Editor’s Note- The version reviewed here is the “uncut, uncensored” version of the film.
If the operatic, saturnine orchestral score from Reijiro Koroku is any indication, Godzilla 1984 was intended to be a return to the Godzilla of 1954- brooding, solemn and prescient about the doomsday device that could catastrophically inseminate Armageddon. It’s a very noble attempt to encapsulate that atomic-age atmosphere of dread but at this point in the franchise, the film shouldn’t be so joyless and enervated.
Aboard a Japanese fishing vessel, all the crew members are desiccated corpses but Godzilla isn’t the culprit. A sea louse has devoured the inhabitants en masse. What should be a nerve-trembling experience is hamstrung by the meretricious, rubbery effects of the Shockirus who is clearly gliding on cables and wires.
Much like the other forays in kaiju films, the first quarter is a plodding, expository slog as cabinet prime ministers and journalists quarrel back and forth about their responses to the monster phenomenon again. Even when the citizens are confabulating about Godzilla’s resurgence from a volcanic eruption, there is no race-against-the-clock tension or sense of urgency. It’s a redundant section that every suitimation must belabor through in order to be sufficed with wanton destruction on the Japanese skyscrapers and landmarks.
On the positive side, I’ll always prefer practical suits over titivated visual effects. A stuntman peregrinating over cities and the cars below is always lambent. The version I watched for reviewing purposes has redacted the North American addendum of Raymond Burr reprising his role as Steve Martin. The downside is Godzilla is off-screen for a protracted chunk of the beginning.
However, his re-entry at the power plant at the 35-minute mark is impressively anticipatory as the camera tilts upward from his feet. Despite the few ingratiating aspects, Godzilla 1984 is a soporific clunker when the title reptile isn’t disintegrating scale models of factories and nuclear reactors.