Roland Emmerich while known for making some of the best know disaster films is a very divisive figure in cinema. I was never impressed by his films, but for some reason, a lot of his films are fondly remembered by others. The Day After Tomorrow has its own recognition and Independence Day was such a cult hit, it earns its own sequel. So, I learned to live with the fact that these films exist and have never really crossed the line in terms of making me mad whenever I watch them. That is until I entered my “Godzilla admiration” phase and saw how Emmerich has turned the King of the Monsters to the King of the Laughingstock.
I adore Godzilla, nowadays I’m not too certain about the direction the franchise is going in with easy crowd-pleasing action, I feel like a lot of how Godzilla came to be has been lost and people need to be reminded of that. But I am willing to stay on the road and see where it takes me. I actually saw quite a few Godzilla films including his 1954 original and right through the, what Godzilla fans call, The Shōwa Era, however before 1998 the kaiju of all kaiju had not yet been given the Hollywood treatment and being in the dark in watching this film, I had no idea how badly a production could misrepresent a franchise that is such a staple of Japanese pop culture.
I don’t want to leave you in suspense about the biggest sin this film commits because people reading this who have also seen this Godzilla will be waiting for me to bring it up. So the design is atrocious. Godzilla’s appearance has remained relatively unchanged, albeit with some minor tweaks, but it has remained so iconic to cinema. It’s clear that Emmerich is wanting to put his own spin on the monster and to be the fair if you look at the concept art of this film Godzilla, it’s not exactly terrible. However, what works on paper does not work in practice and this is just unrecognisable. Even to someone who doesn’t know who Godzilla would look at this and say “I know nothing about it, but that does not look like a Godzilla”. It’s more iguana than a monster, an iguana with a big chin and no atomic breath (it’s “power breath”, added at the last second by the filmmakers).
It’s surprisingly easy to figure out if a film was made in the ’90s if you know what to look for. There’s a certain, how should I put it, corniness behind the genius creativity and because of this, films like Jurassic Park and Toy Story tick all the boxes on entertaining the masses and being appreciated for its breakthroughs making films like these timeless. Godzilla is not timeless, in fact, it’s quite astonishing to see how much this film is massively outdated. The CGI is one thing, but product placements that no longer exist, a slanderous Ebert and Siskel parody characters, and a very, VERY uncomfortable World Trade Centre reference make the viewing experience far from nostalgic and incredibly awkward. Speaking of Jurassic Park, I want you to play a game I like to play called “Spot the Jurrasic Park rip off scenes”. I’ll give nothing away, have fun.
Even the acting in Godzilla feels very awkward. The man at the helm of this sinking ship is Mathew Broderick as Niko Tatodopoul…Tapadopoul…Tatopoulos, Tatopoulos! That’s the one! An NRC scientist sent to investigate Godzilla’s sudden appearance in New York. Let’s just say for an actor who became a humongous rising star with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Godzilla was when it became noticeable that his choice of rolls was questionable. However, at least it didn’t kill his career, unlike Maria Pitillo who plays aspiring news reporter and Niko’s ex-girlfriend Audrey Timmonds. Wow, this is a flat performance, about as flat as this Godzilla’s chin. It’s no wonder she won a Golden Razzie and practically quit the acting business altogether because her voice cannot match the emotion.
Godzilla is not shy to the downright ridiculous, especially in his later films, for goodness sake the king of all monster dances in one. But since this is America’s first take on the monster, why would you want to embrace this side of Godzilla when you can show what a truly terrifying and destructive monster he is? I can’t completely cover the scope of how ridiculous this film is because it seems like every moment has its own unique absurdity. From the US Army destroying more of New York than the actual monster to the plan of luring the monster out with a load of fish, there is always something to make you question why.
The only good thing about this film came long after it’s release in 2004 and the film Godzilla: Final Wars where this version’s Godzilla makes a small appearance, only to have its ass kicked by the actual, iconic Godzilla we all know and love. I can’t even begin to tell you how much satisfaction comes from watching this tiny scene and I would prescribe this scene to anyone who feels angry at the 1998 Godzilla.