This review is for the 4K Ultra HD edition of Godzilla (1998) released in May, 2019 by Tri-Star.
TIMELINE: This is the first live action 'Godzilla' movie made by an American company. It is the 23rd of 31 live action 'Godzilla' movies overall. As of the time of this review in May 2019 ('Godzilla: King of the Monsters' is due out very shortly as of the time of this review). This movie was intended to be the first of a series but no sequel was ever made. It exists in it's own unique universe. However...
GODZILLA OR ZILLA OR EVEN GINO?: Toho purchased the rights to Tri-Star's Godzilla and re-named it Zilla. Zilla appears in 'Godzilla: Final Wars' and a reference is made to him/it in 'GMK: All Out Monster Attack'. This version of Godzilla has also been called 'GINO' by Godzilla fans. That is short for 'Godzilla In Name Only'.
THE 4K PICTURE: To get right down to it, I wasn't that impressed. The picture didn't really look any better than my Blu-Ray edition and I'm not sure if it's worth the upgrade. There was definitely some graininess in the picture in quite a few scenes. Bottom line is that I don't think this is a great transfer.
-Visual Effects Commentary
-Behind the Scenes of Godzilla with Charles Caiman
-All Time Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes
-'Heroes' Music Video by The Wallflowers
*****WARNING - LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT*****
PLOT/SYNOPIS: During the credits we see an iguana nest irradiated by nuclear radiation. This will ultimately lead to Godzilla's birth. Godzilla destroys a fishing ship and there is one survivor who identifies him as 'Gojira'.
Nick Tatopoulos is a scientist who studies abnormal growth in irradiated zones. He is at Chernobyl studying enlarged worms when the military collects him and brings him to the site of Godzilla's foot prints. Nick deduces that Godzilla is probably an irradiated creature.
Godzilla heads to New York City and the military, along with Nick, follow. While in NYC, Nick's ex-girlfriend Audrey, who is a fledgling reporter, meets up with him. She takes advantage of him by stealing a video tape from Nick that belongs to the military. Her boss ends up taking credit and announces to the public that Godzilla is in the city. As a result, Nick is booted from the operation. Fortunately for him, A French secret service agent named Philippe recruits him to work with his team. Phillippe tells Nick that they feel responsible for Godzilla since they believe they tested the bomb that led to his birth. Nick deduces that Godzilla is in NYC to nest and they go searching for it. Audrey, along with her cameraman run into Nick at Madison Square Garden. It is here that they find Godzilla's eggs. They are just in time for the eggs to start hatching. They are now confronted by dozens of baby Godzilla's. They need to escape and alert the military to the impending danger. Unfortunately for them, Godzilla is waiting....
PRODUCTION: This movie was made in 1998 and released by TriStar Pictures.
-The director was disaster movie mogul, Roland Emmerich. He continued his landmark destroying ways by destroying The Flat Iron Building, The Chrysler Building, Met-Life Building, Madison Square Garden and even the statue of George Washington on Wall Street.
-Toho decided to end the 'Hesei' series of Godzilla films and hand the franchise over to the Americans. Of course, they 'dropped the ball' pretty badly with this film. The following year, Toho rebooted Godzilla with a new series of films which is now known as 'The Millenium Series' of films.
-Even though the movie was not considered successful, it did make money with a domestic gross of 136 million dollars and 379 million dollars overall.
-The reporters name was Charles Caiman. For those who don't know, a caiman is the smallest type of reptile in the Crocodile family.
IS THIS THE ONLY MOVIE MADE FOR THIS 'GODZILLA' UNIVERSE?: An argument can be made that the answer is "no". Zilla (Godzilla) makes an appearance in 'Godzilla: Final Wars'. Since Toho purchased the rights to Tri-Star's Godzilla, you can definitely make the case that 'Godzilla: Final Wars' is a sequel to 'Godzilla (1998)'. Remember, even though Zilla dies, a baby Zilla hatches in the final scene of the movie. Since Zilla, is no longer considered to be Godzilla, then they can certainly co-exist!
WHAT I DISLIKE:
GODZILLA'S RADIOACTIVE BREATH:
I never really got this. Is Godzilla breathing gas? The production team effectively did away with Godzilla's radioactive breath but decided to pay homage to it. When I first watched this, I didn't even realize what was going on. I just thought
there was an explosion and had no idea that Godzilla's breath was causing the fire. I don't recall this being explained in the movie. Perhaps it was, but I missed it. They could have at least given him some glowing scales. It's not as if there isn't bioluminescence in sea creatures throughout the world. Overall, they botched this badly. Godzilla's glowing scales and radioactive breath are what makes him Godzilla.
