Last time, I began a series of articles on a series of Godzilla films from the 80s & 90s. They are the “Heisei Series” of Godzilla films. For this post, I will look at the first film to be released during the Heisei era (by the way, Heisei is a word that is intended to mean “peace everywhere”) in Japan: 1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante.
Like I mentioned before in the last article, these films of this era are all connected together in continuity. It is the only series of Godzilla films that maintain continuity into multiple films (the original Gojira had a sequel Godzilla Raids Again that was connected but the rest of the Showa era were not). In the case of Godzilla vs. Biollante, in the aftermath of the battle from The Return of Godzilla, skin cells from Godzilla were collected from the rubble. Some of these cells are later captured by a mercenary who delivers them to the Republic of Saradia and their Institute of Technology and Science. The hope of the research there was to bio-engineer plants to grow and flourish in the desert (which is where Saradia is located). However, a terrorist attack on the building disrupts the research but also kills the daughter of the head scientist, Dr. Genshiro Shiragami, Erika.
Five years later, Dr. Shiragami is back in Japan and in self exile after the events in Saradia. He spends his time now trying to cultivate roses that he injected with cells from Erika. His hope is that she lives on in the plants. He enlists the help of Miki Saegusa. Miki is a psychic who helps run a school for gifted students (kind of like a Professor X, only no mutants). While this research is going on, the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) are doing research on the Godzilla cells that they had to make an “Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria”. When an eruption from Mt. Mihara (the mountain where Godzilla was trapped) occurred that shook Dr. Shiragami’s home, he agrees to help the JSDF with their research to help preserve the life of the roses, which means injecting Godzilla cells into those roses that already have Erika’s cells in them.
There are others that want the Godzilla cells, including the mercenary on behalf of Saradia & also mercenaries from an American bio company called Bio-Major. These groups converge on Dr. Shiragami’s home and find out that the plant has become a creature (which kills one of the Bio-Major agents). This plant creature escapes into a nearby lake and is later named by Dr. Shiragami Biollante.
The other Bio-Major agent threatens to set off explosives at Mt. Mihara and let Godzilla escape unless the Godzilla cells are given to him. The Japanese leaders try to deal with the merc but instead the merc from Saradia intercept them and the explosives go off and Godzilla is freed. Godzilla then goes to fight Biollante in their first battle and wins. He then tries to attack a power plant but Miki uses her psychic powers to direct him to an abandoned Osaka where the JDSF would ambush him with the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria. Lt. Goro Gondo, a leader of the force assigned to take out Godzilla, dies in the battle. Godzilla is injected with the bacteria but it has no effect on him and he leaves the city.
The scientists then devise a plan where they will try to raise Godzilla’s body temperature with microwave emitting plates in an artificial thunderstorm. They believe that the bacteria would then work. However, while they’re trying to do this, Biollante emerges in an evolved state and engages in battle with Godzilla. The battle ends with Godzilla defeating Biollante and the remains of the plant creature go off into space. Godzilla, exhausted and after a brief time of laying on the beach, gets up and returns to the ocean.
I just recently saw this film (as it was just released on Blu-Ray). Like the rest of the Heisei series, this recent mini-marathon of watching the films was my first encounter with these films. I grew up watching mainly the films from the Showa era, where Godzilla was most of the time portrayed more as a superhero (especially the later films). Here, he’s more an anti-hero or in some ways a victim. Yes, he causes destruction but he also just wants to be left alone. As this series continues, there will be that introduction of him being a hero to Earth but even then, some humans will still want him eliminated.
There is also an emphasis of science and morality at play in these films. We see it here with Dr. Shiragami using bioengineering to try to keep part of his daughter alive along with the bioengineering of plants which led to the creation of Biollante. There is also the story of Miki and her psychic powers that will be told in future films.
Godzilla vs. Biollante was the first “Godzilla vs.” film in the Heisei series. It fit with the times in 1989 but also some of the themes still relate to audiences today.