Guest Post -James' review of The Return of Godzilla aka Godzilla 1985
Hey there Godzilla fans, here we are again to review a Godzilla movie.
This time, we're reviewing the movie that not only commemorated the Big G's 30th Anniversary, saw Raymond Burr reprise his role as Steve Martin from the first Godzilla (in the American version of this movie) and brought Godzilla back to his roots, but was the 16th entry in the series and the first Godzilla movie in nearly ten years; GOJIRA 1984 aka The Return of Godzilla...
Following the mixed reception of previous Godzilla movies, Toho decided it was time to go back to basics with Godzilla and reboot the franchise. So, pretend that after 1954, there were no Godzilla movies and it took a long time for Toho to do a sequel and in 1983, its announced Godzilla 1954 will be getting a sequel the following year. Crazy huh?
So, allow me to give you a synopsis of almost the whole movie. WARNING: There will be major spoilers for those who have not seen the movie. We will also combine both Japan and USA versions of the movie too, so heads up if I bring up Steve Martin, OK?
Here we go...
Right off the bat, as the movie starts with the title screen, ominous and dramatic music kicks in and we see a fiery background along with a bit of lava, the movie's letting us know it means business and its gonna be darker than the first Godzilla. After we get the title of the movie, we pick up in 1984 (just thirty years following the original movie in this timeline) where a ship is adrift and caught in a storm just miles off Tokyo Bay. The crew is trying to get everything under control but its a lot tougher as the ship is on the verge of running aground on a nearby island, as the crew sends out an S.O.S message, the island starts to fall apart and there are flashing lights and explosions as the crew screams and we hear Godzilla's roar before (in the USA version) we cut to see Steve Martin in his home after having a bad dream.
The next morning, a reporter named Goro Maki (not to be confused with the other Maki Goro from Son of Godzilla) encounters the ship (which is called the Yahata Maru) while on his own yacht at sea and investigates the ship. While on the Yahata Maru, Maki discovers that the whole crew was picked off and had the life sucked out of them by a mysterious sea louse, which attacks Maki soon after. Just when Maki is at the mercy of the monster, the louse is slain by Ken, a lone survivor. As Maki and Ken recover from what happened, Ken tells him about what happened, including Godzilla.
Back home in Tokyo, Japan, in a hospital, Ken is visited by Professor Hiyashita and they analyze photos of the first Godzilla attack from the first film to basically confirm one thing; Godzilla has returned, only its a different Godzilla. The Prime Minister and his adviser discuss Godzilla's return and agree to make sure nobody finds out that Japan's number one enemy is back. Maki, who is a reporter and journalist by the way, is not happy that his boss is not interested in publishing his story about Godzilla. It is justifiable and understandable the government and the media doesn't want mass panic, but when things hit the fan later, the story has to go public.
Sure enough, after Ken reunites with his sister, who was informed by Goro about Ken's survival and is actually Hiyashita's assistant, things do hit the fan. As a Soviet submarine is on a reconnaissance mission in the Bering Sea, it comes under attack from Godzilla and is destroyed, giving the Big G a radiation boost. When news of the submarine's destruction is made known, the Soviets blame the Americans for the attack and both sides prepare for war.
In Washington at the Pentagon, USA general Goodhue and his associate Lt Oswald learn of the submarine disaster and, considering the potential danger, they get the president (probably Ronald Regan) on the hotline with Moscow. At the same time the Cold War is about to escalate into WWIII, the Prime Minister of Japan, who was informed of the submarine attack, finally agrees to make it known to the public that Godzilla has returned.
As the press reveals to everyone about the return of Godzilla, American, Japanese and Soviet diplomats (including the Japanese Prime Minister) assemble for a meeting and discuss how to handle the threat of the giant monster at large. Of course, both the USA and the USSR want to use nuclear weapons against Godzilla should he appear on Russian or American coastlines. Oh sure, like nukes are gonna be effective against Godzilla considering the fact that nuclear weapons are the reason why Godzilla came to be in the first place.
The Prime Minister and his cabinet discuss the matter in private and, during the meeting with the Americans and the Soviets, greatly objects to the use of nuclear weapons. Of course Japan would say no, you want another Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A little side note: This is a great way to remind fans that Godzilla is meant to be a warning against nuclear power. As I said in my review of the very first movie, you do not want to mess with a country that has nuclear weapons. But of course, just in case if there's no other option, the Soviets have a nuclear missile on a satellite ready and the missile controls are on a freighter in Tokyo Bay.
Godzilla soon makes landfall, attacking a nuclear power plant on an island off the coast of Japan. Another side note; Godzilla's design is super impressive and almost reminiscent of the 1954 design even though he still looks goofy, the design is fear-invoking. Anyway, Godzilla destroys the plant and gets his hands on a nuclear reactor which increases his power, before he leaves to follow a group of seagulls who happen to just be flying away towards the ocean and chirping. Huh, that deal with Godzilla and birds might be an important in the movie later on.
After the Godzilla attack on the nuclear plant, Japan's millitary begins preparations for when the Big G arrives, even preparing to deploy their ultimate trump card, the Super X. After studying Gojira's connection to birds further, Hiyashita and Goro as well as Ken help devise a plan to defeat Godzilla; By luring him to a volcanic crater with bird noises and trapping him in Mount Mihara on Oshima Island. Good luck with that plan, I bet Godzilla's so weak and vulnerable against lava where he'll meet his end in the magma in the volcano. Yes folks, if you can't guess by now, while the plan to lure Godzilla to the volcano with birds sounds and trapping him there will work, he's not gonna be destroyed and will return in a few years time. *Cough cough* GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE *Cough* MAJOR SPOILERS *Cough cough*!
