Friday, July 3, 2015

Godzilla (1998)

Here we are, bleeders. The moment we all knew was coming eventually. After all the requests, the pleading, and the comments, we're finally going to talk about this movie. But I didn't put this off because I had nothing to say about it, nor did I avoid it because I don't enjoy giving you lovely folks what you want. No, I was merely holding off for a special occasion. Today's we're talking about America's great kaiju disaster on the day leading up to a celebration of all things America. I mean, come on, we even have our very own kaiju protector.

Never forget the glory and majesty that is America and its beloved kaiju hero, Zilla Jr.!

But, where many fans love Zilla Jr., most of us are a lot less fond of his biological parent, whom we shall refer to as Zilla (as that is what he has officially became known as). And when talking about this movie, we have to ask ourselves why it went so badly. They had a good cast, they had a good budget, and Zilla's design wasn't bad...so why does Godzilla '98 suck so badly? Well, it could be because we all got our hopes up a little too high thanks to the teaser trailer for it and the rather jawesome marketing campaign. Or it could be because Roland Emmerich made it, the guy who has admitted to not even being a Godzilla fan. The guy who made Siskel & Ebert into bumbling caricatures in this movie because he didn't like the negative reviews they game to his previous blockbusters. That's funny to me, because when I worked in art and someone responded negatively to my art, I would always strive to improve it rather than do something asinine like mock them via said art. In many ways, Roland Emmerich was the precursor to the coming of Michael Bay.

EXPLOSIONS! CG!! WILL SMITH!!! JEW JOKES!!!!
But, where Michael Bay has often earned my ire through his utter hatred of the people who pay to see his crap and the way he behaves in general while also making shitty blockbuster movies, Emmerich actually did some things that I thought were good. Sadly, those are not things people remember nor are they what he's known for. Nope, he's known for disaster porn, essentially. What happens when you take a director who pretty much hovers in the area of destroying things and give him a beloved franchise like Godzilla? Well...he destroys it. But, enough rambling, let's get to the meat of this movie and see why it sucked and what the plot is all about.

What? Did you think it was about a giant lizard? Hah!
The story goes like this: apparently their was a nuclear test in French Polynesia. Said test irradiates some lizards. One of those lizards ends up giving birth to a baby that grows and grows and grows, because the idea of it being a creature that has existed long before mankind existed that is basically here to protect the planet from things that threaten it just seemed silly to the writers. Fast forward to modern times where said lizard is now a massive lizard and it attacks a Japanese fishing boat for no discernible reason other than so we can see Jean Reno talking to an elderly Japanese man about Godzilla. He must be a fan too! Because he can't be talking about that big lizard. That's not Godzilla. That's a komodo dragon on nuclear steroids. So, is the interesting and slightly menacing mysterious French guy our main character? Nope! Matthew Broderick is! And what profession does he have that makes him so important to this plot?

He studies worms.
Nothing prepares you for giant monsters like worms, right? I remember when Dr. Serizawa used his worm-based knowledge in the original 1954 film to...what's that? He didn't study worms? BECAUSE WORM KNOWLEDGE WON'T HELP IN THIS SITUATION! But, in actuality, Dr. Nick here is actually a biologist for the NRC and does have some knowledge beyond staring at worms. Which is why everyone in the movie keeps calling him "the worm guy". I know that's meant to be funny but it's actually incredibly annoying and makes me hate every character more. Our hero is literally treated like a joke because he's a "nerd". Even the other nerds speak to him in a off-hand manner. Moving on, they bring him in to check out a footprint, he gets skin samples, and Zilla shows up in New York City to see the sights.

"Hey, everybody! Is CATS still playing? I've heard good things!"

