This post isn’t about a movie review of the 1998 American Godzilla movie, its more about the personal reason why I like the 1998 Godzilla monster and the design along with enjoying the movie. One of the reasons for this post is that last week there were a couple of Godzilla related groups that were once again bashing the movie and the creature. So this is an answer to the frequent Godzilla 1998 bashing.
Some background information. I have been a Godzilla fan since I was about 5 years old back in 1968 or so. I remember seeing “Destroy All Monsters” in the theaters. I watched Godzilla in my youth and young teens. But between Godzilla’s hiatus between 1975 and 84 I didn’t see a lot of Godzilla as many TV stations that I liked on cable didn’t show them as often as they did when I was younger.
I have always loved the many different designs of Godzilla and like the Starship Enterprise creative people can take that simple design and reinterpret the beast in many different ways. Godzilla had always been a lumbering slow creature acted by a man in a suit. I never disliked that approach and I still do not. I love the old films.
Then came Jurassic Park in 1993. For the first time I saw CGI dinosaurs rendered in a very life-like manner. Therefore long before Godzilla 1998 was on the big screen my mind was thinking about the possibilities for Godzilla. In my view the need for the lumbering walk and stance and for a man-in-the-suit portrayal of the character was no longer necessary. From that viewpoint I began to desire to see Godzilla in a more traditional dinosaur stance and animal like depiction. He no longer had to be a slow lumbering behemoth.
So low and behold when I saw the 1998 movie it gave me exactly what I wanted to see…a more dinosaur like depiction of Godzilla! To my eyes this new portrayal of the monster was more naturally animal like than any depiction prior to this incarnation. and since they went the way I was thinking how I would like to see Godzilla, I was happy with the results. It was different and something new. I also enjoyed the movie..although I do think the part with the raptor-like baby Godzilla’s slows the movie way down. But overall I was/am happy with the depiction and the movie.
I finally saw Shin Godzilla, the new Japanese Godzilla film from Toho Studios. What follows is a review with minor spoilers.
This really is a very different Godzilla film! One could argue that there are many Godzilla films which are different from one another and you would have a valid point. In the case of Shin Godzilla you would have an even greater point for this movie is unlike any that have followed before it. To begin to understand this movie one needs to comprehend that this truly is a Japanese movie made for a Japanese audience to provide both commentary and satire unique to the Japanese culture. Having said that, it doesn’t mean these elements of the film are not beyond the reach of a non-Japanese audience.
If you have heard or read the rumor that this movie has many scenes where people are in government conferences as they debate and discuss what to do when this giant morphing creature threatens Japan. These rumors are true and therein lies the heart of this story which is commentary and satire focused at the government of Japan. If you think Godzilla is the central focus of this movie then you will miss that point and may not walk away with understanding this film. Although commentary and satire toward the Japanese government is the focus that doesn’t mean this movie lacks the proper elements that we Godzilla fans and fans of Kaiju movies.
Therefore, the simple plot of this movie is, after an unexplained creature attacks boats in Tokyo Bay the top government officials focus on military strategy and civilian safety, while Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi is put in charge of a task force to research the creature. Due to high radiation readings, the creature is theorized to be energized through nuclear fission. The US sends a special envoy, Kayoko Ann Patterson, who reveals that a disgraced zoology professor, Goro Maki, had been studying mutations due to radioactive contamination and theorized the appearance of the creature but the US covered it up. As the creature, The creature, now named Godzilla, reappears, now twice its original size, and makes landfall near Kamakura en route for Tokyo. The Japanese Self Defense Forces are mobilized, but their attacks have no effect on Godzilla and they suffer major casualties. Yaguchi’s team discovers that Godzilla’s fins and blood work as a cooling system, allowing them to theorize that through the use of a coagulating agent, they could trigger a reaction and cause Godzilla to freeze.
Generally in my reviews I offer both the Pros and Cons of a film. For every film whether I enjoyed it or not will have varying degrees of Pros and Cons. In the case of this film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the Con are not outweighed by the Pros in the first place.
Pro: Great Monster destruction. Isn’t this what most Godzilla and Kaiju fans come to see? Gone are the model miniature sets..which is sad…but in its place is a real world setting and real world destruction with great CGI. Godzilla’s atomic breath just has to be seen and the amount of power and destruction it delivers is the best of the entire franchise in my opinion.
Godzilla’s three forms. I really enjoy the many different designs of Godzilla. While this Godzilla isn’t actually a traditional design it really works for this movie. This is the largest Godzilla ever seen!
