The Return of Godzilla (ゴジラ?, lit. Godzilla) is a Gojira1984 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Toho Company Ltd., and the sixteenth installment in the Godzilla series, as well as the first in the Heisei series. The film was released to Japanese theaters on December 15, 1984, and to American theaters on August 23, 1985.
A Japanese fishing vessel, the Yahata Maru, is trying to find its way to shore in a fierce storm while near an uninhabited island, when a giant monster appears and attacks the boat. The next morning, reporter Goro Maki finds the vessel intact but deserted. As he explores the vessel, Goro finds all the crew dead with their bodily fluids seemingly drained except for one young man called Hiroshi Okumura, who has been badly wounded. Suddenly a giant sea louse attacks Goro but is eventually killed when Hiroshi regains consciousness and stabs it with a hatchet, saving Goro's life.
In Tokyo, Okumura is kept isolated in a hospital room and meets with Doctor Hayashida, who presents him with pictures of Godzilla attacking Tokyo from back in 1954. From looking at the pictures, Okumura confirms that the monster he saw was Godzilla. The news of Godzilla's return is kept secret by the Japanese government to avoid panic until Godzilla attacks a second time and destroys a Soviet nuclear submarine. However, the Russians believe the attack was orchestrated by the Americans, and a diplomatic crisis ensues which threatens to escalate into nuclear war. The Japanese intervene and finally announce that Godzilla was behind the attack. The Japanese arrange a meeting with the Russian and American ambassadors and, after some debate over the issue, Prime Minister Mitamura decides nuclear weapons will not be used on Godzilla even if he were to attack the Japanese mainland, an announcement that both the Americans and Russians are upset with. The J.S.D.F. are put on alert and begin to search for Godzilla. Meanwhile, the Russians have their own plans to counter the threat posed by Godzilla, and a Russian control ship disguised as a freighter called the Balashevo in Tokyo Harbor is outfitted to launch a nuclear missile from one of their orbiting satellites should Godzilla attack. Kashirin, the colonel in charge of the ship, reluctantly orders the nuclear device to be disarmed, as the Soviet government ultimately agrees with the Prime Minister's demands.
Soon, Godzilla appears on an island off the coast of Japan, determined to feed off a nuclear power plant in the outskirts of Mihama. When Godzilla attacks the facility near Mihama and feeds off the reactor, he is distracted by a flock of birds, and leaves the facility almost as quickly as he arrived. After some research, Hayashida determines that like birds, Godzilla follows the Earth's magnetic field in order to navigate, and that he can be lured to any location using a magnetic transmitter. Hayashida forms a plan to construct a transmitter and lure Godzilla to Mount Mihara on Oshima Island, where he will be trapped in the volcano's crater with a controlled eruption.
Godzilla is later sighted at Tokyo Bay, forcing mass evacuations out of the city and a state of emergency is declared. The J.S.D.F. attacks Godzilla with fighter jets, but their missiles are useless against him. Godzilla then proceeds to the coast, where the waiting military forces, equipped with tanks, rocket launchers and soldiers armed with assault rifles, proceeds to fire on Godzilla, but they are quickly obliterated with a single blast of Godzilla's atomic breath. As Godzilla climbs ashore, he causes the Balashevo to crash into the shore and capsize, damaging its systems and causing the nuclear missile to launch. The ship's captain, Colonel Kashirin, bravely attempts to disarm the missile, but is killed by a small explosion before he can do so. Godzilla then proceeds towards Tokyo's business district, wreaking havoc along the way. There, he is confronted by two Hyper Laser Cannons and the Super X, a piloted craft armed with cadmium weapons constructed in secret to defend Tokyo in case of emergency, in particular a nuclear attack.
Godzilla has a bad reaction to the cadmium shells that are fired into his mouth by the Super X, and falls down unconscious. Unfortunately, the city is faced with a greater threat when the countdown ends and the Russian missile is launched from the satellite, leaving the Japanese government and people helpless to stop it. However, the Americans intervene and shoot down the missile with one of their own before it can hit Tokyo. However, the atmospheric nuclear blast creates a radioactive electrical storm, which revives Godzilla once more.
