U.S. release date: December 9, 1992, direct to home video by HBO Video, for Miramax Films.
Japanese audience attendance: 2,500,000
Director: Kazuki Omori
Screenplay: Kazuki Omori (based on a story by Shinichiro Kobayashi)
Sfx: Koichi Kawakita
Musical score: Koichi Sugiyama
U.S. version available on home video by HBO Video.
Immediately following Godzilla’s 1985 rampage through Tokyo, government agents scour the ruins, attempting to salvage the remains of the Super X war machine. In the meantime, also prowling the ruins, are armed agents from Biomajor, a ruthless American genetic engineering and biotechnology firm, who hope to recover skin samples of Godzilla that may have been blown off by the beast’s battle with the Super X. A huge skin plate from Godzilla is indeed found, but no sooner do the Biomajor agents take skin samples then the men are shot and killed by SSS9, an espionage spy and assassin hired by the Republic of Saladia, a small mideastern nation, who steals the skin samples. Like most countries from that region, Saladia’s economy is primarily based on the sale of petroleum, but they desire to expand their economic power to agricultural products, and they hope to use Godzilla’s radiation-enhanced cell reproductive capabilities to create strains of plants which will grow in any type of environment, including desert wastelands.
In order to accomplish this, the Saladian government hires the renowned Japanese genetic engineer Dr. Genichiro Shiragami to utilize the G-cells for that purpose, and he works on the project with his talented daughter Erica. However, Biomajor agents launch a retaliatory strike on the science lab to destroy the G-cell project, and the resulting bombing of the facility kills Erica. Severely saddened and traumatized by Erica’s tragic death, Dr. Shiragami returns to his native Japan and becomes a recluse.
A few years later, increasing volcanic activity occurs within Mt. Mihara, and the Japanese government’s esper division, particularly the gifted young psychic girl named Miki Saegusa, learns through psionic means that Godzilla wasn’t killed years earlier when he fell into the volcano’s maw, but merely lies trapped inside in a state of hibernation. Fearing the monster’s eventual return, the government contacts Dr. Shiragami and asks him to use the G-cells in their possession to come up with a means to stop Godzilla should the monster ever attack again, and the scientist reluctantly agrees to do so. The still embittered scientist uses his expertise in the biogenetics of plants to combine some of Erica’s DNA into a rose he grew, so that she would always be with him. When the rose is badly damaged in an earthquake caused by the erupting Mt. Mihara, Dr. Shiragami combines some of Godzilla’s radioactive G-cells to the plant, hoping the super-regenerative cells will restore it. Then, he begins work on the Anti Nuclear Bacteria (ANB) project, in the hopes of using the G-cells to develop a species of microorganism that devours radiation, ultimately intended as a deterrent against both nuclear waste spills and Godzilla himself.
Discovering the ANB project, Biomajor sends two of its agents to sneak into the lab at night and steal the experiment, not realizing that the Saladian government had sent their old assassin SSS9 to do the same thing (Biomajor and Saladian agent SSS9 really need to stop meeting like that, or people are going to start asking questions!). Crossing paths (again!), the opposing agents begin shooting at each other, when they are suddenly attacked by the tendrils of a huge plant-like creature that had grown from Dr. Shiragami’s personal project of combining Godzilla’s cells to the rose. Although SSS9 manages to cut the tendrils and escape, the two Biomajor agents are killed by the plant creature.
When Dr. Shiragami returns to the lab the next morning, he not only discovers the two dead agents, but also a hole in the side of the lab. He then realizes that his plan to re-grow the rose with the G-cells resulted in a horrific creation that escaped from the lab. Later the same day, it’s discovered that the plant creature slithered into and took root in the waters off the coast of Ashinoko, growing into what resembles an enormous, 85 meter high rose with a mouth containing several rows of teeth and numerous tendril-like appendages...a genetic cross between Godzilla and a rose plant. Miki Saegusa senses the psychic presence of the deceased Erica within the creature, possibly due to the fact that some of her DNA is within the plant, and the monster is named Biollante, after the legendary plant from Norse mythology.
Soon afterwards, the government receives threats from Biomajor that it will detonate a bomb planted on Mt. Mihara and free Godzilla from his entrapment there if the ANB isn’t handed over to them promptly. Although the government decides to accede to the corporation’s demands, SSS9 intercedes in the plans, stealing the ANB himself and setting off the bomb inadvertently. As a huge portion of the volcano is blown up, Godzilla is awakened and freed, and quickly heads for Tokyo Bay. Alerted, the government sends the new war machine called Super X2 against Godzilla, this time remote controlled by Major (Colonel in the American version) Sho Kuroki. The Super X2 has a new weapon designed specifically for the eventuality of Godzilla’s return, the Fire Mirror, a screen of synthetic diamond that will deflect the kaiju’s atomic breath back upon him. When the war machine intercepts Godzilla in Uraga Strait, the Fire Mirror performs very well, turning the beast’s most potent weapon against him. Just when it seems that Godzilla’s defeat is imminent, however, the Fire Mirror begins melting after absorbing repeated blasts of Godzilla’s atomic breath, and the military loses control over the damaged war machine.
