Godzilla vs. Biollante
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Godzilla vs. Biollante (ゴジラvsビオランテ Gojira tai Biorante) is a 1989 Japanese science fiction tokusatsu kaiju film featuring Godzilla, produced and distributed by Toho. It is the 17th film in the Godzilla franchise and the second film in the Heisei series. The film is written and directed by Kazuki Ōmori and stars Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yoshiko Kuga, Ryunosuke Kaneda and Kōji Takahashi. The film was released in Japan on December 16, 1989 and was released direct to video in the United States in November 25, 1992 through HBO Video. The film was selected as the best Godzilla film, based on a vote by fans and judges, in July 19, 2014.
|Godzilla vs. Biollante|
Theatrical release poster by Noriyoshi Ohrai
|Directed by||Kazuki Ōmori|
|Produced by||Shōgo Tomiyama|
|Screenplay by||Kazuki Ōmori|
|Story by||Shinichirō Kobayashi|
|Music by||Koichi Sugiyama|
|Edited by||Michiko Ikeda|
|Box office||US$7 million|
The film originated from a public story-writing contest, and set a trend common to all Heisei era movies of Godzilla facing off against opponents capable of metamorphosing into new, progressively more powerful forms. Although it was very positively received and maintained the dark, anti-nuclear atmosphere of its immediate predecessor, The Return of Godzilla, it was a disappointment at the Japanese box-office, thus prompting Toho to make a shift from a realistic science fiction line to a more family-oriented set of films featuring more iconic and familiar monsters.
In the aftermath of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo and later imprisonment at Mount Mihara, the monster's cells are secretly delivered to the Saradia Institute of Technology and Science, where they are to be merged with genetically modified plants in the hope of transforming Saradia's deserts into fertile land and ending the country's economic dependence on oil wells. Dr. Genshiro Shiragami and his daughter, Erika, are enlisted to aid with the project. However, a terrorist bombing destroys the institute's laboratory, ruining the cells and killing Erika.
Five years later, Shiragami has returned to Japan and merged some of Erika's cells with those of a rose in an attempt to preserve her soul. Scientist Kazuhito Kirishima and Lieutenant Goro Gondo of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are using the Godzilla cells they collected to create "Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria", hoping it can serve as a weapon against Godzilla should it return. They attempt to recruit Shiragami to aid them, but are rebuffed. International tensions increase over the Godzilla cells, as they are coveted by both the Saradia Institute of Technology and Science and the American Bio-Major organization. An explosion from Mount Mihara causes tremors across the area, including Shiragami's home, badly damaging the roses. Shiragami agrees to join the JSDF's effort and is given access to the Godzilla cells, which he secretly merges with one of the roses. A night later, rival Bio-Major and Saradian agents break into Shiragami's lab, but are attacked by a large plant-like creature which later escapes to Lake Ashino and is named "Biollante" by Shiragami.
Bio-Major agents plant explosives around Mount Mihara and warn the Diet of Japan that the explosives will be detonated and thus free Godzilla if the cells are not handed over. Kirishima and Gondo attempt to trade, but Saradian agent SSS9 thwarts the attempt and escapes with the cells. The explosives are detonated, and Godzilla is released. It attempts to reach the nearest power plant to replenish its supply of nuclear energy, but Biollante calls out to it. Godzilla arrives at the lake to engage Biollante in a vicious battle, and emerges as the victor. Godzilla proceeds toward the power plant at Tsuruga, but psychic Miki Saegusa uses her powers to divert it toward Osaka instead. A team led by Gondo meet Godzilla at the central district and fire rockets infused with the anti-nuclear bacteria into its body. Gondo is killed in the process, and an unaffected Godzilla leaves the city.
Kirishima recovers the cells and returns them to the JSDF. Shiragami theorizes that if Godzilla's body temperature is increased, the bacteria should work against it. The JSDF erects microwave-emitting plates during an artificial thunderstorm, hitting Godzilla with lightning and heating up its body temperature during a battle in the mountains outside Osaka. Godzilla is only moderately affected, but Biollante arrives to engage it in battle once again. The fight ends after Godzilla fires its atomic heat ray inside Biollante's mouth. An exhausted Godzilla collapses on the beach, and Biollante disintegrates into the sky, forming an image of Erika amongst the stars. Shiragami, watching the scene, is killed by SSS9. Kirishima chases the assassin and, after a brief scuffle, SSS9 is killed by a microwave-emitting plate. Godzilla reawakens and leaves for the ocean.