Godzilla has a final battle with the Super X, eventually damaging the aircraft and forcing it to make an emergency landing where he destroys it by toppling a building on it. Godzilla continues his rampage, until Professor Hayashida arrives on Oshima Island and activates his magnetic transmitter, which gets Godzilla's attention. Godzilla leaves Tokyo and swims across the ocean to volcanic Mt. Mihara, where he notices the signal device, which fascinates him. As he walks towards it, he falls into the mouth of the volcano where he is surrounded by bombs. Okumura detonates the charges and causes a volcanic eruption. Godzilla roars as the ground beneath him crumbles and he falls into the volcano's crater, his fate unknown.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Koji Hashimoto
- Written by Shuichi Nagahara
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Music by Reijiro Koroku
- Cinematography by Kazutami Hara
- Edited by Yoshitami Kuroiwa
- Production Design by Akira Sakuragi, Yasuyuki Inoue
- Assistant Directing by Teruyoshi Nakano
- Special Effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, Shinji Higuchi (uncredited)
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki
- Yasuko Sawaguchi as Naoko Okumura
- Yosuke Natsuki as Dr. Hayashida
- Keiju Kobayashi as Prime Minister Mitamura
- Shin Takuma as Hiroshi Okumura
- Eitaro Ozawa as Finance Minister Kanzaki
- Hiroshi Koizumi as Geologist Minami
- Mizuho Suzuki as Foreign Minister Emori
- Taketoshi Naito as Chief Cabinet Secretary Takegami
- Junkichi Orimoto as Director-General of the Defense Agency
- Kei Sato as Chief Editor Gondo
- Tetsuya Takeda as Homeless Man
- Sho Hashimoto as Captain of Super X
- Nobuo Kaneko as Home Affairs Minister Isomura
- Takenori Emoto as Desk Editor Kitagawa
- Kunio Murai as Secretary Henmi
- Yoshifumi Tajima as Environemental Director General Hidaka
- Shigeo Kato as Captain of the Yahata Maru
- Koji Ishizaka as Power Plant Guard
- Raymond Burr as Steve Martin (U.S. version)
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
After acquiring The Return of Godzilla for distribution in North America, New World Pictures changed the title to Godzilla 1985. The company radically re-edited the film. Most significantly, they added around ten minutes of new footage, most of it set at the Pentagon, with Raymond Burr reprising his role as Steve Martin from Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.
Much of the original version was deleted or altered:
- Shortened and altered: During the film's opening, instead of seeing the crew of the Yahata Maru's reaction after Godzilla roars, the film cuts to a shot of Steve Martin.
- Shortened: Goro's fight with Shockirus, the louse's screech was also changed.
- Deleted: Goro calling his editor from an island.
- Deleted: Professor Hayashida showing Okumura photographs of Godzilla's 1954 attack and later discussing Shockirus with an aide at the police hospital.
- Shortened: The scene where Naoko learns her brother is alive; Goro snaps pictures of them reunited, which angers Naoko because she realizes he only helped her in order to get the scoop.
- Shortened: The meeting between the Japanese Prime Minister and the Russian and American ambassadors. Also deleted was a scene after the meeting in which the prime minister explains to his aides how he was able to reach a consensus with both sides. Furthermore, this scene appears before Godzilla's attack on the nuclear power plant in the American version, whereas in the Japanese version it appears afterwords.
- Deleted: Hayashada and Naoko making a wave generator.
- Altered: Godzilla's first attack on the nuclear power plant.
- Added: Part of Christopher Young's score from Def-Con 4 in several scenes (including Godzilla's attack on the Soviet submarine, the scene where the SDF armored division arrives in Tokyo Bay, and Okumura's near-death experience during the helicopter extraction in Tokyo).