-The fish: Did we really need this? I seem to recall that iguana's and large lizards in general like lettuce and cabbage and other vegetables. I could be wrong on this but whatever.
-The love story: Do we ever need a love story in a Godzilla movie? My entire life, I have cringed during kissing scenes. When are Americans going to learn. Monster fans don't want 'love' in their stories. I realize I'm really speaking for myself, but I have never heard anybody say, "we need more relationship scenes" in a monster movie.
-I did not like Godzilla being an asexual creature. This just doesn't work for me.
-Evacuating New York City would not have been that simple. At the very least, the military could have come in and gone through the city till they found Godzilla. Since everybody was gone, what was the hurry?
-I get it, liberties have to be taken to move movies along. Even so, I thought the eggs hatching almost immediately after Godzilla lays the eggs is a lot of 'Suspension of Disbelief'.
WHAT I STRONGLY DISLIKE:
GODZILLA VS. THE TAXI CAB:
If the goal was to challenge Toho for campiness and idiotic plot points, Tri-Star was a smashing success! The movie's climax features Godzilla chasing around a group of humans riding in a taxi cab. He blames them for killing his (it's?) babies.
-I absolutely hated having the French involved. I mean, really, what do we need them for? When was the last time we needed assistance from the French. The War of 1812 perhaps?
-I did not like Godzilla being taken down by a few missiles. This is in fact more realistic, but it is not in the spirit of Godzilla films in which the military's efforts are always futile. Godzilla is in effect, a fantasy creature and not a science fiction creature.
-I thought that the idea of destroying Madison Square Garden was just ridiculous. It was just plain dumb on so many levels. First off, they could have given the humans more time to get out. They could have easily just gone in there with some soldiers and cleared the place out. Was it really necessary to do a Billion Dollars in damage?
IS THAT REALLY GODZILLA? WHAT DO I THINK OF THE DESIGN?: There is a part of me that likes the fact that they tried to give Godzilla a realistic look by basing the design on an iguana. I like the design better today than I did years ago. I guess the real reason I never liked the design was because of how inept this Godzilla was.
WAY OFF-COLOR (WARNING - If you are a female and/or easily offended, do not read this paragraph and skip to the next one): I just can't resist making this comment. I know my mind is sometimes in the gutter but did anyone else out there think themselves... How funny would it have been if when the baby Godzilla hatched, instead of sniffing at Matthew Broderick because it was looking for fish, it sniffed the female reporters crotch?
WAS THERE ANYTHING I ACTUALLY LIKED?:
Indeed there is.
-I did like a lot of the special effects. I thought Godzilla looked good stomping around New York City. I really enjoyed watching him move against the backdrop of the buildings.
-I liked the origin of Godzilla. I think using an irradiated iguana was a good idea.
CONCLUSIONS: After watching this movie for the first time in several years and for the third time in my life, my opinion actually went up. The movie isn't as bad as I remember. I guess I just hated it because of all of the ridiculous scenes. Of course, illogical scenes have always been par for the course in Godzilla movies.
I don't really know if the upgrade is worth it. If you are a die hard Godzilla fan, you are going to buy it anyway, just like me. Because you have to have everything!
The Picture: 5/10 - I am disappointed in the picture as I point out above under 'THE PICTURE'.
The Plot: 3/10 - Very generic, been there, done that. The climax scene is unforgivable in my eyes.
The SFX: 9/10 - I'm rating this based on it's day. I remember being in the theater and being 'wowed' by the size of Godzilla while I watched this on a large screen. Obviously the CGI was more primitive but it even over 20 years later it still looks decent.
The Godzilla Suit: 5/10 - There is one in most Godzilla movie's but not this one. Since there is no suit, I have to rate this on the design and CGI. The CGI is good but the design isn't.
Overall: 6/10 or 3 stars
WHAT'S NEXT FOR GODZILLA?: There was a sequel planned for this movie. The ending certainly left room for a direct sequel. However, the fan reaction was overwhelmingly negative despite the movie being a financial success. Tri-Star would not renew the license and Toho took back the Godzilla franchise. Toho released the first of the 'Millenium' series of films, 'Godzilla 2000', the following year, 1999. This movie received a limited theatrical run in the United States but was not commercially successful. It confused audiences who were not familiar with the Godzilla franchise.