Here we are. The Showa Era is behind us, and we’re ready for a new and fresh start on the Godzilla franchise in 1984. Except it really wasn’t very good. Maybe I’ve watched too many of these too soon. Maybe this was just a rocky reboot. I’m not entirely sure, but you can bet I have some thoughts about it so let’s dig in.
I have been eagerly anticipating a more modern take on the franchise. I mean surely the special effects of the 1980’s could produce a better looking monster film? Sadly, I’m guessing the effects team snorted up the effects budget off a hooker’s ass because this really wasn’t what I was hoping for. The Godzilla costume looked pretty awful to me. In previous entries, you know it’s a guy in a rubber suit, but somehow there is a charm to the person in the suit which is relayed into what you see on the screen. Here I would say this is quite literally just a guy in a rubber suit. I didn’t feel like the care and—dare I say, love—for the character was there. The children of the previous generation took over and just don’t have that same level of attachment I guess, and the costume itself was pretty mediocre, in my opinion.
There are some vibes of the times though. I remember growing up in the 80’s with the Cold War. Sure it was on the way out, but I caught the tail end of it and still remember having what to do in case of nuclear war taught right alongside what to do if you’re caught around a tornado. That was the day and age. It was rapidly declining, and the Berlin Wall being torn down pretty much signaled the end of it, but we’re not to that point yet. So in The Return of Godzilla, we get to see a third party caught between the US and USSR with Japan hesitant to tell the world that what destroyed that Russian submarine was not an American ship, but Godzilla. They did not want this secret getting out, but circumstances dictated otherwise lest nuclear war break out.
So you can see how far the world and this series has come. What started out as kind of a reflective look at monsters and how to stop them has kind of come full circle with the big super powers standing toe-to-toe against each other with the same weapons you stop a monster with. That posturing that was so prevalent in the news is copied over to cinema and captured for future generations. I know people will probably watch this and think, “He,y that’s interesting,” but having lived through it, you have a completely different feel for things. Maybe nostalgia, but there was a definite fear of Rocky and Drago duking it out with the big guns for real.
Unfortunately, when those same super powers learn about Godzilla, they decide that nukes are the answer. So the Japanese officials have to talk everyone down from the ledge lest a lot of devastation gets rained down. Also unfortunate is the missed opportunity to nuke Godzilla into super Godzilla. There was a bit of a scare with a misfired nuke, but it didn’t amount to anything. Godzilla was knocked down by other means and the nuke taken out while still in orbit. I feel like Godzilla being super charged by getting nuked would be a thing of wonder to behold, but that wasn’t to be.
I did enjoy the human aspect of the story even though this was kind of a reboot that used the original film as a template. We start off with Godzilla sinking a boat, which I’m pretty sure was how the original was too. There is a survivor whom the government hides so that the secret of Godzilla wandering around doesn’t get out. The journalist who finds him digs around because he’s a curious journalist of course and then there is the sister of the survivor who ends up in the arms of the journalist because every Godzilla monster flick needs some sort of love interest. Of course we have a scientist who can outdo all the military might with something science-y because that is also a trope of these films. Even with how similar everything was, I really enjoyed the cast interacting. I think this was a very strong aspect of this entry.
Unfortunately, this just didn’t come together very well for me. Godzilla just looked flat, but the cast was pretty good. Still not enough to really offset each other, and I’m down to a 2.5/5 star rating. I was hoping for better, but got the worse.