Return of Godzilla 1984
Return of Godzilla 1984
After Terror of Mechagodzilla was released in 1975 there would be no more Godzilla movies for 9 years. The movies were increasingly less profitable and the story ideas had grown stale. When Toho released the original Godzilla film in theaters it did well prompting them to return to making Godzilla movies once more. Toho offered veteran Godzilla director Ishirō Honda the opportunity to direct the next movie but he turned it down saying that with the way Godzilla performed in the 70s he felt that Godzilla should be permanently retired. In his place Koji Hashimoto took over the directing responsibilities. I disagree with Mr. Honda’s opinion that Godzilla needed to be permanently retired, but I did think that the franchise needed a break until better stories could be found.
In Japan this movie was simply titled Godzilla (Gojira) just as the original 1954 movie had been titled. In the US the movie was known as the Return of Godzilla or Godzilla 85 as it came out a year later in the states. Although a new Godzilla suit was designed for the movie there was also a 20 foot robotic Godzilla that was touted by Toho as being state of the art. Sadly this robotic version of the big guy was not used too much in the film. The new Godzilla suit had larger spines almost equal in size to the center row of spines and the face was given a malevolent scowl.
This movie rebooted the entire franchise and within the continuity of the series this film ignores all of the movies except the first one. Within the world of this film Godzilla had only appeared in 1954. The film also sees a return to a very serious tone. Goodbye to the child friendly Godzilla the hero and savior of mankind. Instead we see Godzilla as he originally was, a force of nature that mankind created and is now reaping what it sowed. The original movie played on the post World War II fears and the repercussions of that event. Return of Godzilla also brings in the politics of the 80s as it depicts the Cold War between the US and the USSR being part of the conflict over how to deal with Godzilla. The original Godzilla movie was modified for US release and and so was Return of Godzilla. Raymond Burr reprises his role as reporter Steven Martin. The funny thing is that by 1984 there had arose the famous TV actor and comedian by the same name, so the movie refers to Burr’s character either as Mr. Martin or Steve, but never as Steve Martin. Another similar return for Godzilla is that this is a solo film and he doesn’t fight any other monsters.
I like that they have returned Godzilla to the role of bad guy. While the movies that depict Godzilla as the good guy and the hero are cheesy fun, I do enjoy the more serious Godzilla. Part of the fun of Godzilla movies is the fear of a giant monster attacking the city. Without that fear Godzilla can become down right silly. I think this movie is a good step in the right direction. Using the cold war as part of the backdrop for the movie does increase the sense of danger and tension. However, in the American version the Cold War aspect of the movie was manipulated to make the USSR look like the bad guys. In the original Japanese version there is tension between the two countries although neither come across as the aggressor. I can understand why the US editors of the film changed that scene, it was the height of the cold war after all; what bothers me is that it typifies the childishness that goes into the game playing of politics. The other bothersome aspect of the change is that it delivers a message that was not in the original movie. It makes the US out to be the good guys and the Soviets out to be the bad guys. The problem with that is part of the tension in the film comes from the fact that Japan is caught in the middle, powerless not only over Godzilla, but equally powerless over these two super powers who want to destroy each other and the world around it in the process. That third party view of the cold war is lost due to the changes in the American version.
Raymond Burr is not used as effectively as he was in the original. In the first film he is used as exposition (explaining the elements of the plot) and while his role is the same in this film it just wasn’t needed. Without him I can understand the plot just fine. He was needed in the first film to explain the elements of the story and his narrative added depth and emotion to the events. In this version he comes across as unnecessary window dressing.
The plot of this movie is also pretty straight forward. Some fishing boast are attacked and it is soon learned that the culprit was Godzilla. Unsure if Godzilla will attack Japan the government wants to keep a lid on the story to avoid a public panic. Soon however, Godzilla, much larger than he was in 1954, begins attacking power plants to feed off of the energy. The US and USSR want Japan to use a nuclear weapon to kill Godzilla but Japan refuses to use nuclear weapons after what they had done to their country. A noble stance, but unreasonable. While battling against Godzilla the Super X weapon used by the Japanese Defense Force knocks Godzilla out cold. Just at that time a Soviet satellite accidentally launches a nuclear bomb toward Japan (the US version makes it look intentional). Before the bomb hits Japan the US sends a missile to destroy the bomb which it successfully does. However, the fall out from the bomb wakes Godzilla back up. Also during his rampaging it is learned that Godzilla has a conditioned response to the birds flying in the air and likes to follow them. The reasoning given for his odd behavior is that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds and since Godzilla is a mutated dinosaur he would share some of their behaviors. I guess that sounds plausible. Godzilla destroys the Super X weapon by toppling a building on it. Meanwhile, scientists have placed a beacon on an active volcanic island that replicates the birds sounds attracting Godzilla who then happens to fall into the volcano. Although Godzilla is defeated it is said that they are sure he will return once more.
One of the things I like about the movie is that Godzilla appears alone. I do not mind monster fights, although there is often a big slice of Velveeta cheese that goes with some of these monster fights, this movie, and the 1954 original, shows that Godzilla acting alone can make a very good movie. With Godzilla as the sole monster in the film the story can highlight the human reaction and the suffering better than when the story line is focused on a batter between two behemoths This movie did not do well in the states and it would be the last Godzilla movie released to US theaters until Godzilla 20000 was released in 1999. Because of absence of Godzilla in the theaters I had no idea that there was a whole series of Godzilla films that came out between 1984 and 1999. Then after the 1999 film there were even several more Godzilla films made in Japan until 2004. I have spent a lot of time catching up on all of these movies since 2005 when I discovered them on DVD.
This is a good movie, better than the movies offered in the 1970s. However, I do like the others that came out after this one a bit better so sometimes this movie gets forgotten. The best thing about this movie for me is that it returned Godzilla to the big screen and another run of movies and it also returned the character his original bad self and for that I am grateful.
I rate this movie: B+
Posted on September 28, 2012, in Godzilla Movie Review and tagged Godzilla, Godzilla 85, Heisei Series, Ishirō Honda, Raymond Burr, Return of Godzilla, Steve Martin, Super X. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.