Godzilla is a 1998 American kaiju film directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. A reimagining of the popular Japanese monster of the same name, the film focuses on a giant marine iguana, mutated by nuclear tests in French Polynesia, that migrates to New York City to nest its young. The cast features Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Hank Azaria, Maria Pitillo, Kevin Dunn, Arabella Field, Michael Lerner and Harry Shearer.
Despite its initial commercial success upon release, the film was met with negative reception from both critics and fans alike. In later years, Emmerich's variation of Godzilla became recognized as a stand-alone character, separated from the original Godzilla entity, and was officially renamed "Zilla" by Toho, the character's parent owners. The movie also received an animated TV spin-off series, known as Godzilla: The Series, which has been deemed to be much more faithful to the original Toho films.
Following a nuclear test in French Polynesia, a lizard's nest is irradiated by the fallout. Decades later, a Japanese fishing vessel is suddenly attacked and sunk by an enormous sea creature in the South Pacific, leaving only one fisherman alive. Dr. Niko "Nick" Tatopoulos, an NRC biologist, is sent to Panama and Jamaica, where a destroyed village, giant footprints and a wrecked ship have been found. Nick collects skin samples that lead him to believe the creature is a mutant created by nuclear testing. The creature travels to New York City, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
The city is evacuated before the military attempts to kill the creature, but they fail in an initial attempt, only causing damage to the city's landmarks. Nick later collects a blood sample and, after performing a pregnancy test, discovers that the creature is actually female and is collecting food for its offspring. Aspiring journalist, and Nick's ex-girlfriend, Audrey Timmonds uncovers a tape in his possession containing classified information about the creature. Her superior, Charles Caiman, declares the tape as his own and broadcasts it on television, revealing the creature's nuclear origins in French Polynesia and its name, spoken by the surviving fisherman, "Gojira", but jumbles it up as "Godzilla". Nick is then fired from the operation, but is immediately kidnapped by a man named Philippe Roche, who reveals himself to be an agent of the French secret service. He and his colleagues have been keeping a close watch on the events and are planning to cover up their country's role in the nuclear testing that spawned Godzilla. Suspecting that Godzilla's nest lies somewhere in the city, they cooperate with Nick to track down and destroy it.
Following a second military attempt to kill Godzilla, the creature dives into the Hudson River where it is attacked by US Navy submarines and presumably killed. Nick and Philippe's strike team, followed by Audrey and her cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti, find the nest inside Madison Square Garden and locate over 200 eggs. Before getting a chance to destroy them, the eggs suddenly hatch and the baby Godzillas attack the strike team, killing most of them. Nick, Philippe, Audrey and Animal take refuge in the Garden's broadcast booth and send out a live news report to alert the military of what will happen if the offspring escape. A prompt response involving an airstrike is initiated as the four escape moments before the arena is bombed by Air Force jets. However, the adult Godzilla, having survived the attack in the Hudson River, emerges from the Garden's ruins and chases the four, believing them to be responsible for the deaths of its offspring. After a car chase, they manage to trap Godzilla within the Brooklyn Bridge where it is shot down and killed by the returning Air Force jets. The citizens of New York City celebrate after the creature's death is confirmed and the four part ways.
Meanwhile, back in the ruins of Madison Square Garden, one egg is revealed to have survived and hatches before the newborn Godzilla roars at the screen, which then cuts to black.
Why It Sucks
- Poor acting, especially from Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo.
- The monster's design and behaviour are very different from the original Godzilla:
- The original Godzilla was a male, but the monster in this movie is a female. Regardless of this, Toho still considers the monster a male.
- The giant monster can disappear completely in the narrow streets of New York.
- The monster can somehow run faster than helicopters or tanks.
- The monster can only breath fire. Not Godzilla's iconic atomic breath, just fire, and it's accompanied by the sound of a cat yowling for no reason.
- These problems were so bad that Toho now classifies this monster as a new creation known as "Zilla". In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, a character mentions that the Americans think that the original Godzilla was the monster who attacked New York, but the Japanese government knows it was actually Zilla, and in Godzilla: Final Wars, Zilla fights the original Godzilla and gets annihilated in under a minute. This scene likely shows Toho's displeasure towards Sony with their handling of the Godzilla franchise.
- Most of the destruction in the movie is not caused by Godzilla, but by the US military, who are unbelievably and impossibly bad at hitting a 200-foot tall monster, accidentally destroying buildings and monuments like the Chrysler Building instead.
- Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel are portrayed as the bumbling mayor of New York City and his idiotic advisor, respectively, which the director obviously used as a joke after the two famous critics gave negative reviews to two of his other movies, Stargate and Independence Day. The joke ended up losing much of its intended effect due to the fact that neither character gets killed in the movie, which Siskel himself pointed out.
- The baby Godzilla chase scenes are a blatant rip-off of the Raptor scenes from Jurassic Park. The egg nest scene before it also rips off a similar scene from Aliens.
- Completely poor grasp of the source material; for instance, the original Godzilla was either an ancient sea monster or a dinosaur mutated by radiation from an atomic bomb test, while this movie‘s Godzilla is a mutated marine iguana. (See also Reasons #2 and #3)
- At one point in the movie, a reporter mentions that Godzilla's attack is the worst act of destruction in New York since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in which the World Trade Center was destroyed, the aforementioned scene becomes very disturbing.
- False Advertising: The theatrical release poster (shown above) makes Godzilla look gargantuan when in the actual movie, she's not.
- Poor CGI effects and visuals; this is the reason why most of the movie takes place at night.
- Some incredibly laughable dialogue, like when Nick says "That's a lot of fish!" during the scene where the Army is preparing a trap for Godzilla.
- Excessive amount of product placements like Disney, Pepsi, Blockbuster and many more.
- What makes all of this even worse is the fact that Roland Emmerich openly admitted that he and Dean Devlin hated the original Godzilla, and tried their best to make a movie that would destroy Godzilla's classic image. While they failed at achieving this, they succeeded in angering a lot of Godzilla fans and moviegoers everywhere.
- Jean Reno as Philippe Roche is one of the few highlights of this movie.
- It has good songs (such as "Come With Me" by Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page and "Deeper Underground" by Jamiroquai) and an awesome soundtrack composed by David Arnold.
- Roland Emmerich admitted that he regrets making this film during promotions for The Day After Tomorrow.