This film has a rather interesting history behind it. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who had been with the series since 1954, wanted to create a new monster rather than reuse monsters like Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gigan, whatnot for Godzilla to fight. So what does Toho do? Make it a contest and to the public no less. The winner turned out to be Shinichirō Kobayashi, a dentist and occasional science fiction writer.
Then there's the fact that of all companies, Miramax was the film's distributor for the English version. Of course, it ended up being released direct to video in the states and had never seen a DVD release and who better to prevent that than Disney which owned Miramax at the time. Of course with Miramax no longer at the house of mouse, a lot of their films were sold to different companies with Lionsgate and Echo Bridge being among them with Godzilla vs. Biollante going to the latter. Of course, considering Echo Bridge's output of their DVDs and Blu-Rays given their reputation, you'd think they'd actually do a horrible job with the disc presentation of the film but let's not kid ourselves, Godzilla is very, very, very precious to Toho so they always tend to keep their eye on American companies who want to release their films on DVD and Blu-Ray and this was no exception.
And personally for me, I've had a bit of a special experience with this film. First off, I did rent the VHS at my local Blockbuster years ago and never again until this year and the other thing is that I've managed to get a copy of the film on DVD on a Black Friday. What happened was that as I looked through the Horror section, I managed to spot a dozen copies Godzilla vs. Biollante on DVD, literally the week before its street date. So I did what any fan would do, take advantage of this by grabbing and running like hell. Okay, I didn't act like I was going to get caught it was paid for but nevertheless, it's very much what happened.
To be blunt, this is actually one of my favorite entries in the franchise and there are a lot of reasons why.
For a start, it actually has a unique and original premise for this installment especially as an opponent for Godzilla to fight. Basically, the scientist lost his daughter in an explosion after collecting Godzilla cells from the previous film, Return of Godzilla and to combat the Big G five years later, he pretty much decided to mix Godzilla's DNA with the cells of a plant that contained a psychic essence of his daughter it seems. Of course, if you've watched every science gone wrong film known to man, you would expect that this would end badly as it sounds. It did. Well, okay, it didn't went on a destructive rampage but the point is that the part human aspect was fading away to a point where Miki could barely sense her presence.
In any case, the idea was executed well enough. And in addition besides the promise of a giant monster battle, there's a subplot involving espionage. Besides of course the giant monster fights between Godzilla and Biollnate, I'm actually rather fond of the subplot. To put things into context, Anti-Nuclear bacteria was created to combat Godzilla should he come back and apparently a lot of people want it especially an organization called Alien from Saradia, yes, they made up a country in the Middle East-they seriously went there, want those things-even the scientist Genichiro Shiragami had something to do with it given that the mercenary they sent was how even the Godzilla cells in his hands in the first place.
Actually let me talk about that dude for a moment, he kind of steals the show. I mean in his first scene, he was kind of dressed up like The Terminator, complete with the sunglasses from the first film. The best part, he almost got away with everything. He kind of delivered some of his lines in an unintentional funny manner with my particular favorite being his delivery of, "Damn Godzilla!"
The espionage stuff pretty much made this film completely fun than it would have before. And pretty much like the Biollante stuff, it was executed pretty well. Writer-Director Kazuki Ōmori manages to balance the two storylines fairly well. Really, the main problem I had with the espionage storyline is how it ended. It pretty much ended pathetically simple as to how the mercenary died, kind of rushed now that I think about it.
The one notable thing aside from Biollante herself is the introduction of a recurring character throughout the rest of the Heisei series Miki Saegusa, played by Megumi Odaka. She's a psychic who runs an institute for psychic children and she very much served the purpose to sense Godzilla's presence inside the volcano and even in the ocean. She certainly made for an interesting character given that she actually managed to take on Godzilla using her powers in order to prevent the thing from attacking Osaka-mind you, it worked as well as you'd expect but points for trying.
But it's funny, the film kind of paints Shiragami as kind of a innocent if only for the fact that they try to put him in a somewhat sympathetic since he did what he did out of grief but it kind of amuses me because that was pretty much a dick move of him to basically turn his daughter into a monster for a rather dangerous situation as really, despite having part of Godzilla's DNA, it didn't help Biollante in the long run; twice. She was blown apart so yeah, father of the year. My favorite part of this is how he tries to justify this by saying it's for the good name of Science. Okay, to be fair; it is pointed out to him by one of the protagonists that it was a huge mistake and berates Shrigami for it.
But one tiny detail I like is basically what happened after the last movie, Tokyo basically kind of rebuilt itself as some sort of memorial especially since of the buildings has a Godzilla footprint acting as a window frame as well as a large chunk of concrete used as a sign for the Godzilla lounge as well as now instituting Godzilla alerts as the computer text shows what happens in each number of Godzilla alerts.
On the technical levels, the acting's not bad. Some of the acting from the English foreign actors can be pretty bad admittedly especially in their delivery, in fact Koji Takahashi, who played Shiragami was talking with the Saradian scientist, his accent was so thick when speaking English, it was kind of hard to make out what he was saying. Megumi Odaka and Yoshiko Tanaka were pretty good overall, probably the best of the lot but nothing straight out of the ballpark but good enough.
Now aside from balancing the two storylines, Kazuki Ōmori does a good job directing the action scenes. There are plenty of quick cuts when Biollante attacks with her tendrils at various hapless victims and attacking Godzilla and there are nice contrast shots during the Osaka attack scenes, mostly when Godzilla is shot from a distance with smoke coming out of the buildings. There's even a rather nice touch of Godzilla coming face to face with the Super X2 again for another fight and two random explosions occur before it even started.