- Kunihiko Mitamura as Kazuhito Kirishima (桐島 一人 Kirishima Kazuhito)
- Yoshiko Tanaka as Asuka Okochi (大河内 明日香 Okochi Asuka)
- Masanobu Takashima as Major Sho Kuroki (黒木 翔 Kuroki Shō)
- Megumi Odaka as Miki Saegusa (三枝 未希 Saegusa Miki)
- Kōji Takahashi as Dr. Genichiro Shiragami (白神 源壱郎 Shiragami Gen'ichirō)
- Toru Minegishi as Col. Goro Gondo (権藤 吾郎 Gondō Gorō)
- Toshiyuki Nagashima as Dir. Seiichi Yamamoto (山本 精一 Yamamoto Seiichi)
- Ryunosuke Kaneda as Makoto Okochi (大河内 誠 Okōchi Makoto)
- Manjot Bedi as SSS9
- Yoshiko Kuga as Keiko Owada, Chief Cabinet Secretary
- Yasuko Sawaguchi as Erika Shiragami
- Kazuma Matsubara as Super X II Coordinator
- Hirohisa Nakata as Defense Minister Minoru Koyama
- Koichi Ueda as General Hyodo
- Kōsuke Toyohara as Super X II Controller
- Takashi Hunt as John Lee, Bio-Major Spy
- Derrick Homes as Michael Low, Bio-Major Spy
- Demon Kakka as Himself
- Abdallah Helal as Saradian Scientist
- Aydin Yamanlar as Saradian Plant Director
- Soleiman Mehdizadeh as Sirhan
- Haruko Sagara as TV Reporter
- Yuki Saito as Pop Singer
- Beth Blatt as Susan Horne
- Kazue Ikura as Airport PA
- Kenpachiro Satsuma as Godzilla
- Masashi Takegumi as Biollante
|"The original idea was to find something that could match Godzilla's power and terror if we were bringing back Godzilla. But simply letting the monsters fight each other had been done many times and, clearly, there was a limit to it. So in order to bring back Godzilla properly we had to create an opponent that can fight properly. If there was something equivalent to the terror of nuclear power it must be the bio-technology [with] which human beings would manipulate life, because it can be very dangerous if it goes the wrong way, ethically, I guess. That's where I found the connection, so the idea of a monster [that] was created by biotechnology was born."|
|— Shinichiro Kobayashi|
Tomoyuki Tanaka announced a sequel to The Return of Godzilla in 1985, but was skeptical of its possibilities, as the film had been of little financial benefit to Toho, and the failure of King Kong Lives following year convinced him that audiences were not ready for a continuation of the Godzilla series. He relented after the success of Little Shop of Horrors, and proceeded to hold a public story contest for a possible script. In consideration of The Return of Godzilla's marginal success in Japan, Tanaka insisted that the story focus on a classic monster vs. monster theme. Tanaka handed the five finalist entries to director Kazuki Ōmori, despite the two's initially hostile relationship; the latter had previously held Tanaka responsible for the decline in the Godzilla series' quality during the 1970s. Ōmori chose the entry of dentist Shinichiro Kobayashi, who wrote his story with the hypothetical death of his daughter in mind.
Kobayashi's submission was notable for its emphasis on dilemmas concerning biotechnology rather than nuclear energy, and revolved around a scientist grieving for his deceased daughter and attempting to keep her soul alive by merging her genes with those of a plant. The scientist's initial experiments would have resulted in the creation of a giant rat-like amphibian called Deutalios, which would have landed in Tokyo Bay and been killed by Godzilla. A female reporter investigating the scientist's activities would have suffered from psychic visions of plants with humanoid faces compelling her to infiltrate the scientist's laboratory. The scientist would have later confessed his intentions, and the finale would have had Godzilla battling a human-faced Biollante who defeats him by searing his flesh with acid.
