“We spared no expense.” – Sir Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park
Rumors circulated Hollywood since the early 1990’s of an American Godzilla movie. Writers and directors left the project and by 1996, Toho and Sony/Tri Star came to terms and the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were anointed to bring a full fledged American Godzilla film to the US masses. He would attack New York City; it would boast a big name cast and incorporate state of the art visual effects. There would be no man in a giant rubber suit in this film since Jurassic Park raised the bar for giant reptilian creatures.
In the wake of the successful 2014 reboot (which had its own issues), it seems like a cheap shot to take yet another swipe at the much maligned (and deservedly so) 1998 mess. This time it’s to see how this film fits the Cynema paradigm.
It’s not Godzilla, it does not have the spirit. – Godzilla actor Kenpachiro Satsuma walking out on a Tokyo screening of the 1998 Godzilla.
“Didn’t the Americans encounter a similar creature in New York a few years ago?”
“Yes… there was a giant monster. But that was not Godzilla.”
— Godzilla: GMK, 2003
According to several stories, Toho insisted that the Hollywood Godzilla film not change the iconic monster’s image. After almost 30 films, Godzilla was an international symbol. Toho finished off its Heisei series of films that restarted after 1984’s The Return of Godzilla. In the 1990’s storyline, none of the other films ever happened except for the original Gojira and its hasty sequel, Godzilla Raids Again. Everything after that was ignored until 1984 when Godzilla resurfaced after a 30 year slumber to wreak havoc on downtown Tokyo once again. The 1998 film intended to “reboot” the entire Godzilla legend. It goes back to Godzilla’s origin…and that’s when fans knew there was a problem only five minutes into the movie.
How is the 1998 Godzilla Cynema?
Gino: Devlin and Emmerich had no respect for the monster’s legacy. Irate fans quickly renamed the creature GINO (Godzilla In Name Only or ‘Zilla). Dean Devlin admitted he had little regard for the original 1954 film:
Most of the public, used to watching the hokey Japanese versions, will be thinking of men-in-suits and bad models, a kind of dinosaur hybrid who lumbers about in a semi-comical fashion trashing Lego buildings.
Whereas the original Godzilla knocked down “Lego buildings” Emmerich’s monster dry humps CGI ones, like the photo above.
Devlin and Emmerich paid lip service to Godzilla’s nuclear genesis, but the re-design of Godzilla must be addressed. Devlin and Emmerich decided millions of fans for almost half a century would welcome a major redesign of their monster. Reports state the only instruction Roland Emmerich gave special effects designer Patrick Tatopolous for the concept of the new monster was that he wanted it to run really fast.
It was basically my version of GODZILLA – the way I think it should be now. For years, people have seen Godzilla in movies, but I wanted to show them something new…I felt that a lot of the responsibility was on my shoulders since we were creating the title character.
Cynema exercises a blatant disregard for the audience in the desire for profits. Devlin and Emmerich’s hubris told them they would create a new and improved Godzilla for the next millennium, a streamlined creature that just happened to look pretty much like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and The Lost World––two films that also happened to bring in bags of cash for Universal, so naturally Tri Star would want their own dinosaur movie while also cashing in on a tried and true brand name like Godzilla.
Godzilla 2000, which was released in Japan in December 1999 and in the United States eight months later, is production company Toho’s reaction to the Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich 1998 Godzilla.Toho moved quickly to reverse the resdesign of the American Godzilla by returning the monster to his familiar and accepted image.
The American creature would look more like an iguana on steroids spliced with a Komodo Dragon. Reportedly Devlin and Emmerich wanted to keep the new design under wraps from the public as a surprise. Later it was alleged that they didn’t want Toho to see that they violated the company that created Godzilla’s trust and legal agreement by the radical makeover for their monster.
We should have released the image of Godzilla a couple of months before to get people used to it. I also would have changed a lot of the story points with the girl which didn’t work as well as they should have. But I’m still proud of the whole look of the movie. That’s why I hired the same cinematographer, Ueli Steiger,for The Day After Tomorrow.
