GODZILLA (1998) Review

Justification for reviewing: 26% RT rating, 38% among general audiences; and 5.0/10 at IMDb.

This was actually written a long, long time ago, but I dug it up again when I was going through my old reviews (most of which were actually never finished because I’m a lazy bum). I think I might have intended to write more for this one, too, but honestly I’m not even sure anymore. Nor do I really care. Rather than delete it, I thought I’d post it here since, well, it is considered a pretty terrible film – not among “the” worst, but pretty bad. But it’s a good look at a guy trying to engage in serious film criticism. Pictures and captions were added afterward.

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Above: poster for Godzilla (1998).
“Size does matter”… This is Hollywood telling me I’m not worth it.

This movie fucking sucks. I tried to suspend my disbelief. Believe me. Hell, it’s about a giant lizard that wreaks havoc in New York City. You gotta suspend some of that disbelief. But this film is so illogical, so dense in stupidity and deep in nonsensicality that after the first ten minutes or so (of a two hour and fifteen minute long film) I was questioning the movie through and through and getting nothing but stupid answers.

I just could not get involved in this movie even at a superficial level. It’s not even entertaining in a so-bad-it’s-good way. Everything about it is so terrible and it’s not just the writing. The acting is an abundance of stereotypes, some portrayed as so inept I have to wonder if this film actually destroyed some careers. I wouldn’t be surprised. But knowing Hollywood, this probably isn’t this case.

My biggest problem is the internal logic of the movie… There is none. The idea of suspending your disbelief usually fails because the film’s internal logic is broken or made irrelevant. Godzilla is no exception. Numerous times, Godzilla inexplicably disappears. Yeah, that’s right, every person blinked at the same time and at the right moment and the huge lizard just disappeared. Apparently Godzilla didn’t go back into the water. Godzilla’s hiding in Manhattan, which, according to Broderick’s character, is an island he can easily hide out on. Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, then the general played by Kevin Dunn suggests the huge lizard is hiding out in a building…

Above: Godzilla rampaging through New York City, in Godzilla (1988).
Isn’t the idea of this thing hiding in a building akin to me hiding in a coatrack?

These are the people you will have to depend on when disaster strikes… How the fuck does this thing hide in a building? Would it use the front door? I know this is your typical dumb Hollywood summer fuckfest but this is a stretch. Oh right, it’s going around through tunnels. Which apparently look too small to fit a huge 25-story dinosaur? How big is this thing, anyway? That’s right, nobody knows, not even the filmmakers because apparently the size of this thing is so inconsistent from scene-to-scene.

Above: Godzilla’s foot in… Godzilla (1998).
His foot will be bigger than Donald Trump’s ego by the next scene.

In fact, nothing about Godzilla is consistent or, at least, established. I understand he’s a giant “mutated aberration” dinosaur-like creature that was exposed to radiation. The point, I suppose, is not to understand how Godzilla functions. Except that much of the movie, and Matthew Broderick’s sole purpose of being brought onto the assignment in the first place, is to spend time figuring out what Godzilla is doing, how he’s doing these things, and why. The only things that are explained are basically for the purposes of shoving the crappy story along, mostly by way of convenience.

Above: Matthew Broderick attempting to study the behavior of Godzilla up close.
No, he doesn’t get eaten.

For example: Godzilla can reproduce. How, is the question? Oh, it reproduces asexually. Convenient, much? Not to mention this notion is not explored in the slightest. Or how about Godzilla’s senses? We clearly see him use his sense of smell and I’m sure it uses its sense of sight. Or does it? If you establish none of these characteristics, it gives the writers free reign to let Godzilla do whatever they want it to do. Want it to outrun a military chopper? It can. Want it to dodge missiles and torpedoes? Check. An even bigger problem arises when lack of ‘ground rules’ causes inconsistency, simply because there are no rules for your ‘universe’ to follow.

I hate to do the movie comparisons, but let’s take films like Alien or even The Thing. Both of these films featured alien lifeforms that were completely fictional. And yet both films are extremely believable when it comes to both the lifeform at play and the story itself. This is because the creatures do not do anything extremely outlandish or anything that would fuck with the core of the film’s internal logic. In fact, much of The Thing actually revolves around trying to figure out the mechanisms of the lifeform and is a reason why the ending to that film is so bleak. Godzilla fails to establish any sort of consistency, which means the writers can get away with a lot, but after a while these inconsistencies will begin weighing on audiences.

Here’s some more terrible writing for you. Apparently Godzilla can detect and evade gunfire, missiles, torpedoes, etc. And even when it gets hit it pretty much brushes it off. This is basically to the point where the military is totally fucking inept at their job. Godzilla seems to be as fast as the Flash and as invincible as the Hulk. Hell, the first time the submarines are trying to blow the big guy out of the water is a god damn failure, since he outswims two torpedoes and redirects them at a submarine, blowing it up. So the writers, not knowing how to bring this thing down, have Godzilla swim into a wall for no apparent reason, other than it was the only way they could think of to blow this thing up. I guess underwater walls are kryptonite to Godzilla.

Learn to craft a better screenplay, assholes.

The only slightly clever bit of this movie is the ineptitude of the military. Basically, the military created the creature, the creature returns to wreak havoc, the military tries to bring it down and ironically ends up causing more damage than the beast. And, again, I don’t think that’s because it was written as intended. It was not intended to be satirical that way. It only seems that way because the writing is so terrible. The only reason the military is so terrible at what they do in this film is because (a) Godzilla is apparently just God, and (b) we needed more scenes of wanton destruction because this is a disaster film.

Above: more of Godzilla destroying New York City.
“Just destroy everything! It’s all we know how to do!”

Even worse than the writing is how badly the film is executed. Speaking of wanton destruction, this film seems to be nothing more than a series of scenes where something gets destroyed. Nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem is that it’s just so fucking boring. Nothing’s at stake here for me to give a damn about. And it’s not even that violent. It’s the really toned down giant lizard carnage that you can only find in Hollywood. I can’t even find it entertaining because it just seems to be the same scenes of destruction replayed over and over and over with scenes of “character development” between them.

Above: Jean Reno and Matthew Broderick attempting to develop some character in Godzilla (1998).
A French guy and Broderick together in a scene… That’s gotta be funny, right?

I can’t believe I’m saying this but ironically it’s the scenes of “character development” that I strangely find more entertaining. That’s gotta be pretty bad. Of course, those in-between scenes aren’t entertaining for the reasons intended. They’re entertaining because of their unintended consequences. It’s pure unintentional comedy, really. Bad acting, slimy characters (wormy Broderick being one example) who have no idea what the hell they’re doing or what is going on, etc.

“I have no fucking clue what I’m supposed to be looking at right now.”
(Above: Matthew Broderick as Nick Tatopoulos in Godzilla [1998].)

The scenes of destruction just seem redundant. Same old, same old. For instance, doing the whole fish-bait scene twice and Godzilla inexplicably resurrecting itself. I understand the writing is flimsy because it’s supposed to provide minimal framework to move the scenes of destruction along. When the disaster scenes are boring and, worse, they’re less entertaining than the scenes that are supposed to push them along, what the hell does your film amount to?

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I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve become even more longwinded and pointless now than I was back then, which was not that long ago.

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