THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Directed by Roland Emmerich
"While 1998’s Godzilla isn’t exactly a classic, it’s sure as hell isn’t as bad as most claim it to be. Not even close."
It’s always strange to see the way that pop culture can’t stop recycling. What’s old is new again and then the other way around. What’s even weirder is to witness things brought back like a third time, or even more.
Take Godzilla for example. It’s one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) franchise in existence, though it has rarely made stupid money. However, at one time it sounded like it might. When digital-city-destroyer/end-of-the-world disaster expert Roland Emmerich (Independence Day among many others) got the reigns of the great scaly one, it sounded like a good plan, and it sounded like a lot of potential cash, And why not. With $130 million budget, it should have kickstarted the franchise into the billions, and altered the character from that goofy foreign character into A-lister. But…it didn’t.
Why? Well, fans kinda hated the thing, but the problem was that they played the compare contrast game with the “classic” Godzilla. What the hell did they expect? Big budget Hollywood meant they were going to reinvent the thing, and do it however they thought would sell the most tickets. The movie more or less broke, even which is a shame. While 1998’s Godzilla isn’t exactly a classic, it’s sure as hell isn’t as bad as most claim it to be. Not even close.
Let’s get the obvious topic out of the way. The big lizard himself: Godzilla. Many folks bitched that the movie failed to live up to the spirit of the original films, but you know, with 28 movies under the franchise umbrella (mostly Japanese Toho productions), I’m not sure it’s fair to say it doesn’t fit within the franchise. We still have the military. We still have the press. We still have the attack. Where people mainly seemed to bitch is the CGI nature of the beast and a certain lack of WWE wrestling moves that a dude in a suit can only do. Godzilla could have went old school, but if producers want to make movie, it needs to be a disaster/monster flick first, Godzilla movie second.
Why again? The movie strayed away from the character as the beast itself could and should have looked more like the Toho monster. It’s just stupid to alter it as much as they did without any real reason. I also didn’t care for some of the scenes: like the Godzilla trapped by a small mountain of fish sequence. That one in particular doesn’t seem Godzilla-ish. Even worse comes the whole pregnancy angle, which I'll choose to ignore all together here..
Frankly, I enjoy Matthew Broderick here as the terribly named Dr. Tatopoulos. Yes, he’s still playing Ferris Bueller, but as if he grew up in New York instead of Chicago, and became a scientist instead of the Sausage King. He never tries to be an action hero or even add any real emotion to the character, but that's ok. He's Bueller being Bueller which adds a nice calming effect. Bueller can handle anything.
And why not. Godzilla has never been a heavy movie. In fact, it really...if ever rose about B-camp. So why would we expect depth? Even the great Jeno Reno has little to do here as a French professional of sorts (where all your favorite French clichés play out). Along with Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer (and Maria Pitillo as the unnecessary love interest), they bring in the much needed comic relief and keep the whole media angle alive.
Lastly, beyond the monster and Bueller, what I dig most about Godzilla is the atmosphere. It feels big and plays big. The constant rain and darkness keeps things from getting too silly too quickly. I also like the fact that New York is a character on to its own. These aren't safe, universal characters, but harden New Yorkers doing what they do best. It makes sure that this isn't just another monster movie, but an American monster movie.
While Godzilla wouldn't ever be a masterpiece and will mostly likely be completely forgotten if the new 2014 version kills the box office, but the 1998 Bueller edition is still worth enjoying for some stupid destruction fun.