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Film / The Return of Godzilla

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"General, I hope you succeed. But no matter what happens: Godzilla will live."
Steve Martin

The sixteenth Godzilla film, also known as just Godzilla or Godzilla 1984, and first after a nearly decade long break. It is a direct sequel to the original Godzilla (even sharing the title in Japan) and ignores all other films. Godzilla returns after a thirty years absence and in the midst of high Cold War tensions between the U.S.A. and Soviets. It is the first Godzilla film to feature Kenpachiro Satsuma in the role of Godzilla, and it would be the last movie to not feature any Ifukube music until 2002's Godzilla X Mechagodzilla.

Still produced in the actual reign of Emperor Shōwa, it is discernibly a bridge between the old and the new eras of Godzilla. The special effects, helmed by series veteran Teruyoshi Nakano, give the film a classic look while still easing the transition into the Heisei series. Several recognizable actors from the "golden age" of Toho are present, some albeit in minor roles.

Was released theatrically in the United States the following year in the heavily altered form of Godzilla 1985, which like Godzilla: King of the Monsters! before it, compressed the plot and included new scenes once again featuring Raymond Burr as Steve-*ahem*, Mr. Martin, filmed by a low budget American unit, though their integration and usefulness leans towards the often panned Americanizations of Half Human, King Kong vs. Godzilla and Tidal Wave (also distributed by New World).

Kraken Releasing (a label of Section23 Films) has finally acquired the rights to Return of Godzilla and will be releasing it on DVD and Blu-Ray, though this release will not include the Americanized version of the film due to legal issues surrounding it.

Production-wise, it was proceeded by Terror of Mechagodzilla. In continuity, it follows Godzilla (1954), and it is followed by Godzilla vs. Biollante.

This film contains examples of the following:

