Same Old Monkey

Godzilla '85 Directed by Kohji Hashimoto and R.J. Kizer At Sack Beacon Hill

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT IN 1985 there are nuclear weapons in space, a powerful "X-Plane" which defends Tokyo from attack, and a bunch of bumblers in charge of the U.S. military? Well if you do, then the sudden reappearance of Godzilla, in a new coat of modern special effects, will come as no surprise. And if you're able to forget any intelligence that you may have, you may actually enjoy Godzilla '85, newly released in the Boston area.

If you came to see an Americanized version of a Godzilla movie, think again. Most of the movie's actors are Japanese-speaking Japanese, and the movie is dubbed in English. The film is almost exactly modeled after the old films.

Just like in the old movies, a recently-risen Godzilla grouchily slinks his 80-meter-long body all over Japan in search of some decent breakfast (which in this case is a nuclear power plant). Even after we are told that Godzilla is impervious to any man-made weapon, we get to see the Japanese send their best weapons against the monster, naturally to no avail.

Just like in the old movies, there is a budding love affair between two of the central characters, and it blossoms into a beautiful relationship under the pressure of Godzilla's wrath. There are fantastic coincidences which allow the two to meet, and Godzilla's naughty behavior in downtown Toyko literally throws the two into each others' arms.

But Godzilla '85 is not just a remake of the old movies. There is an attempt to deify Godzilla in this movie, a theme which is often repeated in none too subtle terms by various characters. We are told that Godzilla is more than just a fantastically large creature; he is a force of nature, nature's response to man's foolish treatment of the planet and nuclear weapons.


If it sounds serious, it's not. Only a fool would believe that Godzilla, as he tackles another 30-floor skyscraper, is anything more than a sexually repressed monster who happens to be stronger than Arnold Schwarzenegger and taller than Manute Bol.

Perhaps the role of Raymond Burr, as the only American who survived Godzilla's last whirlwind tour of Tokyo, is meant to show us that Godzilla has entered the modern world. But all Burr does is offer the American military tidbits of information every few minutes, assault us full-force with his huge carcass, and do absolutely nothing in terms of real action. His presence is really nothing but a huge farce to attract crowds.

THE ONLY VALID DIFFERENCE between this Godzilla and the past ones is the special effects used to depict the monster itself. We see Godzilla from a multitude of angles and destroying a multitude of objects, and it looks reasonably real--much more real than in the old movies in which an animated Godzilla struck down model airplanes and we knew it.

Of course, this realism works against this Godzilla-as-a-force-of-nature theme. He looks like a huge monster; he acts like a real monster. What else can we conclude but that he is a real monster? He is not some force that has sprung up to teach mankind a lesson (that man's buildings need more reinforced steel?) and then disappear when the message has been sent.

Godzilla '85 is really nothing more than a sequel to the old Godzilla movies. And as sequels go, it's not very good. Every director knows that a follow-up movie must be bigger and better than the its predecessors. But Godzilla just isn't any bigger and better. The creature has no new powers. It doesn't destroy anything more than it did in the past (in fact it was pretty lenient on Toyko this time). It doesn't travel in space, threaten the moon, or try to stop the Earth from rotating.

Directors Hashimoto and Kizer tried to created a tragic figure out of Godzilla. He tried to tell us that we shouldn't blame Godzilla for its actions since it was created by nature for a specific purpose. But modern audiences are just too sophisticated to fall for that crap. When a 100-ton monster squashes us out of existence, we just have to blame something more than nature.