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Godzilla 1985 (1984)
Rated PG13

Starring: Raymond Burr, Keiju Kobayashi, and Ken Tanaka

Rating:
***
out of
*****

Well, I have to confess something up front before I write this review. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Godzilla fan. I actually own King Kong vs. Godzilla on videotape. Okay, how's that for sad? Now, I realize that Godzilla films can be viewed in two ways: 1.) As really awful and cheap-looking kiddie fare or 2.) As campy fun that turns the cheap stuff into something to be heralded as fun-to-watch. I subscribe to the second viewpoint. Godzilla 1985 tries to steer the Godzilla series out of the campy realm of things but manages to merely increase the laugh-to-groan ratio. (The new, upcoming 1998 version of Godzilla is expected to use high-tech special effects to make Godzilla more like an honest-to-goodness monster to be scared of rather than laughed at. The new version is completely different in looks and, possibly, origin than the original Japanese version.)

If you remember the old movies like the aforementioned King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Megalon, you can promptly forget them because, according to the timeline this movie uses, those movies never happened. According to Godzilla 1985, Godzilla has emerged from hibernation only once before -- in the original 1956 movie, Godzilla. After he was apparently killed in that film -- of course, he really wasn't -- he decided to hibernate once more, only to re-emerge, I guess, to teach the then-Cold War entangled world about the dangers of nuclear weapons. (Godzilla was created by a nuclear blast during the atomic testing of the 1950's.) How he's supposed to do that, exactly, is unclear.

Godzilla manages to kill the crew of a fishing boat, sink a Russian nuclear sub, munch on a nuclear reactor, and, of course, attack Tokyo. In the common sense scheme of things, this movie is pretty lousy at keeping things together. Godzilla is blamed for the deaths of the fishing crew, but a large, bloodthirsty bug is found on the ship too. Did Godzilla shrink down and attack the crew? Where'd the bug come from? Wouldn't Godzilla have just smashed the ship like he does the sub a few minutes later? Why do Dr. Pepper product placements appear so blatantly? Why does Raymond Burr seem like he was drugged and wheeled onto the set, ala Ironside?

Those are the kinds of questions Godzilla fans love to answer as they howl at the onscreen proceedings. No self-respecting movie fan can take this movie seriously. Usually, the special effects are as half-baked as the script in these movies, but Godzilla 1985 tries to improve on past efforts with new "high low-tech" effects. They're still cheesy, but at least it looks like the effects team tried to make it look good. One shot of Godzilla appearing over a hill looks really impressive. In fact, it made me wish the rest of the movie made it easier to believe this stuff could actually look good.

But, of course, this wouldn't be a typical Japanese monster movie if it did. So, if you're a fan of those types of films, rent it and grab some popcorn and guffaw along with the hideous dialogue dubbing, the stereotypical American military men, the stereotypical Russian villains and the mighty-only-in-the-movies Japanese Army. (Why is it that the Japanese have the most advanced military and space programs in these movies? Hell, according to the Godzilla movies, the Japanese space program was discovering planets beyond Pluto -- and then landing men on them -- as far back as the mid-1960's!)

Trivia: American version director R.J. Kiser went on to direct Hell Comes to Frogtown before becoming a dialog editor on such films as The Lion King and Waiting to Exhale. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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