  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the US cut, Naoko is interpreted as a girl who misses her brother and shy around Maki. In the Japanese version, she hates him in the first half of the film due to Maki using her to reunite with Hiroshi, and call him out for it after Godzilla was publically revealed.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The Russians in New World's edit. In the original, the missile guidance ship Balashevo is damaged by Godzilla and sends out the signal for a satellite to launch an ICBM at Tokyo, with Colonel Kashirin bravely trying to stop the launch sequence before dying in a small explosion onboard the ship; in the New World edit, Kashirin exclaims that he ‘must launch that missile!’ and activates the launch sequence himself... only to die in a small explosion anyway.
    • Godzilla himself is notably more aggressive in the 1985 version. Unlike the original, it's strongly implied he stepped on both the security guard who first sees him at the power plant and the bum later on. Professor Hayashita's signal also causes him to attack the building he's on, whereas in Return he simply stood fascinated by it until the military attacked him.
  • Advertised Extra: The bum (Tetsuya Takeda) is shown in the poster along with Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka), Hiroshi Okumura (Shin Takuma), Naoko Okumura (Yasuko Sawaguchi), Makoto Hayashida (Yosuke Natsuki), and the Prime Minister (Seiki Mitamura). He only shows up when Godzilla attacks Tokyo in the third act.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Though Godzilla is clearly the antagonist, the film treats him sympathetically, particularly towards the end when he unleashes a sad roar as he plummets down the volcano. In the closing monologue, Burr even refers to him as a "strangely innocent and Tragic Monster."
    • Teruyoshi Nakano suggested Godzilla's eyes to emote a touch of sorrow. Director Koji Hashimoto stated in an interview "The existence of Godzilla itself is a dilemma. Godzilla is a living conflict of evil and sadness."
      • If you watched the Japanese original version before the New World Dub, Kashirin becomes this. In the original film, he's a heroic character who dies trying to stop the Kill Sat from activating. In the New World Dub, he's just a heartless Russian who's way too eager to use the Nukes before Uncle Sam.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Sort of. There was a "love theme" used to promote the American version, although the song never appeared in the movie itself and wasn't even originally written for it.
  • Armored Coffins: The Super X turns into one for its crew. While specifically stated to have been constructed to defend Japan, exactly what it was supposed to defend against was not so specific. We can assume Godzilla was not included in the mission parameters. Official sources state that it was to defend Japan from nuclear accidents or military invasions.
  • Armor Is Useless: Subverted. The Super X is made out of space-age materials and given a special coating that allows it to withstand Godzilla's atomic ray; however, it only works for a limited number of blasts, and it does nothing to stop a skyscraper falling on top of it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In the Japanese version, the Prime Minister tells his aides that he was able to make the American and Russian representatives understand Japan's "no nuclear" policy by asking them what they would do if Godzilla attacked their own countries. In the manga adaptation, the Prime Minister is actually shown asking them this question, and so the sequence with the aides is removed. This was cut from the American version, for some reason.
    "I asked them: Gentlemen, if Godzilla were to attack Washington or Moscow, would you have the courage to use nuclear weapons, knowing that many of your own people would be killed? It was then that they finally understood."
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Russian dialogue in 1985, specifically "I have to stop it!" being subtitled as "I've got to launch that missile!" when Kashrin "launches" the missile from the Kill Sat.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Godzilla 1985's minimalistic theatrical trailer sets up the film as a reintroduction to a famous retiree film star (with lots of Stealth Pun comments, like "the height of his fame"), before revealing said star to be...Godzilla!
  • Bilingual Dialogue: In the Japanese version, the conversations with the diplomatic discussion to use nuclear weapons on Godzilla are as follows: The Prime Minister: Japanese (obviously), the American Ambassador (English), and the USSR ambassador (Russian). In the English version, The Prime Minister speaks English while the Russian ambassador still speaks Russian. Averted entirely in the International version, where everyone has been re-dubbed into English, the U.S. envoy included.
  • Book Ends: This film was made in the late Showa Era of Japan, making this the last movie of Japan's, not Godzilla's Showa era in Japan. The series would continue with Godzilla vs. Biollante in the form of the Heisei era.
  • Breath Weapon: Godzilla's atomic ray.
  • Cold War: This film was made, and takes place, during the Cold War. The Cold War is in fact integral to the plot, as Godzilla himself almost turns the Cold War into World War III.
  • Continuity Reboot: This film ignores majority of the Showa series (ironically, it is part of the era, but it's considered part of the Heisei series) while Godzilla (1954) is the only film not to be ignored in the Showa-Era. This tradition continues in the Millennium series.
  • Credits Medley: Godzilla 1985 substitutes the vocal synth-pop Goodbye Godzilla ballad with a simple mix of some of Koroku and Young's themes.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: Non-video game example. The American version places the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters! in 1956, while Japanese continuity of the Heisei films likewise places the events of the first film in 1954 instead.
  • Darker and Edgier: Not that Terror of Mechagodzilla was cheerful but aliens and robot monsters are replaced with a possible nuclear holocaust and a scary Godzilla. Plus, Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted to restore the dark themes of the original Godzilla.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Russian captain delivers one, saying, "A whale doesn't send out sonar" when asked if a whale is what they're picking up on their own sonar.
    • Maki in response to Okumura in 1985. "I know why. It's very simple. He had enough to eat".
