Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Godzilla vs Biollante soundtrack - weird, very Americanized sounding score.  Kinda like it, though. | Godzilla vs, Weird, Movie posters

Composed by Koichi Sugiyama

It took a few years for Toho to follow-up Return of Godzilla. Godzilla vs. Biollante sees corporate terrorists release the Big G from his volcano. The titular opponent for the film is a hybrid monstrosity combining Godzilla, rose, and human DNA. The tentacled Biollante is impressive, towering over Godzilla and well-executed through great visual effects. The movie’s plotline is quite convoluted for a Godzilla film, tackling genetic science, corporate terrorism, psychic abilities, and the usual giant monster fare. Overall I’d say it’s one of the best Godzilla films out there. It’s serious, never devolves into cheesiness (barring the expected dubbing in the American release), and displays a great degree of imagination and innovation. Sadly, the film actually underperformed at the box office. This prompted Toho to rein on originality. The film itself was for a long time only available in America on an HBO video release. Despite this, the film has gradually regained attention and much love from the franchise’s fans, the reviewer here included.

Reijiro Koroku was not brought back. His successor Koichi Sugiyama produces a much livelier score. On album Sugiyama’s music was first released in a sixty-five minute presentation, with the music arranged into fairly lengthy suites. The Perfect Collection added a bonus disc with the music presented as it is in the film, in shorter tracks and in chronological order. From the sound of the second disc it appears Sugiyama constructed his suites and spliced parts of them into the movie. The second disc is more abrupt in how music just fades in and out, but it does enable one to get a grasp of which themes are attached to which characters and ideas.

I find it proper to go through the suites, since each one covers one major thematic idea. “Godzilla 1989” is the new theme for the Big G. It’s a repetitive two-note motif with various string pieces overlaying it. At points the motif cuts out while a racing string section with orchestral bursts takes over. It’s an engaging lengthy piece, but is obviously built on John Williams’ shark theme from Jaws. “Republic of Saradia” starts off with typical Middle-Eastern flourishes and then continues as okay suspense music. “Scramble March” is a light-hearted military march. It starts off softly, but by the end Sugiyama reiterates the march in loud fashion with blaring trumpets and racing string music.

The album takes a softer turn with “Asuka,” a lovely piano piece for the female lead. Actually this theme would be more appropriate for Erika. Erika dies early on and her father, shaken by the event, incorporates her DNA into Biollante. “Countdown” starts off with a suspenseful motif similar to the opening of “Godzilla 1989.” The track goes back and forth between a heroic motif and string music over a bouncy rhythm. “Love Theme” is a decent romantic melody, though it sounds a bit too eloquent and dramatic for the romance in the film, which as in most Godzilla films is greatly underbaked and uninteresting.

The next track is one of the most notable musical entries in Godzilla history, and has generated some controversy. Sugiyama’s orchestra is there, but an electronic guitar and rock drumbeats have the power here. The music is from near the beginning, when rival mercenaries have a chase and shootout in the wreckage from Godzilla’s last rampage. Near the 2:30 mark the track takes a slower tone, but with its rock style intact. There is also a bombastic trumpet section at 2:43. While the rock style is unique for a Godzilla film, the most notable part of the track is the inclusion of Ifukube’s Godzilla theme around the 1:00 and 1:30 marks. Apparently Ifukube’s daughter pointed out the inclusion of the music within a rock-heavy track. Ifukube was not appreciative of the blend of styles and was inspired to make his return to the series with the next film.

The first minute and a half of “Biollante” is a string melody that evokes the tragedy behind the monster’s creation. After that the music takes a dark turn with building suspense. At 3:05 the music goes fully into ominous fare. The music does not pick up much in speed or intensity, though there are some brief bursts of energy. Sugiyama likely wanted to create something that represents Biollante’s plant elements and the wonders of creating life. In fact the suite goes full circle with a grander reiteration of the opening melody.

“Requiem” is another slow melodic piece, but the melody itself fails to leave as strong an impression. “Super X T-2” is one of the highlights, centered around the film’s most heroic theme. After an opening flourish, the suite plays out slow and noble. Over two minutes in, however, the theme picks up speed and keeps going to the end of the track. It’s a great album-ender, fr the original ten track album.

