Movie Review: GODZILLA (1998)

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godzilla 1998TriStar/Columbia/Sony

“That’s a lot of fish.”

Yeah, let’s just go ahead and get this long-standing regret of the past out of the way. It’s been ignored by your Uncle NecRo for long enough: it’s time to finally get the review of 1998’s Godzilla out of the way. It’s been festering for so very, very long, really.

Yes, nearly twenty years after the fact, we can look back at this as the poo emoji it is. But, I swear to all reading this, for the months leading up to the release, the prospect of a modern American take on one of the most iconic monsters in cinema history was just bloody exciting. Keep in mind, for those of you too young to remember, the mid-to-late 1990s, in terms of Summer Blockbusters, were kind of a dark time. But, this Godzilla had a couple of things going for it: Model CG effects, and Roland Emmerich–still hot off their success of Independence Day–handling things.

I remember sitting in the theater one evening, and the first teaser trailer came on. It just featured the foot, crushing a T-Rex display. But, that was all that was needed for me to get all sorts of fanboy giddy. Then, I saw the fisherman teaser trailer, and that pretty much got me starting a countdown to whenever that movie was going to hit theaters. And when it did, I went with a bunch of friends on opening night, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” blaring from my car’s speakers for some cheesy build-up goodness, and settled in with expectations and excitement high.

I’ll spare you all the end results. Point is, it wasn’t pretty. To say I was disappointed would be a massive understatement. This was not Godzilla. A giant monster movie, yes. But Godzilla, it was not. And here is why:

While going through the standard “Dinosaurs are COOOOOL!” phase as a grade school-er, my all-time favorite dinosaur wasn’t the standard T-Rex, or Brontosaurus (which was still a thing back then, for any aspiring pedantic pseudo-paleontologist out there…and sorry about the arbitrary alliteration); my prehistoric boy was the Allosaurus. I don’t know why this smaller version of the T-Rex appealed to me more (forever cementing me as the “weird one” in grade school and beyond), but it just did. And the point of bringing up this seemingly unrelated childhood flashback is this: The 1998 Godzilla looked like an over-grown Allosaurus with a severe underbite, and not the classic Japanese icon that we know and love. This iteration of “Godzilla” was less Science Run Amok Metaphor and more Force Of Nature Spectacle; here, instead of being a monstrosity that we helped to inadvertently create biting us in the collective butts, this is a prehistoric iguana wanting to lay its eggs in Manhattan.

And that’s the major issue with this 1998 Godzilla: this isn’t so much a Godzilla movie, as it is a loose remake of a movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Seriously, the plot to Godzilla ’98 is the same as that 1953 movie (which had the great Ray Harryhausen doing the stop motion effects).

So, anyway, if you happen to be one of the blessed ones who have not watched this iteration of Godzilla, here’s the synopsis: A giant mutated lizard beast arrives in New York and stomps around and does some major property damage, and then manages to allude the US military by hiding really good, somehow. So then they bring in Ferris Bueller, who’s an expert in radiation effects on animals and stuff, to bumble around awkwardly and say things like “that’s a lot of fish”, while his television journalist ex-girlfriends bums along with him and the French Secret Service to get in the way a lot. They find out that Godzilla is pregnant, because he/she can reproduce asexually I guess, and then stumble upon a bunch of Godzilla eggs, finally killing Godzilla, but then the eggs hatch and next thing you know we’re ripping off the Raptor chase scenes from Jurassic Park, and…by this time you’ve been struggling to pay attention through the many fake endings they make you sit through, and it just goes on and on and on and then ends on sequel-bait. That was the true terror, here.

Godzilla 1998 is an amazingly bad movie. It’s such a mishandling of a pop culture icon that I’m surprised Japan hadn’t declared war on us for doing this to their star monster. There are some cool parts to this, mind you; the whole rampage through New York City in the first reel was awesome, as was the part when Godzilla whipped out some classic atomic breath. But, that was all spent up early on in the movie. After that part, Godzilla goes away for most of rest, while we’re treated to a bunch of very uninteresting characters interacting while trying to find the main reason we spent money to watch this movie to begin with. And I’m well aware that, with the other Godzilla movies in the stable, the title character doesn’t really show up until the later part of the movies…but that’s the thing. Here, the big destruction part that everyone waits to see is gotten out of the way early on, so there really no reason to sit through the rest. Even by the time you get to the actual end of the movie, you’re feeling more than just a bit ripped off by the experience.

The ironic thing is, the obligatory Saturday morning cartoon series that spun off from this atrocity was actually a bazillion times better. Mainly because it seemed to understand the spirit of the original Japanese movies better than Roland Emmerich ever did. I would urge you to never watch this Godzilla…instead, check out the short-lived but ultimately superior cartoon version that takes up where the movie left off.

