With the news that we are getting two new Godzilla films, one from Toho and the other from Legendary, I felt it could be a fun idea to rewatch every single movie and review them all for you individually. I am going to follow my ranking from Worst to Best, since for me I’d rather get the bad movies out of the way first. Saying that I do have the utter misfortune of watching the one movie in the series that I absolutely despise and wish was never made in the first place.
That is the 1998 attempt from Tristar Pictures, Godzilla. Forewarning now, there will be a lot of colourful language and my opinion on this movie may upset some people. Remember, it is my opinion and respect that. If you don’t like it then too bad.
Godzilla 1998: An American Monstrosity
Godzilla is a 1998 American monster film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. A reboot of Toho Co., Ltd.’s Godzilla franchise, it is the 23rd film in the franchise and the first Godzilla film to be completely produced by a Hollywood studio. The film stars Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, and Harry Shearer. The film was dedicated to Tomoyuki Tanaka, the co-creator and producer of various Godzilla films, who died in April 1997. In the film, authorities investigate and battle a giant monster who migrates to New York City to nest its young.
In October 1992, TriStar Pictures announced plans to produce a trilogy of Godzilla films. In May 1993, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were hired to write the script. In July 1994, Jan de Bont was announced as the director. De Bont left the project in December 1994 due to budget disputes and Emmerich was hired in May 1996 to direct and co-write a new script with producer Dean Devlin. Principal photography began in May 1997 and ended in September 1997.
Godzilla was theatrically released on May 20, 1998, to negative reviews and grossed $379 million worldwide against a production budget between $130–150 million and marketing costs of $80 million. Despite turning a profit, it was considered a box-office disappointment. Planned sequels were cancelled and an animated series was produced instead. TriStar let their remake/sequel rights expire on May 20, 2003. In 2004, Toho began trademarking new iterations of TriStar’s Godzilla as “Zilla”, with only the incarnations from the 1998 film and animated show retaining the Godzilla copyright/trademark.
Critics panned this film and it holds a meagre 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, even this ‘films’ director didn’t like it. They rushed production, cut all sorts of corners, and gave us one of the worst scripts imaginable for a giant monster movie. When some of the most prominent figureheads in the Japanese versions of the films are extremely critical of the movie, you know it’s a horrible experience.
Veteran Godzilla actors Haruo Nakajima and Kenpachiro Satsuma, as well as Shusuke Kaneko (who would later direct Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack), were also critical of the film and its character. Nakajima stated,
“its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog”.
Satsuma walked out of a screening of the film at the fan convention G-Con ’98 in Chicago, stating,
“It’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit”.
Toho publicist Yosuke Ogura later called TriStar’s design a “disaster.” TriStar’s Godzilla was considered so different that the term GINO (Godzilla In Name Only) was coined by critic and Godzilla fan Richard Pusateri to distinguish the character apart from Toho’s Godzilla.
Kaneko pondered on the treatment the character was given by the studio, stating,
“It is interesting [that] the US version of Godzilla runs about trying to escape missiles… Americans seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms.”
In 2004, Toho began trademarking future incarnations of TriStar’s Godzilla as “Zilla” for future appearances. This decision was made by producer Shōgo Tomiyama and Godzilla: Final Wars director Ryuhei Kitamura because they felt Emmerich’s film “took the God out of Godzilla” by portraying the character like a mere animal. The name “Zilla” was chosen for the character by Tomiyama as a satirical take on counterfeit Godzilla products that use “Zilla” as a suffix. The character has since appeared in other media as “Zilla”. Nicholas Raymond from Screen Rant described Toho’s subsequent treatment of TriStar’s Godzilla as “a clear sign that Toho doesn’t regard the 1998 Godzilla as the King of the Monsters. It would appear that to them, he’s just a giant lizard.
The film has its fans and plenty of detractors, as you can see. For one, the CGI of this film is disgustingly bad. I know it was a film from 1997/1998 but come the hell on, it could have looked a lot better. Godzilla looks so fucking bad that I wanted to throw up. A giant mutated Iguana that doesn’t even have the staple of true fire breath, and what it does have looks even worse than the Toho product. I think Tristar just wanted to capitalize on the success of Jurassic Park here. You can tell that they took influence on Zilla’s design from the T-Rex in JP but kind of fused it with an iguana. I’m sorry for all you fans out there, but this ‘film’ should never have been released.
This is Not a Godzilla Movie
I want you all to understand that I was thirteen years old when I first watched this movie. I was just entering my teenage years. I’ve loved Godzilla since I was five and even as a thirteen year old, I despised this movie. We’re nearing the 30th anniversary of this movie and it still sucks. Yes, I forced myself to rewatch it so that I could do this review with a fresh perspective.
My take on it? It fucking sucks. This movie is the deformed monstrosity that comes when you inbreed generation after generation for too long. It should have been aborted before it ever got released, it’s that bad. I know in my ranking of films that I called this one an abortion and frankly, I stand by that statement.
The acting is bad, not offensively so but still bad, the studio forced an unnecessary love story into it and they made the creature weak to missiles and gunfire. What the actual fuck were they thinking? They literally took everything that made Godzilla special and twisted it, mutated it into such a disgrace of a creature that Toho felt they had to rectify it and have it killed off in a fight with the real Godzilla in a matter of seconds. Yes, that actually happened in Godzilla: Final Wars.
This Zilla digs underground, swims like an iguana and even eats, which you never see in the Toho versions. The creature is an ambush predator, using buildings and the whole digging thing to attack the helicopters and other aerial threats to it in the movie. About the only thing the director got right was the creatures roar and even then it wasn’t always consistent.
What else did they change.. oh yeah, they made the creature PREGNANT. Not only that but they made it reproduce a-sexually, which meant that it didn’t need a mate. For fuck sakes. I know Godzilla had two offspring in the Toho version, Minilla and Godzilla Junior, but come the fuck on. You have the creature make a nest in the middle of Manhattan and lay hundreds of eggs, all of them hatch and then the babies are killed when the government blows up Madison Square Garden. I’m sorry but no, that makes no damned sense and it is just another stupid plot device in a movie that should have been all about the big G terrorizing the island of Manhattan.
TriStar planned to produce a Godzilla trilogy upon acquiring the Godzilla license in 1992. Emmerich had considered using the Monster Island concept from the Toho films with the intention of creating something wild, as well as including six or seven monsters, stating,
“We’ll probably come up with other monsters because we don’t want to tie ourselves too much to certain things”.
Prior to the 1998 film’s release, Sony felt confident enough with the potential box office success that they paid Toho $5 million for sequel rights, which guaranteed them to produce a sequel within five years following the first film’s release, so long as it was in active development. Devlin had confirmed plans for a trilogy, stating,
“We have a Godzilla trilogy in mind. The second one is remarkably different from the first one, and if it’s embraced, a third one would make a whole lot of sense. I don’t see us doing more than three, but I would love to finish out telling the story.”
Emmerich and Devlin commissioned a treatment by Tab Murphy titled Godzilla 2. The sequel would have involved the surviving offspring battling a giant insect in Sydney. The studio abandoned sequel plans due to a lack of enthusiasm from fans, audiences, theater owners and licensees, and Emmerich and Devlin left due to budget disputes. Devlin stated, “They wanted to tailor it budget-wise, so it didn’t make sense for us creatively.”
Devlin stated that they left the film with an open-ending in case the success allowed them to return for sequels. Despite Emmerich’s comments that Sony was “absolutely ready” to produce a sequel, he later revealed that he advised the studio to not produce a sequel, stating, “It’s so strange because people expected it to be the biggest thing ever, then it only did well. They are disappointed, and you have to defend yourself”. Sony had considered a reboot with the new series disassociating itself from the 1998 film. However, TriStar let their remake/sequel rights expire on May 20, 2003.
Jesus, can you imagine the idea of sequels to this piece of shit? I can’t at all. I can say with absolute gumption and authority as a 38 year old Godzilla fanatic that the idea was and is still appauling. As I sit here rewatching this thing, I cannot help but feel thankful that Sony and Tristar scrapped the idea of a trilogy for this piece of shit. It would have failed more miserably than the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot did and that’s saying something.
The biggest issue that I have here is that they labeled it as Godzilla. I think that if they hadn’t done that and had found a different title for it, the movie could have been something special. If Tristar didn’t name the creature Godzilla, didn’t trample on the history of the Big G and didn’t try to tie it in with Toho’s creature, it could have been great. When you take a legendary property like Godzilla and shit on its name, you aren’t going to have a popular movie. Like Halloween 3: The Season of the Witch, if you named it something else, it wouldn’t have come with the expectations that are associated with the property.
I can’t even with this movie. Like I said, I forced myself to rewatch this garbage and I cannot even give it more than one or two positive things. Sure, they may have gotten the creatures story somewhat right and the roar is mostly true to character, but that’s it. Every up close scene where the creature is passing someone or is near the people in general just looks terrible. It is easily the worst CGI I’ve seen in a Kaiju movie. We couldn’t even really get much in the way of practical effects.
It’s a schlock of different fuck ups and bad decisions that make the movie, in my opinion, nearly unwatchable. If I never have to watch this piece of shit again, I will die a happy man. But, I am a masochist for Godzilla movies and I know that, despite my feelings on it, I will force myself to watch it again.
Take my opinions on this film as you will. I know that a lot of people out there love this movie and there are also lots of people who hate it like I do. If you’re a Godzilla purist and want films that at least measure up to the Japanese ones, avoid this movie at all costs. That said, if you can overlook the flaws and issues in this movie, and forget that it was supposed to be Godzilla, then you might be able to enjoy it for what it is. For me, this is the worst movie in the Godzilla franchise easily and I give it a 0.5 out of 5 Stars. Yes, a half a star and that’s only me giving credit for the attempt.
Fuck this movie, fuck Sony and Tristar Pictures for making this piece of shit and fuck everything about this god aweful attempt to bring Godzilla to the US. I need some damned bleach for my eyes now so I’ll leave you at this and see you for the next film that I review, which will be 1969’s All Monster’s Attack, AKA Godzilla’s Revenge.