The Return of Godzilla (1984) Movie Review
And people thought that Batman Begins was the first reboot in film.
This film takes place 30 years after the death of Godzilla back in 1954. A young sailor named Hiroshi Okumura and his crew are attacked in the middle of the ocean by something. After a reporter finds the ship, he finds that Hiroshi, the only survivor, is still alive and takes him back to Tokyo. As he is recovering from the attack, he confirms that the thing that attacked the ship was Godzilla. The news is kept a secret from the public by the Japanese Prime Minister to avoid a panic; that is until Godzilla destroys a Russian submarine. Since the Soviet Union blames the attack on the Americans, the Japanese intervene and finally break the news that a new Godzilla has emerged and was responsible for the subs destruction. Sure enough Godzilla attacks a nuclear plant to regain his energy for his assault on Tokyo.
Though this is the start of the second Godzilla series (and the Japanese title of the film is simply Godzilla) this is a sequel to the original 1954 classic that ignores all the films from Godzilla Raids Again to Terror of Mechagodzilla. It brought the character back to his dark roots as a metaphor for the atomic bomb. This is also the first film since the original that actually scares me. The music gives off a creepy vibe and if there is one thing that I picked up from films in 1984 it’s creepy music. Aside from this movie, there is also A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Terminator. The fact that Godzilla’s roar is that old haunting sound from the first two movies, and the fact that we see people getting killed also makes this a very different Godzilla movie from most of the other films. Godzilla also has this angry, menacing look a lot of the time. The machine that they bring in to fight Godzilla is pretty unique, the Super X. Sure it comes out of nowhere, but it’s an interesting idea and gives the movie some variety when it comes to the military engaging Godzilla. One thing I also like is how this film brought Godzilla into the cold war era. As everyone knows now, Godzilla is a metaphor for the nuclear bomb, and everyone knows that the Cold War was a point in time where there was a fear of Russia and the United States blowing not only each other up, but also the entire world with nukes. Watching the movie today, this is a very outdated element, but for 1984, I felt that this was a smart story decision to bring Godzilla into that age. Unlike the nukes that the U.S. and Russia had, Godzilla is basically a walking nuclear bomb without anything holding him back.
The downside to this movie is that because Godzilla is on his own again, the human characters need to be more compelling, which is unfortunate that these human characters don’t hold to the level of the original or even some of the other Honda films. In fact, Ishiro Honda was approached by Tomoyuki Tanaka to direct this movie, but declined. Some of the models and miniatures don’t look very convincing and there are also a few points where Godzilla looks pretty bad, mainly the robot Godzilla they built for close up shots. However, most of the time, Godzilla is pretty scary and the other things that the film gets right, it gets really right. A majority of the models look very detailed, Godzilla is back to his menacing self, and the action scenes are fun to watch.
This movie was also the first movie since King Kong vs. Godzilla to be completely Americanized to the point of ruining the movie.
Raymond Burr returns as Steve Martian who is always named Mr. Martian, because at this point Steve Martian was very popular and they didn’t want them confusing the two. There are also other scenes with other American actors which are horrible. They have horrible southern/generic military accents and their dialogue consists of all of those horrible generic lines you would hear from Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay movies. I’m not going to complain about how they sit in the Pentagon and do nothing because the Americans actually play a part in the Japanese version. However when did the Pentagon stock up on Dr. Pepper vending machines? Since the Cold War tension plays a part in this movie, the U.S. Version felt it necessary to change an important scene in the movie. In the Japanese version a Soviet satellite accidentally launches a nuclear missile at Godzilla as he’s unconscious in the middle of Tokyo, but just to make the Soviets seem like cold-hearted assholes, the American version changes this scene to where they fire the missile at Tokyo, on purpose.
There is a reason why critics called this version “one of the worst movies of the year” which is a shame since the Japanese version is really good, it’s just those American actors ruined the American version and making the Soviet Union dicks was really cruel at least from the eyes of someone who wasn’t alive at the time of the Cold War. So I suggest that you avoid this version and try to hunt down the Japanese version of this movie.
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