“Shot Through the Heart” is a weekly segment in which I rant about a story that means the world to me. Each week we’ll go over a film, book, short story, or game that touched me in ways that are hard to put into words without them just turning into word vomit. This week we discuss my favorite film in the Godzilla franchise – Godzilla vs. Biollante.
We’re less than a week away from a new Godzilla film, and it looks beyond badass. This prompted me to look back on the franchise, to talk about some of the films. In the end I can only choose one favorite, and I searched my soul. I delved the depths, rewatched some crazy shit, and the answer was clear.
That’s right, we’re talking about Godzilla vs. Biollante.
The premise of this is, admittedly, one of the goofier entries in the franchise. This isn’t just Godzilla fighting a giant plant monster, this is him fighting said entity that is actually his own cells fused with that of a flower and a dead girl’s DNA. See, after he gets trapped in a volcano, his cells are used in combination with plantlife to somehow eliminate Japan’s dependence on fossil fuels. When the head scientists daughter is killed in a terrorist attack, he fuses her DNA with that of the flowers in an effort to preserve her soul. Mix that with some Godzilla genetics and boom – Biollante.
Confused yet? Good, because this is a strange little film.
I adore the themes behind this one. Godzilla started as a representation of Japan’s fear of nuclear weaponry, an iconic creature that has lasted over 70 years and has spanned multiple different eras. He’s become synonymous with the country and wanton kaiju destruction. When this dreaded creature proved popular he began to evolve into an antihero, eventually just a full-on hero. Godzilla vs. Biollante, however, is concerned with matters closer to home.
I’m still not super close with my blood-family, but the family that I’ve chosen is one that I would do anything for. I understand the desire to preserve them, to hold onto that love for them and their presence in your life. When Shiragami (very close to the Japanese word “Shinigami,” the gods of death) takes his daughter’s DNA and attempts to give it new life I understand that. I feel it, the desperation behind it. There’s always a need to keep those you’ve lost around, have their light fill your life beyond the end of their own, and his attempt hits home for me. Knowing what she becomes, the raging plant-creature that is my favorite kaiju to date is meaningful as well. Our memories are faulty, and how we remember people are clouded by nostalgia. I’ve lost a lot of people in my time, and I remember a lot of them in a bright light. Sure, not all of my time with them was perfect or even pleasant, but after death, my memories evolve to preserve something else.
Of course, outside of all this, there’s also a terrorist in a black trenchcoat with sunglasses and a penchant for being a crack shot. It’s not all heavy metaphor and depressing reality. This is a Godzilla movie, after all.
And why not go cheesy? This franchise is built on it, a series of ham and cheese sandwiches that feature everything from baby kaiju that adorably learn to breath atomic energy to moths with ties to tiny fairy creatures. It’s always been goofy, I would never deny that. Where I latch onto this film is in the darkness it adds to these fights. This isn’t just our big boy fighting another monster, he’s defending the world from a confused young woman that has found herself gifted with immense power and no ability to communicate properly. That is absolutely terrifying to me. The idea that one can awaken in a body not their own, spewing power and massive as hell, is eerie. Top that with the idea that you can go toe-to-toe with the legendary Godzilla and of course it begins to take on a new meaning. The fight scenes are from the Heisei era, which of course would be the second era of Godzilla films (shame on you for not knowing that), and these contain a lot less goofiness than the first era, titled Showa. Here, Godzilla just assaults his enemies without the silly drop-kicks and dances. He’s a giant lizard, and what he sees in front of him is a threat to his domination of the planet.
And these fights are brutal. They’re still people in giant rubber suits, but they feel personal. There’s a sadness to the whole affair that leaves no one happy. Each creature is just struggling, whether for domination or understanding, and their struggles feel personal. Watching them face off is a treat for audiences, particularly those that understand the types of film that this is, and it always brings a smile to my face. I know that’s messed up, given what this film represents, but it gives me endless joy to watch this kind of practical suit-work in action.
This film turned 30 this year, a wonderful milestone, and it remains my favorite Godzilla film. When I first saw it I was a little boy, already in love with these odd films, and I found it in a grocery store VHS rental section. My mom let me rent it and I’ve been in love ever since. It’s one of the hardest to find blu-rays in my collection, and to date, it’s the only onscreen appearance of Biollante (there are a couple Godzilla novels with her starring, but that’s another essay). This strange little wonder manages to be important to this day, being one of the only Godzilla films to delve into the territory of identity and personal issues of its human characters, and allowing this to play out in a giant monster fight. It’s gorgeous, touching, heartbreaking, and vicious in ways that I have a hard time handling. Even through all of that, I revisit it more than any other film in the franchise because of how it makes me feel. I wish it was streaming somewhere so more people could experience it, but you’ll just have to hunt it down. And trust me, it’s worth your time.