Rewatch Review – Godzilla (1998) – More overthinking than this film deserves

1998 godzilla title card
Tell this Godzilla to go go GO.

I really don’t want to make this a long review, since the movie’s trash and it’s not worth a lot of my day.

I say all this in advance and with apologies to Matthew Broderick, who’s a fine actor. Broderick is always adorable, and can normally pull a film out any mire it might be stuck in. Imagine LadyHawke without Mouse. It would be an overblown, floofy, brain-bashing melodrama with seriously depressing leads and minimal dialog. Broderick MAKES this movie. And he makes Ladyhawke a personal favorite of mine. I cry at that one day/night scene every time, but it’s only because Mouse keeps me in such good spirits, chatting with God, crawling in sewers, and being a lovable character throughout. You don’t even notice the bizarre 70s rock track. 😉

Wait. This is a Godzilla Review?

Back to 1998 Godzilla, which you can see I don’t want to talk about — sorry. I saw it in theaters in the day, and remember thinking, “Hmmmm, lousy ripoff of Aliens and Jurassic Park.”

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Then I saw it again last night. I wondered if I’d been too hard on it in the past, so scrolled it up in preview preparation to the new Godzilla sequel out this week (2019). And what did I think?

More of the same, with a bonus: “Lousy ripoff of Aliens and Jurassic Park, but with endless hours of running and shooting in the rain!” I guess I was more tolerant of that back then. FX have come a long way, and we don’t need rain to hide the seams anymore. Yet I can forgive 2 & 1/2 hours of pouring rain if the PLOT WAS BETTER.

I watched this with my mother and we both agreed on two things (and we never agree on anything): 1.  Shooting bullets at Godzilla wasn’t working, so why did we have to follow the military around trying out new ways to shoot it…over and over…? Answer: filler.

2. And. We felt really bad for Godzilla and the babies. These aren’t monsters — they’re animals. Big ones. Looking for food and procreating. The better ending would have been finding a way to bring poor Godzilla to a (sizeable) animal sanctuary. Teams of happy conservationists and scientists would give body parts, vying to care for this new life-form.

Godzilla would have hot and cold running fish, and a carefully applied form of birth control to keep population levels stable.

Gremlins too?

Oh, and problem 3. Having the babies act like overgrown Gremlins wasn’t as  funny as the producers must have thought. (Oooo, another classic movie to rip off — they can fight over popcorn!)

Lastly, the slowly dying heartbeat sound at the end wasn’t remotely earned, unlike with King Kong, which was always intended as a tragedy. Here, there’s no “It was Beauty that killed the Beast” (goosebumps just thinking about it). As the Aliens Space Marines Corps once said, Godzilla was a ‘bug hunt.’ To its detriment.

How to fix Godzilla for Modern Audiences

I can’t say the 2014 remake is a work of genius (still too much padding with planes and guns) but it’s a world of better. With the Broderick version, I’d say there are two movies going on. One is decent, and human, and has a moment where the lead connects with the beast. The other is what the fast-forward button was made for. In a 2 and 1/2 hour film, excising an entire hour would make this watchable. My other issues (1, 2, 3…4?) remain, but it would be a tighter, more watchable experience, focusing on the human element and not illogical plot points that test the viewer’s patience.

Clearly, the Industry still has no idea how to handle Godzilla. Less bombs. More worry about animals we are now responsible for, in our hubris. More how to handle a brave new world that includes unintended creatures of mankind’s folly (the nuclear annihilation of South Pacific Islands).

Jurassic Park itself touched on these issues, but didn’t bring home the yummy carnivorous bacon. I think it’s time to move past Monsters As Bad and say, “We did this. Now what are we going to do about it?”

Movie Grade: D

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