Unlike with other expanded Godzilla soundtracks, the bonus tracks from further releases are of considerable interest (the bonus tracks for other films tend to be barely discernible alternate recordings of previously released tracks). There is a piano-only version of “Asuka.” There is an alternate take of “Bio-Wars” without the guitar, which allows listeners to focus on Sugiyama’s other instrumentation (though the rock beats are still there). There is another version of “Super X T-2,” but I can’t see any real difference. “G-Cells” is an eerie peace that goes on way too long. Also added on are three Akira Ifukube cues from his 1986 Ostinato album. Pieces of these were used in Godzilla vs. Biollante. “Ending” is an abridged version of Super X T-2” that fits nicely onto compilation albums (and in fact was included on GNP Crescendo’s Best of Godzilla: 1984-1995).

Godzilla vs. Biollante is a fine score. There are accusations of plagiarism towards John Williams’ work, but I think this is only fair in the case of “Godzilla 1989.” Sugiyama presents some very fine themes and the suites work well as sustained pieces, as opposed to the multitude of short cues that generally make up these albums. I used to not much care for this score, but I’ve gained more of an appreciation for it. While it has some uninteresting moments and the music editing in the chorological version isn’t the best, I feel comfortable giving it a good rating.

Rating: 7/10

Disc One

1. Suite 1 Godzilla 1989 -05:59
2. Suite 2 Republic of Saradia -03:35
3. Suite 3 Scramble March -04:28
4. Suite 4 Asuka -04:29
5. Suite 5 Countdown -05:06
6. Suite 6 Love Theme -03:28
7. Suite 7 Bio Wars T-2 -04:36
8. Suite 8 Biollante -06:30
9. Suite 9 Requiem -03:17
10. Suite 10 Super X-2 T-2 -05:59
11. Suite 4 Asuka (Piano Solo)-02:10
12. Suite 4 Asuka (Piano Solo Short)-00:28
13. Suite 7- Bio Wars T-3 -04:35
14. Suite 10- Super X-2 T-3 -05:57
15. G-Cells -03:12
16. Godzilla Titles (From OSTINATO)-01:37*
17. Godzilla vs. The Army (From OSTINATO)-02:59*
18. Great Monster March (From OSTINATO)-03:06*
19. Ending -04:57

Disc Two

1. Toho Logo -00:45
2. Main Titles -01:13*
3. Bio Wars -01:12
4. Republic of Saradia I -00:19
5. Republic of Saradia II -00:20
6. Research Lab Bomb -00:24
7. Death of Erica -00:26
8. Asuka and Kirishima I -01:45
9. Psychic Hospital -00:16
10. Chilling Premonition -00:17*
11. First Alert -00:35
12. Asuka and Kirishima II -00:42
13. Gene Splicing -00:53
14. First Half of the Gene Culture -00:26
15. Second Alert -00:23
16. Break in at Shiragami Labs -00:55
17. Presentment -00:14
18. Biollante in the Lake I -01:50
19. Meeting with “Alien” Organization -00:07
20. Countdown -01:31
21. Return of Godzilla (From OSTINATO) -00:40*
22. Uraga Strait Battle -01:17
23. Super X-2 Mobilization -02:37
24. Escape of SSS9 -00:29
25. Biollante in the Lake II -00:52
26. Super X-2 vs. Godzilla -01:26
27. Ashinoko Defense Line -01:02
28. Godzilla vs. Biollante in Ashinoko -04:06
29. Biollante in the Blaze -01:07
30. Patrol 00:18
31. Ise Bay Defense Line 00:36
32. Godzilla’s Surprise Appearance: Third Alert -00:09
33. Psychic Standoff -01:40
34. Fourth Alert -00:30
35. Evacuation of Osaka -00:31
36. Plot of Saradia -00:25
37. Godzilla Destroys Osaka (From OSTINATO) -01:12*
38. Fight in the Business Park I -02:18
39. Fight in the Business Park II -02:43
40. Thunder Control System I (From OSTINATO) -01:23*
41. Thunder Control System II -01:36
42. Thunder Control System Standby -00:28
43. Attack (From OSTINATO) -01:37*
44. Godzilla vs. the Attack Helicopters -01:14
45. Advent of Biollante -01:00
46. Godzilla vs. Biollante in Wakasa -03:46
47. Ascension of Biollante -01:05
48. Chase SSS9 -01:26
49. Relief -00:33
50. Ending -04:59
51. Previews -01:56

*Composed by Akira Ifukube