The new Godzilla film blames nuclear testing on THE FRENCH(?). Yes, those evil French and their Pacific islands testing did it. Iguanas were mutated from the nukes. Godzilla’s trademark roar is remixed to incorporate more “animalistic sounds” according to the filmmakers. Did we really need that? The original Godzilla’s roar was created from raking gloved fingers over piano strings, creating a sound that was iconic to the King of the Monsters.
During the Memorial Day weekend, Godzilla took in 74 million dollars. While still a good opening, Sony was extremely disappointed by the take. They were apparently unsure if fans would like the redesign, and the movie in general, and were hoping that the advertising would net them a hefty sum before word of mouth killed it.
Breathing atomic radiation is eliminated in favor of flames borne from incredible breath gusts from the creature. Hazy flame roils over cars scattered like toys when the beast roars, but hardly coming close to anything radioactive. It’s very clear these are orange flames coming from this lizard. 1984’s The Return of Godzilla clearly showed that the monster fed on radiation after he feasted on fallout from a nuclear power plant. Devlin and Emmerich’s beast eats tuna and is even baited by the army into a tuna trap in the middle of the city. Their new Godzilla flees from helicopters and even dry humps a building. This lizard is a hermaphrodite where the original Godzilla was clearly stated as male. Our Metrosexual creature is said to be in search of an ideal island to lay its eggs. Out of all the islands it had to choose from in the Pacific, it swims all the way to the other side of the globe to lay its eggs in the middle of the world’s most busiest and crowded island: Manhattan.
There isn’t an original or creative moment in this entire film. Godzilla is but an inflated Jurassic Park T-Rex running around New York City. When Godzilla jumps in the water and is chased around by a submarine, Emmerich and Devlin are quick to rip off “The Hunt for Red October.” When Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), Philippe Roache (Jean Reno), Animal (Hank Azaria) and Audrey (Maria Pitillo) discover Godzilla’s lair in Madison Square Garden, the film wastes no time in ripping off “Alien.” Mr. Cranky, film review
Makes perfect sense, right? But who cares–it’s a summer blockbuster and you’ll see it. In the end the monster is dispatched by a few jet missiles after clumsily getting hung up in the George Washington Bridge’s suspension cables. Like DeLaurentiis showed, the way to get audience reaction is torture animals and this animal dies a slow, sad death in front of Broderick in an Old Yeller style ending invoking the famous Dino DeLaurentiis “King Kong-Jaws” comparison: “Nobody cry when Jaws die…!”
Toho is often victimized by many original Godzilla hardliners, but if any should be to blame for Godzilla 1998 let it be Toho themselves. Toho was entirely informed of every detail of the film including plot and script. Roland Emmerich went before Toho studios in Japan in 1997 and it was then that year that Godzilla 1998 was set into motion. Yes, Toho gave some guidelines but they were informed of the changes and even stuff that went against the guidelines. Godzilla 1998 Database
Reports vary on Toho’s reaction. Dean Devlin said this about Toho’s reaction to the new creature design,
They took a long time in deciding and then finally said, ‘You know what? We don’t even want to comment on it; we’ll just say yes or no.’ And then they said, ‘We love this look, we love your idea and we back it 100%. Go do it.’ Because it was so different, it was like a whole rebirth of Godzilla. I think they liked that.
Toho has a different take:
The executives at Toho initially didn’t find the new monster so easy to relate to. When the American team first brought pictures of their version of Godzilla to Japan for Toho’s approval two years ago, the Japanese executives were shocked. “It was so different we realized we couldn’t make small adjustments,” said Shogo Tomiyama, executive producer of the past six Godzilla films. “That left the major question of whether to approve it or not.” — Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998
When Toho saw Devlin and Emmerich’s film, they allegedly flipped and took back the rights, vowing to never let America get its hands on their monster again. Less than two years later Toho released Godzilla 2000 to help fix the damage to Godzilla’s image by Devlin and Emmerich. They introduced a redesigned Godzilla who, for the first time ever, had greenish skin and purple dorsal spikes.
