Godzilla (1998)

Pretender to the Throne

Well, let me make this short and sweet: I’ve got one main problem with this movie. The title. Godzilla is a real fine monster movie. It’s fun. It’s got great special effects and some really clever ideas. But it has no business calling itself Godzilla, except as a marketing ploy. The monsters owe much more to the T. Rex and Raptors of Jurassic Park than to anything produced by Toho Studios.

For a comparison of the original and the remake, see below. As for this movie…

Matthew Broderick plays a geeky scientist (but “cute”, in the words of fellow geek Vicki Lewis) who specializes in the study of genetic mutations caused by radiation. He’s called in by the military when a really big mutation starts trashing fishing boats in the South Pacific. The monster heads overland in Central America, then swims straight for Manhattan. There, he comes ashore and burrows underground. As one of the cleverest angles in the movie, the panicked military causes more damage trying to kill the monster than the monster causes itself.

Scenes of the monster running through the city streets in the rain, dodging missiles fired by swarming helicopters, are genuinely thrilling. If you’re looking for awesome spectacles of mass destruction, this is the movie for you. However, Godzilla is only exciting when the monsters are onscreen – scenes of French secret service sneaking around are only mildly more interesting than those depicting Broderick’s awkward reunion with old flame Maria Patillo.

Godzilla will earn many millions of dollars and could even spawn a successful sequel or two. But the real Godzilla has already appeared in 22 feature films, and will no doubt return to reclaim his throne.

Godzilla (1954/56) Godzilla (1998)
Godzilla is a therapod dinosaur mutated by hydrogen bomb radiation from US nuclear tests. Godzilla is a mutated marine iguana mutated by radiation from French nuclear tests.
Portly professional newsman Raymond Burr brings the news to the world. Gets hit in the head by falling timbers. Streetwise newshound Animal (Hank Azaria) gets the first video of Godzilla and almost gets stepped on.
Directed by Kurosawa’s assistant Ishiro Honda, who went on to become the premiere Japanese director of SF films. Directed by Roland Emmerich, whose resume includes Moon 44, Universal Soldier, Independence Day, Stargate, and Ghost Chase.
Monster looks like the apocalypse beast of ancient legend. Monster looks nothing like Godzilla.
Godzilla can breath a beam of atomic fire. Godzilla has really strong fish breath.
Burr takes advantage of his friendship with old college buddy turned scientist, Dr.Serizawa. Gorgeous but ditzy assistant reporter Maria Patillo gets scoops by taking advantage of her old college boyfriend, scientist Matthew Broderick. Oily boss anchorman Harry Shearer takes advantage of her.
Godzilla destroys Tokyo in a single night. Godzilla trashes Madison Square Garden.
Classic soundtrack music provided by respected classical and film composer Akira Ikufube. Soundtrack album features classic rock tunes remade by contemporary artists barely heard asĀ  snippets during the film but reprised during the end credit scroll.
The monster is played by a stuntman in a heavy rubber suit. The monster is played by sophisticated computer animation effects. And sometimes by a guy in a rubber suit.
Godzilla is killed(?) under Tokyo Bay by Serizawa’s oxygen destroyer. Godzilla is killed by a few missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Godzilla is a powerful statement on the horrors of nuclear war told by those that survived it themselves. Godzilla is powerful statement on how much fun it is to see giant monsters smash things told by those that watched a lot of movies.
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