Picking up right where Godzilla 1985 left off, Godzilla vs. Biollante finds an American commando team scavenging through the steaming ruins of post-Godzilla ravaged Tokyo. Working for “Bio-Major”, a shadowy conglomerate of American-owned companies that want a monopoly on the genetic market, these men retrieve a tissue sample containing Big G’s indestructible cells, but are ambushed by SSS9 (Manjat Beti), a pony-tailed evil agent working for the (fictional) Middle Eastern Saradian government. Having engaged brilliant Japanese scientist Dr. Genichiro Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) and his science whiz daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi), the Saradians aim to use the combined DNA of wheat, cacti and G-cells to create a robust new food source and end America’s reign as an economic superpower. Agents working for Bio-Major blow up the research lab, killing Erika in the process.
Five years later, a tortured Shiragami keeps his daughter's memory alive tending a garden of her favourite roses that hide a sinister secret. He resumes his genetic research in Japan aided by Erika’s friend Asuka Okouchi (Yoshiko Tanaka) and teenage psychic prodigy Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), star pupil at Asuka’s research centre for clairvoyant children. In an amusing nod to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), the kids reveal their latest vision by thrusting dozens of Godzilla drawings before horrified scientists. Asuka’s boyfriend Kazuto Kirishima (Kuniko Mitamura), together with matey military guys Major Sho Kuroki (Masanobu Takashima, who appears in every single Japanese genre movie made around this time!) and Colonel Goro Gondo (Toru Negishi) urge Shiragami to use his new G-cell derived antinuclear bacteria against the monster. However, terrorist attacks on the laboratory, by both Bio-Major and Saradian assassins led by SSS9, unleash the true result of Shiragami’s reckless experiment: Biollante, a rampaging three-hundred-and-ninety-four foot mutant rose with flailing tentacles, snapping crocodile jaws and deadly acid-vomit! Roused from his slumber, Godzilla battles this mighty foe whose monstrous roar reveals something that horrifies our heroes. For Shiragami has created Biollante from G-cells, cells from Erika’s roses… and his own daughter’s DNA!
Of the two Godzilla films released in the Eighties, Godzilla vs. Biollante is undoubtedly the best. Being the only series entry this lifelong Japanese genre fan was luckily able to catch at the cinema, as opposed to television or home video, it ranks as a personal favourite too. Call me biased if you like, but this remains one of the most artful of all Godzilla movies with a poetically grim, almost Lovecraftian atmosphere. Here Godzilla and his supporting cast of stalwart scientists and military types wrestle, both metaphorically and literally, with an alternately malevolent and melancholy monster possessed by the tortured soul of an innocent girl. Ominous grey skies set the haunting tone, offset by unexpectedly lyrical moments. The unique plot, with its winning anti-arms race, anti-corporate asides, was the result of a nationwide contest staged by series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. The winner was a dentist and amateur screenwriter named Shinichiro Kobayashi whose treatment was fleshed out by talented thirty-seven year old med-student turned filmmaker Kazuki Omori. Sounds like half the Japanese medical profession want to be in the movies.
Influenced by James Cameron and Ridley Scott, Omori infuses the stuffy Godzilla formula with elements of their fast paced techno-thrillers, only slightly hampered by an overabundance of stoic military types. Nevertheless, characterisation is more detailed here than in subsequent episodes and the cast give their all, save for stolid actor Koji Takashi whose aloof demeanour nearly derails the drama. This film also introduced ace psychic girl Miki Saegusa (possibly cashing in on the popular manga Miki the Psychic Girl which at one point was going to be a Tsui Hark movie starring Winona Ryder), who became the series sole reoccurring character, having something of a love-hate relationship with the radioactive dinosaur. Her psychic duel with Godzilla (didn’t know he could beat Uri Geller at his own game, did you?) is another highlight.
Away from the magnificent monster carnage, Omori pulls off cracking action scenes (lookout for the Miami Vice combo of American agents done in by the killer plant), though admittedly it is the battling behemoths that prove most memorable. Sporting the most impressive suit in the modern series, endowed with a more expressive animatronic head, Godzilla is in mean and moody mode here, though even he does a double-take at the sight of Erika’s soul floating in the starry sky. Towering over Godzilla, Biollante is even more of an effects triumph and at one point memorably crunches Big G’s head between its slavering jaws. Ingenious lighting lends this impressive Koichi Kawakita creation a truly menacing aura and the various city-stomping, spaceship hurling, rubber monster wrestling set-pieces are pulled off with great aplomb. What’s more, composers Koichi Sugiyama and David Howell include an honest to goodness, disco-funk version of the famous Godzilla theme that you can really dance to.