fter a nine year hiatus Godzilla stages a
stunning comeback that restores his title as King of the Monsters. The
filmmakers of "Godzilla 1985" wisely ignored the 15 films made
since the original "Godzilla",
ditching the excess baggage the other films brought in favor of a direct
sequel to the first film. The result is a film that dawns a bright new era
for everyone's favorite lizard.
"Godzilla 1985" opens with a Japanese
fishing vessel mysteriously vanishing during a typhoon, only to reappear
with the crew found in a state of decay. Later, a Soviet submarine is
mysteriously destroyed and the Superpowers blame each other for the loss.
But World War III is narrowly averted when the Japanese government reveals
that Godzilla is responsible and has reappeared after a 30-year absence.
Soon enough, the creature attacks Tokyo and wreaks unrestrained havoc on
the helpless city. Will the military and scientist find a way to stop him
before he devastates Earth?
You'd think that after several years, Toho would be rusty when it comes to
making a Godzilla film. Not so, as "Godzilla 1985" is a
triumphant return to the screen of one of monsterdom's greatest legends.
Suit builder Noboyuki Yasumaru must have been intent on making Godzilla
look good for his return; his monster suit is perhaps one of the most
detailed ever. Godzilla is given a long and well-articulated tail and
three neat looking rows of jagged dorsal fins. He's also given a jaw full
of sharp teeth and some wicked looking fangs. Most menacing of all is a
thick brow on his face, giving Godzilla the appearance of a perpetual
scowl. Yasumaru is also smart enough to update Godzilla's size, upping it
from 50 meters to 80 meters so that Tokyo's skyscrapers wouldn't dwarf the
The script by Shuichi Nagahra, based on a story by producer Tomoyuki
Tanaka, is surprisingly full of terrific ideas. The Super X anti-Godzilla
weapon, the concept of Godzilla's brain being avian-based, and Cold War
struggles all make "Godzilla 1985" an innovative restart to the
series. The script also manages to entertain the audience despite a
monster opponent for Godzilla. The film could have degenerated into a
boring movie about a big lizard with anger management problems, but the
director ably keeps us interested for the full 91 minutes.
Unfortunately the movie's grasp on human drama
falters a bit, as the human characters never seem very interesting and
it's hard for the audience to care about them when they're imperiled. It's
fortunate that it's Godzilla people want and came to see, and not a group
of actors, or the movie would have been in trouble.
The direction by Koji Hashimoto is well done, keeping the film moving at
an even clip and making Godzilla look scarier than he has in decades. His
depiction of Godzilla is that of a doomsday beast intent on destruction, a
welcome relief from the comical depictions of the 70s. Not only does this
approach make Godzilla a credible threat to humanity once again, but it
restores a mean streak sorely missed since his early days.
"Godzilla 1985" was sold to New World Pictures before its
release in August 1985 and was "Americanized" under the
direction of R.J. Kizer and writer Lisa Tomei. But aside from bringing
back Raymond Burr as Steve Martin (from the original film) and adding some
annoying scenes with Western actors, the American version contributes
little to Toho's excellent Japanese version. Even though it's nice to see
Raymond Burr back, if just to bookend the series, the actor has little to
do but make ominous pronouncements and scowl at anyone in his immediate
vicinity. As a fine actor, Burr should have been allowed to contribute
more than just marquee value.
As a comeback film, "Godzilla 1985" succeeds marvelously. It's
entertaining, imaginative, and gives its star back his nasty attitude.
Don't let misguided tampering by a low-rent American studio ruin the
viewing pleasure of this otherwise enjoyable film.
The king has returned! Long live the king!