“The producer of the original, Tomoyuki Tanaka, was on his deathbed when his successor, Tomiyama, went to visit to explain the changes. Forbidden from taking any pictures outside the studio for fear of leaks, Tomiyama struggled to find the words to describe the new Godzilla. “I told him, ‘It’s similar to Carl Lewis, with long legs, and it runs fast,’ ” he recalled.” — Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998
In 2003 Toho released a new Godzilla film that broke away from their new “Millennium Series” as a stand alone picture entitled Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Monster Attack. The new look of Godzilla was even better, taking the creature back to his original sinister look .They even whited out his eyes to give a sense of evil to the monster. The opening of Godzilla: GMK shows the Japanese Defense Force in a lecture over the possibility of Godzilla’s return to ravage the country. A conversation between two officers during the lecture slams the 1998 film:
“Didn’t the Americans encounter a similar creature in New York a few years ago?”
“Yes… there was a giant monster. But that was not Godzilla.”
That’s not Godzilla,” growled Kasuya [a Japanese filmgoer], 38, who wore his favorite shirt for the occasion–a black short-sleeve silk number emblazoned with yellow and orange Godzilla scenes. “He got killed with four missiles, but the Japanese Godzilla is almost bulletproof. And the Japanese Godzilla is handsome, but the American Godzilla is not.” — Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998
Godzilla ’98 was made to make money–without respect for the culture and history that created the original film. If this had been anything but a Godzilla film, it would have fared better in audience and critical reaction. It isn’t even artistic. This movie is expensive and hollow–devoid of meaning and reformatted into a popcorn matinee film. Ishiro Honda and Tanaka’s original was art and entertainment.
“The decision to make Godzilla an expensive effects film immediately departs from the series’ aesthetic and iconographic tradition, which even resisted stop-motion (as in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms or the effect Tim Burton captured so marvelously using computer-generated imagery in Mars Attacks!). The onslaught of exploitative digital effects effectively removes Godzilla from the world of juvenile pleasure — now it would need a gargantuan audience — leaving nothing of interest for any age. It’s not a good adult movie; it’s not a good kids movie; it’s not a good movie; it’s not a movie. It’s an Event.” — Gregory Solman, Film Comment
The Japanese original offers hope and faith in mankind at its conclusion even after the real life horrors inflicted upon that country. Devlin and Emmerich’s film offers nothing, not even entertainment. It has nothing to say.
It was a masterwork of marketing, advertising and product placement with the hope of massive merchandising opportunities. It is one of the few examples where Cynema was largely rejected by the audience that was awake enough to understand the bad bill of goods being offered.
And Now a Word From Netflix Reviewers on Godzilla ‘98 (Complete with spelling and grammar errors)
* To the two people bellow me who made the fail reviews you obviously aren’t real godzilla fans and I hope godzilla haunts you as for godzilla is one of the most remarkable creature ever to see I actually like this movie and this doesn’t even look anything so what related to jurrassic park if anything jurrassic park copied godzilla if that’s what you are saying godzilla was created in 1998 which I believe was created before jurrassic park so frequently I believe that you’re so called theory has a lot of errors to it because GodZilla technically came first before jurrassic park as of matter of fact it’s been around since eons. I watched this movie since I was ten and right now I’m eight teen and still love this movie. I wonder if anyone out here has nightmares about a gigantic dinosaur demolishing there city I sure have if you’re an addicively addicted godzilla fan like I am then this movie is surely good for you to watch. Who doesn’t like dinosaurs, they’re the reasons why humans exist after all without them being alive in a time on earth we would never have been created.
* Godzilla Fanboys loathe this film – My entire family digs it – Great performances from an awesome cast and superb FX – Enjoy and thank me later.
* What is the best thing about Godzilla… HIS CALL! Not only do they give him a new, short totally uninteresting call, but its heard all of two times in this movie. Of course the writing/acting/directing etc.is pure crap. Any use of your time, any use (killing yourself incl.) is a better use than watching this dreck. Boom.
* This is my fav godzilla movie the other ones befor this werent so great .the old godzilla was realley just a big t-rex with super breath and spikes on the back. this is the best movie ever and those who hate can just keep sayin it. 5 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!
* It’s a great monster movie that I can watch with my 11-yeard old kid. The old Godzilla’s are painful to watch because of how silly they are; this version is dated, to be sure, but at least you don’t have people’s guts and blood squirting out as they are eaten like some of the more “realistic” monster movies made today. With this movie you have crunching noises–and no actual eating on screen. Let’s call it a fun movie for kids and adults. Lots of action and suspense. Great monster!