Great depiction of scale and Size of Godzilla. Although I have always loved the man-in-the suit approach coupled with model building one never really did get a sense of size and scale in a Godzilla movie…until now. With Godzilla 2014 and Pacific Rim (Godzilla 1998 to some extent) those movie were able to really demonstrate the massive scale and size of the creatures within the movie. Shin Godzilla finally achieves that sense massive scale and size and to me it is awesome!!
An interesting story. Once you understand what the movie is trying to say, it really becomes interesting to watch these government officials stumble and bumble their way through the bureaucracy until they reach a point of action.
Con: An uninteresting story. I will contradict myself. Yes, I do like the story and I understand the commentary on the ineptitude of bureaucracy, however, there are times that it is too much and goes on a little too long.
Lumbering Godzilla…or shall I say… Zombie Godzilla? While I do like this design and despite the epic destruction this Godzilla brings, there are times when all he does is walk… very…very …slowly.
While Shin Godzilla will not go down as my very favorite it is up there in my top 10. Once the DVD/Blu-Ray comes out this film will have many viewings in my home. The destruction scenes alone are worth the price of admission. A very different and still enjoyable Godzilla film!
Now that I have seen Godzilla 2014 I just have to compare it to the other American produced Godzilla movie, the 1998 version. If you are a regular reader of my blog you may know I am one of those rare Godzilla fans that doesn’t hate the 1998 movie. I enjoy it. Also, I am not into competitive comparisons. I don’t think in terms of what movie is better or worse. I actually enjoy both movies for different reasons and since these two Godzilla movies are so different it is like comparing apples to oranges.
Although many fans call the 1998 movie GINO (Godzilla in Name Only) they do so in a derogatory manner. I may use the term GINO but not in a derogatory manner. He is much different than his Japanese counterpart and I have come to see this monster, now called Zilla by Toho, as a completely separate monster all his own with his own identity. I do love the design of Zilla. He looks menacing and he is quick and fast. I also like the new design of Godzilla for the 2014 movie. He is a little fatter than I would have liked and his spines could have been a little bigger, but other than that the 2014 does look and act like the Japanese version.
I am one that was not upset that the 1998 Godzilla did not act like the Japanese version. I knew going into the film that he would be different. Plus, even as a young fan in the 1960s I had wondered what Godzilla would be like if he were depicted to act more like an animal than a lumbering guy in a suit? The 1998 movie gave me an answer to that question and I happen to like the answer.
Besides Godzilla 98 not acting like Godzilla the biggest difference is in the tone of the two films. The 2014 movie is like many recent films in that it is supposed to be “grounded in reality.” That translates into, “what if these events were happening in the real world?” The 1998 movie is filled with humor and the tongue firmly planted in the cheek. Although the new movie is grounded in reality that doesn’t mean that the movie is joyless either. Throughout the movie there is a sense of wonder concerning the monsters and even a scene or two that is more light hearted. One example is the scene in a Nevada casino where we see the MUTO on the TV screen headed our way. All the patrons are oblivious that a giant monster is headed in their direction. Suddenly all the lights go out and then the giant MUTO comes crashing through the roof. It may not seem so light and fun on paper but it is on the screen.
The tone of the 1998 movie is very similar to Emmerich’s other film…Independence Day. While these films are not campy they are not all that serious either. Many films of the 90s, such as Twister or the Lethal Weapon series for example, mixed drama and comedy in a natural stylistic way where neither the comedy or the drama dominated the film. Since these movies were meant to be fun entertainment they didn’t take themselves too seriously. Godzilla 98 fits well in that style of film.
Do I have a preference? No, not really. I may prefer the special effects of the new movie and the life-like depiction of both Godzilla and the MUTOs, although I do feel the CGI in Godzilla 98 has held up pretty well. The monster battles in Godzilla 2014 does give it the slight edge. However, in the end I enjoy each movie for what it is and both will continue to get viewed depending on my mood.
We are little more than a year out from the next Godzilla movie being released to theaters. I am actively watching for news of the production. From the last bit of news I found was that production has shifted to Hawaii (where I am told Jurassic Park IV is currently filming). As I wait for this movie I have read online the expectations people have for this movie and I have contemplated my own expectations.
