godzilla vs. biollante!!!

Godzilla vs. Biollante

It’s a Godzilla movie from 1989, which means it’s well out of the classic zone for Godzilla movies and well into the phase where what’s interesting about the films is the negotiation between faithfulness to the genre and the need to modernize action/effects for a contemporary audience. What really matters in this movie, however, is that Godzilla takes an uncharacteristic left turn at Albuquerque and ends up attacking Osaka instead of Tokyo. But first a quick plot summary:

As far as I can tell (no subtitles) the basic plot is this — some Saudis send an agent out to collect a skin cell from Godzilla after an attack. This cell is to be used to genetically engineer a new type of plant life that can live in the desert so that the Saudis can stop relying on oil and instead displace the U.S. in it’s role of number one grain exporter in the world. A scientist is sent to Saudi Arabia to work on this project, but his wife is killed in some sort of bomb blast (perhaps terrorists — it remains unclear). Meanwhile, someone else has developed some antinuclear bacteria. Cut to five years later. Godzilla has been slumbering in a volcano (where else?), but now there are all sorts of signs that s/he is going to reappear. The best is a scene at the Psychic Institute, or whatever it’s called, where the two women who take care of the psychic children ask them what they’ve been drawing and all of them hold up pictures of Godzilla wreaking fiery mayhem. If that’s not a sure sign that Godzilla’s coming, then I don’t know what is. Meanwhile, the plant scientist has been working on some kind of genetically altered rose. Since the movie gets all sentimental and soft-focus when he’s working on the rose, we can only assume that the rose is somehow connected to the memory of his dead wife. Eventually he engineers a new type of life, which, as far as I can tell, turns out to be a hybrid of his wife’s cells, Godzilla’s cells, and the plant’s cells. Anyhow, this new life gets all tentacular and then slithers out to the ocean where it grows to enormous proportions and then sprouts a giant rose blossom head with a set of teeth in the middle of the bud. No need to spend too much time applying the symbolic conventions of medieval love poetry to figure out that we have a serious case of kaiju dentata here. Of course Godzilla shows up and then destroys Biollante (I’m not sure why the monster is called Biollante), but not before a beautiful golden glitter of DNA-like light flows up into the heavens. Then Godzilla attacks Osaka.

There’s something truly unheimlich about watching Godzilla attack the city that you live in (unless you’re a Tokyo-ite, in which case it’s just an everyday occurrence). There were a couple of great scenes in front of Osaka Castle with massive crowds of people screaming while holding their hands in the air and running frantically towards the camera. There was also a magnificent shot of the Tower of the Sun (right down the road from my house) with downtown Osaka burning in the distance.

Okay — back to the plot. So, Godzilla is shot full of anti-nuclear bacteria, which is apparently like kryptonite for Godzilla, but he’s still not leaving the area. Luckily, a golden shower of DNA falls from the heavens and forms a reconstituted Biollante, this time with a kind of alligator head and lots of toothy hydra tentacles. As the plant scientist points out, “Biollante has evolved!” Biollante manages to weaken Godzilla, who staggers off into the sea (Osaka is saved!), but not before Biollante suffers from terminal wounds. The golden DNA rises to the heavens again, this time with the holographic appearance of the beautiful face of the plant scientist’s deceased wife. But it’s not over yet. The plant scientist gets shot by the Saudi agent, he hears his wife’s voice once more before he dies, the agent is taken out, and we see Godzilla one more time, wading out to sea.

And don’t forget about the yakuza subplot and the young girl who develops a psychic rapport with Godzilla.

A good review of the movie, with some images.

p.s. Clearly I didn’t get everything right about this movie, so if you’re just dying for the definitive account, make sure and read the Stomp Tokyo review.


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