I don't really want to talk about the other characters, but I'll give a quick overview. Dr. Nick's ex is a reporter, her cameraman is Hank Azaria, her boss is Harry Shearer, and the Simpsons are undoubtedly somewhere because why else would we have them in here? The ex stills things to get her way and is rather manipulative with Nick, who is still mooning over her for some reason (which includes holding onto a photo of her he leaves out on display). Nick needs to get out more, and this is coming from a guy with social anxiety who doesn't really do social interaction very often. The mayor and his aide are Ebert and Siskel, complete with puns regarding the fact that they're meant to be caricatures of the critics Emmerich hates so much. the only human characters who really matter are Dr. Nick,  Jean Reno, and Colonel Hicks. It's also worth noting that those are also the actors who do the best jobs in this movie. Well, for the most part. Broderick isn't really bringing his A-game here and while many of his bad lines can be attributed to the terrible script...his delivery isn't helping things.

I'm not going to say it. You can't make me say it. I am stronger than your memes, internet!
The military has a lot of ideas that go nowhere and only serve to get people killed, Zilla is digging around underground, and things are generally not going well for the Big Apple. And since this can of worms is open, it's a good thing the worm guy is there to get them out of the Apple, yes? I offer my most sincere apologies, that was terrible. But no one wants to listen to Dr. Nick, thus we need a character who can actually get shit done. Mysterious French Guy! Yes, this is the character I actually care about in this movie, mostly because I am a massive Jean Reno fan. He's here on behalf of the French government to cover up their involvement in the creature's creation and wants to track down its nest to kill any babies. Meanwhile, there's another military attack and they think they kill Zilla, so everyone is feeling pretty groovy. But not Jean Reno and Dr. Nick. They know something horrifying is laying wait inside of Madison Square Garden. A big nest of...ripped off scenes from Jurassic Park.

Because why have original ideas when you can just steal ones from better movies?
So the raptor-zillas chase our heroes as they attempt to escape, but sadly Jean Reno's team of cannon fodder Frenchmen all die off fairly quickly. They set the place to explode and run like hell, barely escaping. But all is not well as it seems Zilla isn't dead at all! What a shocking twist when we have like 10 minutes of movie left! Zilla also isn't too happy that all the babies are dead as the creature sadly nudges one of its dead young. Wow, the only scene that elicited some emotion out of me and it was a CG giant monster nudging a dead puppet.

If only it had been a different dead baby.
Zilla then looks dead at the humans, clearly having the capacity to know that these tiny creatures killed its young, and it begins to chase them through the city. This creature that outsmarted military pilots, avoided being spotted, and managed to escape death is having difficulty catching a New York City cab. Granted, Jean Reno is the driver, but come on! There's suspension of disbelief and then there's just asking too much of the audience. They do end being caught in Zilla's jaws, but even manage to get free and lead the massive monster to the bridge where the military finally put it down and Nick has what is supposed to be a sympathetic moment between him and the dying Zilla. Jean Reno takes the camera man's footage, Nick gets the manipulative ex back, and the movie ends with a tease as there is one final egg left that then begins to hatch just as the credits roll.

"THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!"
The final verdict is that this movie was a huge waste. It could've been great, but it just wasn't. They changed too much for the sake of being different because they seemed to think the classic concept of Godzilla was silly, but in the end they made something far sillier. Not only that, but the CG is terribly dated now and doesn't look good by any means. The best shots of Zilla are the ones where it's not even clearly visible, not unlike the way Cloverfield made clever use of barely showing its own giant monster to add a sort of menace to the overall situation. That's what the initial teaser did too, it offered a mystery and left us all wanting to know what the movie would be like. When we finally found out, disappointment reigned supreme. Where I applauded the newer film for keeping the basics of Godzilla as a character while simply bringing him to our side of the world, this film fell flat for not trying to do the same.

"SUCK ON THAT, EMMERICH!"
But, while it still failed as a Godzilla film, it did have an interesting idea and I am happy it was added into the canon allowing not only Zilla to a kaiju in the same reality as Godzilla, but also allowing Zilla Jr. that honour. Speaking of Jr., you've also all been asking about the animated series, haven't you? Hmm...maybe I should talk about that at some point? Perhaps on a certain national holiday celebrating all things great and beautiful here in America? It's almost like I was leading you there all along, isn't it? So, until Emmerich and Bay team-up to blow me up for mocking their films, I'll be here cleaning dead babies off my front lawn. That explosion just blew them everywhere, I swear.

"I really didn't appreciate that joke, sir."

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