1985 happened 30 years ago and so did I. Now I’m watching all of the movies from the year of my birth. That’s right, all of them.
Release Date: August 23, 1985 (U.S.)
Cast: Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi
Writer(s): Hideichi Nagahara, Tomoyuki Tanaka
Synopsis: 30 years after Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo…he returns!
Review: This is a bit of a cheat. I watched the original Toho version of Godzilla 1985 (aka The Return of Godzilla) which was released in Japan in 1984 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the original film. Godzilla 1985 is a dubbed New World Pictures release with Raymond Burr reprising his role from Godzilla, King of the Monsters. That version marked the last time a Godzilla movie would play in American theaters for 15 years, with the reason being fairly simple: everyone hated it. After watching a droning clip of Burr’s pretentious narration (comparing Godzilla to a tornado), I’m inclined to agree with the haters. If this was a cheat, it was worth it.
As for the Toho version, it’s fine. I’d maybe conflated the two versions and feared the worst, but there’s nothing really wrong with this one, even if its not the most exciting or inspired entry. Mostly, this is a throwback and a direct sequel to Gojira, ignoring the sequels from the Showa era (this kicked off the Heisei era) and abandoning the giant monster fights that defined the series up to this point. Godzilla was given a redesign, though to be honest, I don’t really notice a huge difference in anything other than his eyes. This Godzilla has big, brown eyes that are often bloodshot and yellow, like an alcoholic smashing up the house while the kids pretend to sleep upstairs.
As always, the ratio of scientists, politicians, fishermen, etc. to Godzilla is wildly lopsided in the favor of people. None of them are super interesting, though the Prime Minister of Japan is the closest, if only because he has meetings with diplomats from the Soviet Union and the U.S. where they try to rationalize dropping nuclear bombs in Tokyo. At the end of the film when they’ve disposed of Godzilla—a creature who destroyed most of the city and murdered countless citizens—the PM cries. It’s pretty wonderful.
This one is a little difficult to recommend wholeheartedly, though there are at least three things that make it worth watching. The first thing is: there’s a giant sea louse (the size of a baby hippo) who sucks the blood out of a ship full of people. That’s fun on its own, but while the lead explores the derelict ship, the filmmakers stage a direct reenactment of the basement scene in Psycho when Lila Crane turns Mrs. Bates around in her chair and finds the mummified corpse (spoilers). The second thing is: a scene where Godzilla attacks a nuclear reactor and tries to eat part of it, but winds up getting distracted by a flock of birds. The third thing is: Godzilla basically dies of a heart attack and comes back to life when he’s struck by multiple bolts of lightning. That’s pretty much it.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Godzilla 1985 is its devotion to the seriousness of the original film. It doesn’t have the same artistry or innovation as Gojira, so the comparisons it invites only hurt it. I’m pretty enamored of the trips to Planet X and the wild horror show of Biollante, so a normcore sequel without any other monsters was never going to do a whole hell of a lot for me. As a revival of the franchise, we’ve certainly seen worse, but in a franchise of 28 movies this gets lost in the shuffle.
Better Off Dead or The Sure Thing: Somewhere in between
Next Up: A Zed And Two Noughts