Starring: Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yosuke Natsuki, Godzilla
Directed by: Koji Hashimoto
Synopsis: A volcanic eruption on an island off the coast of Japan awakens Godzilla. He goes on his usual tear through the streets of Tokyo destroying anything that gets in his way. There’s also a small sub-plot about nuclear weapons and how bad they are, even when used for defense.
What Work(s): Godzilla is back…in all his rubber-suited glory destroying the city he loves so much—Tokyo! Unfortunately that’s about all that works in this very slow and boring monster on a rampage flick. The only other good thing I can think of is there are no annoying characters or weak comic reliefs or even kids to hate. That’s actually a very good thing. Of course the music is great as it usually is in a Godzilla movie.
Worst part: The problem (or one of the major issues) I had watching this new Godzilla (for 1984) was that it’s a reboot. Toho disavowed every Godzilla film from Godzilla Raids Again to the present time and decided to make this new Godzilla a direct sequel to the 1954 original. So basically it’s a remake of the same rubber-suited lizard slowly plodding through the streets of Tokyo reeking havoc. Toho wanted to make him the antagonist again after more of a dozen movies where Godzilla is the hero fighting and defending Toyko from other nasty monsters. When I was a kid I loved Godzilla and always wanted him to win. All kids did. So rebooting the series and bringing him back to his evil roots is kinda a bummer for kids. It at least confuses them anyway I would think.
The other thing that this film fails with and this reminded me of the 1976 King Kong was the lack of decent technology to make a film such as this. Sure, Godzilla was always a man in a rubber suit but for the 60s and 70s movies when he’s fighting another rubber-suited monster, we tend to not care so much about how authentic and realistic this 50 meter tall lizard looks. We also tend to fast forward most of the film that doesn’t include Godzilla in any way, shape or form. And in the first two movies when he’s destroying Tokyo, they are in black and white which cloaked the rubber-ness way better. But in 1984 there’s a huge difference between a rubber-suited lizard looking so fake and moving so slow through a city. Sure his nuclear breath looked great but I couldn’t stop staring at his huge fake eyes! Did you know he is brown-eyed? Well he has very human-like eyes and it just doesn’t work. They look fake and in some shots the eyes are crooked or crossed and he looks like a joke. Couldn’t they just blacken the eyes or make them smaller since he’s the villain again? That would’ve helped.
Overall: I understand why Toho wanted to reboot their flagship franchise and bring back a more menacing and villainous Godzilla to the screen. After all it was the 30th anniversary and I can honestly say this movie while slow, dull and good effects lacking, it still is way better than the American 1998 version. I was genuinely bored, which is sad for a monster movie. But Godzilla moves at a rate of a tortoise on Ambien and his nemesis in this film is a strange floating tank (called the Super X) piloted by 4-6 men who shoot everything from missiles to bullets and cadmium shells, which when fired in Godzilla’s mouth make him fall asleep for a few minutes (real exciting fight!). Then the sub-plot I aforementioned really plods along when a mistakingly fired Soviet nuclear warhead is heading towards Tokyo to kill Godzilla. Japan has nothing to do except hope and pray the Americans nukes can take out the Soviet rocket in time before it reaches Tokyo. Seriously? Toho made the Americans the heroes as well in this Godzilla movie. Very generous of them but it’s still an odd choice to include anti-nuclear sentiment in their monster movie. Godzilla comes to again and destroys the Super X by toppling a building down on it. That was the only time I cheered for anything that happens in the flick. I love Godzilla but by 1984 you better have something new for him to do other than become the villain again and slowly lumber through a deserted city. Make him faster at least! He barely kills anyone (on screen) except a few soldiers and he is lured away by and electromagnetic pulse summoning him to a volcano and his bombed inside by an awaiting army. All of this happens at a snails pace with virtually no suspense. And that’s another reason this film is so boring and that’s it’s complete lack of passion. There’s only 3-5 major human characters and they are hardly put in any real peril. At one point a crazy looter is taunting Godzilla and falls in front of him and Godzilla does nothing and the looter passes out. Even when the soviet warhead is approaching Japanese air-space the American missile just appears out of nowhere destroying it. No build-up or clever editing that shows two missiles crossing paths and giving us the impression whether they will successfully collide or not. I’m not even sure if we were told if the American rocket was close or not.
But like I said, this isn’t a horrible Godzilla movie—that honor goes the the Roland Emmerich failure. It’s just lacking in some many departments and it’s very dull. There’s a dozen more Godzilla flicks made after this one which I have yet to see but I’m curious to how they fare.
Score: 6 Super X’s (out of 10)