This movie will be the 30th Godzilla movie. 28 of them were Japanese productions and one other movie, the 1998 Godzilla movie, was the first American produced Godzilla movie. This movie will be the second American production. I can envision some readers having a fit or a stroke by the mere fact I mentioned the 1998 American Godzilla movie because many fans call the movie, and the American Godzilla, GINO (Godzilla In Name Only) and to this day the mere mention of this movie will produce a volume of outrage and hatred. I understand from my reading message boards and other sources about the 2014 Godzilla is that their main concern is that this new American production will not resemble the 1998 version. While I enjoyed, and still do enjoy the 1998 movie I am pretty confident that this movie will be nothing like its 1998 counterpart.
Some of the fans seemed concerned that they will get another design of Godzilla that will not look or act like the Japanes version of Godzilla. After the bad reviews and the outcry from fans over the 1998 Godzilla movie I have no worries about the design of Godzilla for 2014. The studio isn’t that crazy to put out a multi-million dollar Godzilla movie and have it be where the monster doesn’t look like Godzilla. I don’t think Legendary Pictures will make the same mistake.
Director Gareth Edwards has stated that he wants this to be a serious movie like the 1954 original. He want to portray Godzilla as if these events were happening in real life. One of the stars of the film, Elizabeth Olsen, described the film as “definitely not lighthearted. It’s kind of going back to its roots of the original Japanese film.” These statements also have me thinking about the tone of the film and my personal expectations. With so many Godzilla films that I enjoy there is a diversity of themes and tones to choose from.
Godzilla 54 is a very dark movie in tone. As the series moved on it also moved away from that serious tone. At one point it moved so far away from that serious tone that movies such as Godzilla vs Megalon are like a Saturday morning kiddie show! In later movies Godzilla did return to a more serious tone but it never would reach the seriousness that the very first movie achieved. It seems that Gareth Edwards wants to be the first to return to the tone of the 1954 movie.
I am very excited about that because in many ways the first Godzilla movie was the best. But I do have one slight concern. Although I think Godzilla, King of the Monsters (and the un-Americanized Japanese version, Gojira) are the best films, they are not always the most fun to watch. More often I am in the mood for a more lighthearted romp through the streets of Tokyo. So I am hoping that this serious tone will also be equally enjoyable to watch. I don’t have too many concerns that it won’t be.
That leads me to my next point. They story. Screenwriter Frank Darabont is on record saying that not only will Godzilla be returning to his roots as force of nature but that the film will add a “very compelling human drama.” I am encouraged by that but I must confess that I am pretty sure that even if the story isn’t that great I will probably still enjoy the movie. First of all, of the 29 Godzilla films already produced not all of them have great human stories to begin with. Yet, I really like ALL Godzilla movies therefore my expectations on the human story are not that high. If we get a real good compelling human drama then that will be the icing on the cake.
Face it, most Godzilla fans watch the series for good monster action and destruction. I am as guilty as charged in that area. Also, if you have been following this blog, I am unapologetically a special effects junkie. We are in a Golden Age of special effects. I know many people complain about CGI and I think good quality CGI is very enjoyable and I love how it can whisk you off to other worlds. Double Negative is the effects company that are doing the special effects. Follow the link and the bottom of the page to see the stellar work they have done. So I am pretty confident we will ge a life-like Godzilla, unlike any we have seen before, with other spectacular effects to go along with it.
So my confidence is high for this movie and from everything I have read I really do not have anything to worry about. If you’re a Godzilla fan I don’t think you should worry either.
Ah, the wonders of the internet! Prior to the internet I enjoyed certain movies in relative peace not knowing that I wasn’t supposed to like them. Until I got on the internet I never knew that some movies were so hated by the fandom of certain franchises. For example in 1989 I went to the theater to see the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The theater was full and people were laughing (the movie had raised the level of comedy since Star Trek IV), I enjoyed the story and had a very good time. It wasn’t until somewhere in the early 2000s did I learn how hated that movie is among the rest of the fans of the franchise. I never knew until then that I was not supposed to like it. I never got the memo.
All who follow my blog know that I am a huge fan of the Godzilla franchise. Well, last June I joined a message board devoted to the franchise and that hatred for the 1998 American Godzilla movie and the 2004 Godzilla: Final Wars by the majority of the fans on this site is palpable! Again, I never got the memo I was not supposed to like these films!
Then there are other places on the net which feature trailers for upcoming movies and message boards to discuss upcoming movies. On these sites you have members crying foul and saying this movie will suck even before they see the film. It fits the very definition of prejudice. On one of these sites there was a member, who hates the movies of Christopher Nolan, who is 100% convinced that the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, will suck and be the worse Superman movie ever made. This person said they will wait to borrow the movie from the library just to confirm how awful it really is. Talk about confirmation bias!
