The Return of Godzilla (1984)
Director: Koji Hashimoto
Starring: Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yosuke Natsuki, Keiju Kobayashi, Shin Takuma & Kenpachiro Satsuma
Released by: Kraken Releasing
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
A direct sequel to the original Japanese classic, The Return of Godzilla finds the gargantuan monster awakening following a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island. With a local sea vessel left destroyed and only one surviving mate, a young Tokyo reporter, joined by a brilliant professor and his assistant’s technological advancements, seek to stop the destructive beast before nuclear means bring an end to the attacked country.
Following flailing box-office returns and decreased interest in their once treasured franchise, Toho would seek to rejuvenate their nuclear powered star after nearly a decade of hibernation and false starts. Excluding any monster-sized costars and recapturing the darker tone of its originator, The Return of Godzilla is a powerhouse redemption that makes the titular character once again a menacing force to be reckoned with under a clout of anti-nuclear sublimation, heightened by the real world fears of Cold War armageddon. Awarded an increased budget and a higher stature for Godzilla than ever before, the long-awaited sequel impresses with detailed miniature sets of the bustling metropolis, a robotically controlled and emotionally prevalent head for its monster, and franchise veteran Kenpachiro Satsuma (Godzilla VS. Hedorah, Godzilla VS. Biollante) bringing destructive grace to the character under its rubber suit. After Godzilla’s return is quietly downplayed by the government and an attacked Soviet submarine increases tension between the region and the United States, the truth of Japan’s ultimate destructor can no longer be contained. As diplomats and the military scramble to combat expected attacks from the monster, local reporter Goro Maki (Tanaka), Godzilla survivor Hiroshi Okumura (Takuma), his sister Naoko (Sawaguchi) and the noted Professor Hayashida (Natsuki) develop an experimental homing device to lure the beast away from civilization. As other nations gear up for defense, a destructive Soviet missile is accidentally launched creating further chaos and increased energy for the battered Godzilla. Skyline rampages and explosive wreckage ensues before the civilians succeed in luring the King of the Monsters to the actively volcanic Mt. Mihara in hopes of a fatal eruption.
While the bulk of its runtime is regulated to governmental squabbling and laboratory developments to thwart the beast, The Return of Godzilla makes the wait well worth it with an entertainingly catastrophic third act that pits Godzilla against the armored fortress known as Super X that temporarily defuses the enemy with cadmium shells. Earning Japan’s Academy Award for Special Effects, The Return of Godzilla would prove moderately successful for the studio with overseas versions, namely New World Pictures’ Americanized Godzilla 1985 effort, making controversial changes and drifting away from its intendedly darker approach. Regardless of its preferred viewing form (presented here only in its uncut original incarnation), The Return of Godzilla succeeds in diminishing the colorful hero of sorts the character evolved into and reverting the beast and the franchise back to its gloomier roots of nuclear devastation.
Kraken Releasing presents The Return of Godzilla with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Repurposing the master utilized on its Japanese counterpart, quality appears relatively dated and lacking sharpness in skin tones while, select costume choices featuring bolder colors pop appropriately. While no severe age-related scratches or scuffs are on hand, black levels are serviceable yet, suffer from inherent graininess. Although not quite as desirably crisp as hoped for, The Return of Godzilla looks as good as to be expected. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Japanese dialect, joined by English subtitles (including burned-in captions applied over occasional non-Japanese dialogue), is satisfactory while missile blasts, building destruction and Godzilla’s iconic roar suffer from lackluster pushes on the track. In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English mix has also been included. Unfortunately minimal, bonus features include, a Theatrical Promo (3:03) and an Also Available from Kraken Releasing section featuring trailers for Ebirah - Horror of the Deep (2:16), Godzilla VS. Gigan (2:11) and Godzilla VS. Hedorah (2:09).
Anxiously awaited although hardly definitive with the legally convoluted Godzilla 1985 cut notably absent, The Return of Godzilla, presented in its original uncut Japanese glory, ranks as one of the series’ best offerings that channels the original film’s anti-nuclear message and returns the radioactive breathing monster back to his villainous standing. Continuing their domestic releases of the Godzilla franchise, Kraken Releasing welcomes the 1984 sequel with serviceable grades that while imperfect, will leave fans satisfied enough to fill the void in their monster collections with.
Available September 13th from Kraken Releasing, The Return of Godzilla can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.