A lot of people I know have many fond childhood memories of video rental stores. I only have two: buying the first film I bought with my very own money, the 1986 Transformers film, and renting Godzilla vs. Biollante. My family had bought be a five pack VHS set of Godzilla films and I watched those over and over again, but it was never enough, so naturally we rented Godzilla films from the video store as often as possible and the one that always stuck out in my mind was Godzilla vs Biollante. I was entranced by the cover art as soon as I saw it, as with most of the 80s and 90s Heisei series covers. Godzilla standing before a backdrop of gorgeous oranges and greens and a giant spikey orange glob about to bite Godzilla’s head off. I was fascinated by it, and more importantly it was a Godzilla film I had never heard of. To this day I have memories of picking that up off the shelf, loving it so much that I did a preschool art project on it, and the film was cemented in my mind as one of the best Godzilla films of all time. Just four years ago it was finally released on dvd and I have watched it a few times to see if it stood the test of time against my Kaiju loving childhood memories.
The year is 1989, just five years after Japan saw the return of Godzilla (in the properly named The Return of Godzilla, a direct sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla film) and the attack on Tokyo, Godzilla’s battle with the Super X and ultimately being trapped within a large volcano, Mount Mihara. Japan now has simple code for Godzilla activity to help them alert the country and prepare for the inevitable next attack from Godzilla. They’ve beefed up the Super X, now called Super X2, and while Godzilla waits trapped in Mount Mihara the world is at a sort of secret war to get their hands on some of Godzilla’s cells that have been gathered after his fight in 1984. One man ends up able to get his hands on them, only if he helps the government create a weapon to destroy Godzilla with it, but ends up splicing the cells with those of a plant and his dead wife’s cells and creating a giant sentient plant creature. All out chaos ensues when Godzilla is broken free from the volcano by Japan’s enemies who seek to obtain Godzilla’s cells and the giant plant creature, now dubbed Biollante, are set to duke it out.
As a kid there are certain thing you see in a film and certain things you don’t. You’re sometimes blinded to big obstacles that stop a film from being great and years later can’t understand why you held the film to such high esteem. Sadly, this is one of those film. It’s still pretty fun, don’t get me wrong, but it is nowhere near the perfect Godzilla film that I watched as a kid. The music is my biggest complaint, the majority of the time it is upbeat, almost superhero feeling, happy action movie in a film which has the tone of a dark and depressing monster film, it doesn’t fit the film one bit and ruins a lot of the intense and emotional feelings I would have had while watching it. The film is also plagued with scenes of Godzilla fighting Super X2 which is boring and lazy and feels like they didn’t even want to put in the parts where humans fought Godzilla. The Super X2 is there, it fights and loses and disappears, repeat a few more times and you have a good third of the film that has no tension or real intensity, especially since it all takes place in the ocean which is an empty and boring set piece to look at.
However, Godzilla vs Biollante is also a film of mismatched wonderful genres. It’s a total mess, but that mess is fun as hell. Part action espionage thriller, part anti-nuclear and “humans are the monsters” overly forced morality tale, part Kaiju action romp, and part hardcore science fiction film. It’s got four different factions all trying to get, or keep, Godzilla’s cells, three giant monsters (Biollante has two forms), a girl with psychic powers able to understand and sometimes speak to Godzilla and Biollante, and a giant plant who is immortal and can teleport after death and come back. The film never has a dull moment with so much packed into the story. On top of all that awesome fun goodness that makes me feel like a child again while watching, Biollante is one of the coolest monsters of the Godzilla universe. The film feels like a horror creature feature at times, with the plant attacking people in buildings and killing them, a Frankenstein-like origin story of how Biollante was made, and it’s final form being pretty dang horrific. It features a wonderful final fight with Godzilla that has only one downfall and that is that it’s too short. Biollante’s final form is a monster much much bigger than Godzilla who spits acid, uses its roots to bind and bite Godzilla, and even tries to eats Godzilla’s head with it’s enormous spike-toothed mouth.
Godzilla vs Biollante may not be the same film I loved when I was a kid, but it will always have a special place in my heart. With its poor music choice and lacklustre human involvement, it still is a wonderful mess of a film. Biollante will always be one of my favorite Kaiju from the series and is most definitely one of the most dangerous monsters the Big G has ever fought. It’s also one of the weirdest Godzilla films, though nowhere near the level of Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971), in the best way possible. It’s also a movie that reminds us that “Godzilla and Biollante aren’t monster. The real monsters are the humans who created them.”