CONFESSION: I Loved Godzilla from 1998
For those that don’t know me, I am a big nostalgia buff. Any cheesy pop culture from the 1980s or 1990s, I’m down with. From the Super Mario Brothers Movie from 1993 to old school professional wrestling and so on and so forth, cheesy pop culture is my thing.
So when Godzilla from 1998 was On Demand this past weekend during the snowstorm, I got excited, With the snow falling down in Central New Jersey this past Saturday and nowhere to go, I settled in to watch Matthew Broderick try to figure out how to understand and subsequently defeat this monster.
After ten years of trying to make this a reality, it happened. Under the Columbia Tri-Star label, and the direction of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, Godzilla came to the big screen. One of the greatest campaigns as it came to sponsorships and branding of the 1990s, the movie truly had a strong push to be a complete success. A lot of people banked on the film to be an all-time classic in terms of finance and ticket sales.
In spite of the 16% on Rotten Tomatoes and the overall panned response of the flick from monster movie fans who watched it, the flick made money. Off a $130 million budget, Godzilla made $379 million worldwide. During an era where Mighty Joe Young killed the monster movie genre, Godzilla was made for an American audience and stayed true, for the most part, to its roots. Yet, it never had any long staying power as a classic with fans and is looked as a failure.
However, I have to say, I LOVED the flick.
I looked at it as an opportunity to bring a story and unique look to making a mainstream epic to the monster genre. Somehow, Emmerich and Devlin made it a mission to showcase a different side to Godzilla. They found a way to multi-layer the characters in the flick with different motivations. As cheesy as it was, it found a way to bring levity and honesty to items and things around New York City. Most of all, they made Jean Reno completely bad-ass!
Say what you will, but I feel a lot of the hate built around this movie was completely unjust. So what if the Audrey Timmonds character was really off-kilter. And maybe the Siskel and Ebert parodies should have utilized as food for the creature. And, for reasons unbeknownst, we don’t know if Phillippe ever got his good cup of coffee he was craving. But these are mere mute points compared to the three main high spots that I took away as a fan.
Without further hesitation…
SYMPATHY FOR GODZILLA: I know that in old school monster movies, the monster is unrelenting and an absolute beast of destruction. But when you aim to really get it out of the niche market and turn something mainstream, you have to come at it in a different perspective. I never really understood why the mainstream hated the fact that there was sympathy for Godzilla. I personally never got it until I re-watched the movie and heard Dr. Niko Tatopoulos explain it. “He's not some monster trying to evade you. He's just an animal. If you find what he wants, then he'll come to you.” Especially after the revelation that Godzilla was asexual and laid his eggs, all 200 of them, inside Madison Square Garden, you got the vibe that the monster wasn’t here to destroy and kill people; it just wanted to raise its young and provide for them a place to grow.
Sadly, when a monster comes to America, in particular New York City, ish was about to end quite terribly for Godzilla. When Madison Square Garden was blown up, and the seemingly dead creature rose up from the ground to see all of its young dead and gone, Godzilla seeked revenge on the four it perceived to have done the deed. When the US Army finished off the monster on the Brooklyn Bridge, I felt sympathy for him. Godzilla was trying to do well for its young and provide for them; instead, it was made to be a villain and was killed seeking destruction. While the Army and New York City celebrated with jubilee, Dr. Tatopoulos felt the same way I did, which was terrible that it was “just an animal” and it truly didn’t mean to do harm.
Although Mr. Devlin felt it was a major misnomer not to bring signify Godzilla as a hero or a villain, but I disagree. I feel as if it was meant to be seen within the eyes of the viewer and to take it whichever way they wanted to see it. I love the feeling I had when the monster chased Phillippe, Niko, Audrey, and Animal for revenge. Godzilla, in wrestling terms, was a tweener. It was just a different direction that I felt worked, while others felt failed.
MATTHEW BRODERICK WAS TREMENDOUS: In the flick, the perfect medium for all the insanity rolling around was the calm and collected Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, played by Matthew Broderick. He was so even-keel throughout the entire flick. His intelligence and knowledge of radioactive and nuclear effects within animals didn’t overwhelm and come off smarmy. Even having to deal with his ex-girlfriend’s shady techniques and having to deal with leave his 3 years of research on the earthworm came off his grace and class. Mr. Broderick deserves all the respect in the world that he came off as a star throughout the movie. He had incredible presence. And as I alluded to earlier, his feeling on seeing Godzilla die had to really affect him personally, since he was and is a humanitarian for his work. I applaud Mr. Broderick. His performance was understated and underappreciated.
THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK: With the exception of Space Jam in 1996, the Godzilla soundtrack in 1998 was absolutely awesome. For starters, Puff Daddy’s “Come With Me” had the instrumental of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and JIMMY PAGE actually doing the guitar over the beat. The Wallflowers’ version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” was a great alternative version of the classic from 1977. Green Day’s “Brain Stew” received a Godzilla remix. Even tracks from Rage Against The Machine, Foo Fighters, the cool Jamiroquai, and Fuel really showcased the depth of music scattered throughout the film and CD. This was an incredible assortment of music and the soundtrack, released on May 19, 1998, went platinum and received critical acclaim for excellent music. This was a strength that even the mainstream could enjoy. I definitely did.
I know that a lot of people will think I’m weird for enjoying this movie, and I am accepting of that criticism. But compared to the stuff that has come out over the past several years, mixed in with a lot of reboots, Godzilla in 1998 will always hold a special place in my heart. It was better than people remembered, and it was never as bad as some people say. I mean, it won a Saturn and a Golden Raspberry. That has to amount for something, right?
Regardless, I loved the movie and I implore you people give it a second chance.