10.19.2008

The Return of Godzilla : 4 of 5

This is the dramatic beginning of the Heisei era of Godzilla movies, which completely ignores all the Showa films that were made before, becoming a new "second film" in the series! Although this was a fairly big US release (I remember when Godzilla 1985 was in the theater), this is another film surprisingly unavailable to rent on Region 1 DVD, but thanks again to Showa Video, I was able to enjoy this cool movie. With all of Godzilla's heroic history swept away, The Return of Godzilla is a return to terror and sheer destruction, much like the original 1954 Godzilla, although with much-updated special effects and a new global storyline that involves the US and Russia as they struggle with the decision to use nuclear weapons on Godzilla himself. This is one of the longer Godzilla films, so there's lots of room for good pacing - we never really see Godzilla for the first 30 minutes, which gives the characters time to figure out this is the same monster from 1954, and also allows for a really spooky destruction of a Russian sub (all in Russian language dialogue). There are plenty of gaijin actors in this movie, both Americans and Russians, and unfortunately they are pretty terrible (and even worse in the US release, which also splices in Raymond Burr to reprise his role from the original movie), but I thought the Japanese acting was fine (especially the sudden romance between the reporter and the scientist's cute assistant). But why am I mentioning people when I should be talking about Godzilla himself? Godzilla looks downright evil this time around, and was filmed not only as a suit actor, but as a sophisticated (for the time) animatronic (which is shown in the interesting documentary on the DVD). I thought his arms were a little stiff and his thighs look too thick to me, but on the whole this is a great looking Godzilla, with some of the best atomic breath scenes in any movie I've seen! I also enjoyed the cool Super X attack craft that fires missiles right into Godzilla's mouth (yuck!), almost finishing him off (don't worry, when Godzilla recovers he shows the Super X who's boss!). Even though I've already seen a few other Heisei movies, after watching The Return of Godzilla I feel like I've officially entered the new continuity!

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