Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich wowed movie audiences with “Independence Day”, but could they take on one of Japan’s most recognizable symbols of popular culture and succeed?
In 1954 Japanese filmmakers released the very first Godzilla movie about an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. The Japanese audiences were able relate to Godzilla and even found the character sympathetic despite its wrathful nature.
Before “Independence Day” was released to theaters in 1996 director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin signed on to do Godzilla, but on the condition they could handle the movie their way.
Emmerich and Devlin told Sony they wanted to make Godzilla as a fast paced animal out of nature film and not some strange creature.
When it came to the design of Godzilla, Emmerich wanted to completely reinvent its look because he felt the original design “didn’t make sense”. Patrick Tatopoulos was hired to design Godzilla with the only specific instruction given to him that it should be able to run fast.
Emmerich and Devlin wrote the first draft of Godzilla in five and a half weeks. Several early scripts written before both Emmerich and Devlin were brought on board had written Godzilla as an alien planted on Earth, but Emmerich and Devlin decided the nuclear radiation was an important part of what Godzilla was all about and would remain at the heart of this Godzilla as well.
One of the ways they felt this Godzilla would be a threat to mankind was to give it the ability to lay hundreds of eggs. In the original Japanese movies, Godzilla was referred to with gender-neutral pronouns or for better lack of terms an “it”, while the English dubbed versions described Godzilla as a male. Emmerich and Devlin’s Godzilla was able to lay eggs through parthenogenesis.
On May 20, 1998 Godzilla was released to theaters to mostly negative reviews. After an eight-week run in theaters it earned just over $136 million domestically and $379 million worldwide. When 1998 came to a close Godzilla finished as the ninth highest-grossing film domestically and the third-highest-grossing film worldwide.
Fast-forward to 2018 and twenty years later.
What about some of the cast of Godzilla?
Matthew Broderick as Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos:
“Nick” Tatopoulos was one of the scientists brought in by the Military and was jokingly referred to as the “worm guy” since he was researching the effects of radiation on earthworms in Chernobyl.
As an actor in general Matthew Broderick is a very capable and wonderful actor, but when it comes to Godzilla he feels out place. As the lead actor in the movie Mr. Broderick didn’t seem like the hero type.
For me personally Mr. Broderick looked and felt as if he was just going through the motion without any of the energy or enthusiasm. Now I could be wrong on this and he played the part just as it was written, but when I watch a movie like Godzilla I kind of want a more energetic lead/hero character.
Jean Reno as Philippe Roaché:
Revealed as an agent of the French secret service, Philippe and his colleagues had been keeping a close watch on the events and wanted to cover up their country’s role in the nuclear testing that created Godzilla.
The first time I watched Godzilla, I kind of enjoyed the character, even found him a little fascinating. However the more I’ve watched the movie the more I began to wonder as to why is this character in the movie? What I’ve learned about Philippe after twenty years is nothing. While watching the movie for this post I wondered what exactly did he hope to try and cover up because at the end of the movie all he has gained was a videotape from the television photographer that in my mind gives him nothing.
Maria Pitillo as Audrey Timmonds:
The female lead or love interest of the movie. Audrey is Nick Tatopoulos ex-girlfriend, who’s working for a New York City’s television station and has aspirations of being a reporter. When she runs into Tatopoulos she lets him believe she has made it as a reporter and then steals a sensitive tape that she uses in hopes of furthering her carrier. Her actions force the U.S. Military to remove Tatopoulos from the team.
As far as female leads in a sci-fi action movie like Godzilla, the character of Audrey was okay, but more times then not I found her a little on the annoying side.
Hank Azaria as Victor “Animal” Palotti:
A cameraman for the same television station that Audrey also works for and gets early recognition at his job when he gets some of the first footage of Godzilla, not long after he comes on to Long Island.
If I’m honest Azaria’s character of “Animal” is really one of my favorite characters of the movie and in some ways I wish his character was the lead. But that doesn’t mean “Animal” is perfect either.
In real life my actual job is in broadcasting and when I watch Godzilla and the scenes with Azaria as a cameraman it makes me cringe. First, any real life cameraman worth his weight in gold would never have his camera exposed to the rain like it’s shown in the movie.
