Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Heisei Series Review Part 2: Godzilla vs Biollante

Continuing our series of reviews of the Heisei Godzilla movies, this week I present to you my review of 1989's Godzilla vs Biollante. This time around we can really get a feel for the changes in humanity's (particularly Japan's) response to giant monsters. If you haven't read my review for 1984's the Return of Godzilla you can find it here. I recommend watching it before Godzilla vs Biollante in order to understand this film better. As I said last time: There will be spoilers, but do we really watch giant monster movies for the plot anyways? Well, for this one... Maybe.


If you haven't read my last review in the Heisei Series, I'll give an even briefer overview of what the Heisei Series is. It's the series of 7 Godzilla movies made from 1984 to 1995 that rebooted the franchise and features a tighter continuity than the old Showa era films of the 60s and 70s. Of the 15 films in the Showa Series, only the original 1954 Gojira remains canon.

Godzilla vs Biollante picks up right after the Return of Godzilla with teams of Japanese scientists and a malicious American paramilitary team digging through the rubble of Tokyo for Godzilla tissue samples. After a brief shootout and a cut to a fictional Middle-Eastern country named Sardia, the movies returns to 1989 to introduce the audience to a more competent and prepared Japan. In the 5 years since Godzilla was "trapped" in Mt Mihara, Japan has made great strides in computer science, materials, lasers, genetic engineering, and more. If Godzilla returns again, they will be ready... Or so they think.

This movie features some interesting themes of environmentalism and ethics. Cloning and genetically modified organisms were just becoming reality at this point in time. Humilin, or synthetic insulin produced by modified bacteria, had just hit the market in 1982, and the first mammal had been cloned via nuclear transfer in 1984. The ethics and responsible use of such technology was on everyone's mind as science fiction became science fact. The monster opposing Godzilla in this entry, Biollante, is a manifestation of everyone's worst fears regarding these developments being a hybrid of human and rose DNA inserted into Godzilla cells.


For this review, I watched Godzilla vs Biollante in Japanese with subtitles since I hadn't seen it in that format before. Most of these reviews will be for the English dub of the film since that is the only version I own. (I know, sacrilege for kaiju fans.) I did find that the dialogue in this version was much more natural and informative, and I'd recommend watching it this way if subtitles don't bother you too much.

This movie is good, like really good. Critically, it's probably the best of the Heisei Series, and it's personally my second favorite. (My favorite being the emotional conclusion to the Heisei Series: Godzilla vs Destroyah) It's got wonderful effects, a fresh storyline, amazing monster design, and a good human plot line. Toho was truly firing on all cylinders when they made this movie.

While the Return of Godzilla isn't a bad movie, Godzilla vs Biollante is superior to the preceding film in just about every way. Godzilla looked much better this time around than the occasionally derpy-eyed version from the 1984 film. Also, I can't recall seeing any wires during my viewing, which is more than I can say for some of the later entries in the Heisei Series. The human characters are compelling and the plot is solid. In other words, if you were turned off of the campy monster movies with crappy effects from the 60s and 70s, give this movie a shot!

Let me break my thoughts down even further with some special emphasis on the titular villain: Biollante and the reason for this series: the human response


Biollante is one of Godzilla's strangest foes to ever grace the silver scene, and my favorite monster design in this era. As an amalgamation of Godzilla cells, rose DNA, and DNA from Dr Shiragami's deceased daughter, she has one of the most convoluted origins of any kaiju. Biollante evolves throughout the course of the film from a strange looking rose to the magnificent beast pictured below.


Biollante towers 40 meters above Godzilla, making Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors look like a common dandelion. She is for the most part stationary, but her massive size and insane reach make her a formidable foe nonetheless. It is theorized by Dr Shiragami that Godzilla is inexorably drawn to Biollante because they are essentially the same being due to being made of the same cells. Whether this is true or not, Godzilla seeks out Biollante wherever she manifests. The two clash and at the end of the day Godzilla triumphs. However, Biollante's neigh indestructible "Godzilla cells" survive and are cast into the depths of space to plague humanity again someday. (But not in a way that you would expect!)

All in all, Biollante is a fantastic foe for Godzilla, and I wish she was featured in more movies.

The Human Response

As I said before, Japan is thoroughly more prepared this time around then when Godzilla attacked in 1984. The JSDF has a lot of new toys including, but not limited to: computer science, robotics, advanced materials, biology, genetics, lasers, and ESP. That's right, psychics try to stop Godzilla. They aren't successful this time, but they return in later films with greater abilities. While the rest of the world isn't really featured this time around, we get the sense that humanity as a whole is not going to be caught off guard again. If Godzilla or another monster rears its ugly head humanity will be ready for it.

After a quick scene in the Osaka Bay to highlight the fact that conventional military can't deal with Godzilla, the JSDF deploys the new and improved Super X2.

Super X2

This version of the Super X is built from the remains of the original, but vastly improved. The new alloy armoring the Super X2 is twice as strong. This craft is also semi aquatic and piloted remotely, giving it greater reach and removing the pilots from harms way. The most impressive upgrade is the "Fire Mirror," which is made of synthetic diamonds. The "Fire Mirror" allows the Super X2 to reflect Godzilla's atomic blast back at him with more intensity, literally fighting fire with fire.

All of these improvements to the Super X show that humanity is getting better at dealing with giant monsters. This film also debuted the blue MBT-92 Maser Cannons, which are direct improvements to the red Hyper Laser Cannons used to distract Godzilla in 1984. Masers are continually upgraded and used against giant monsters throughout the Heisei Series.

The last new anti-kaiju weapon that appears in Godzilla vs Biollante is the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, or ANEB. This bacteria was genetically engineered from Godzilla's DNA to create an enzyme that broke down nuclear material making cleaning up fallout from a nuclear plant disaster, atom bomb, or Godzilla attack simple. This bacteria is weaponized and loaded into rockets, which are shot into Godzilla by a crack commando team. After a little coaxing (aka raising Godzilla's body temperature with masers, microwave mines, and a man-made lightning storm) it almost kills Godzilla and forces him to hibernate underwater where it is cool enough to make the ANEB go dormant again.

How Did This Film Influence Daikaiju Director?

When I first started working on Daikaiju Director in 2014, it was much more of a scenario based game that emulated specific movies, than the multiplayer free for all monster fighting game it has become. Godzilla vs Biollante as well as the American 2014 Godzilla were direct influences on the 3 player scenario I was working on where two players played as opposing monsters and the third player played as the ever evolving military.

While this type of gameplay hasn't made it's way into the current incarnation of Daikaiju Director, different game "modes" are being tested now. A military mechanic or player has always been something I've wanted to include, and I'm still coming up with new ideas everyday. I look forward to incorporating these elements back into the game now that the core game has been balanced.

What's Next?

That's it for this entry. Tune in next time for my review of 1991's Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, a very controversial entry in the Heisei Series. I'll also be posting soon about my National Game Design Month project so be on the lookout for that. Until next time, keep the good times rolling!

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