Godzilla Goodness: GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989)
By Witney Seibold on May 20, 2014
Time for Godzilla product 19, that really, really weird one where he fights a mutant rose bush with a crocodile for a head.
Godzilla vs. Biollante – in terms of its monster, its tone, and its overall impact – feels like an aberration in the Godzilla series. Like the filmmakers didn’t know where to take the Heisei era, and were trying out something entirely new to only mixed effect. It’s the longest Godzilla film to date (at 105 minutes), and its tone falls somewhere in between the dour reboot and the craziness of the 1970s. The film is decent, but this is lesser Godzilla.
One of the things working against it is its central monster. Biollante is a genetic experiment that resulted from a fusion of Godzilla DNA with, get this, a rose. I suppose mixing Godzilla DNA with another animal would have been too predictable – where do you go once Godzilla has fought a giant lobster, a giant spider, a dragon, and a robot clone? – but a rose? Does that strike anyone else as a bit lame? Why not an octopus? Or at least a dangerous plant like a Venus flytrap? Godzilla vs. Audrey II would have been dandy. Biollante is, at the end of the day, kind of a lame monster.
Godzilla vs. Biollante was the first appearance of the very first human character that will actually have a life and a continuity within these movies. Miki (Meguma Odaka) is a young, sweet psychic girl who is forcibly inducted into the Japanese military to intuit when and where Godzilla will strike. Miki will appear in all the remaining films in the Heisei era, and we’ll kind of grow to love her. I do love me some monster mayhem, but it’s nice to have a recognizable human face in the Godzilla milieu. It’s Miki who will announce that Godzilla, even after being buried within a swirling morass of molten rock for the past five years, is still alive and very angry. Yes, the G-Man does indeed emerge from his lava prison intact and plenty pissed off. Nothing can destroy our favorite monster.
While this is happening, a kindly geneticist (Kunihiko Mitamura) has been tinkering with Godzilla genes, fusing them with roses to make a species of rose that will not die. Movies have taught me that mucking around with genes, intending to cure Alzheimer’s disease, is a sure way to create monsters. He is the one who will create Biollante. At first Biollante is just a stationary rosebush that takes up shop in a lake. Later, Biollante will unroot and grow acid-spitting tentacles and a crocodile head. Godzilla, sensing a monster is nearby, will fight with it. It’s what he does, ma’am.
Oh yes, and there is a subplot about terrorists in this one as well, which is, as we all know, pretty unnecessary to a Godzilla movie. I appreciate that the filmmakers are trying to enrich the material, but in so doing, they are losing sight of the pleasurable simplicity of the series. At least the original Godzilla music is back, although it seems to be a dance remix. Oh shoot, and I forgot to mention the Super X2, the improved version of the Super X from The Return of Godzilla. I will mention it: There’s a Super X2 in this film.
Godzilla vs. Biollante is a new generation of Godzilla filmmakers trying to figure things out. They don’t know exactly what tone to strike yet, so they’re trying out various things. Some of it works, most of it doesn’t. Luckily, they will soon enough find their feet, and return with a string of Godzilla movies that will update the hyperactive-9-year-old notions behind Godzilla, and update them for the 1990s. Hang tight, friends. The next few will be damn fun.
Up next: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)