The camera would be protected with a cover that would still allow it to be operated with little to no inconvenience to the photographer. Now I realize it’s Hollywood and a lot of liberties are taken with any movie, but it still drives me crazy every time I watch it.
Michael Lerner as “Mayor Ebert” and Lorry Goldman as “Gene,” Mayor Ebert’s Aide:
Now I never had any intentions of going through every single main character in the movie, but these two particular characters are two I must address.
For anyone who’s not blind or has been living on a deserted island for the last forty years, it’s no secret that “Mayor Ebert” and “Gene,” are parodies of real life movie critics, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. At the time of the movie both critics were alive, but sense Godzilla, both have passed away.
Director Roland Emmerich had issues with the real life critics and decided to poke fun at them in Godzilla for being overly harsh of his movies over the years.
I cannot stand these two characters and maybe that’s what Emmerich was hoping the audience would view them as, annoying. If it was than he did a good job, but in all honesty I wish Emmerich had written these characters differently or not at all.
The Movie Itself:
Godzilla, at least how Emmerich and Devlin saw it was not what you call a true Godzilla movie. That being said there is nothing wrong with a writer or director taking a movie property or character and wanting to make it his or her own, but at the same time you do have to be respectful of what’s come before it, especially with a property like Godzilla.
When it comes to the story of Godzilla (1998) it doesn’t offer much in the way of re-watch ability. If you’ve ever watched it, you’ll notice that the majority of the shots of Godzilla, were are at night. Being at night allows the filmmakers to hide some of the imperfections when it comes to the special effects of the movie.
Where the special effects seem to suffer the worst is when they finally discover Godzilla’s nest in Madison Square Gardens. For as many baby “Godzilla’s” they created it wasn’t hard to spot when the special effects weren’t working and could have been so much better. It’s one of those things in my mind that once you notice it you can’t un-notice it.
It’s at this point in the movie where you wonder if Emmerich and Devlin weren’t sure if they were trying to make their own movie about Godzilla or a wanna-be Jurassic Park movie. As all of the “Godzilla” babies were similar in size and movement to the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
Something else I’ve always wondered about this movie is whose idea was it for Godzilla to jump into the Hudson River and take on two Navy submarines? It was a scene that never really made any sense and always felt somewhat out of place.
Now I didn’t hate everything in this movie. I did enjoy the beginning of the movie where they began alluding to some sort of monster with out actually showing you Godzilla and when done correctly, the less is more idea can work.
The final chase scene in the movie entertained me when our main heroes are trying to outrun Godzilla in a New York taxicab through the streets of the Big Apple, something you don’t see in every movie.
This Godzilla movie as a whole is watch able as long as you’re not expecting anything spectacular or good. The movie has its problems and there are a few parts that are enjoyable. As for the look of Godzilla himself, it was more of a giant mutated lizard that never reminded me of the Godzilla one would associate when you hear the name Godzilla.
Take parts of Independence Day, Jurassic Park, half the voice cast from the Simpsons, mix in some bad comedy and hit the chop button on your blender and you get Emmerich and Devlin’s Godzilla. For a movie that celebrates its twentieth anniversary this month it really doesn’t hold up as well as one would hope. Especially when you watch a movie like Godzilla, you’re hoping to see a movie worthy of the name.
If you were a fan of the movie in 1998 and you still love it in 2018, that’s great. As for myself I know longer look at this movie as I once did. I see it more as a middle of the road sci-fi B movie that one might watch on cable late at night.
Godzilla was released in theaters on May 20, 1998
Synopsis for Godzilla:
During a nuclear test, the French government inadvertently mutates a lizard nest; years later, a giant lizard makes its way to New York City. Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an expert on the effects of radiation on animals, is sent by the U.S. government to study the beast. When the creature, dubbed “Godzilla” by news outlets, emerges, a massive battle with the military begins. To make matters worse, Nick discovers that Godzilla has laid a nest of 200 eggs, which are ready to hatch.
Categories: Movie Anniversaries