Meanwhile, the USA government, seeking to play a part in stopping Godzilla, bring in Steve Martin (who goes by Mr. Martin due to the popularity of a real-life famous comedian also known Steve Martin at the time) to advise and come up with suggestions on how to stop the mutated dinosaur before everything is screwed over. But the only comments Martin makes are... "Godzilla is like a hurricane or a tidal wave, thirty years ago they didn't find any corpse, we must try to understand him and maybe try to communicate with him." Godzilla soon approaches Tokyo Bay, forcing evacuations to get underway and the Japanese to speed up work on their plans. On Oshima Island, the Operation Godzilla Bird team is at work setting up the receiver and the bombs that will make the volcano explode once Godzilla is there.
Godzilla enters Tokyo Bay and the JSDF stand no chance, even the millitary don't stand a chance either, despite their best efforts. The giant monster makes his way into Tokyo and lays waste to the city, just as his 1954 counterpart did decades before. Meanwhile, during the chaos of Godzilla's attack (back when he appeared in the harbor area), the Soviet freighter got damaged and activated the countdown to when the nuclear missile launches. When an injured Soviet captain gets inside the room, realizing whats going on, he attempts to stop the missile from launching only to lose consciousness.
Side note: In the USA-edit, the captain deliberately launched the missile, while in the Japanese version he attempted to stop the missile from launching.
As Godzilla rampages through Tokyo, laying waste to everything, he encounters the recently deployed Super X which shoots him down with cadnium missiles. Don't worry, Godzilla may be down, but he's not d-e-d yet, he's got plot armor. Its gonna be a while before he meets his demise. The nuclear missile soon launches and news of it puts everyone on alert, the Americans fire their own nuclear missile to intercept. So what happens when both nukes in space collide? KA BOOM! The result is a blood red sky and an EMP field knocking out power. Lt Oswald explains to Steve that the high-atmosphere nuclear blast aftermath is completely harmless, leading to Martin actually divulging the most unexpected history lesson ever...
"In 1962, a high atmosphere nuclear blast test shut down all electricity throughout the world, all the way from Australia to California."
The first few times I saw this movie (the USA version specifically), I was shocked to learn this and informed my mum about it, wondering if the event did happen in '62. I was annoyed and upset when I was contradicted and mum said that it was fictitious, but in the end we looked it up and it was true that a high atmosphere nuclear test did happen in the 1960s. Who would've thought you could get a little history lesson from a fiction movie?
The nuclear blast in the sky soon creates a thunderstorm in the sky which revitalizes Godzilla and he gets back up, stronger and madder than ever. He goes after the Super X, engaging it in battle once more, delivering to viewers one of the most awesome action scenes in cinema ever with monster and machine duking it out in the ruins of Tokyo as the monster destroys more of the city. In the end, Godzilla decimates the Super X and destroys it.
Meanwhile, on Oshima Island, Doctor Hiyashita and his companions finish the bird noise machine and activates it as it buzzes to life. Guess what? The plan begins to work. Somehow, even from far away in the rubble of Tokyo, Godzilla can hear the noise and departs for Oshima, leaving behind Tokyo in ruins again probably covered in radioactivity. I dunno how but... nobody's getting contaminated with radioactivity, guess the radiation levels aren't too bad I guess. Godzilla makes land fall on Oshima and approaches the machine making the noise, which is on the other side of the volcanic crater. Once Godzilla stops at a cliff overlooking the volcanic crater. Hiyashita sets off the bombs and the volcano erupts.
As everyone watches the scene, the Prime Minister and his cabinet in Tokyo, Steve Martin and the millitary officials in the pentagon and Hiyashita and his team, Godzilla roars as explosions go off and smoke rises from the volcano. This is where things differ in the USA and Japanese version when it comes to Godzilla's roars as the volcano errupts. In the USA version, Godzilla lets out his menacing 1980s roars and when he falls into the volcano, he lets out his showa era roar before shrieking as he falls into the lava. In the original Japanese version, Godzilla lets out his menacing roar a few times before switching to his shriek-y showa era screech roar and lets it out one last time before vanishing.
Anyways, as Godzilla falls into the volcano where he will be there for a long while, he lets out his Showa era SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOONNK before vanishing from sight, never to be seen again for now. Maki and Ken's sister view it all from overhead in helicopter and Steve Martin delivers the last lines of the movie...
"Nature has a way sometimes of reminding Man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offspring's of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of Man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla - that strangely innocent and tragic monster - has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain..."
And so the movie (in the Japanese version and the English version) ends with a view of the exploding Mount Mihara and the credits sequence accompanied by either ominous and/or heroic music or a song sung in Japanese and in English.
Godzilla 1984 aka The Return of Godzilla is a product and a legend of the 1980s. In Japan it was a big success that it eventually spawned a few more movies. In America, it had a mixed and negative reception. Afterwards, it would be a long time before America got a theatrical Godzilla release. The movie was an excellent return to basics after Godzilla's transition from menacing monster to kid-friendly hero in the Showa era during the sixties and seventies, Godzilla 1985/1985 gets a 10/10 for all the hard work Toho put into making this movie and, just like that, I close out this review.
Sayonara. G Fans.