Ōmori proceeded to modify the story into a workable script over a period of three years, using his background as a biologist to create a plausible plot involving genetic engineering and botany. In order to preserve the series' anti-nuclear message, he linked the creation of Biollante to the use of Godzilla cells, and replaced Kobayashi's journalist character with Miki Saegusa. He openly admitted that directing a Godzilla film was secondary to his desire to make a James Bond movie, and thus added elements of the spy film genre into the plot. Unlike the case with later, more committee-driven Godzilla films, Ōmori was given considerable leeway in writing and directing the film, which Toho staff later judged to have been an error resulting in a movie with a very narrow audience.
Koichi Kawakita, who had previously worked for Tsuburaya Productions, replaced Teruyoshi Nakano as head of the series' special effects unit after Toho became impressed at his work in Gunhed. Kawakita made use of Gunhead's special effects team Studio OX, and initially wanted to make Godzilla more animal-like, using crocodiles as references, but was berated by Tanaka, who declared Godzilla to be "a monster" rather than an animal. Kenpachiro Satsuma returned to portray Godzilla, hoping to improve his performance by making it less anthropomorphic than in previous films. Suitmaker Noboyuki Yasamaru created a Godzilla suit made specifically with Satsuma's measurements in mind, unlike the previous one which was initially built for another performer and caused Satsuma discomfort. The resulting 242 lb suit proved more comfortable than the last, having a lower center of gravity and more mobile legs. A second 176 lb suit was built for outdoor underwater scenes. The head's size was reduced, and the whites around the eyes removed. On the advice of story finalist Shinichiro Kobayashi, a double row of teeth was incorporated in the jaws. As with the previous film, animatronic models were used for close-up shots. These models were an improvement over the last, as they were made from the same molds used for the main costume, and included an articulated tongue and intricate eye motion. The suit's dorsal plates were filled with light bulbs for scenes in which Godzilla uses his atomic ray, thus lessening reliance on optical animation, though they electrocuted Satsuma the first time they were activated. Satsuma was also obliged to wear protective goggles when in the suit during scenes in which Godzilla battles the JSDF, as real explosives were used on set.
Designing and building the Biollante props proved problematic, as traditional suitmation techniques made realizing the requested design of the creature's first form difficult, and the resulting cumbersome model for Biollante's final form was met with disbelief from the special effects team. Biollante's first form was performed by Masao Takegami, who sat within the model's trunk area on a platform just above water level. While the creature's head movements were simple to operate, its vines were controlled by an intricate array of overhead wires which proved difficult for Satsuma to react to during combat scenes as they offered no tension, thus warranting Satsuma to feign receiving blows from them, despite not being able to perceive them. Biollante's final form was even more difficult to operate, as its vine network took hours to rig up on set. Visibility in both the Godzilla and final form Biollante suits was poor, thus causing difficulties for Takegami in aiming the creature's head when firing sap, which permanently stained anything it landed on.
While it was initially decided to incorporate stop motion animation into the film, the resulting sequences were scrapped, as Kawakita felt they failed to blend in with the live-action footage effectively. The film however became the first of its kind to use CGI, though its usage was limited to scenes involving computer generated schematics. The original cut of the movie had the first battle culminating in Biollante's spores falling around the hills surrounding Lake Ashino and blooming into fields of flowers, though this was removed as the flowers were out of scale.
Unlike the previous film, Godzilla vs. Biollante incorporates themes from Akira Ifukube's original Gojira theme, though the majority of the soundtrack was composed of original themes by Koichi Sugiyama. The score was orchestrated by conductor David Howell through the Kansai Philarmonic, though Howell himself had never viewed the movie, and thus was left to interpret what the scenes would consist of when conducting the orchestra.
After the film was released in Japan, Toho commissioned a Hong Kong company named Omni Productions to dub the film into English.
