Is It Just Me … Or Did Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla get an unfair drubbing?

Were critics too harsh on the giant lizard?

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…


    • Kerryman

      Apr 14th 2013, 14:15

      You know what, it was ok. The reviews, including 2 of the 3 above clearly show that a great many went to the cinema to take a giant lizard movie waaaaaaay too seriously. Critics tend to forget some important things, foremost of these is the intended audience of a movie, these movies are not for you, they are for a considerably less discerning demographic for whom plot is the least of their worries, if you can enjoy it, fine. Look at he reviews above, they are good advertising to people who go to a movie for enjoyment, see how many of these statements apply to a host of better reviewed blockbusters before and after Godzilla: “written with the brain dead in mind” “idiotic blockbusters” “overblown action monstrosity” “plotless”, hell, I’d pay to see this movie for a good night out. I can appreciate that there is no forgiving some plot holes, but Emmerich’s real mistake was not having Maria Bello in a wet t-shirt or a bikini, if he did he’d have had PJ’s King Kong on his hands and his box office and reviews would have been bigger and better. Reviewed and taken on the intended level, there were quite a few thrills to be had and there were certainly a few laughs, my younger self enjoyed it a fair bit.

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    • Wulfster

      Apr 14th 2013, 15:20

      Tempted to say, "Yes. It is just you Paul", but that's overly harsh. I really disliked it with it's "Blue Thunder" copter chases, and the innate ability of Godzy to vary his size/swim like an otter/burrow like a mole/disappear. Also, the Godzookys made me face-palm with their raptor impersonations. It was probably mostly due to the fact that the trailers looked so damn cool when they teased the images of it rampaging and then we got "Carry-On Jurassic Central Park". In my opinion, "Cloverfield" is superior in every possible way, even to the magnificient "monster march" music in the credits of that. Having said that, I think the critics were a tad too harsh, and there were one or two cool bits (The Tanker attack comes to mind), but it was mostly a failure, even with the popcorn-entertainment-look-it's-a-monster-movie-lighten-up argument...

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    • rbec2013

      Apr 15th 2013, 5:44

      As a fan of the 70's cartoon series and some of the original films (more for the simple concept of giant nuclear fuelled lizard fun), I was REALLY looking forward to this in '98 (back when I was 23). I remember being disappointed then, as now. It's not terrible - just misguided. Why? Personally.... - Not enough Godzilla! - Too long - A good cast - but not perhaps the appropriate one - The humour was too broad, too slapstick (the army are complete idiots in this version) - Godzilla changes scale / abilities too much. Maybe Emmerich got carried away after ID4. Maybe there were issues we'll one day hear about. There are things to like; there are good ideas. It's just that the execution is far from flawless. Bit like Van Helsing - it's not a terrible movie, just not a great one. I've looking forward to seeing what the Godzilla of 2014 brings...

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    • spid2411

      Apr 15th 2013, 8:57

      Its just you - it was s**te. It was made by a no talent clown who suffers from Michael Bayitis i.e. only knows how to blow stuff up. Independence Day was a pile of mind numbing s**t that was so terrible, so embarrassing and badly acted that I had to leave the cinema. Luckily, when I was dragged to see Godzilla the cinema actually went on fire so I didn't have to sit through all of that puss either (true story - it was in East Kilbride and the popcorn machine burst into flames so we were all evacuated). Godzilla looked ridiculous when it ran (300 foot high but light as a feather apparently) and the script and dialogue was once again shocking. Love the fact that people in his movies seem totally unaffected by events in his movies (Broderick calmly standing face to face with the biggest creature on the planet wagging his finger at the troops not to shoot it - Will Smith making jokes as he hurtles towards a 15 mile wide alien craft that has just flattened everything humanity built). No problem eh? ps like to take this opportunity to thank the ned who set fire to the popcorn machine

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    • BobbyTwoTimes

      Apr 16th 2013, 10:19

      Roland Emmerich is a talentless c**t! I feel my statement provides ample information as to my feelings towards this article.

