I was working as a fulltime second shift maintenance man at the Dayton mall when the movie was announced. I watched the massive marketing push and the ubiquitous Godzilla advertising that plastered the regional cathedral to consumerism. There was a Taco Bell anchoring one corner of the food court, and I can’t even begin to tell how sick and tired I got of that fucking Chihuahua dog and his “Here lizard, lizard, lizard” bullshit.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
I love Kaiju movies a film genre that feature monsters, usually attacking a major Japanese city or engaging other monsters in battle. The classics of the genre, at least here in the United States are Godzilla, Gamera, and at least to my way of thinking King Kong. I remember being a kid back if Detroit Metro and watching the movies on the weekend mornings and late at night. There was something magical about it for seven-year-old Josh when he watched a giant Lizard or Ape destroy a model city of screaming people. My favorite of the best known is King Kong vs. Godzilla. I am torn every time I watch the movie, who do I want to win, the King of the Monsters or the biggest Ape in the jungle?
So like I was saying the advertising and buildup for the first American version of Godzilla kind of overwhelmed me, and not in a good way. I attempted to maintain objectivity until the first glimpses of the monster were released, and we all realized old Godzilla had been raped by the success of Jurassic Park. And before JP defenders start in on me I LOVE Jurassic Park, and the T-Rex is one of favorite movie monsters, I mean for fucks sake have you experienced Jurassic World? But this was billed as Godzilla and he better gods damned resemble Godzilla!!!
Moving on, I never saw the movie in the theaters and after the first reviews on the nascent internet were released I patted myself on the back for dodging a bullet that would’ve, to use an overused and really dumb term, raped my childhood. I was rather proud of myself for not giving in to nostalgia and instead listening to my head.
Fast forward two years.
I was a stay at home dad, ups late with a sick kid, and there was nothing good on TV. This was before streaming you whipper snappers so don’t start telling me everything good on Netflix. Anyway, I was going through the pay channels just as they announced Godzilla was starting, I hesitated give me that much credit, and then I settled in to experience what I was sure would be one of the worst and most disappointing movies of my life, Ang Lee’s Hulk was still four years away.
Here’s the movie in a nutshell.
The French create Godzilla, I mean T-Rex Light, via nuclear testing in the Pacific. The US Military brings in Middle-Aged Ferris Beuller to track the unidentified monster by going from sighting to sighting and tracking the wreckage and chaos. Somehow the giant monster evades the resources of the most powerful nation in the history of the world making it from the South Pacific to New York City with nobody seeing him and living except one old Japanese fisherman. Meanwhile, the French government send Leon the Professional without Queen Amadalia but with a team of coffee snob French special forces troops to hunt and kill the beast. There’s a contrived love story for Ferris and a bunch of wacky characters I wish T-Rex Light had eaten. There’s a sustained battle between the US Military T-Rex Light, which is really fucking badass and I’m pretty sure the makers of Cloverfield watched a thousand times. Ferris and Leon fight Velociraptors I mean baby Godzilla’s in Madison Square Garden. And the Military kills Godzilla with missiles, something that would NEVER happen to the real Godzilla! Either he dies fighting another monster or he owns the field of combat. Also, there’s the obligatory setup for a sequel that never happened with the hatching of a loan surviving egg beneath Madison Square Garden.
That movie was amazeballs!
Don’t get me wrong, it sucked, it sucked hardcore, but it’s so much fun. And not regular fun either stupid bang bang fun. I honestly think if they’d called this movie Zilla and ditched a connection to Godzilla it would’ve been a massive hit. In fact in one of later Japanese Toho movies they call the monster Zilla and use it as one of the real Godzilla’s enemies, genius!
I recommend the hell out of Godzilla 1998, when it’s not trying to shove a contrived emotional human story down your throat, it’s rip-roaring fun.
Next time we tackle something timely, and you find out why Messa feels bad for Jake Lloyd.