Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Return of Godzilla (1984)

Today’s selection: Return of Godzilla (1984, dir. Koji Hashimoto)

Subgenre: Kaiju

Available from:  Universe (R3 Chinese DVD), but I’d suggest finding a fansub instead

Return of Godzilla was Toho’s first attempt to reboot the Godzilla continuity, setting a precedent that most subsequent reboots followed: the original 1954 movie was still canon, but the rest wasn’t. This movie kicked off the “Heisei” Godzilla film series (which lasted until 1998), a term that ticks off historians because the movie was technically released while it was still the Showa period (oh, well…). It was the last Godzilla-starring movie to get a theatrical release in the US before the 1998 American attempt, though it was released as a hack-job with new pro-America footage under the title Godzilla 1985. It’s also notably the only Godzilla movie to never get any sort of R1 DVD release, though the manga adaptation was put out through Dark Horse Comics twice.

But what of the movie itself? It’s well-made, but probably my least favorite of the Heisei series. Cons: it’s one of the few Godzilla films not to feature another monster (unless you count the Shockirus, which are human-sized sea lice that live on Godzilla’s hide, or the Super X, which is a flying battleship that humanity constructed to combat potential future monsters). The Godzilla suit looks a little wonky, fanged, and flat-faced, though the animatronics are impressive. Lastly, the cold-war era commentary gets a little heavy-handed at times. Pros: the miniature work is great, with some of the best attention to detail that one will see in a city set, there’s plenty of conflict with military super-weapons, and it introduced new, darker ideas that the Godzilla series hadn’t really explored before. I could go on for a while about minor plot details, the distinct musical score, and where it all fits in the lexicon of Japanese movies of the period, but as a quick summary, I like it. It is a Godzilla movie, after all.

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