30 Days of Godzilla – Day 16: First Movie You Ever Watched and The Return of Godzilla (1984) Review
30 Days of Godzilla: Day 16: First Movie You Ever Watched: The first movie I watched was Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There was a VHS at Toys “R” Us and I thought Godzilla was so cool looking. The second one was also from the same store, with Godzilla vs. Megalon. Talk about a mood whiplash, but the kid me didn’t care and enjoyed both.
30 Days of Godzilla- Review: Gojira (1984) aka Godzilla(1984) Godzilla 1984 aka The Return of Godzilla 1984:
After Terror of MechaGodzilla didn’t perform well in theaters, Godzilla took a hiatus. There were idea for new movies but none of them really stuck. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who has produced all the Godzilla films up to this point, decided to take Godzilla back to his roots. As a result the series was rebooted, only continuing from where the original 1954 film ended. A film with the old crew returning proved difficult as Honda was busy and Ifukube had grown bitter towards how decline in quality the franchise became. They were both also affected by the death of Eiji Tsuburaya, saying, “Godzilla died when Eiji Tsuburaya died.” Akihiko Hirata who played Dr. Serizawa, was also going to be in the reboot but sadly was too ill and unfortunately, died of lung cancer.
So new people with the exception of Producer, Tanaka and Special Effects Director, Teruyoshi Nakano. It seems like the odds are against this film, but were they able to capture the magic of the original while not feeling like a blatant copy. Were they able to create a worthy sequel to the original?
The short answer is yes. This film is amazing and a very worthy sequel to the original. I love this movie, I really love this movie. It’s one of my favorites in the franchise, not just the Heisei era (Granted it’s a Showa film but it kicks off the Heisei era of films, so it treated as such by the fans). I love the films atmosphere, style, it’s approach to what Godzilla would mean during this time period. The music, special effects, directing, action and the drama, all comes to together so smoothly and excellently. The craft is top notch, you could tell that the people involved love the original Godzilla and wanted to show everyone that Godzilla is more than a kaiju, he’s a true character and his use in stories can be implemented in many ways.
I’ll try to keep it short and to the point. The way Godzilla is in this film is the same sense of tragedy I felt for him in the first film. He’s an animal, he’s defending himself. He feeds on radiation and humans attack him, so naturally he fight backs. He’s in pain, he feels rage but then you look at him and you also feel sadness for this creature who didn’t ask for this. Kenpachiro Satsuma, who played Gigan, takes over as the suit actor for Godzilla and really brings the character to life. He provides a performance of a rage fueled creature who is trying to survive in a world that doesn’t want him. His suit acting throughout the Heisei era, in my opinion, is on par with Nakajima’s. They both provide a distinct flavor of Godzilla but are still able to capture the character’s core essence and bring it to life masterfully.
The human side of things, everything feels intense. Not only is Godzilla a threat but there are the Cold War elements in play as well. When Godzilla attacks a nuclear Russian sub, the USSR thinks the U.S. did the attack, resulting in things heating up. Japan is forced to reveal publicly, Godzilla’s existence in order to avoid a massive war breaking out. Both the U.S. and USSR get involved with Japan as they see Godzilla as a threat and wish to use nukes on him. The Japanese are very much against anything like that, knowing full well what nuclear weapons can do.
The cast and directing really do a great job of portraying this feeling of tension, dread and uncertainty. It makes every human moment feel as intense as when Godzilla is on screen. This plot is very much humans vs. Godzilla or more precisely, humans trying to survive the long night of Godzilla’s rampage. Professor Makoto Hayashida (who was orignally going to be played by Akihiko Hirata) portrayed by Yosuke Natsuki, is an interesting character who lost his parents to the in the original Godzilla attack of 1954. He acknowledges Godzilla is a living nuclear weapon of destruction but at the same time feels sympathy for the creature, seeing Godzilla as victim much like himself. Godzilla to him is a warning to mankind, and he just wants to send him home. There’s also the reporter Goro Maki, fisherman Hiroshi Okumura, his sister, Naoko who all play their parts well, and provide a lot of dimension and emotion. The Government officials also provide a lot and are compelling to watch. Every political scene is boring and holds a lot of weight to it.
The special effects are fantastic in this feel and really stand out as some of the franchises best work. They were able to modernize Godzilla appropriately and provide not only a great looking suit, but great looking props and miniatures. This was Nakano’s last Godzilla film as special effects director and I think this was some of his best work.
There was also the ambitious, Cybot, a robotic Godzilla prop, that could be hit or miss, but when it hits it looks wonderful and Nakano’s expertise managed to make the best out of it.
There’s also the Super X which is an awesome prop and vehicle in action.
The director of this film was Koji Hashimoto and the composer was Reijiro Koroku. Both newcomers to the franchise but both providing a unique style that fits what this film was all about wonderfully. Hashimoto and Koroku were able to create this feeling of dread, foreboding doom, intensity, chilling feeling, etc. Basically a serious feeling, that not everything is going to be easy and that the entire situation at hand is going to be difficult. One of my favorite pieces of music in this film was Godzilla at Mt. Mihara at the climax. It gets me emotionally both musically and the visuals. You get his feeling of Godzilla being the child humanity doesn’t want. It’s painful.
I would absolute recommend this film to anyone. Godzilla fan (especially of the Original), tokusatsu fan, monster fan, newcomer, whoever. If you loved the original, and the Showa era didn’t go exactly how you wanted it to go, this film is your answer. What you’re getting is a well crafted film, with a lot of heart, understanding, and emotion all rolled up into own package. It’s how a sequel should be made and a welcomed film in the franchise that brought new life and invigoration that it desperately needed. I love the film a lot and it holds a special place in my heart, and if you do see it, I hope you can enjoy it as much as I do.
Side Note: The U.S. Godzilla 1985 dub is decent but I feel the political pressure of the Cold War really dampened the U.S. interpretation of what was suppose to be a neutral feeling, to a more pro one side. Basically it’s not as heavy as it’s original Japanese counterpart.
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