but he’s also pretty passive about being a help. He kinda just stands there.
This can be an issue common to many Godzilla films as it appears some writers and directors struggle to come up with meaningful ways to have the human characters interact with Godzilla. This film does make efforts but it’s all spread a little too thin. Maybe if the terrorist sub-plot was removed, if more time was spent on Shiragami and Miki, we’d have a more focused plot. The terrorist sub-plot is essentially there to give a plot device to wake up Godzilla and for a fight at the film’s climax. Neither was needed as I’m sure people would accept Godzilla being woken up by a regular volcanic eruption, without the aid of bombs, as they would likely not need a brief fist fight between two regular guys after seeing Godzilla fight a giant rose monster.
Godzilla vs Biollante really does try to be a good film. It feels like a sequel to Return of Godzilla, retaining much of the dark atmosphere, but doesn’t have that film’s consistency of character and mood. At one point there is a montage of TV new reports, on of which features Japanese metal band singer Demon Kakka. That cameo will be absolutely bewildering to anyone not familiar with his existence because it is essentially as if a weird heavy metal clown appeared reading the news. Fun fact: he voiced The Joker in the Japanese dub of Tim Burton’s Batman in the same year Godzilla vs Biollante was released. It can also be fairly hard to take a giant rosebud monster seriously when it looks quite a lot like a demonic version of Audrey II from little Shop of Horrors.
Overall Godzilla Vs Biollante could have been a lot worse with its potentially immobile monster and its unfocused narrative, but it just manages to squeak through. The effects are very well done for the time, genuinely impressive more often than not. The set pieces during the film’s second half does keep the variety shifting. When you consider how bad some of the Showa era films are this stands above them easily production wise. It lacks the charm and character though and so ends up as something fairly bland. There’s a lot that could have been done to keep this film’s pace and story focused but instead the director opted to try to slow the film down to a crawl at a few too many intervals. The next film is Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah.