Godzilla (1998)


You have to hand it to Roland Emmerich, his marketing for 1998’s “Godzilla” was fantastic. Before “Cloverfield” enforced not showing the monster until you had your butt planted in seats in theaters, Emmerich and Tristar applied the same marketing with just as much mystery. I fondly recall many of the early trailers for “Godzilla” being packed with questions about what the beast looked like rebooted. Hell, in 1997, I bought the movie book that explored the making of “Godzilla,” and there wasn’t a single picture in the book that gave a clear picture of the new Godzilla.

The first mistake “Godzilla” 1998 makes is that Roland Emmerich retreats back to New York to wreck it again. We saw it destroyed with such fervor in the awful “Independence Day” that seeing it obliterated again was old hat. The second mistake that ultimately destroys the film is that the writers are never sure if they want to depict the scaly beast as a misunderstood creature fighting for its life, or a ravenous monster intent on nesting in New York regardless of what’s on the island. The final scene where Godzilla is dying is absolutely baffling. Because thirty minutes prior, we’re rooting for the death of the beast, and now we’re supposed to sob over it? First it stops through New York with no regard for human life, and then it’s hiding to protect itself.

One minute it’s nesting in the waters to avoid attacks, and the next it’s eating helicopters from the sky, killing innocent human beings. One moment it’s destroying gigantic skyscrapers to burrow in, and the next it’s walking through New York without stomping on a single human being. Friend or foe? Make a decision, writers. And while we’re working on its intent, why not decide on a size. One second Godzilla can fit in a building, the next it can barely slide in to a subway tunnel. One minute Godzilla’s toes are two times taller than an average man, and the next it’s about as tall. And why resort to making the beasts heart sound like a normal beat when the producers strived to make this new Godzilla so vastly different in every conceivable manner?

It is, however, a last ditch effort to sap some sympathy from audiences. As an alleged reboot of a beloved horror movie monster, 1998’s “Godzilla” is cold, emotionless, and fails to muster up any kind of interesting or likable characters. Emmerich collects a group of mismatched and poorly cast actors, all of whom offer performances as broad racial and regional clichés, and are never actual characters. Matthew Broderick for one is painfully miscast as the utterly uninteresting protagonist Nick, tasked with finding and discovering the origin of Godzilla and figuring out what it wants in New York City. Side note: How was Godzilla even aware of New York as a great spot to nest?

Did it burrow through different cities and pop up like Bugs Bunny until it finally found New York? Nick is a bumbling nerd, and fails to be remotely dashing or courageous, even when staring down the beast that just really wants–fish. And Godzilla’s worst enemy in the film? A New York Taxi Cab! It really is a New Yawkah! Broderick phones in his lead performance, and never actually depicts Nick as someone conflicted, or put at wits end most of the time. A gigantic lizard is destroying every inch of New York City, and Nick is still very calm like he’s just come back from a lecture. And it doesn’t help that one of the big heroes, a French officer and covert master, insists on chewing gum to look more American.

Because… gum is a foreign substance in other countries? As for Maria Pitillo, I’m surprised she ever worked again. “Godzilla” is very much like every single American remake. It pretends to reboot the monster, and the story, but in reality it’s just another humdrum monster movie with Godzilla stapled on the marketing for the name recognition. Sure the design for Zilla is still really slick and fun to look at, but it’s just not Godzilla. It never was and it never will be. “Godzilla” 1998 is a terrible waste of time, and one that has no concept of how to create a thrilling monster movie, because it fails to deliver anything of worth or creative merit. Also, Godzilla’s a chick.