Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) Movie Review

It makes sense that Godzilla’s foe in “Godzilla vs. Biollante” would be the product of genetic engineering, since that science was beginning to dawn when the film was made. It doesn’t, at first, make sense why the filmmakers would decide to have Godzilla fight a mutated rosebush; but they probably were running out of species for him to fight and had to settle on the plant kingdom. To their credit they manage to pull it off, making what turned out to be an enjoyable entry in the long running Godzilla series.

The film begins as a direct sequel to “Godzilla 1985”, with scientist searching the smoking rubble of Tokyo for skin samples of Godzilla, which they need because of its regenerative properties. The Japanese government hopes to use the cells to combat Godzilla and destroy him once and for all. But an Arabian nation also wants the Godzilla cells, as well as American pharmaceutical companies, and they will do anything to get them.

Meanwhile, a brilliant Japanese geneticist requests Godzilla cells for a secret research project. You see, the tragic death of the geneticist’s beloved daughter has unhinged him, and as a result he has combined the dead girl’s cells, Godzilla’s cells, and the cells of a rosebush, in a desperate attempt to bring her back. The result is Biollante, a huge and lethal hybrid with the head of a rose and vine-like appendages. When terrorists free Godzilla from his volcanic prison, it sets him on a collision course with his bastard relation, and only one will survive.

For a Godzilla film, there’s an awful lot going on in “Godzilla vs. Biollante”. Part monster film, part criticism of science tampering in God’s domain, part spy thriller, and part supernatural film, writers Kazuki Omori and Shinichiro Kobayashi definitely doesn’t want the audience to be bored. The story may seem disorganized at first, but it keeps the audience entertained while Godzilla is offscreen.

The script also gives us the most unlikely — and probably the most imaginative — adversary in Godzilla history. The battles between Godzilla and Biollante are fairly riveting to watch, and it’s interesting to see Godzilla face a foe he probably has no idea what to make of. The only complaint about the script is the overabundance of characters, none of which seem to take center stage and it’s difficult to tell whom the story is going to focus on next. The direction by Kazuki Omori is well done, moving the action along but never sacrificing exposition for the sake of pacing.

The special effects by longtime contributor Koichi Kawakita are truly impressive. Godzilla, Biollante, and the Super X2 — Japan’s newest anti-Godzilla weapon — all look terrific. Making a giant mutant rosebush look frightening and fierce is a pretty daunting task, but instead of creating a creature that looks like someone mixed steroids with Miracle Grow, Kawakita presents a formidable beast that can easily hold its own against Japan’s favorite export.

But a major detraction from “Godzilla vs. Biollante” is the score by Koichi Sugiyama, a veteran of video game and commercial work. The music is bland and lackluster, suggesting that Sugiyama is just not up to the task of scoring a feature film. Scenes that should benefit from energetic music are left flat instead, and the music as a whole seems derivative of other, more talented, composers.

It’s a shame that the movie was released in the West with almost no fanfare by Miramax, so most fans probably don’t even know it exists. “Godzilla vs. Biollante” is not only one of the most imaginative films in the series, but also the most enjoyable to watch. Fans should head out to their video store to seek out this hidden treasure; they will be amply rewarded.

Kazuki Omori (director) / Shinichiro Kobayashi, Kazuki Omori (screenplay)
CAST: Kunihiko Mitamura …. Kazuhito Kirishima
Yoshiko Tanaka …. Asuka Okouchi
Masanobu Takashima …. Major Sho Kuroki
Megumi Odaka …. Miki Saegusa

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