    • Major McDonough delivers "That's uh, quite an urban renewal program they got over there" as Godzilla levels his way through metropolitan Tokyo, to Steve Martin's annoyance. And the best part is that Raymond Burr actually (temporarily) broke character during that scene. It shows his displeasure of trying to turn the film Lighter and Softer.
    • Martin sardonically recalls the effects of the 1962 Starfish Prime nuclear test after McDonough assures the EMP from the stratospheric explosion is "absolutely harmless".
  • Death by Irony: See Mythology Gag below. In the first film, it is the engineer's failure to stop the train which results in an accident, while here, it would've been wiser to let the bullet train just keep on going, as Godzilla decides to have a little fun with a car before tossing it aside.
  • Dub Induced Plothole: In 1985, Colonel Kashirin deliberately launches a nuclear missile intending to kill Godzilla with it, but in the Cabinet scene taking place after, the Prime Minister's aide tells him that it was on accident like in the original cut. Though it can be interpreted as the Japanese not knowing it was on purpose.
  • Dub Name Change: Hiroshi Okumura's first name is given as Ken in Godzilla 1985. Interestingly, his name is still rendered as Hiroshi in the end credits.
    • Godzilla is just called Kǒnglóng, or "Dinosaur" in the Mandarin video dub. This renaming seems to be in accordance with the retitling of many of the films in Taiwan.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Downplayed as the Heisei era has a pretty consistent continuity from here to Destoroyah (the Super X for instance is brought back and modified 2 more times after this film), but characters like Miss Miki Saegusa are nowhere to be seen here, nor is the concept of psychics brought up once in this movie. Subsequently, aside from Godzilla vs. Biollante, the characters of this movie and their actions sans the Prime Minister are never brought up again after this.
    • Along with this, the Godzilla’s design in this movie differs from the otherwise fairly consistent look of the Hesei era designs.
  • End of an Era: As a Showa Godzilla film (as in the era it was made in, not in a series), this is the last time Toho would use Godzilla's growls, shrieks (though only in the international versions, including US), and the traditional "End" (終) card to signify the end of the film since Godzilla (1954). Godzilla vs. Biollante and onwards would completely drop these for the Heisei to Reiwa films.
  • Foreshadowing: The flock of birds that take flight just before Godzilla touches ground on mainland Japan. The birds show up few minutes later and distract Godzilla, leading him away from the ruins of the nuclear power plant, leaving our protagonists dumbfounded by his sudden leave.
  • Ghost Ship: The Yahata-Maru.
  • Helicopter Flyswatter: Godzilla shoots down a helicopter that's presumably annoying him. This in turn, destroys a crowded freeway which becomes an Every Car Is a Pinto moment courtesy of stock footage from the infamous Prophecies of Nostradamus.
  • Hong Kong Dub: The export dub is perhaps the most egregious example of whole series in its often poor syllable matching. Especially for the Russian characters.
    • There are a few lines early in the technically superior '1985'' script where obviously shorter syllable words are used in place of what was originally said (e.g. "bakemono", or "monster", dubbed as the blunt "huge").
  • Howl of Sorrow: Godzilla gives one at the end when Mt. Mihara is erupting, and it makes several characters, including the Japanese Prime Minister, very teary-eyed. This only appears in an alternate Japanese mix, the English dub, and U.S. version, however.
  • Inconsistent Dub: Neither English version settles definitively on the pronunciation Naoko's name ("Nay-oko" or the more correct "Now-oko").
  • Intrepid Reporter: Goro Maki. Name seem familiar?
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Inherent to the Russian characters in the export dub.
  • Last-Name Basis: Given that between 1956 and 1985 a certain Steve Martin rose to fame, Raymond Burr's character is only referred to as "Mr. Martin" here.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Godzilla is revived by an electrical storm created by the stratospheric nuclear resolution.
  • Mr. Exposition: Steve Martin and Dr. Hayashida.
  • Mythology Gag: To Godzilla (1954). The opening scene depicts a fishing boat in a middle of a disaster (but in a different case). Goro Maki wants the existence of Godzilla's to be known publicly, despite objections from the government, and despite Godzilla's existence is known, people are still killed anyway when the monster makes his rampage in Tokyo. And Godzilla attacks a train, although in the original movie, the train attack was during his first raid on the mainland, while here it's during his second raid.
  • Never Found the Body: In the American version, Steve Martin makes this claim about the attempt to kill Godzilla with the Oxygen Destroyer back in 1956.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Maki's intent to release of the story of the appearance of Godzilla and bringing Okumura's sister to to see him (only for bringing the news reporters to his hospital room) is the reason why Naoko distrusts him in the second half of the film.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Only more emphasized. Unlike the original film with the same Japanese name, it's the use of nuclear weapons to kill Godzilla. Have they overlooked the fact that nuclear weapons is the reason why Godzilla exists? However, the Japanese Prime Minister still says no to nuclear weapons. It's the Americans and the Russians who want to use them on the monster. If anything, the Americans and the Russians just want to use Godzilla as an excuse to use their nuclear arsenal.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Godzilla's tranquility is interrupted by maser fire and he rushes forward, Hayashida clearly has this look on his face. This can also be felt when the Japanese government hears about the Soviet missile being launched.
  • Ominous Fog: Godzilla evades visual detection from the Defense Force and lands concealed in a dense bank.
  • Only Sane Man: Aside from Steve Martin, in the U.S. cut, the only other sane man on the military's payroll is the brown-haired Colonel who is far more rational than his superior and inferior.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Every single scene in the the New World video version of Godzilla 1985.
  • Plot-Irrelevant Villain: Shockirus, the man-sized, man-eating green lice who wiped out an entire boat crew. Though it doesn't really play much of a role in the plot, the producers probably placed him at the beginning to give Godzilla an Always a Bigger Fish introduction.
  • Plucky Comic Relief:
