Gojira (1984)

Gojira (1984)
aka The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla 1985
Article 5499 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-14-2017
Directed by Koji Hashimoto
Featuring Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yasuko Natsuke
Country: Japan
What it is: Godzilla movie

Godzilla reappears and begins terrorizing Japan.

This was Toho’s resurrection of the Godzilla franchise after letting it founder in the late seventies. It was an attempt to return to the scarier, nastier non-heroic version of the monster. When it was released in America, the powers that be decided to emulate what had been done for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS in the fifties by bringing back Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin and editing him into the movie along with a few other American actors. Unlike the earlier adaptation, though, this one seemed to be playing for camp and featured heavy product placement for Dr. Pepper, touches I found so annoying that I decided to wait until I could see the original Japanese cut instead of that one.

Sadly, the Japanese version isn’t really the vast improvement I was hoping it would be. It’s certainly less campy and more serious, but it also has some major problems. There’s a couple of scenes that are strong; the opening ten minutes are effective, and Godzilla’s first appearance is memorable. However, the movie gets muddled in a variety of uninteresting subplots, and it’s all too self-conscious about its Godzilla/Nuclear Warfare theme; the scene where both the Americans and Russians wish to use nuclear weapons on Godzilla when it comes ashore in Japan is drawn out way too long. But the biggest problem to me is Godzilla himself; though they no doubt improved the special effects of his presentation, he’s never felt more mechanical and characterless than he does here. Despite the fact that the movie is trying to recapture the magic of the 1954 original, it fails to do so. However, it would yield a few sequels, and some of those are improvements over this one.

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