Well this is a bad one. I’ll be honest I have a complicated view on this movie; I was eight when this movie came out and I was obsessed with monster films. My parents let me watch King Kong, Jurassic Park 1 and 2, Jaws and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on from the Toho universe. So when I started seeing the ads for this movie originally I knew I needed to see and when I did my eight year old self was not disappointed, and my mom was awesome enough to take me to this movie twice in theaters!(how she could stomach that I’ll never know.) I know that anything but heaping on the odium for this film is completely out of the norm and I have never met anyone who has said anything nice about it. I am alone in my nostalgic enjoyment I understand that so I’ll try and deconstruct this films negatives(don’t think I don’t see them) and present what I see as overlooked positives. I will also offer up the one suggestion I think would have made everything in this movie awesome.
Off his success from Independence Day, Roland Emmerich took the reins on what is the beginning of the Millennium series of Godzilla films. He seemed like a great choice having experience in the “popcorn genre” and an understanding of the use of special effects to accentuate film. It had been about five years since a Godzilla movie had been made and this was the first once since 1985 to play in American theaters. This is also the first attempt at a true remake of the original, although later films put this in continuity the idea was for this to be a standalone American Godzilla, and after the great Jurassic Park films American audiences were ready for something special. What we got instead was well…deficient.
I will fully admit this film has many flaws; the acting is so dry it’s like choking on raw oatmeal. The dialog is stilted and cheesy. Most of the characters are about as interesting as the history of taxation rates in Scandinavia. The ending rips off The Lost world, the characters are frustrating, and it’s perfectly accepted that a giant lizard can hide in New York City. On that note Godzilla is lame in this movie she looks really weird and seems to change size all the time. She also spends most of the movie running away from tanks… Tanks! Godzilla doesn’t run from tanks. There was no monster for Godzilla to square off against and the film wasn’t clever enough to make it a more complex story about mans need to control nature. The movie’s premise and execution are almost completely at odds with each other. Setting the Godzilla lore within a grounded and more realistic world wasn’t handled well. Godzilla is inherently a silly one so setting it realistically leaves the audience frustrated this isn’t Batman we are dealing with this is a Giant city destroying lizard. To further underline the failure the movie almost always leaves the audience confused. If it was supposed to be serious if we are supposed to be in constant tension for our characters lives, why is everyone hamming it up and chewing the scenery? How can the audience relate to the situation on a meaningful grounded setting when every character makes jokes?
Even though this movie is a terrible use of the monsters name I still like it and think that many of the positives get forgotten through all the disappointment. The opening scene where the fishing ship gets destroyed by an unseen force is brilliant. It plays into the slow reveal all good monster flicks have and it gives a level on mystic the monster needed. The scene where the American fishing boats sink adds to this and builds excitement to finally see the monster. Even though the monsters new design is underwhelming. The Philippe Roaché character is fantastically wasted in this movie. He is by far more interesting than anyone else and the acting by Jean Reno gets criminally little screen time. The movie should have followed him and told his story. You know what else would have improved this movie? I think they should have gone all the way and embraced the silliness of the original series and made this a sequel to Independence Day leaving for a third film Godzilla vs. alien plot. If I didn’t have nostalgia goggles I could probably hate this movie, but I don’t I just look at it as the start of the underwhelming unneeded age of the Godzilla film series.