There. It’s been reviewed. Now to take a long shower to wash the ick off of me for having to revisit this…


Movie Review: GODZILLA (2014)

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Godzilla 2014 Movie PosterWarner Bros.

“I think Godzilla was only listening. The MUTO was calling something else.”

From visionary new director Gareth Edwards comes a powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring Godzilla rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.

I don’t think I have to explain why Godzilla is such a cinematic icon. Since he climbed out of the Pacific ocean to lay waste to Tokyo in 1954, when anyone thinks of giant monsters, first and foremost to spring to mind is the radiated bipedal lizard, regardless of whether or not you’ve seen any of the movies. For me, I discovered this Japanese import by way of a book series on classic movie monsters that I checked out of the local library as a 7-year-old. And, of course, there was the Hanna Barbara cartoon featuring Godzilla, Godzookie and a bunch of kids for some odd reason. It really wasn’t until college when I watched my first Godzilla movie–the 195_ original, as a matter of fact. Of course, back then we still only had the “Americanized” cut that was shown here in the states: where they inter-cut extra shots featuring Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr reacting to the destruction, but not really part of the actual movie.

As far as a full-on American version of the Godzilla franchise, this 2014 movie is actually the second attempt to bring the big guy to the States. The first time in 1998 was…um, I’ll just hold on to my thoughts for that particular review. Let’s just say that this 2014 American Godzilla is not only heads and tails better (see what I did there?), but this time out we’ve finally done the franchise proud, I think.

In this Godzilla, we have the story of a man who tragically lost his wife to the destruction of the nuclear power plant they both worked at in Japan back in 1999 (in one of the more heart-breaking scenes I’ve ever had to sit through). Fifteen years later, and he’s still in Japan, convinced that there was more to the destruction of the plant than a simple core meltdown, and is constantly getting in trouble trying to prove his theory, while his son–who was only 10 years old when the tragedy happened–has moved on with his life, with a wife and a young son of his own, working as a bomb specialist in the Army. After his dad is once again arrested for trespassing in the forbidden radiation zone around the ruins of the plant, he travels to Japan to spring him, only to accompany him back into that zone, where they not only discover that there is no radiation whatsoever, but there seems to be a rather odd conflagration of scientists gathered at ground zero, where a strange giant irradiated cocoon is being monitored. Of course, said cocoon hatches, and a gigantic insectile winged creature (which is not Mothra, I’d like to point out) lays waste to the science expedition, and flies out over the ocean, heading east. Seems Tiny has a taste for radiation, and likes targeting things and places that uses said radiation for power. Like, say, nuclear subs. And power plants. You getting the idea? The military and the scientists who were studying the creature immediately give chase…as does a certain giant green lizard creatures with atomic breath. There’s a showdown in Hawaii, then it’s off to the mainland in San Francisco, where they’re joined up by the winged creature’s girlfriend, who’s looking to lay her eggs underneath the city that gave the world Rice-a-roni. Among other things, I’m sure. Big honkin’ monster battle ensues, it looks like we’re all doomed, but then [SPOILERS] Godzilla saves the day and then swims off to his trailer to await the sequel. The end.

I’m going to say this as a tried-and-true fanboy of the Godzilla franchise, the good the bad and the ugly: Godzilla 2014 was awesome. I’ve heard all the complaints and the nit-pickery, and while I concede that this movie has its flaws and shortcomings, comparatively, this is classic Godzilla kicking it old school in a modern telling. Maybe I’m not Trve Geek by admitting this, but for the most part seeing this play out on the big screen (watched it at the local Second Run theater, mind you, but still worth it) was very satisfying. The character stories were compelling, and the build-up to the final battles were deliciously tense and action packed. Yeah, I enjoyed every minute of this thing. It’s a fun Godzilla movie, period. Give it a shot.

Revisiting Godzilla 1998

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Godzilla-1998-618x400Tomorrow, after work, I shall be joining my fellow compatriots from the Coven of Exhalted Geeks in watching the Riff Trax presentation of 1998’s Godzilla, at the Oakview AMC theaters in Omaha. The irony being that, back in 1998, I originally watched Godilla at the same theater complex on opening night, along with my friends. I went in excited and stoked, and left…less than satisfied, let’s just say. Now, here we are, set to head back to the Oakview AMC to watch the 1998 Godzilla again. Only this time, I already know what I’m getting into, and it shall be enhanced with the running quips and commentary by the Riff Trax team. That’s what was missing from the first viewing. It should be a better experience.

And in case you’re wondering: No, I am not going to be playing Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” while driving to the theater, like I did back in 1998. I’ve learned my lesson from the last time, there.