Suddenly, however, Godzilla senses Biollante’s presence and begins heading for Ashinoko. After encountering the plant creature, Godzilla is attacked by her, as she is apparently controlled by Erica Shiragami’s spirit. However, Godzilla easily defeats Biollante by blasting her to pieces with his atomic breath, and the besieged creature discorporates into a form of pollen and retreats into the atmosphere. As Godzilla reaches Osaka Bay, Miki Saegusa desperately attempts to turn the monster away with a telepathic attack, but she is ultimately overwhelmed by the 80 meter beast’s animalistic fury, and she passes out. Godzilla then begins a destructive march through the city of Osaka, once again proving more than a match for the Japanese Self Defense Force, who appears on the scene to oppose him.
After recovering the anti-nuclear bacteria from SSS9, the government prepares to use it on the beast as the Super X2 attacks him once more. Godzilla quickly defeats the Super X2, reducing it to so much scrap metal, just as he did to its predecessor five years earlier, when a sharpshooter manages to hit the kaiju’s skin with a projectile that injects the ANB into his bloodstream. The anti-nuclear bacteria has no discernible effect, however, and Godzilla continues his deadly rampage. Dr. Shiragami hypothesizes that the radiation eating bacteria had no effect on the behemoth because of his low reptilian body temperature, and the military decides to try and raise Godzilla’s temperature by the hastily constructed Thunder Control System, which will blast him with artificial electricity generated by several large microwave towers. As Godzilla approaches the nuclear power plant in Wakasa to replenish his energy supply, he is subjected to the lightening attack of the Thunder Control System, but still seems unaffected.
Just when it appears that all is lost, the pollen containing Biollante’s genetic essence, still guided by Erica’s spirit, returns and drifts into the ground. Taking root once more, a new, much larger and more powerful version of Biollante emerges from the ground, fully 120 meters high, now fully mobile and having a huge reptilian head, which reflects the Godzilla DNA in her cellular structure. Determined to protect Japan from Godzilla’s assault, Biollante attacks the atomic beast anew, this time putting up a much better fight. Godzilla’s power still seems superior, however, and just when it appears that his atomic breath will once again prove fatal for Biollante, the ANB begins taking effect, and the weakened Godzilla begins staggering away. Just as he reaches the shallow waters of Wakasa Bay, he collapses. Her mission completed, Biollante again discorporates into a web of pollen that briefly forms an image of Erica’s face, saying good-bye to her father as the pollen then heads into outer space.
Suddenly, however, Dr. Shiragami is spitefully killed by one of SSS9’s bullets, but as the agent attempts to escape through the area where the Thunder Control System is situated, he is summarily vaporized by an electrical discharge before he can kill anyone else, courtesy of the device being activated by one of Dr. Shiragami's friends. Just then, the severely weakened Godzilla rises again, the cold waters of the bay having lowered his body temperature enough to send the bacteria in his system back to dormancy. However, he quickly takes to the sea, where he must now remain indefinitely to prevent the ANB from reactivating and destroying him.
Finally, as the Biollante pollen leaves the Earth entirely, a huge psychic rose appears in the upper stratosphere, as if giving a final sayonara to its planet of birth.
After the success Toho had with Godzilla 1985, it seems surprising that the company would wait five years before producing the next G-film in the Heisei Series. However, hard economic times struck the company again, despite the fact that it announced its intention of releasing a new G-film continuously since 1984, and it took the box office success of Toho’s sci-fi epic Gunhed (1989) before the new G-film would finally be given the green light.
Nevertheless, series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was dedicated to producing the new film, and to generate fan interest, he actually held a contest for writers among the fans to craft their own plots for the next G-film, and to submit them for consideration, and the entry that was deemed best by the judges would be filmed. After receiving over 5,000 submissions, ten finalists were picked out of this huge number. This was finally cut down to what Toho felt to be the five best entries, each deemed worthy of filming. The winner turned out to be “Godzilla vs. Biollante” by Shinichiro Kobayashi, a dentist cum writer who wrote the 34th episode of The Return Of Ultraman TV series, among other sci-fi projects [which implied that the contest wasn’t entirely fair, since those with name recognition and previous experience in the field obviously had a strong advantage over those who did not]. Over the course of four years, the story went through numerous revisions before filming commenced. Although Tanaka wanted to return to the giant monster vs. giant monster approach so popular in the past, he still wanted the new film as far from the later entries in the Showa Series as possible, deciding against any alien invasion theme, or against featuring the revival of one of Godzilla’s old foes from the aforementioned series.