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    • Hadouken76

      Apr 16th 2013, 17:52

      This is a stretch even for the usually gossamer thin 'Is it me..?' arguments.Godzilla is a bad, slow, bloated movie plain and simple, devoid of any redeeming features or silliness which were hallmarks of the whole series. Hopefully in his upcoming version, Gareth Edwards will bring back the bonkers fights (Fire breath! Mothra!).

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    • dangoodfellow

      Apr 16th 2013, 20:03

      After initially being disapointed, especially as it was the follow up to Independance Day, Godzilla has become one of my firm Sunday afternoon favourites. It's a great b movie, with an earnest scientist at odds with a hoplessly outclassed military, two plucky reporters, and a bloody great monster. Not bad.

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    • Igrayne

      Apr 20th 2013, 19:42

      This film was utter c**p and people who like it who are older than twelve need to stop watching films and start blowing bubbles for a living what the f**k?

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    • voltoruspegasi

      Jan 18th 2014, 8:34

      Its just you ,godzilla 98 sucked the big apple if you catch my drift

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    • jonathanscher

      Feb 2nd 2014, 4:56

      It's not just you, dude. I'm a huge fan of the most hated Godzilla film. In fact, I just posted my very first movie review of this movie. If you guys want, go check it out and let me know what you think. Even if you don't agree with me, I sure would appreciate some feedback and comments. Just youtube search for 'Godzilla 1998 counter-review part 1

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    • brianbuck

      Feb 23rd 2014, 22:17

      It's just you. Godzilla 1998 remains exactly what it was when it premiered: a steaming pile of c**p representing the worst excesses of late 1990s film making. The plot doesn't just 'have a few holes'. It has holes that are so enormous that the story makes no sense. An igauna from presumably the Galapogos gets mutated by nuclear tests, turns into a giant monster and feels compelled to migrate to New York to lay eggs it fertilized itself. Godzilla is not a lizard. Godzilla is a dinosaur. Big difference. Radiation makes things sterile. Apparently Emmerich chose to ignore that. Gotta get those baby zillaraptors in the second act after all. A scientist stands less then 5 yards from a radioactive monster and doesn't die. The creature can outrun Apache helicopter gunships in the first act and can't keep up with a taxicab in the third. Oh, and apparently, in New York, Taxicabs are made of adamantium. A creature over 300 feet long and radioactive is somehow able to tunnel underground. While underground, said beast is able to escape detection by the United States military. So I suppose the Clinton administration ran out of money to buy the army geiger counters. Somehow, the creature is able to lay more eggs than it's entire body could contain. The above is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. I haven't even commented on the acting. Godzilla 1998 was the end result of the ultimate in half-assed movie making. Emmerich and Devlin wrote and then shot a first draft script. It shows. Since it's release, it's become the ultimate object of disdain in the Godzilla fan community, and outside that community it's regarded as a disappointment, a wasted opportunity. The marketing campaign was more entertaining than the film itself. It continues to deserve every last bit of bile, contempt and righteous hatred it has received. May 16th can't get here fast enough.

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    • starbuck88

      Mar 25th 2014, 0:12

      What gets me. IS that this movie wouldn't be remembered much at all. If it wasn't for anal retentive Godzilla fanboys. As a Film its no worst than the worse Toho Godzilla films. Unless someone can tell me how "Son of Godzilla" and "Godzilla vs the smog monster" are Cinematic Masterpieces. And no just being the Classic Godzilla doesn't make it any better. Both those films were horrible and worthy of the word c**p. As much if not more than the 98 Godzilla movie.

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    • brendatackett

      Jun 24th 2014, 3:16

      I love this movie, I love how the creature moves. It drives me crazy when I hear people talk about how this movie is trash. I enjoyed it, I still enjoy it and I will keep enjoying it. I just watched the new version and for me, I was left wanting. I have no desire to buy the new one or even watch it again. I have seen the 98 version many times.

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    • IamKira

      Sep 10th 2014, 1:12

      Not just you. It was a bad movie, but it was fun, and I could enjoy it as a b-movie. The new movie took itself WAY too seriously, and I would much rather rewatch the 1998 Godzilla than that dull piece of sh*t again.

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