    • The Bum, played by Tetsuya Takeda. He has a variety of funny antics and lines in the Japanese cut, the New World cut, and the International dub, arguably because of the HK dubber's hammy performance.
      1985: "Don't act like a big shot hick, you just got to town! If you wanna hang around with me you need to learn some manners!"
      HK dub: "Ach! What's the big idea! Get away from me Godzilla! You wanna see the way us city folks live?! What's wrong with ya?!"
    • Kamijo, Maki's photographer, who never speaks a single line in 1985.
    • Major McDonough in Godzilla 1985, who seems to have inherited all the comedic dialogue originally intended for Raymond Burr's character, Steve Martin.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Narrowly averted with the Japanese Government finally letting the world know of Godzilla's existence. If they hadn't, then the USA and the USSR would've started World War III, as Godzilla's destruction of the Russian sub had the USSR in a panic, with the Americans flying into a panic of their own as a reaction to the USSR's panic and finger pointing.
  • Product Placement: In the American release, one of the soldiers is shown drinking Dr Pepper. This Godzilla-themed Dr Pepper commercial was on the air in 1985 to coincide with the film's release.
    • When two Army officers meet in a hallway immediately after Godzilla's appearance, a Dr. Pepper vending machine is dead center in the shot.
  • Proportionately Ponderous Parasites: Shokilas.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Godzilla 1985 reuses some pieces from Christopher Young's score for Def-Con 4 in a few scenes (most notably during the JSDF mobilization alongside Tokyo Bay, and during the helicopter scene right before the third act) which is also present in The Return of Godzilla, however 1985 uses it far more extensively especially during Okamura's struggle with the rescue copter (where as Return lacks the music), it's also used as the ending credits for 1985, since New World owned the rights to both films. It was this overuse of the Def-Con 4 theme in the credits for 1985 is why the American version has yet to be released on DVD.
  • Red Shirt Army: Godzilla annihilates the landing forces as they continue to blast him, with obviously no effect.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The red clouds and sky produced by the nuclear missile explosion in atmosphere, which is actually kind of pretty, if you forget what caused it in the first place.
  • Reveal Shot: Godzilla gets a dramatic pan up from the ground, when he is seen by the nuclear facility’s guard.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Following several films where he was a straight up heroic character, Godzilla is once again portrayed as an antagonistic yet tragic figure, like the original 1954 incarnation.
  • Revival: After nine years of absence from the big screen, Godzilla returned with a vengeance.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Martin is seen thumbing a taichi amulet, the significance of which is never revealed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Godzilla's second fight with the Super X is actually one of these. He clearly recognizes the Super X, and he is very, very pissed from it trying and nearly succeeding to kill him. Tokyo's business district is thoroughly trashed by the end of the second fight, though not quite to the same extent as the 1954 film.
  • Scenery Gorn: Unlike the first film, Godzilla's invasion is more of a stroll. And unlike the first film, he (interestingly enough) doesn't destroy Tokyo as thoroughly.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Colonel Kashrin in attempting to stop the nuclear satellite from deploying its missile.
  • Shout-Out: The scene where Hayashida shows Okumura photographs of Godzilla's original attack in the hospital is reminiscent of a scene in Rodan where Shigeru is shown photos of the Meganulon to jog his amnesiac memory. Okumura has Shigeru's same horrified expression.
  • Shown Their Work: Godzilla is attracted to the calls of birds because, as a dinosaur himself, he is related to them, something which is addressed in the movie itself. Keep in mind this was made in a time when the link between dinosaurs and birds was still a topic of much debate between the scientific community.
  • Signs of the End Times: Hayashida views Godzilla's existence as one since monsters often appear in mythological tellings of the end times.
  • Sole Survivor: Hiroshi Okumura survives the sea louse attack on the Yatamaru, and Goro Maki helps him get to the mainland.
  • Stock Footage: It's easy to miss prior to repeated viewings, but the movie lifts some stock footage from Submersion of Japan and Prophecies of Nostradamus for some of Godzilla's distruction. For continuity purposes, scenes from the original film are used for the American version.
  • Story Reset: Set after the first film, disregarding previous canon.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: The sea louse's death by Okumura's hatchet.
  • Tragic Monster: In the American version, Godzilla is referred to by both Steve Martin and Professor Hayashida as a victim of mankind's use of nuclear weapons. Ironically enough, the U.S. cut of the film presents Godzilla as an angry jerk with a chip on his shoulder whereas the original Japanese version characterizes Godzilla as a confused, lost thing not so much actively destroying Tokyo as much as exploring.
    • Martin outright calls him this during his final monologue.
    • Interestingly enough, none of the re-edits done to make Godzilla seem more aggressive are specified in an earlier draft of the screenplay.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The citizens of Tokyo are definitely not that bright to just crowd around an unconscious Godzilla after the Super X knocks him out during his rampage. The moment he wakes up, they become instant targets of his wrath. This is changed in the American cut, where the only casualties are the ones simply unfortunate enough not to evacuate in time.
  • The Tramp: The bum, who is actually credited as "Tramp" in 1985's credits.
  • Unstoppable Rage: When Godzilla sees the Super X, after waking up, he remembers what it did to him, which in turn leads to Roaring Rampage of Revenge described above.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Whatever happened to that patrol helicopter that Godzilla surfaced in front of in Tokyo Bay? In the Manga adaptation it's destroyed by Godzilla's tail, but in the film it just, well, vanishes. Also, the Bum, who is last seen fainting as Godzilla approaches, is not seen again. (Although the 1985 version edits the scene to imply he was stepped on, to solve this.)


Alternative Title(s): Godzilla 1985


Godzilla Roar

Godzilla marks his entrance with his signature roar

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