Godzilla-thon: GODZILLA (1998)



Unused Godzilla design for Jan de Bont's unmade Godzilla movie

Producer and distributor, Henry G. Saperstein, was given permission by TOHO to make a new Godzilla film at Hollywood. Saperstein met with Cary Woods and Robert Fried to pitch an idea for a live-action Mr. Magoo movie, but the discussion turned to the availability for the rights to Godzilla instead. Woods and Fried were interested and they turned to Columbia Pictures first. Columbia flat out rejected it saying that Godzilla was too campy. Tri-Star originally rejected the idea as well saying that they haven't seen any potential and thought that it wouldn't make a great film. Woods decided to take his wife's advice and proposed the idea to Peter Guber, who is now the former chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Guber was over-joyed by the idea because he saw Godzilla as an international brand and had the film set up at Tri-Star. TOHO and Tri-Star agreed on a deal in mid-1992 and TOHO sent guidelines on how to treat Godzilla. The memo was four pages detailing the physical details that were required for Godzilla's design.


Stan Winston with the Gryphon maquette

By October 1992, Tri-Star announced to the public that they have the rights for Godzilla and that it was going to be a trilogy promising that the movie would stay true to the original series. Director Jan de Bont is a big Godzilla fan and he was attached to the film after he directed the film, Speed. The final draft was submitted by screen writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott and pre-production began aiming for a 1994 release. Jan de Bont's idea was to discard Godzilla's atomic origin and was instead created by Atlantians to fight against a space monster called the Gryphon (This actually sounds very similar to another monster film, Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe). The director asked for $100-120 million to direct the film and Tri-Star refused. By 94, Tri-Star was hoping that the movie would already be off the ground, but the release date kept being pushed back. They pitched other ideas to de Bont one where Godzilla would have a partner so they could make a spin-off film from that monster as well as save money. De Bont refused the ideas from Tri-Star and left production.


Tri-Star turned to Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, but they refused because they thought that it was a dopey idea and they even admitted that they hated the films. When Emmerich read the original screen play he only liked parts of it and thought that there were things that should be "improved." So Emmerich and Devlin signed on to see through the production for GODZILLA originally asking for a lower budget than de Bont's. As production progressed the budget ultimately totaled at $150 million, $30-50 million more than the budget de Bont had asked for.


Review:


Biologist, Nick Tatopolous, will find that his research on mutations from nuclear waste will become bigger than he can imagine when a giant lizard goes on a rampage through New York City.


This could have been the movie to actually make Godzilla be looked at in a more serious light with the general audience if this was done right. I had no idea that this movie was being made until I saw the first preview for it and I was hyped. My friends were more in the know about this movie than I was before it even came out. Like everyone else, I was pretty much in shock by the drastic change of the look when I went to see it in theaters, but I kept an open mind hoping to recognize something familiar would happen with this Godzilla. Instead, nothing about this Godzilla was familiar. Godzilla wasn't really menacing or intimidating and he runs away every time the military fires at him. Not even his trademark atomic breath attack was in the film and people even signed a petition to make sure that it was in the film since Emmerich and Devlin had no plans to put that in the film. What was replaced was a weak plume of fire or wind breath. Honestly, I thought it was just the tanks exploding, but I didn't know what caused them to explode. There was no hint that he was about to use his breath attack at all.


I did like Matthew Broderich in this movie and it's a shame that he gets made fun of because of the stupid joke when he sees the big pile of fish. Then, you have Jean Reno who seems like he was told to French harder than France. Of course the actor is French in real life, but when he is in movies like The Da Vinci Code and French Kiss he isn't trying to act as hard to act like a stereotypical French character.


GODZILLA just seems like a parody on the franchise itself and how America actually saw Godzilla. Back then, people actually did think that Godzilla was just a big lizard and you see that portrayed here in this movie. In a way, I can't necessarily hate this movie. Say what you want about GODZILLA, but I actually enjoyed this movie. I refused to watch this when it was on TV for the Fourth of July Godzilla Marathon on the El Rey Network because I was blinded by everyone's verdict being the crappiest Godzilla movie ever. I agree with the verdict to a point where, "Yes, the monster is not Godzilla at all," but the rest of the movie is actually pretty good. I think if this movie was called anything else it would have been seen in a different light. The movie would have gotten a little more praise and might have done okay on its own as a generic monster flick. Yet because it was called, GODZILLA, the expectations from fans were not met and got the cold shoulder. Even TOHO renamed the monster to just Zilla as a way of separating this monster with Godzilla and even that sounds too similar.


Final Verdict:


GODZILLA is in no way a good remake at all and has TONS of flaws deeming it the worst American Godzilla remake. However, if it is watched as a generic monster flick it isn't bad at all. It's watchable at best and perhaps almost as enjoyable as Emmerich's other film, INDEPENDENCE DAY.

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