In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film contributor Paul Bradshaw asks, ‘Is it just me? … or did Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla get an unfair drubbing?’
“Written with the brain dead in mind, one of the most idiotic blockbusters of all time” - ReelViews
“An overblown action monstrosity with no surprises, no exhilaration and no thrills” -The San Francisco Chronicle
“A thrill-lite, plotless, multiplex misfire. Weary, stale and flat. The biggest disappointment of the year” - Total Film
There weren’t many quotes on the poster for Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998). Showered in bile by the critics, the film did well at the box office but is now remembered as a radioactive turkey. While it might not be the Citizen Kane of big-lizard movies, I think it deserves a retrial before Gareth Edwards’ upcoming reboot of the misunderstood monster.
OK, so the plot has a few holes in it. It does seem odd that a 300ft dinosaur can hide in New York, disappearing from military scanners whenever he rounds a couple of corners. Sure, Emmerich ‘borrows’ a fair bit from Spielberg, nicking all the best bits from Jurassic Park.
And yes, Godzilla himself looks like a gnarly T-Rex with longer arms and a bigger chin - shot mostly from the waist up for the sake of decency - who is brought down by Ferris Bueller and half the cast of The Simpsons.
But let’s reassess. If you’re going to poke fingers through the plot holes, you might want to start with the whole giant radioactive lizard thing - it is, after all, a Godzilla movie. Based on the cult Japanese series, the ‘King Of The Monsters’ has also been known to shoot laser beams from his eyes and fight off giant mutant moth gods with his atomic breath…
Look, if anyone knows how to blow shit up, it’s Roland Emmerich. The film might be unevenly split into two, but both halves feature action set-pieces that rival his biggest and best (Independence Day, 2012 et al). Set in a dark, stormy Manhattan, the helicopter hunt through the collapsing tower blocks is delicious, delirious stuff, while the tense baby-’zilla chase through the stadium makes a neat change of pace after all the skyscraper smashing.
The shadow of Spielberg might loom larger than the monster over most of the film, but Emmerich could have done a lot worse. As a matter of fact, his city-stomping scenes in the first half are a darn sight more exciting than Spielberg’s own lazy attempts a year earlier in The Lost World. Godzilla looks like a big komodo dragon because that’s what he is.
And while comparisons with Jurassic Park’s main attraction are inevitable, the differences are big enough to set them apart. Broderick does a decent job as a plucky scientist, and the more movies Hank Azaria stars in, the better.
And as for those reviews… How innocent we were in 1998. Transformers were toys, Pearl Harbor a historical event and Star Wars a cherished memory…
Edwards’ post-Monsters spin on Godzilla will surely be great, but this is the one to beat. This is the Godzilla movie that does everything a silly, fun and ridiculously entertaining B-movie ought to. So back off, pick on someone your own size. Or is it just me?
Do you think Godzilla was unfairly slammed? Share your opinion below…