Often in life you’ll find yourself saying, “Wow, I can’t believe after all these years I haven’t done that!” I pride myself as being a true ‘Godzilla fan.’ I’ve spent well over a thousand dollars over these past two years on figures alone. However, there is one key thing I was missing…having seen all the films. But that’s impossible you say, how can that be true? There was one Godzilla movie I had never seen before. Known simply in Japan as ‘Godzilla,’ we’ll refer to its more popular title, The Return of Godzilla. As of now, this is the only one to not have an official North American DVD release. Maybe we’ll see a release next year when the new films garners popularity. Return is a truly unique and just all around great Godzilla movie, it’s a shame it isn’t widely available. It’s one of the films I can wholeheartedly recommend to a newcomer.
Directed by Koji Hashimoto, Return of Godzilla is the first of the Heisei series, followed five years later by Vs. Biollante. Godzilla had ‘retired’ nine years prior in the final Showa film, Terror of Mechagodzilla. Instead of going a sequel route, the film takes the path of being more of a semi-reboot, using only the original 1954 classic as the backdrop. Godzilla was through playing a hero, he was back to being an antagonist, fitting for the 30th anniversary. Return is most like Gojira in tone and atmosphere. Dark, very little to no comedy, and Godzilla acting mean. While he doesn’t fight another monster, it’s still a fantastic watch.
The cast is pretty strong, definitely stronger than a good majority of the Heisei films following it. Reporter Goro is on the ocean when he runs into a destroyed ship. This vessel was destroyed in the fantastic opening credits of the movie. It’s here where probably the most unique Godzilla scene is created. Goro goes into the ship and finds the crew dead, where it looks like they had the life force sucked out of them. (It looked like a scene from an 80’s gothic horror film.) The thing responsible is not Godzilla, but a giant sea louse with the name of Shockirus. It was a pretty cool scene, but ultimately it really serves no purpose at all. It could have been easily written out. But, it was still pretty neat to see. Here he finds one lone survivor, Okumura.
Okumura plays a pretty vital role when he’s given pictures of the original Godzilla, which he recognizes. Unfortunately, he has to be confined so word doesn’t get out. And sadly, because of that his sister Nakao doesn’t know he’s alive. It’s a nice little family dynamic, she genuinely cares for her brother. Goro, her, and Okumura pretty much make up the primary protagonists. There are some other characters, such as the prime minister who gets a pretty solid role. (Who doesn’t enjoy the meeting between the United Nations and the guy representing America?) There is one character however, the homeless guy. He has absolutely no significance at all, he was pretty much the definition of a wasted character.
Now for the main event…Godzilla! The King of the Monsters hasn’t been portrayed as a horror figure like this since the original movie. First, the suit. It’s a very unique design, almost a modern take on the classic one itself. While never becoming quite that popular, it’s easily one of the best in capturing Godzilla’s mean look. The eyes in particular always makes him look like he’s mean absolute business. His very first scene was straight and to the point, with a very nice perspective since we see how he looks to the everyday person. It’s a neat effect that’s really never utilized again in the Heisei series. His very first scene with him in the power plant was great and re-established him as a product of nuclear warfare.
Easily the most powerful scene is the ending when G falls into a volcano. It’s truly something else, even for me whom has seen the rest of the movies, to witness. Godzilla looked so small in comparison to the volcano, it was a truly sad sight and easily just as effective as his death eleven years later in Vs. Destoroyah. The Super X is a cool machine, almost as iconic as the Gotengo. All of this is accompanied by Reijiro Koroku’s solid soundtrack. The classic Godzilla theme is nowhere to be heard, but he his given a haunting theme throughout the film, very effective. (The end credits song was surprisingly very pop-like and catchy after such an emotional scene with the volcano.)
Overall, Godzilla’s big return from 1984 is one of his greatest entries. There’s a very high quality feel to it all that a good majority of the Heisei films failed to replicate. The cast is reasonably strong, the pacing is good, and Godzilla himself has one of his best appearances. Hopefully one day the film will be available in North America.
Daniel is the guy for everything Godzilla related at Unleash the Fanboy. Besides the Big G himself, his favorite monster is Rodan and you can follow him on Twitter:@Destroyer_199