Tag Archives: Yasuko Sawaguchi

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989, Omori Kazuki)

Godzilla vs. Biollante is an odd Godzilla movie. It’s got some cool devices–there’re these Godzilla alarm system, which do a great deal to establish the film’s believability–even if the computer readouts are impossibly old. Stylistically, both in its approach to visually explaining settings and in its music, Biollante really reminds me of Star Trek II. The comparison starts at the beginning of the film and I was still thinking about it at the end. However, though there are a lot of good things about Biollante, it’s excruciatingly boring.

The good stuff is actually a lot of the characters and their actors. There’s the gung ho army commando who’s been out to pasture, played by Minegishi Tôru. Minegishi is a joy to watch. He approaches it with a sense of measured comedy. He never quite looks at the camera and winks, but you’re never sure he’s not going to do it. On the flip–in one of the film’s greatest successes–is the young colonel who’s got the huge responsibility of dealing with Godzilla, played by Takashima Masanobu. While the film’s not interested in being believable beyond it’s own setting, Masanobu makes the character real, which is quite a feat, given how few lines of dialogue the character actually speaks. There’s a similar juxtaposition with the scientists, though only the younger one, played by Kitamura Kunihiko, the ostensible lead, is actually good. The older one is a mad scientist, which is a reasonable segue into the next paragraph.

The bad stuff is mostly–besides how boring it all is to watch–how goofy Godzilla vs. Biollante gets in order to fill a hundred minutes. There’s the ominous Middle Eastern state–which is actually really funny at times, unintentionally I’m sure–the ominous, but better than the Arabs, American corporation, and then there’s the mad scientist. The mad scientist scenes are actually out of a 1950s sci-fi, with thunder and lighting and everything. The film’s effective moments are, not surprisingly, when it deals with either characters or people’s reaction to Godzilla. The special effects are a little slight in parts and the miniature city just doesn’t work, but there are a few great shots in that city scene.

Coming after the 1984 Godzilla, Biollante is a disappointment to be sure, but it does have some “real” scenes in it. Not goofy giant rubber monsters fighting each other, but real scenes of human struggle. It also has the scene where all the people run through the city. I wonder if it’s a status thing for the extras, who must just be regular people there are so many… “Did you see me evacuating the city? Did you see me? I was carrying the giant cactus.”

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Omori Kazuki; screenplay by Omori, based on a story by Kobayashi Shinichirô; director of photography, Kato Katsuhiro; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Sugiyama Kôichi; production designer, Ikuno Juichi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Mitamura Kunihiko (Kirishima Kazuhito), Tanaka Yoshiko (Okouchi Asuka), Takashima Masanobu (Major Kuroki Sho), Takahashi Koji (Dr. Shiragami), Minegishi Tôru (Lieutenant Gondo Goro), Odaka Megumi (Saegusa Miki), Nagashima Toshiyuki (Director Yamamoto Seiichi), Kaneda Ryunosuke (Azuka’s Father), Yuge Yasunori (Prime Minister), Kuga Yoshiko (Prime Minister’s Wife) and Sawaguchi Yasuko (Shiragami Erika).


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Godzilla (1984, Hashimoto Koji)

On a few levels–like the one with the giant monster–Godzilla fails. On some other ones, like the production values, the acting, and the approach, it succeeds. It’s a peculiar film and it should have been better. Apparently, the Japanese film industry had some trouble in the 1970s and the Godzilla series took a nine year break. Since it was such a public return, this Godzilla became an event picture. It’s also a quintessential 1980s film (and not in a bad way). There are a handful of films, from the 1980s, dealing with metropolitan environments (Die Hard is one). It’s just an observation, not a thought-out theory , and it’s more about the feeling the films convey than any sort of sociological commentary. It’s also late and I don’t want to use the wrong word.

For the first half hour, Godzilla is going to be pretty good. There’s a good lead performance from Tanaka Ken as a reporter and the film’s structured around his discovery of a story and the revelation of Godzilla’s return (this Godzilla is a direct sequel to the original Godzilla). For that first half hour, when Godzilla’s nothing but a shadow and an outline, the film really works. Once it shows up, the film loses its footing. Instead of teasing the audience with the newly improved monster, we get the full monty and we didn’t need the full monty. We needed the tease. The Godzilla-based special effects vary in quality, but the film still manages to create a context where the giant monster isn’t trespassing. However, some of the miniature work in Godzilla is breathtaking. It’s never been this good since, maybe because they were worried about creating a miniature city to matte behind people and for people to interact with, instead of just giant monsters fighting….

Once Godzilla shows up, the film–which had established itself as mildly political already, the Prime Minister is a protagonist–loses the good character stuff it was doing. One character is actually shipped away, just because there’s nothing for him to do between montages of military equipment preparing for Godzilla. The film bounces back at the end, when the characters get stuck in a building Godzilla’s knocking around. The film stays with them instead of centering on Godzilla and there are some great destroyed city sets for them to run around on.

The film reminds me–with its problems–a lot of Behemoth, because there’s an attempt to do something with the film, then the need to satisfy audience expectations. Godzilla is a boring film and it needed to be longer and more boring. It needed fifteen minutes of scientific mumbo-jumbo and some more scenes with people walking through Tokyo at night. This music in this film, besides the song at the end–a song, in English, saying goodbye to Godzilla–is some of the more effective scoring I’ve heard. It does a lot of work for the film. Sets mood for characters, sets up story changes, all sorts of good stuff.

I usually consider Godzilla films a guilty pleasure (and preface any post with that disclaimer), but Godzilla doesn’t fit that categorization. It just works too differently to scratch that itch and instead it scratches one I didn’t know I had.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Hashimoto Koji; screenplay by Nagahara Shuichi, based on a story by Tanaka Tomoyuki; director of photography, Hara Kazutami; edited by Kuroiwa Yoshitami; music by Koroku Reijiro; production designer, Sakuragi Akira; produced by Hayashi Norio and Kanazawa Kiyomi; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Tanaka Ken (Maki Goro), Sawaguchi Yasuko (Okumura Naoko), Natsuki Yosuke (Dr. Hayashida), Kobayashi Keiju (Prime Minister Mitamura), Takuma Shin (Okumura Hiroshi), Ozawa Eitaro (Kanzaki), Koizumi Hiroshi (Minami), Suzuki Mizuho (Emori), Naito Taketoshi (Takegami), Orimoto Junkichi (Director-General of the Defense Agency), Sato Kei (Gondo), Takeda Tetsuya (Homeless Man), Hashimoto Sho (Captain of Super-X), Kaneko Nobuo (Isomura), Emoto Takenori (Kitagawa), Murai Kunio (Henmi) and Tajima Yoshifumi (General Hidaka).


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