The Return of Godzilla, released in Japan as Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira), is a Japanese science fiction kaiju film produced by Toho. Directed by Koji Hashimoto, with special effects by Teruyoshi Nakano, the film starred Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, and Yosuke Natsuki.
The sixteenth film in Toho's Godzilla series, it marked the beginning of a rebooted series of Godzilla films that ignores all the films from 1955's Godzilla Raids Again through 1975's Terror of Mechagodzilla. The film acts as a direct sequel to the original 1954 film Godzilla. Produced as part of Godzilla's 30th anniversary, the film returned the series to the darker themes and mood of some of the early films and returned Godzilla to his destructive antagonistic roots.
The film was used as the basis for Godzilla 1985. Edited and with new scenes shot in the United States, Godzilla 1985 was released theatrically in the United States in the Summer of 1985 by New World Pictures. The American version of the film featured Canadian actor Raymond Burr reprising his character Steve Martin, from the film Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, which was also made in the same way.
Three months after a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island, the Yahata-Maru Japanese fishing vessel is caught in strong currents off its shores. As the boat drifts into shore, the island begins to erupt, and a giant monster lifts itself out of the volcano. A few days later, reporter Goro Maki is sailing in the area and finds the vessel intact but deserted. As he explores the vessel, he finds all the crew dead except for one young man called Hiroshi Okumura, who has been badly wounded. Suddenly a giant Shockirus sea louse attacks but is eventually killed with some difficulty.
In Tokyo, Okumura realizes by looking at pictures that the monster he saw was a new Godzilla. However the news of Godzilla's return is kept secret to avoid panic until Godzilla attacks a second time and destroys a Soviet submarine. The Soviets believe the attack was done by the Americans, and a diplomatic crisis ensues which threatens to escalate into war. The Japanese intervene and finally announce that Godzilla was behind the attack. The Japanese arrange a meeting with the Soviet and American ambassadors and, after some debate over the issue, Prime Minister Mitamura decides nuclear weapons will not be used on Godzilla even if it were to attack the Japanese mainland. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are put on alert and search for Godzilla.
Soon, Godzilla appears on an island off the coast of Japan, determined to feed off a nuclear power plant there. When Godzilla attacks the facility and feeds off the reactor, he is distracted by a flock of birds, and leaves the facility almost as quickly as he arrived. Okumura and his friends realize that Godzilla reacts to the same signal as birds, and Professor Hayashida decides to use this method to lure Godzilla away from Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Soviets have their own plans to counter the threat posed by Godzilla, and a Soviet control ship disguised as a freighter in Tokyo Harbor prepares to launch a nuclear missile from one of their orbiting satellites should Godzilla attack.
Godzilla is later sighted at Tokyo Bay, forcing mass evacuations out of the city and a state of emergency is declared. The JASDF attacks Godzilla with Mitsubishi F-1 fighter jets, but their missiles are useless against him. Godzilla then proceeds to the coast, where the waiting army, equipped with tanks, rocket launchers and soldiers armed with Howa Type 64 assault rifles, proceeds to fire on Godzilla, but they are quickly subdued. Meanwhile, aboard the Soviet ship, one of the crew members attempts to stop the missile from launching as Godzilla then proceeds towards Tokyo's business district, wreaking havoc along the way. There, he is confronted by four laser-armed trucks known as Hyper Laser Cannons, and then the Super X, a piloted VTOL craft constructed in secret to defend Tokyo in case of emergency, in particular a nuclear attack.
Because Godzilla's heart is similar to a nuclear reactor, the cadmium shells that are fired into his mouth by the Super X seal and slow down his heart and Godzilla falls down unconscious. Unfortunately, the city is faced with a greater threat when a Soviet 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 theirs before it can hit Tokyo. Unfortunately, the atmospheric nuclear blast creates an 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 is successful with his invention and uses the bird call device to distract him. Godzilla leaves Tokyo and swims across the Japanese sea to volcanic Mt. Mihara, where he notices the signal device. As he walks towards it, he falls into the mouth of the volcano where he is surrounded by detonators, which are activated by Okumura, creating a controlled volcanic eruption that traps Godzilla for good, at least for the time being.
The screenplay was first written in 1980, but as an entirely different film. Godzilla was to fight a shape-shifting monster named Bagan, and the Super X played a much smaller role. Among the SDF weapons in this script that made it to the big screen were the Water Beetle (an underwater mech) and the Giant Basu (which is equipped with a giant arm to capture submarines).
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka offered Ishirō Honda a chance to direct this film, but he strongly rejected the offer, because of what came of Godzilla in the 1970s, and his belief that Godzilla should have been permanently laid to rest after Eiji Tsuburaya's death. Also, at this time, he was busy assisting his friend Akira Kurosawa with films he was directing, such as Kagemusha and Ran.
Veteran Godzilla actor Akihiko Hirata, who appeared in several past Godzilla films (best known of his role of Doctor Serizawa from Godzilla) was slated to play Professor Hayashida; however, he had died from throat cancer before production began. Yosuke Natsuki, another veteran, took the role instead. Stuntman Kenpachiro Satsuma (who previously played Hedorah and Gigan in the original Godzilla films) played Godzilla for the first time, as a replacement for another stuntman who backed out at the last minute.
Aside from being heavy, the suit was very dangerous (it was not only built from the outside in, but not made to fit him), and Satsuma lost a lot of weight during filming. This mildly mirrored what Haruo Nakajima went through when he played Godzilla in the original 1954 film. Subsequent Godzilla suits worn by Satsuma were much safer and more comfortable, as they were custom-made to fit him (even though the suits still had some dangers of their own).
The lifelike animatronic Godzilla prop used in close-up shots is the 20-foot (6.1 m) "Cybot Godzilla." It was heavily touted in the publicity department at the time, even though it was not used in the film as extensively as promoted. A full-size replica of Godzilla's foot was also built, albeit all of the scenes in which it is used were removed from the American version (the sole exception being a shot of the foot crushing a row of parked cars during the attack on the nuclear power plant).
Prior to New World Pictures' release of the film, Toho had the film dubbed in Hong Kong. This "Toho international version", titled The Return of Godzilla is uncut and was released in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. So far, this version has not been made available in the United States.
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 (the film's budget was $6.25 million).
When Godzilla 1985 failed at the box office, it was the last Godzilla film produced by Toho to receive any major release in North American theaters until Godzilla 2000 fifteen years later.
The New World version of the film was almost universally criticized by North American critics. However, the Japanese version was received better, mainly by fans; many praised it for being very close to the original film.
In 1985, the film won the Japan Academy Award for Special Effects.
The international version was released on VHS (dubbed in English) in the UK in 1998. The running time matches that of the Japanese version, and the only notable difference is the English text and dubbing. This version of the film has remained unreleased in both the USA and Canada.
This film was distributed to DVD in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Thailand, Spain, Italy and France, but never legitimately in the United States and Canada due to legal issues. Since the release of Godzilla vs. Biollante in 2012, The Return of Godzilla remains the only Godzilla film to not have been legitimately released on DVD in the United States.
In 1988 Dark Horse Comics released a six-issue limited series, Godzilla, which was an American adaptation of the Japanese manga adaptation of The Return of Godzilla.