The guy seemed to have a good grasp of what type of movie he wanted to make and in a way, seemed to go all out. He wanted a monster movie, an espionage and even themes of man's arrogance to use cells from creatures spawned from the very things utilized by mankind and even some religious imagery (yeah, don't tell me Biollante's death doesn't mean she has gone to heaven judging by the symbolism).
But despite the claims of Biollante being named after a tree from Norse mythology, there's no evidence that the name came straight out of Norse Mythology. At all. Or even it's origin.
In terms of the music, it's very good. I mean aside from the Godzilla march, there are notable instances in the score I noticed. For starters, there is actually a pop version of the Godzilla theme at a few points in the film. Yes, they went there and it was the 80's so I guess they couldn't resist; the Saradian mercenary did wear the sunglasses after all. And there's this music that appears during the Super X2 scenes that I swear would not sound out of place for a trailer promoting a family film, it kind of sounds like something John Williams would compose-it sounded so pompous in a way it wanted to sound exciting that it almost feels out of place in a Godzilla film. But here's my personal favorite, the Frigate March from the original film, or as it's later known as the Monster March from Invasion of Astro Monster (or Godzilla vs. Monster Zero) actually makes a reappearance in this film and it was glorious to hear it again.
And now my personal favorites, the monster designs. Godzilla actually gets yet another new look and he looks menacing especially in the closeups. He retains this look in a similar fashion throughout the rest of the Heisei series rather than go with the look he was given in Return of Godzilla. Biollante looks just as cool really, I rather like the crocodile overbite, it kind of looks like something you'd see in some form of the Cthulu mythos.
Overall, I highly recommend this for those who haven't seen it especially for those who are starting out watching the franchise and for the hardcore fans. If not, then this won't really change your mind if you weren't interested in the first place.
Okay hear me out on this and just pretend for the moment I'm pitching this to you as if you were a movie executive. Okay, time travel. How The Doctor travels in Doctor Who via the TARDIS which is in the guise of a Police Public Call Box but is bigger on the inside. Back to the Future has the delorean, Bill and Ted use a phone booth and even a man made designed time machine in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I propose a time travel story where the lead character does so by going into a dark place like a closet, close his eyes and travel back to the exact moment he pictures.
You're looking at me like I'm crazy and have no idea what I'm talking about, aren't you?
Okay, let me be clear; the time travel elements in this film do play an important role in this film but that's not the focus, at least not the main focus.
The film focuses on the life on Tim Lake, played by Domhnall Gleeson, he basically finds love and lives life as it is.
That's the thing that makes the film work, it's basically the lead character while wanting to find love but appreciates life and grows up afterwards.
Look we all have this one thought that would bug us greatly thinking to ourselves, I really wish I could go back in time and correct my mistake so I wouldn't like an ass. I know I have. This film is an answer to those thoughts showing this one guy using the ability to time travel (which according to his father is something only the men in his family could do and not the women for some reason-I don't know why either, don't ask me) to fix whatever mistakes he made that could have gone better. For example, the very first thing he does is this;
Tim meets his first love at a New Year's Eve Party and rather than kiss the woman as everyone else was doing when the clock struck midnight, he instead shook her hand wishing her a happy new year. Now when he tries time travel for the first time (mostly out of disbelief until he finds out it really worked), he immediately takes advantage of the situation he's in and kisses her. That pretty much turned moot anyway as she didn't return the feelings anyway.
Domhnall Gleeson turned out to be a very likeable lead. He's charming and you can understand why he would time travel to these specific moments. He just comes off as very natural in the role and never once tried way too hard to make himself a charming lead. He has good comedic timing and knows when to be serious.
Actually, let me get these two specific moments out of the way because these are my absolutely favorite parts of the film in terms of what was downright funny and I want to share them all with you.
First, and to give you a bit of context; when Tim is studying to be a lawyer, he's living with a foul mouthed playwright and when he finds out his play bombed due to an actor forgetting his lines, he goes there to that very night and tries to get said actor to remember them. He got the wrong guy and rectified that too.
The second one is where he meets the same woman he met at the New Year's Eve party and after potentially offending her and her friend three times, he just decides on his fourth try to avoid her in the end.
Rachel McAdams as Mary was also a great lead. The chemistry between her and Gleeson is very good and you can certainly buy that these two ended up together to the point of marriage. She's just as likeable as Gleeson, she's someone whose presence I appreciated greatly and has very good emotional range.
Bill Nighly, like the two leads is one of the best actors in the entire film and is also one whose presence I always appreciated everytime he showed up. He can be so warmly and his performance just downright feels honest.
The other supporting players are just as good. I loved Lydia Wilson as Tim's sister, Kit-Kat and Lindsay Duncan as Mary. Tom Hollander as Harry is a downright scene staler from his first appearance to his last and I could not help but laugh, he was just that much of a hoot.
Richard Curtis's direction (I assume anyone reading this is familiar with his two other films Pirate Radio and The Boat That Rocked or his script work on Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary) and script is well done. Regarding the rules of time travel, it's clear that he has seen, if not read enough about time travel stories to make his own rules just as to present limits as to how this will work like the aforementioned fact that only men in the Lake family have this ability and not the women and they can only travel backwards. Okay, other reviews pointed out the plotholes in the rules of time travel, if not outright being broken but really, the plotholes don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Time travel is not what this film is about. It's the impact and how Tim appreciates life by the end of it all.
The film's heart is divided in a few areas; Tim and the life for Mary, Tim and his family and Tim and his father in particular, the latter being the film's big emotional punch. I don't want to give too much away as I recommend people to see it for themselves but I think you'll agree with me that you'll find yourself tearing up a bit.
I really do recommend this film to people who like a good romance or dramedy films, anyone who is a fan of Richard Curtis or if you're a Science Fiction fan. Check it out.