- Deleted: A shot of an American nuclear missile satellite in space (probably done in order to make America appear less aggressive).
- Altered: Almost all of Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo. Scenes of a crowd fleeing Godzilla that appeared later in the Japanese print were moved to an earlier point in the movie (and corresponding footage of them gathering around Godzilla after he is knocked out by the Super X was removed), the Super X fight was re-arranged (in the Japanese version, Godzilla fires his atomic ray at the Super X after being hit with cadmium missiles, not before), and various other scenes of destruction were either placed in a different order or deleted completely. Some fans were particularly upset by the removal of a shot showing Godzilla reflected in the windows of a large skyscraper during the scene in which he attacks the Bullet Train.
- Deleted: Almost all shots which employed a life-size replica of Godzilla's foot (mostly seen near the end); only one shot of the big foot crushing parked cars during the nuclear power plant scene was kept.
- Added: When Godzilla falls into the erupting Mount Mihara, he screams at a high pitch. This scream was actually recorded by Toho and was included in the international version of the film, but was removed from the Japanese theatrical cut for unknown reasons. Godzilla's roars prior to falling into the volcano are also different in the U.S. version.
- Added: Stock footage from the original Godzilla during one of the new scenes set in the Pentagon.
The most controversial change was the scene where the Russian officer Colonel Kashirin valiantly attempts to stop the launch of a nuclear weapon. New World edited the scene and added a brief shot of Kashirin pressing the launch button so that Kashirin actually launches the nuclear weapon. This and a few other changes pertaining to the Americans and Soviets were likely due to Cold War tensions at the time, in order to portray the United States in a more benevolent light and portray the Soviets as villainous.
The new scenes set in the Pentagon have been similarly controversial among fans. Many take issue with the comedic dialogue spoken by the American characters and their lack of contribution to the plot of the film. Also infamous is the product placement for Dr Pepper, as a Dr Pepper machine is seen multiple times in the scenes set in the Pentagon, with one character even shown drinking a can of Dr Pepper. However, Raymond Burr's performance has been generally more well-received and appreciated, especially by fans of his performance in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Reportedly, New World wanted to dub and re-edit the film into a tongue-in-cheek parody, but Raymond Burr, taking the message of the original Godzilla very seriously, convinced them to keep the film relatively serious and delivered all of his lines in a straightforward and serious manner that was meant to be respectful to the film and the character of Godzilla. Burr's character even shows noticeable annoyance and displeasure at an army major's jokes about the destruction Godzilla causes.
The American version has caused some confusion as to the identity of the Godzilla featured in the film. While the Japanese version never specifies whether it is meant to be the same Godzilla from 1954, having somehow survived the Oxygen Destroyer, or an entirely different Godzilla (later clarified in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, which establishes it is a separate Godzilla), the American version takes measures to imply it is the original Godzilla. At one point, Steve Martin even says that "Thirty years ago, they never found any corpse." The American version also states that Godzilla first attacked Tokyo in 1956, the year that Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released in the United States, rather than 1954.
In addition, the theatrical release, and most home video versions, was accompanied by Marv Newland's short cartoon, Bambi Meets Godzilla.
The American version, even with the added Raymond Burr footage, only runs 87 minutes; 16 minutes shorter than the Japanese print.
It is interesting to note that Raymond Burr's character is never referred to by his full name, only as "Martin" or "Mr. Martin", for the entirety of the U.S. version, though the end credits list him as "Steven Martin." This was to avoid association with comedian Steve Martin, who had begun to become quite popular around the time this film was released in America.
