This week I have decided to go with the 1998 film Godzilla. It was written by Dean Devlin and director Roland Emmerich. Emmerich is probably best known for Independence Day and for destroying landmarks in his movies. Here he tried to reboot the Godzilla franchise with a movie that falls quite short of that.
Despite being moderately successful at the box office, the movie has been pretty much deemed bad by all critics. Aimed at teenagers and young adults, the film fails to deliver a story that could be considered good. I will admit, on the first viewing, and even on a second viewing, I didn’t see why others called it a bad movie. Part of that is because I am not as big a Godzilla fan as others are.
Around the time of release, I tried to defend the movie by saying things like “Maybe if it was called something other than Godzilla, perhaps it could be a good monster film”. However, after a few more viewings – especially this latest one – I now understand there were several issues.
What is Godzilla (1998) about?
The film is about a giant lizard that was mutated due to some French nuclear tests going on in Polynesia, which is pretty much the basis for most monster movies. Basically some kind of mutation due to some kind of radiation leads to the creation of the creature.
In this case, Godzilla, doesn’t even try to give the audience much to look at. The film is dark and rainy for most of it, and therefore allows the special effects teams to do as little as possible. Godzilla is suppose to be this giant lizard who is looking for a place to lay it’s eggs. We are told that she reproduces asexually and therefore there is only one of them.
As with most monster/creature films, the humans automatically are out to kill it. They try to lure it out with fish, but she just takes the fish and escapes. By the way, how can Godzilla be as tall as a skyscraper one moment and then fit in a small tunnel the next? Yes, she escapes through tunnelling under New York which of course leads to the great line: “I don’t understand… how could something so big just disappear?”
Bad Plots Abound
Our lead scientist is a specialist in radiation mutation on earth worms named Dr. Niko ‘Nik’ Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick). He informs the government there is not only a creature, but also a nest of eggs somewhere. All of these eggs able to produce another creature that can also reproduce asexually.
The army tries to take out the creature and the media tries to expose the truth, all the while, the French Secret Service is keeping tabs on everything. The lead French agent is Philippe Roache (Jean Reno) who recruits Nik after the army dismisses him. Nik is the reason the media finds out more than they should, but he and Philippe are the only ones after the nest.
As with most Roland Emmerich films, the damage and destruction of landmarks is a major part of them, this movie is no exception. From the Chrysler Building, to Madison Square Gardens and culminating in the Brooklyn Bridge, no New York landmark is truly safe. The final act sees our human cast in a cab being chased by Godzilla. They hide in a tunnel, that according to the rest of the movie, Godzilla should be able to enter but can’t.
Who’s In It?
Godzilla brought together an interesting cast that had to work with a bad script. These are not necessarily bad actors but they didn’t have a whole to work with here. As previously mentioned, Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno are in this film. Two actors I actually really enjoy, which may be why I wanted to see the film so much.
They are joined by a goody two shoes, wannabe, reporter Audrey Timmons (Maria Pitillo) and her plucky comic relief cameraman Animal (Hank Azaria). Roland Emmerich has always had the famous critics Siskel and Ebert rip his films to shreds. In this film, he kind of satirically incorporates them into the movie. Mayor Ebert is portrayed by Michael Lerner and his aide Gene is portrayed by Lorry Goldman. They even have a scene where Gene gives Mayor Ebert a big ‘ol thumbs down.
Rounding out the cast are: Kevin Dunn as Colonel Hicks; Harry Shearer as News Personality Charles Caiman; and Vicki Lewis as Dr. Elise Chapman. I still don’t think the cast was the biggest problem. There were moments where the acting wasn’t great, but sometimes the director and script play a factor. I truly believe that was the case in Godzilla.
Is It Really That Bad?
As you may have already guessed by the way I have written this already, the answer is sadly, yes… yes it is. There were just too many mistakes made with the plot, the direction and the script. I am willing to forgive the acting because of who the director and writers were. The special effects were not terrible, they used a lot of similar effects as seen in Jurassic Park… though with not the flair or success. Oh yeah… and let’s not forget that much of the film was pretty much a Jurassic Park rip off.
As the late Roger Ebert put it:
If you never get a clear look at the monster, you can’t see how shoddy it is. Steven Spielberg opened Jurassic Park by giving us a good, long look at the dinosaurs in full sunlight, and our imaginations leapt up. Godzilla hops out of sight like a camera-shy kangaroo.
I am still baffled at myself for enjoying this so much when it first came out. However, I guess I was the intended audience. I was clueless to the lore of Godzilla, I was a young adult and I liked to see things just blow up for no reason. This is truly a ‘shut off the brain, don’t think about it’ kind of film.
What Should You Watch Instead?
Godzilla has been around since the 1954 film that started the whole thing off. So if you’re looking for the lore of Godzilla, I would highly recommend the Toho films. However, if you’re looking for some modern day films: Godzilla (2014) is not badly done and has a sequel due out in 2019. There is also the 2016 film Shin Godzilla.
I think I might also recommend the newest King Kong film, Kong: Skull Island. All of these films are well done creature films, or at least much better than this 1998 Godzilla film.
Check out the trailer:
OR… Here is the Honest Trailer’s version.
What did you think of the 1998 version of Godzilla? Do you agree with me? Or can this movie be saved? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.