Then there is Ain’t It Cool News…This web site run by Harry Knowles is a great place to learn about up coming movies and reviews for the movies as they come out and a lot of other behind the scenes information. Just don’t read the talk back section. No wonder it was successfully parodied in Kevin Smith’s movie “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.” It is filled with trolls just trash talking everyone and everything.
Maybe it is my age. I am not sure of the demographics of the people on these sites but I suspect they’re young. It can be a challenge for someone who enjoys science fiction movies, and who enjoys following the making of these movies before they come out, to find intelligent and meaningful discussion in these places. I will continue to look for news and find these rare discussions that make this hobby enjoyable. I just need to ignore the trolls.
Toho’s first monster movie filmed in color. After Godzilla Rodan was always a favorite monster. Good story that has the same serious tone as the original Gojira (Godzilla).
19. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
Part of the alternate reality or millennium series this movie has some good monster action in the final battle and some interesting science fiction themes involving black holes.
18. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
One of the non-giant monsters I really like. The story has a sense of claustrophobia as the inhabitants of the boat in the lagoon are trapped by the mysterious gill-man.
17. Godzilla (1998)
Yeah, this is Godzilla In Name Only, and doesn’t really seem like the iconic beast that we fans love. However, I do love the design of this monster and the special effects are great and it is a pretty enjoyable story…it slows down too much at Madison Square Garden but otherwise its a lot of fun.
16. Gorgo (1961)
This movie came on TV when I was about 10 and my mother told me to watch it…I loved it! The destruction of London is pretty intense as is the monster’s roar. The close up of the monster looks a little cheesy by today’s standards but otherwise the movie still hold up well.
15. Super 8 (2011)
Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by JJ Abrams this movie takes a nostalgic and heartfelt look at life in the late 70s. The monster/alien, designed by Neville Page is pretty creative and original. Good story about, love loss and family.
14. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
This is a movie Godzilla fans either love or hate. It is a cartoon like romp with everything that is associated with Godzilla movies thrown in. It has aliens, mutants, giant and epic monster battles and wacky characters.
13. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
It is a little slow by today’s standards but this is one of the pioneer monster movies. This movie was the inspiration for Godzilla.
12. Cloverfield (2008)
One of the “found footage” genre of movies. I was so hooked into the viral marketing for this movie back in 2007/2008. It was a movie that was best experienced on first viewing. It is still a good monster movie but repeated viewings are not as good as the first viewing due to the limited screen time for the monster and knowing what is going to happen. I love the design of the Cloverfield monster by Neville Page and hope we see this beast once again!
11. Destroy All Monsters (1968)
I saw this movie as a kid in the theater and I was 5 years old. I still enjoy the movie. The plot with the aliens isn’t as good as the one in Invasion of the Astro-Monster but all the monsters escaping from Monster Island makes up for that.
10. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
This movie has everything! Time travel, androids and giant monster battles, a strange and wacky plot, so I am good to go!
9. Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965)
The first Godzilla movie with aliens invading the Earth. Interesting plot, great chemistry with the characters, good special effects and good monster fights and destruction. Two of the leading actresses are also very pleasing to the eye.
8. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S (2003)
Part of the alternate reality or millennium series. I have read that this movie is a repeat of elements from other movies and is not too original and to some extent that is true…of many Godzilla movies! I like the warm relationship between the Grandfather and his grandson and the how the little boy’s uncle overcomes prejudice and ridicule to be the one to help save the day.
7. Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995)
The last movie of the Heisei series. Godzilla is literally having a radiation melt down and must face one of his toughest foes. Emiko, from the 1954 original film returns.
6. Godzilla vs King Kong (1962)
The film where Godzilla movies began to be a lot of fun.
5. King Kong (1933, 2005)
The 1933 movie is a classic ans till holds up well today. It is what has inspired all that has come since then. The 2005 movie is very good, although a bit long and over the top in places, but the CGI gorilla really depicts how Kong should be.
4. Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)
After the failure of the Sony-Tri star American Godzilla movie Toho returned to making Godzilla films to show how it is done right.
3. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
The movie depicts one of the most powerful and evil versions of Godzilla to date.
2. War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Other than Godzilla, this is my favorite Toho monster movie. I remember seeing it as a child and it scared the crap out of me. Think Cain and Able as two giant hairy green and brown monsters hell bent of destroying one another.
1. Godzilla (1954)
Both the Japanese and American versions are top notch. Although the series went on to have movies that were serious and ones that were down right silly but enjoyable, they never again were able to capture the horror, somber and desperate tone and mood of the all time classic original.