The closing narration, spoken by Raymond Burr, is as follows:
|“||Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up the terrible offspring of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster, has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.||„|
New World released Godzilla 1985 on VHS in the late 1980's and early 1990's following its theatrical release. When New World was acquired by 20th Century Fox in 1997, the home video rights to its library of films released from 1984 to 1991, including Godzilla 1985, were acquired by Anchor Bay Entertainment, who also acquired the rights to several other Godzilla films from the Showa series, including Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla. Anchor Bay released its entire collection of Godzilla films on VHS in 1997 in anticipation of the upcoming American Godzilla film, only for its rights to revert to Toho immediately afterward. While Anchor Bay's other Godzilla films were acquired by new distributors, primarily Classic Media and Sony, legal issues arose regarding who held the rights to Godzilla 1985, and as a result the film was withheld from distribution in North America until 2016. Toho eventually reached an agreement with Kraken Releasing, who had recently released Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Gigan on DVD and Blu-ray, allowing them to release The Return of Godzilla on DVD and Blu-ray in North America for the first time, marking the first official Region 1 release of the film since Anchor Bay's 1997 VHS release. However, due to the ongoing rights issues regarding Godzilla 1985, Kraken's DVD and Blu-ray releases will only include the original uncut Japanese version of the film, along with the international English dub track.
The Return of Godzilla was a reasonable success in Japan, with attendance figures at approximately 3,200,000 and the box office gross being approximately $11 million. In terms of total attendance, it was the most popular Godzilla film since 1966's Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.
The American release of the film, Godzilla 1985, however, failed to ignite the North American box office. Opening on August 23, 1985, in 235 North American theaters, the film grossed $509,502 in its opening weekend, on its way to a lackluster $4,116,395 total gross.
New World's budget for Godzilla 1985 consisted of $500,000 to lease the film from Toho, $200,000 for filming the new scenes and other revisions, and $2,500,000 for prints and advertising, adding up to a grand total of approximately $3,200,000. Taking this in consideration, Godzilla 1985, though not a hit, proved to be profitable for New World, and the profit would increase with home video and television revenue.
The New World version of the film was almost universally lambasted by North American critics, receiving only a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 8 reviews. Roger Ebert, who gave the film a mere one star in the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote: "The filmmakers must have known that the original Godzilla had many loyal fans all over the world who treasured the absurd dialogue, the bad lip-synchronizing, the unbelievable special effects, the phony profundity. So they have deliberately gone after the same inept feeling in Godzilla 1985. Examples: Dialogue: Is so consistently bad that the entire screenplay could be submitted as an example. My favorite moment occurs when the hero and heroine are clutching each other on a top floor of a skyscraper being torn apart by Godzilla and the professor leaps into the shot, says "What has happened here?" and leaps out again without waiting for an answer. Lip-synchronizing: Especially in the opening shots, there seems to be a subtle effort to exaggerate the bad coordination between what we see and what we hear. All lip-sync is a little off, of course, but this movie seems to be going for condescending laughs from knowledgeable film-goers. Special effects: When Godzilla marches on Tokyo, the buildings are the usual fake miniature models, made out of paint and cardboard. The tip off is when he rips a wall off a high-rise, and nothing falls out. That's because there is nothing inside."
Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who had given a positive review to Godzilla vs. Megalon nine years earlier, was similarly unimpressed:
"Though special-effects experts in Japan and around the world have vastly improved their craft in the last 30 years, you wouldn't know it from this film. Godzilla, who is supposed to be about 240 feet tall, still looks like a wind-up toy, one that moves like an arthritic toddler with a fondness for walking through teeny-tiny skyscrapers instead of mud puddles. Godzilla 1985 was shot in color but its sensibility is that of the black-and-white Godzilla films of the 1950s. What small story there is contains a chaste romance and lots of references to the lessons to be learned from "this strangely innocent but tragic creature." The point seems to be that Godzilla, being a "living nuclear bomb," something that cannot be destroyed, must rise up from time to time to remind us of the precariousness of our existence. One can learn the same lesson almost any day on almost any New York street corner."
One of the few positive reviews came from Joel Siegel of Good Morning America, who is quoted on New World's newspaper ads as saying, "Hysterical fun...the best Godzilla in thirty years!"
This is a list of references for The Return of Godzilla. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: