Thursday, May 15, 2014

Godzilla (1998)

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo
Director: Roland Emmerich

Yeaaaaaah, you though I was just going to ignore this piece of garbage, didn't you?!

Actually, I had not planned on reviewing Hollywood's 1998 attempt at Godzilla, but given that I was already doing the ones from the 50s, I figured, "Sure, why not..?" and re-watched this one for my own pleasure/torture. While a lot has been said about this movie already, I found that I had enough thoughts from a personal perspective to create this post. This will be more like a mini-review like the ones I used to do, but give how long my last one was, it should suffice (for a more comprehensive take, watch the Nostalgia Critic's review of it here; it is one of his classics).

In this "original" American film, Godzilla comes into being when a bunch of iguana eggs are turned radioactive as a result of nuclear testing. Soon, boats start disappearing and New York comes under siege. It is up to a team of…people…to stop Godzilla. Whoopty do.

Most people dislike this movie and there are valid reasons for it. While most of them are well know to those who have seen it, and even those who haven't, here are the top ten (in no particular order):
  1. It rains throughout virtually the entire film for no apparent reason.
  2. The world's most powerful military will fire their guns at random, yet almost none of their ammunition can hit a 300-foot lizard within a contained area (resulting in them destroying more of New York City than Godzilla).
  3. How can you lose said 300-foot lizard in New York City?!
  4. Matthew Brodrick's character is a dweeb and most of his lines are either mind-numbingly stupid or inappropriately timed. In any other movie he would have been the comic relief, and yet he plays the lead; it is like if Rick Moranis' Louis Tully character was the leader of the Ghostbusters.
  5. All of the other characters are either unlikeable or severely underdeveloped (except for Jean Reno's, maybe).
  6. The romance in the movie is so contrived and mushy, it is painful to watch.
  7. It rips off "Jurassic Park" too much.
  8. Mayor Ebert and his assistant Gene, obviously parodies of the late great film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, are neither stomped on nor eaten, even though the real Siskel and Ebert said that this would have made a lot of sense!
  9. It tries to make certain scenes appear meaningful, but they never go anywhere.
  10. And, of course, Godzilla spends most of the movie hiding in the subway system, and when he does appear, he either runs away or chases after a taxi cab.

So is there anything really good about this mess? Well...the special effects are decent. It is obvious that this film had a budget…even if it did not use it right…

And while a number of people think the monster is ugly, I say it looks cool enough. I mean, it is not the traditional look, but I can see that a giant mutated iguana would look like this…sort of…

Strangely, only the iguana was considered by the casting director.

And at least they got a cool cartoon out of it on Fox Kids…

…even though it is kind of sad that it was better than the movie is was based on...

Okay, it is obvious I am struggling here, but I will give this movie credit for one thing: it introduced me to Godzilla. I may have seen the cartoon beforehand, but the movie gave me a real idea of what Godzilla was like as an all-destructive monster (even if he didn't actually destroy much). Hey, I first saw this movie when I was about nine years old; I was not exactly making quality judgements calls back then! So while this was not one of my favorite movies, I liked it well enough, so when I saw "Godzilla: King of the Monsters!" at a video store (remember those) one day, I got it and was hooked.

That being said, I cannot defend the lack of quality. It looks obvious that director Roland Emmerich and his producers were not that interested in taking this movie seriously (though some of them have apparently expressed regret about it in recent years). While this did get me to see the "real" Godzilla, I was likely in the minority. In fact, there may have been a lot of people who got repelled by this movie and did not want to have anything to do with him afterward!

Now, I cannot not blame the producers entirely; Godzilla is a silly series in a lot of ways, especially as it went from being fairly serious in the first movie to, well, this:

But you know what? "Batman and Robin" was based on a campy 60s TV series, but that doesn't make it a good movie or its lame humor anymore tolerable. Godzilla has a special place in people's hearts, just like Batman or any other cultural icon does for their respective fan-base. While fans can certainly be overzealous, when you make something that is important to them and it shows a lack of effort on your part, it is disrespectful not only to them, but also to would-be converts. The filmmakers should have been trying to entertain people; but the only thing they achieved was their bottom line.

Luckily, the producers of the new film coming out this week seem to understand this and, from what I have heard, have apparently worked with Toho Company Ltd. (the production company behind the Godzilla series) to create a more "authentic" version of the big guy and with a tone that is more in line with the seriousness of the 1954 original. Translation: do for Godzilla what Christopher Nolan did for Batman. I can't say for sure whether it will be good or not, but I will post a review of it as soon as I can!

So, what is the final word on Emmerich's version? It…sucks. I mean, it's not terrible; there are certainly worse movies out there to watch (i.e. 90% of the stuff on Cinema Freaks). But it's not good either, and it's a slap in the face to the series and really annoying for anyone who happens to come across it. Therefore, I do not recommend it.

The pictures and links on this post are copyrighted by their original owners and are being used for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me.