Monday, June 2, 2014

Godzilla vs. Biollante

  With the new Godzilla movie stomping it's way into theaters I figured now is as good a time as any to catch up on all the 'Zilla movies I've always wanted to see, until I actually get to go see the new one. First and foremost, Godzilla Vs. Biollante. When I was a little kid, I only ever saw two Godzilla movies. Godzilla vs. Gigan, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. You couldn't pry me away from them. They were awesome. Still are. Then, I went through a legitimate obsession phase about Godzilla. I would check out this book from the library called "The Official Godzilla Compendium". Back then, it was like the Godzilla Bible. The huge full page glossy movie stills, posters, stats, info. You name it. That's where I first saw Biollante.

  He was huge. He made Godzilla look small. He was freaking scary looking too. He was like a Satanic/Botanical version of Godzilla. Pure evil. I knew I just had to see that movie. It was going to be the most epic giant monster throwdown, ever. There was no way it wouldn't be. Unfortunately... for reasons I don't even remember, my 8 year old self gave up on the movie prematurely, barely 15 minutes in. Anyways, fast forward a gajillion years to like, now. My curiosity always maintained over the years, so I finally decided to give it another shot. It... didn't disappoint. It's a surprisingly dark and serious entry, but still action packed and very well made. As soon as the credits rolled I knew this one was already edging it's way into my favorites.

  Something that sets this one apart from a lot of others is how it dips into so many different genres. By nature, Godzilla movies are scary. On some level, the concept of a giant monster rampaging through cities- ignorantly killing thousands is frightening. Even if said monster looks like a guy in a rubber suit. However it's for that reason exactly that Godzilla movies are more sci-fi than horror any day of the week. The franchise evolved into having each movie revolve around monster vs monster brawls. So yeah, it's more sci-fi fantasy than horror. However, Godzilla vs. Biollante makes a strong effort to deliver some very scary stuff. The creature itself is a laboratory experiment gone awry. It spawns botanical tentacle vines which grab people, and drag them off to their doom. It's scary and a change of pace for a Godzilla movie.

  The sequence in mention is a great scene which gives us a taste of things to come, but on a human scale. This creature eventually will grow and fight Godzilla himself obviously, and is just as scary then as it was when it was human-sized. Out of context, the scene looks like something from your average 80's sci-fi horror movie. If you happened upon it without knowing what movie it was from, you'd be forgiven for not knowing it was a Godzilla film. The other genre dips into, again on a very human scale, is action. All the characters in the movie are fighting over some super powerful Godzilla cells. Thus you have countless shootouts and car chases. Assassins, soldiers, you name it. There's one guy in the movie, who looks like a Middle Eastern 'Terminator'. Right down to the black clothes and 80's Gargoyle shades. He's always toting big guns, and if I recall- doesn't really speak much either. Funny enough, he's not physically imposing at all and almost looks silly given how hard they tried to make him look like the Terminator. They could have at least ditched the overbearing facial hair...

  Anyways, most of this is of little consequence unfortunately because when all is said and done... the human characters in this movie are wholly unremarkable. The only one who really even registers as somewhat fun to watch is an older scientist gentleman who ends up being responsible for spawning the film's eponymous antagonist. Yet even he seems like he's sleepwalking through the part. All the horror elements and action elements which dominate the first forty minutes would have been more engaging if we cared about the characters. I know the humans will never be the main draw in a Godzilla film, but if you're going to keep Godzilla himself offscreen for almost half the movie at least give us interesting or endearing human characters to watch. Again, that's more of a complaint leveled at the entire franchise, but now's as good a time as any to bring it up seeing as how Godzilla vs. Biollante gives these human characters so much intense and exciting stuff to do, yet neglects to really make us care about them first.

  Fear not though, you didn't come to see a movie called Humans vs. Other Humans, you came to see Godzilla vs. Biollante. This giant monster showdown is one of my favorites in the entire franchise. When Godzilla finally does show up at the 40 minute mark (almost precisely, dang...) it's a mind-blowingly cool scene. He makes one hell of an entrance rising up out of an erupting volcano as the ever-classic theme music plays with gusto. His design in this movie is also probably my favorite out of the entire franchise. He looks lean, and mean, whilst also looking heroic and without looking strange and sort of un-Godzilla-like, like he does in some of the later Heisei era films. (For those who don't know, the older more kid friendly Godzilla films are classified as being the "Showa" era, and from around the 80's on, when Godzilla took a semi-darker turn, those films belong to the "Heisei" era.)

  Almost right away you have Godzilla fighting a new human-built flying machine called the Super X-2. This whole sequence is really cool, and gives the big guy something to do right off the bat instead of just stomping around Tokyo. Not that he doesn't get a chance to smash and bash a few miniature cities, but his introductory scene is a decent action scene that doesn't disappoint. From that scene on, we're strapped in for a roller coaster ride of giant monster battles, car chases, shootouts, and more giant monster battles. I'm just gonna say now though, I love Biollante. The creature itself is amazing. In both design and execution. It has a very scary on-screen presence and manages to dwarf Godzilla, lumbering next to him. He's frightening in his final form, tentacles, claws, fangs, thorns, and rows of jagged sharp teeth. He's a truly imposing monster who's look is not easily forgotten. I love it.

  His two climatic battles with Godzilla are hall of fame stuff in my opinion. This is one movie which goes all out with the monster vs monster brutality. I dare not spoil more, but years of curiosity and anticipation were paid off with this climax. Worth it all. Some may not like Godzilla's hero angle in this movie. Which while it's not direct (ala Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla) it's there. He's the hero. It's fairly obvious. Even if it is a 'choose a lesser evil' type of situation. It seems like a departure from the tone set in Godzilla 1985, which this is almost a direct sequel to. Despite all that, Godzilla vs. Biollante edges out as a favorite of mine, and one I'd love to watch again, and soon.

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