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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Let's Revisit Godzilla 1998

This month marks twenty years since the release of Godzilla.

And no, we're not talking about the rubber-suited behemoth introduced by Toho back in 1954.

No, what we're referring to here is the CGI iguana that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin unleashed upon Manhattan back in the spring of 1998. Sure, this version of Godzilla would go on to gross $379-Million worldwide and become one of the most successful films of the year, but for many people, this was simply not the same King Of The Monsters they were used to.

Being twelve years old at the time of the film's release, and coming off the massive hype train that was Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park the previous summer, I was all for a new movie featuring a bipedal saurian-like creature at its core. But, when Sony Pictures slapped the title of Godzilla on it all, I was downright thrilled. After all, growing up here in North America, we didn't have much exposure to the monster throughout the 80's and 90's. Back then, if you wanted to see a Godzilla movie, you're best bet was to scan the weekly issue of TV Guide in the hopes of finding one of the dubbed flicks airing on one of the movie channels we got back then.

Or, hitting up one of the many video rental places in search of a VHS tape.

Still, despite my limited exposure as a youth, I was crazy for all things Godzilla. So, the thought of a new version bolstering modern Hollywood effects was an exciting prospect indeed.

However, when the movie finally arrived on the big screen, it promptly burst into flames.

The bad response from audiences was shocking to me. I loved everything about this modern monster movie - the monster, the cast and the story. Hell, even twenty years later, I still have a real soft spot for the film - and its animated spinoff. It's just one of the few films that I remember most fondly from my youth and yes, I still indulge in watching it every so often just because I can. However, even back all those years ago, it was clear that not everyone felt the same way I did about Godzilla.

Following the poor response from audiences, Toho would snatch the rights back from Sony and begin pushing ahead with Godzilla 2000 as a sort of damage control meant to put their monster back on track. Additionally, while there had been plans in place to expand Sony's Godzilla mythos into three interconnected movies, those plans were also quickly scrapped by the studio.

I was crushed, but looking back, we can totally understand why the plug was pulled.

Glimpsing back over the monster's history, Toho had always presented Godzilla as a myth meant to represent the ignorance of mankind. However, in the 1998 flick, Emmerich and Devlin presented the classic kaiju as little more than a mutated lizard.

Gone was the wrathful punishment of God, replaced by a jacked up iguana.

Seriously, he doesn't even look like Godzilla.

Nor does the creature in the film act like Godzilla.

Do you ever remember Toho's monster burrowing under ground? Getting pregnant all by itself? How about getting gunned down because it got itself tangled up in a bridge?

Oh yeah, and there was no radioactive breath either.

Sigh, no this thing certainly wasn't Godzilla, was it?

And then, there's the plot.

Sony's Godzilla saw a primordial beast awakened by nuclear tests and setting out on a quest to find a suitable nesting ground to birth its young. After sinking some ships along the way, the monster makes landfall in New York City and promptly raises hell. A group of scientific and military personnel are assembled to stop it, but soon learn the creature can disappear with ease - despite being the size of the Chrysler Building, that is. Eventually, the central group of heroes - made up of Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo and Hank Azaria, locate the creature's nest deep within Madison Square Gardens and fight for survival against scores of freshly hatched baby beasts.

That happen to look like a cross between the Xenomorphs from James Cameron's Aliens and the Velociraptors seen in the Jurassic Park movies.

Eventually, the military shows up and destroys the nest - putting our heroes into direct conflict with one mad momma. They end up getting chased throughout Manhattan until the monster gets itself tangled up in the cables of a suspension bridge before being killed by a trio of fighter jets.

But, you know what? Despite not looking and playing out like one of the Toho Godzilla movies, I've got to admit that I still really, REALLY like this movie.

Emmerich and Devlin brought the same level of fun and action to this one as they did to the likes of Stargate and Independence Day. It's big, loud, fun and the very definition of what a popcorn movie was during the 1990's. The CGI Godzilla was a state of the art, hyper-realistic creation that was unlike anything we'd seen in cinema up until that point in time, while the hatchlings seen in the film's final act were downright frightening at times. The cast had some good, albeit corny, chemistry together on film and, in the end, I always walk away smiling.

No, Sony's Godzilla is not a Godzilla movie. Hell, it isn't even worthy of the name.

But, that doesn't necessarily make it a bad movie.

Three years after the film was released, Toho gave us Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack. In that movie, a group of military personnel learn about a giant monster attacking Manhattan in 1998. During the briefing, a student inquires as to whether the monster that attacked the United States was Godzilla, to which a superior responds: "The Americans say it was, but the guys over here have their doubts."

Yeah, and so do we.

But, even two decades later, I can honestly say it still remains a monstrously fun time.

Happy anniversary, Godzilla.

You are no King Of The Monsters, but we love you anyway!

Until next time, Infinite Earths fans!

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