In early 1990, Toho entered discussions with Miramax to distribute the film. When talks broke off, Toho filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court, accusing Miramax of entering an oral agreement in June to pay Toho $500,000 to distribute the film. This lawsuit delayed the film's release for two years. An out of court settlement was reached with Miramax buying the rights to the film for an unreported figure. Miramax would have entertained thoughts of releasing the film in theaters, but in the end it was decided to release the film straight to home video instead. HBO released the film on VHS in 1992 and Laserdisc in 1993. Miramax utilized the uncut English international version of the film for this release.
Godzilla vs. Biollante was released on VHS by HBO Home Video on November 25, 1992. It was later released on Blu-ray and DVD by Miramax Echo Bridge on December 4, 2012. It was released as a double feature and 8-disk movie pack on both Blu-ray and DVD with Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009) by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment in 2013. It was last released by Lionsgate on Blu-ray and DVD on October 7, 2014.
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In Japan, the film sold approximately 2 million tickets, earning $7,000,000 (U.S).
Godzilla vs. Biollante has received very positive reviews, with praise for the story, music and visuals. Ed Godziszewski of Monster Zero said the film is "by no means a classic" but felt that "for the first time in well over 20 years, a [Godzilla] script is presented with some fresh, original ideas and themes." Joseph Savitski of Beyond Hollywood said the film's music is "a major detraction", but added that it's "not only one of the most imaginative films in the series, but also the most enjoyable to watch." Japan Hero said, "[T]his is definitely a Godzilla movie not to be missed."
In their scholarly book Japan's Green Monsters on kaiju cinema, Rhoads and McCorkle offer an ecocritical assessment of Godzilla vs. Biollante. The scholars focus on the film's critique of genetic engineering and biotechnology years before the subject appeared in more popular Hollywood blockbusters like Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. Rhoads and McCorkle counter prior reviews of the film and argue that Godzilla vs. Biollante possesses far deeper environmental messages than the obvious ones present on the film's surface.
Composer Akira Ifukube, who had refused to compose the film's score, stated on interview that he disliked the way Koichi Sugiyama had modernized his Godzilla theme, and defined the Saradia theme as "ridiculous", on account of it sounding more European than Middle Eastern.
- Nihon Eiga Satellite Broadcasting Corp. (2014). "THE BEST ゴジラ総選挙 詳細レポート!". 総力特集・ゴジラ (in Japanese). Nihon Eiga Satellite Broadcasting Corp. Archived from the original on 2014-08-17. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
- Ryfle, S. (1998). Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 251–58. ISBN 1550223488.
- Koichi Kawakita, ed. (2012-02-01). 平成ゴジラパーフェクション. DENGEKI HOBBY BOOKS (in Japanese). ASCII Media Works. p. 147. ISBN 978-4048861199.
- Toho Co., Ltd. (2012-09-28). 東宝特撮映画大全集 (in Japanese). villagebooks inc. p. 227. ISBN 978-4864910132.
- "Making of Godzilla vs. Biollante", Godzilla vs Biollante [DVD] Echo Bridge (2012)
- Kalat, D. (2010), A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, McFarland, p. 169-78, ISBN 978-0-7864-47-49-7
- Ryfle, S. (1998). Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 259–60. ISBN 1550223488.
- Steve Ryfle (1998). Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G". ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-348-4.
- "Amazon.com: Godzilla Vs Biollante [VHS]: Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Kōji Takahashi, Tōru Minegishi, Megumi Odaka, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Ryūnosuke Kaneda, Kazuma Matsubara, Yoshiko Kuga, Yasunori Yuge, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Katsuhiro Kato, Kazuki Ohmori, Michiko Ikeda, Shogo To". Amazon.com. Amazon. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- "Godzilla vs. Biollante Blue-ray". Blue-ray.com. Blue-Ray.com. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- "Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) - Kazuki Omori". Allmovie.com. AllMovie. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
- Review - Ed Godziszewski. Monster Zero. June 10, 2002
- Review - Joseph Savitski. Beyond Hollywood. August 2, 2004
- Review. Japan Hero
- Rhoads, Sean; McCorkle, Brooke (2018). Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476663906.
- David Milner, "Akira Ifukube Interview I". Kaiju Conversations (December 1992)