Review:
GODZILLA (1998)

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2.5/5)
Published:
August 3rd, 2004 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

GODZILLA is a movie that has widely replaced All Monsters Attack (1969) as the scapegoat for fans. Despite the bad press and wide dislike of the creature that fans bitterly call G.I.N.O. (Godzilla in name only), there is a great deal that is good about the movie. The Godzilla design maintains aspects of the original design. The CGI is just amazing. The characters are likeable, if sometimes silly. The plot is solid and the pace complements the movie very nicely. The music manages to work well with the film, and it really represents the grandeur of a Godzilla movie. Despite all the good, the main fault that many fans find with the movie is the betrayal that was dealt by the vastly altered Godzilla design.

The design of the American Godzilla is widely considered the downfall of the movie. It is so drastically different from the traditional Japanese design that its similarities are often dwarfed by its changes. What remains of the traditional design is as follows: rows of spines; a bipedal walk; 4 fingers; and a dinosaurian appearance. What changes is as follows: an enormous, rectangular head as opposed to a smaller, rounded head; a horizontal stance as opposed to a vertical stance; skin resembling a modern lizard over the traditional bark texture; and the subtle addition of a dew-claw. Similarities that don't concern the look specifically are the roar and existense of a combustion-breath. Dissimilarities are the lack of defensive flesh, the increased speed, the widely disliked fact that Godzilla produces offspring asexually, and the relative ineffectiveness of the combustion-breath. Most of these changes were obviously meant to increase realism; instead, they created a great deal of animosity amongst fans.

The fans' animosity would not be so deeply running if fans had learned about the design changes before the movie was released, as opposed to during the course of the movie. The attempt to conceal the design before the release date seems to have been an intriguing ploy by Tristar to increase interest in the film. Little did they know that it would help to dash false expectations. If Tristar had released the design prior to the film, fans would have become accustomed to the design and enjoyed the movie more than they did. In fact, this author managed to catch a first glimpse of the design two months earlier at Barry's Temple of Godzilla in the form of a small statuette. About two weeks prior to the movie, I managed to catch a glimpse of the Godzilla toy designs. I was very dissappointed by the design, and I was in denial that the design could truly be the one they chose for the film. By the time the movie had come to theaters, however, I had accepted the design. Due to this acceptance, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. A word of caution to everyone: ignore the design!

As far as the movie is concerned on its own merits, it was very well done. The cgi was excellent, and the realism was breathtaking. The action scenes were intense, and the scope of the project was enormous. Overall, the film boasted an insane budget of $125 million dollars.

The acting was a little subpar, but it must be remembered that this movie was meant to emulate past Godzilla movies. Looking back, there are few Godzilla movies that don't boast at least a little subpar acting. The silly acting is sometimes more enjoyable than Raymond Burr's deadpan performance in Godzilla, King of the Monsters and his melodramatic performance in Godzilla 1985. GODZILLA was not meant to be a 100% serious film; and in this way it called back to the kitschy Godzilla movies of the 60s and 70s.

The characters were far from uninteresting, even if sometimes underdeveloped. The nerdy Niko Tapotopolus (excuse me, it's Tatopoulos) comes across as comic relief sometimes, rather than the hero of the film (reminding one much of Akira Kubo's performance in Son of Godzilla [1967]). Audrey Timmons, the shy and awkward television reporter, works well as Nick's love interest. The misunderstood, underrated scientist and the ambitious, awkward reporter are the best-developed characters in the story; leaving Animal, Colonel Hicks, Charles Caiman, Philippe Roach?, and Lucy Palotti as very flat characters meant only to hold firm the foundation of the two main characters.

As far as the characters' interaction with Godzilla himself is concerned, the expensive graphics make it flawless. This is especially true in the baby Godzilla scene. Many cry foul when they watch this scene, accusing GODZILLA of ripping-off the velociraptor scenes in the Jurassic Park movies. In previous Godzilla movies, interaction with Godzilla has been limited due to the extreme size-difference. Creating a scene where the characters look almost eye-to-eye with Godzilla is an ingenious method of interactivity, even if it is a baby Godzilla. There is almost no doubt that they pulled inspiration from Jurassic Park; however, if you're going to pull inspiration from somewhere, it might as well be the highly successful Jurassic Park franchise.

The plot to GODZILLA isn't as bad as most people claim it is. Audrey Timmons and Niko Tatopoulos, separated by time and career, cross paths as a monstrous, bipedal iguana attacks New York City. Their rekindling relationship turns sour when Audrey's ambition causes Nick to lose his chair in the official Godzilla counteroffensive. Nick, however, suddenly finds himself among a group of French operatives, for it was the France's nuclear testing that brought the monster into existence. The unofficial Godzilla counteroffensive, followed by the curious Audrey, end up in Madison Square Garden... Godzilla's secret nest! Smelling of the fish that Godzilla brought for his children, the small band is chased by dozens and dozens of baby Godzillas. Audrey manages to transmit video from the nest, warning the outside about the possibility of a world-wide Godzilla infestation. The military responds by destroying the building, but luckily it is only after the group escapes. Godzilla, rising from the city streets, sees his young. They are all dead. Godzilla rampages after the group of humans and chases them over the Brooklyn bridge, where he becomes ensnared in the arches and cables. The military sends fighter jets to intercept the creature and manages to quickly subdue the beast. Tragically, Godzilla, who was only trying to defend his young, died at the hands of the species that created him. Unknown to the cheering city, one Godzilla remains...

The story manages to keep one riveted, without resorting to long and monotonous action scenes. The pacing is perfect, blending just the right amount of human drama with the right amount of action scenes. Some fans complain that too much attention was placed on the baby Godzillas. One of the major problems with solo Godzilla movies is that the lack of a second monster can easily lead to the old clich?, "been there, done that." Adding baby Godzillas, however, was like adding a second monster without actually adding a second monster. Also, the pace of the movie was greatly helped by the fact that the adult and baby Godzilla scenes were kept separate from eachother. This variety helps to keep the audience from becoming blas? with yet another solo Godzilla movie.

As far as the music in GODZILLA is concerned, it is more modern than an Akira Ifukube score. Despite this fact, it is still works well to emphasize the size of the movie. The opening score is very powerful, and flows with the scenes very nicely. There isn't any music that really sticks in a person's head for days. That may be for the best, as it is doubtful that the GMK earworm is considered a blessing amongst fans.

The way the movie ends is widely disliked as well. Most fans are used to a nearly invincible Godzilla. This Godzilla succumbs to the power of only 12 missiles! The sad death of Godzilla is one moment in the film that is universally admired by fans, but it is unforunately one of the few. Despite the sad death scene, the ending of GODZILLA is upbeat. Everyone cheers because the terror is over and life can go on. Little do they know that one baby Godzilla remains, and the cycle goes on.

For some, the fact that the one-Godzilla-remaining ending did not spawn a sequel is a dissapointment. For others, it's a relief. The movie did spawn a universally honored cartoon series that did manage to fix some of the film's problems. In fact, there is no doubt that many fans probably enjoy the series more than the movie it's based on. Despite the movie's flaws, it can still be enjoyable to watch. Whether you call him G.I.N.O. or Godzilla, he will forever be a controversial and memorable addition to the franchise.