When I was nine years old, I went on a trip with my brother and father to a movie theater. we bought popcorn and candy and soda, found our seats. and had a great time.
A movie largely panned it seemed, not just by reviewers but audiences as well. Fans of the originals films saw it as a mar on the record, new comers saw it as just another special effects flop by the same company responsible for Star Gate (another film I'll touch on one day.) and Independence Day.
In fact Godzilla contained a quiet obvious jab at Siskel and Ebert with two caricatures. While the reviewers themselves expressed disdain (Siskel commenting that if the director was going to take a jab at them why didn't the monster kill them?) I find that There's a more subtle dig. In watching the interaction between the mayor and his aide, the digs are at the two as people, not their reviews, by not having the monster kill them, they don't have the importance of the others. The ones we empathize with.
And in the end what happens? They split up. what comes across at the beginning as friendship is shattered by the end from strain. one that straw that breaks it (The mayor calling his aide an Idiot) I imagine in the writer and directors view this was better then being Eaten because it wasn't just commentary on how they felt the reviewers wouldn't last but also in that they would 'break up' as it where, on bad terms.
So here's the question Is it just a special effects flop?
I don't think so. Not really.
Bear with me here, the enjoyment I get from this movie comes from more then just that one Nostalgic memory (much of it I can't really remember anyway)
But also from the energy of it.
instead of dissecting it I view it as a film to just enjoy. I view any film that way (well films I like anyway)
In watching Godzilla there's a distinct Man against nature feel. And it's hardly the first. Natural Disaster movies are quiet popular after all. this took 'nature' and gave it a twist. As opposed to nature being this unseen force whose attack where all after effects of something uncontrollable. here we had nature, effected by man, and then man being effected by nature.
Godzilla in this film is an animal. in fact The lead character Nick Tatopoulos has a line
'He's not an enemy trying to evade you [Hicks] he's just an animal'
And that's true. when you think monster movie you think Monster, wolfman, lagoon creature, vampire. That sort of thing. None of these can really be considered man against 'nature' because the creatures on top of not being natural, they have very human characteristics and 'personalities'
Looking at Other Godzillas There is a higher thought process then an animals. it may not be a human level intellect but the monster in those films has been shown to think and make choices. even in the 2014 version there is a 'personality' to the Godzilla (somehow considering he was barely in the film Grr)
there's a reason for these Godzillas to display that as well, while originally Godzilla was formed as a sort of personification of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with this big bad monster a metaphor, an unstoppable force. Later that was removed and Godzilla became a sort of 'hero' while still a danger to humanity He was seen as a savior because he stopped other monsters such as Mothra.
However in the 98 film, we don't have that
While the Nuclear origin is still there it's made as an actual origin, Fall out from tests in French Polynesia mutates a Lizard (Possibly an iguana as they are shown in the opening sequence and 'Zillas' design heavily pulls from them.)
Many many years later 'Zilla' Apperes.
In having watched the movies several times I think the film makers idea was that, instead of doing a 'hulk' as it where and just having the radiation immediately turn a lizard into Godzilla. The lizards reproduced eventually leading to the mutated Zilla seen in the film.
The film proceeds to have the Monster travel away from it's home and 'nest', and what better place then New York?
Following the map shown in several early scenes as well as the ships it obvious New York wasn't 'picked' by Zilla, it's just where the fish led him.
Next is The eggs
While Godzilla films did feature the 'son' of Godzilla This film approached the idea as more of the animal drive. His coming to New York was to find a suitable nesting site, Animal instinct had him hiding the eggs in a 'cavern' IE Madison square garden, Animal instinct drove him to collect food for his young. Another point stated very clearly in the film.
So why the heavy criticism?
Well I have a couple theories on that.
One is, fandom.
The fact is Godzilla as a property was incredibly popular before the film. heck why else would it have gotten the Hollywood green light? even in the 90's
But like how there was a huge outcry at the idea of Heath ledger as Joker, There was anger at a different Godzilla then what people knew. This was exacerbated by the fact that advertisement kept the look of the monster under wraps. so Unlike Heath who with announcements of his casting and trailers to give the audience time to settle and consider the idea. for Godzilla the audience had no time to stop and think 'hey this could be unique'
All the outcry happened in the theater. People told friends who told friends who told friends. with each telling making the film seem worse and worse.
Another reason is...
Yes there's some really stupid stuff in the movie.
I love the film don't get me wrong but there are parts where I'm like 'Please stop doing that your embarrassing me.'
The heavy TV star casting was one thing, as a kid it was a little distracting to hear the Simpsons characters in my monster movie. To hear Simba talking about Nuclear testing was... an odd experience.
Now I'm older there are even more TV actors I recognize making it stranger, not so much because of their background but because I feel as if their not giving a full performance. I really feel Broderik is the only one trying. well him and the red head paleontologist.
Then there's a few odd plot holes such as
Uh seriously How deep is the River? no like really how deep is that river and how wide? cause in that scene with the military grade submarines, there's no bottom and no edge until the part where Zilla tried to escape and then Boom river wall...
How does a lighter help a traumatized, elderly, Japanese man help to understand a french man speaking English?
how did Zilla get that big in the first place with no one noticing?
So yeah there are some hiccups, suspension of disbelief is one thing but yes even I admit there's some bit that make your brain hurt if you think about them to hard.
But there's good parts as well.
I like the idea of the french secret service getting involved. Jean Reno has a line where he says he's a patriot who loves his country and wants to protect it, I love that line and the meaning behind it.
There's the adorable Nick whose Still Loves Audrey but yes admits he's hurt by what she did.
And then of course there's just Jean Reno... I mean, really Need I say more?
(It is noted that the writer of this review is a woman with a healthy 'appreciation' for mature actors who excel in their craft)
There's Audreys friends 'Animal' and his wife Lucy, who though their history isn't given much You really get the feeling they've been close for a long time and possibly helped Audrey when she first got to New York.
Audrey takes responsibility for what she did and goes with Animal to help Nick. (though seriously who goes to a dangerous area wearing heels? woman that is not a situation where you need to have your legs looking sexy and long with the help of heels.)
Over all I find that With all the different things tossed in a pot The Godzilla Film, while yes is not something one would consider canon in the Godzilla universe (Until Toho picked it up and made it one)
I still find the movie thoroughly enjoyable, from it's camp moments, to some really fantastic lines, to some of the subtitles I don't think people noticed because they where watching other things or had different expectations.
I Rate Godzilla as an 8.8 for being enjoyably different and for just being a simple but strangely subtle Action movie... with monsters and science.
Jibril, Signing off