Featured Blu-ray Review: Godzilla vs. Biollante
Godzilla vs. Biollante is a late entry in the Godzilla franchise coming out in 1989. At the time it was released, Godzilla had faded from its roots as an iconic Kaiju monster and the entire genre had been reduced low-budget action films. Was Godzilla vs. Biollante able to revitalize the franchise? Or is it just another disposable entry in the decades old franchise?
The film starts with a report from the National Land Agency: Special Disaster Research Committee detailing the alert levels and which ones should be issued depending on the G thread level. G being the code given to giant monsters like Godzilla. Level 1 is for the first sign, level 4 is if they know where on Japan it will land. As the opening credits roll, we see see the devastation from the last attack as a new reporter speaks. A military outfit has got into the area with one goal, retrieve some of Godzilla's cells. They are able to evade the Japanese military guarding the area, but not a fellow mercenary, who kills the three and takes their booty, before escaping on a boat bound for Saradia.
After that action, we meet Dr. Shiragami (Kôji Takahashi) and his daughter, Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi). Dr. Shiragami is a geneticist and is working with the Saradian government to create a strain of super wheat using desert plants, and Godzilla's cells, so the country can feed itself. Terrorists target the laboratory in order to destroy the storage of Godzilla's cells, but Erika is killed in the blast.
We flash forward five years and Dr. Shiragami has become a recluse. Since the death of his daughter, he's spent his time working on studying the psychic energy of roses. He asks Asuka Okouchi (Yoshiko Tanaka) of the Mental Science Exploitation Center, who brought in Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), who can talk to plants. It's no use, sadly. While this area of study is of little interest to others, Dr. Shiragami is still being watched by corporate spies from the Bio-Major, the largest bio-tech company in the world. They plan on stealing his research to ensure Bio-Major will have a monopoly in the field. However, what they don't know is that they are being spied on themselves, by the Saradian mercenary we saw in the opening.
Asuka Okouchi also works at her father's institute, the Okochi Foundation, along with her boyfriend, Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura). Kazuhito has grown weary of the experiments done at the foundation, which include a Bio Bank, which sounds enough like eugenics that there's strong opposition to it. There's also the genetic manipulation, which Kazuhito thinks will result in a new life form that's not meant to roam the Earth. Since he's dating the bosses daughter, he doesn't want to voice his opposition and wants to leave and applied to study at MIT. He was recently accepted and wants Asuka to go with him
Meanwhile, Mount Mihara, the volcano on Osima Island where Godzilla is trapped, has begun rumbling again. This is a troublesome sign that Godzilla is awake, and if he escapes, he will devastate Japan again. The Mental Science Exploitation Center has a flood of dreams about Godzilla's return and Miki is brought to the volcano to confirm the signs. Fortunately, the Japanese government had begun to develop a weapon to defeat Godzilla once and for all. It is a biological weapon called the Anti Nuclear Energy Bacteria. They plan to create a bacteria, using genetic material from Godzilla, that will eat nuclear material. Since Godzilla needs nuclear material to survive, this bacteria would feed off of Godzilla's cells and starve the monster. They need Godzilla cells to work with, which they have at the Okochi Foundation. But they have to have the right scientists, but the first one they go to, Dr. Shiragami, but as he lost his daughter due to his work on the Godzilla cells, he refuses. However, he changes his mind when... I can't tell you. It's a spoiler.
We are only about 20 minutes into the movie, and we are starting to hit unacceptable spoilers, because we are getting into the creation of Biollante, and that's the thing that sets this movie apart for the rest of the franchise.
So how does Godzilla vs. Biollante compare to other Godzilla movies? There have been roughly two dozen sequels in the franchise and of those roughly half are merely average, while half the rest are worthy sequels and the remaining quarter are unacceptably bad. Biollante is in the Worthy Sequels list. Unlike a lot of giant monster movies, there's more here than two men in rubber suits hitting each other while standing on a model set of Tokyo. Like the original Godzilla, this film deals with important issues, including the dangers of science run amok in general and genetic manipulation in particular. It looks at corporate malfeasance, albeit in an over-the-top way. (I don't trust Monsanto's business practices (Suing someone because a seed traveled from your property to their property.) but I don't think they would resort to terrorism to become a monopoly.) It also touches on a more emotionally poignant subject, the dealing with the loss of a child.
Finally, there are two men in rubber suits hitting each other while standing on a model set of Tokyo. Actually, to be more accurate, and less sarcastic, much of the action takes place in the sea, which does help the film stand out even more from the franchise. (Plus the return of Super X, for those that like model work.) There's more than enough action for satisfy the fans.
This is a bargain Blu-ray release, but there are some extras on the disc. There is a 49-minute long Making Of featurette and a second 3-minute featurette on the design of Biollante and Super X2. That's great for a release like this. As for the technical specs, its good, with some caveats. The film cost $5 million to make and it was shot more than 20 years ago, so you can't expect a great picture quality and there are many scenes that are soft, blacks are never deep, etc. It's a step up from previous DVD releases and likely the best we are going to see. I thought the Japanese audio track was good, but the English dubbed version seemed a little muffled at times. Still, it is better than the DVD, but not a shining example of high definition. Then again, it costs just $9 on Amazon.com, which is cheaper than a lot of DVDs.
Godzilla vs. Biollante is one of the better Godzilla movies and it has not only a cool design for the new monster and the usual high amount of action, but also delves into important topics, like the original did way back in the 1950s. The Blu-ray is a bargain release, and it shows, but you can't complain about that price.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2013-01-12