Curiously, Tanaka ended up going with the early '60’s idea seen in King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra, which was having a benevolent monster who battles the evil Godzilla. Biollante became the first dai kaiju born of genetic engineering, and not radiation, mysticism or extraterrestrial origins, as was always the case in the past. The movie was rather adult oriented, as Tanaka demanded, and featured a large amount of espionage, political intrigue, and industrial sabotage elements. For the first of several times, it featured the psychic connection between Godzilla and Miki Saegusa, the esper played by actress Megumi Odaka, who would appear in every other G-film in the Heisei Series (though it wasn't unusual for the same actor to appear in more than one G-film, it was quite unusual for them to play the same character more than once, something that Odaka did in every G-film of the Heisei Series from this one all the way to the final entry in the series, Godzilla vs. Destroyah in 1995).
Many G-fans have criticized the heavy use of psychic underpinnings in the Heisei Era G-series (something which also appears in the Heisei Gamera Series), and I must admit that the character of Miki Saegusa is much overplayed. Nevertheless, the new sfx master, Koichi Kawakita, was a wise choice, as he used state-of-the-art suitmation techniques in conjunction with effects of the new industry known as CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), to make the most lifelike Godzilla ever seen up to this point. In fact, this film marked the beginning of a new era in Toho’s sfx films. Although the story itself was a unique and inspired one, the human direction by Kazuki Omori was shoddy, with the non-Japanese espionage characters badly performed by the amateur actors who portrayed them, and the pacing of the film was done at a snail’s crawl. The Godzilla costume (“Bio-Godzi”) used in the film was one of my two personal favorites, a sentiment shared by many other G-fans; Godzilla’s appearance was wonderfully malevolent.
Unfortunately, Koichi Sugiyama’s score was wretched to behold (with the exception of the nifty Biollante theme, which is one of my favorites) and inappropriate for the film, and it’s quite fortuitous that he wasn’t asked back by Toho after this movie.
This film also featured the first time that Godzilla utilized his new power, which J.D. Lees termed his ‘nuclear pulse,’ an omnidirectional burst of atomic energy from Godzilla’s body that he only uses in times of extreme crisis, and which is devastatingly powerful. The Super X2 was an exciting battle machine, much better realized than the Super X from the previous film, and it was voted the best mecha of all the Heisei Era G-films in G-FAN magazine.
Likewise, Biollante was voted the most favored of all the new foes Godzilla faced in the Heisei Series, something I wholeheartedly disagree with. Biollante, despite her very fearsome appearance, didn’t present much of a threat to the Big G, and I believe that she was the least exciting of all his foes in the Heisei Series (she was actually better realized, albeit as a villian, in Marc Cerasini's novel GODZILLA AT WORLD'S END). In fact, the movie itself is most likely the weakest of the series, as I believe Biollante, as a new foe, to be a highly dissatisfying adversary, not to mention the fact of the film’s extremely slow pace.
Not surprisingly, probably as a result of these low points, the movie provided only a modest profit for Toho, doing the least business of any of the Heisei Era G-films, and as a result, Tanaka decided to revive one of Godzilla’s old foes for the next installment after all.
Still, the movie was far from bad, it just lacked the excitement and pacing of the subsequent films in the Heisei Series, but it was certainly good enough to keep the fans coming back for more, although Toho would gear themselves towards a more median age bracket for the next few movies, rather than one that would attract adults to the exclusion of the younger audience, as this film did.
Miramax Films obtained the rights to release the film in America, and initially intended to do so theatrically. However, perhaps due to the fact that the movie performed so modestly in Japanese theaters, and due to an alleged lawsuit by Toho against Miramax for defaulting on the $500,00.00 owed for the American distribution rights to the film, this idea was abandoned, and Miramax sold the movie to its home video division, HBO Video, who released it direct to home video. This was the first G-film to be released this way. The release was done with so little advertising that most G-fans were unaware that the film ever received an American release for quite a while, and the American release remained largely unknown among the fan base until the film played on Cinemax in the summer of 1994 during the premium channel’s “Summer of 1,000 Hits” marathon.
To HBO Video's credit, the American version presented the Japanese film completely intact, doing nothing more than dubbing it in English, thus sparing the movie the inept Americanization that ruined Godzilla 1985. Nevertheless, the American version, which was terribly overpriced when it first appeared on the market, is still inferior to the Japanese version inasmuch as the dubbing is typically atrocious and the sound is in mono. The best choice would be to purchase the sub-titled Japanese version available from Video Daikaiju, which not only spares you the horrid dubbing in favor of sub-titles, and provides the sound in Dolby stereo, but also, as always, gives you much more stuff for your money, including not only the Japanese coming attraction trailers (as they always provide), but also shows the unused footage of Godzilla’s first battle with Biollante, which is done completely with stop motion animation, one of the last times this once miraculous method of film animation was done before CGI made it completely obsolete.
All things considered, despite its many pitfalls, this film is still a welcome addition to your Godzilla library due to its uniqueness.
For those who would like to read an extremely detailed, book-length analysis of this film, including many intricate details not included here, be sure to acquire a copy of JAPANESE GIANTS #8...Ed Godziszewski does a marvelous job of chronicling every myriad production point of the movie therein.
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