Film: Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla (Gojira) is a 1998 American remake film of the Japanese film of the same name and the first feature-length Godzilla film to be made by an American team. It was co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and Stargate, and starred Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria and Kevin Dunn. The film spawned an animated sequel called Godzilla: The Series, and the film's version of Godzilla was later renamed "Zilla" by Toho and pitted against the Japanese Godzilla in Godzilla Final Wars. The film was released on May 20, 1998, by TriStar Pictures.

The film follows the attacks of the titular creature on Manhattan, following his apparent creation via radioactive fallout from atomic bomb testing decades before. The film follows the attacks, beginning with the off-shore attack of a Japanese fishing vessel and culminating in a confrontation of Godzilla and the American military in the Big Apple. As all this is happening, an American scientist, his Intrepid Reporter love interest and their friends team up with French secret agents to examine the creature's behavior more closely and find a way to keep it from bringing even greater disaster upon mankind.

For the original Japanese film, see Gojira (along with the American re-edit, Godzilla: King of the Monsters!, and the Italian re-edit, Cozzilla). For the 1984 direct sequel, see The Return Of Godzilla. For the second American-made One-Word Title Godzilla film, see Godzilla (2014).


Tropes associated with this work:

  • Acrophobic Bird: The helicopter pilots seem to always stay at mouth-level of the monster they're attacking, despite the fact that Apaches can fly as high as 20,000 feet above sea level, meaning there was no reason for them to be flying that low to begin with.
  • Animated Adaptation: The resulting animated series, considered by many the best thing to come of the movie.
  • Artistic License Biology:
    • There is no way a human pregnancy test would work on a lizard, much less a giant radioactive lizard.
    • Theropoda Allosaurus is just unbelievable. The evidence gathered has clearly indicated an animal many magnitudes larger than any Allosaurus, which maxed out at around 30 feet in length. What's more, specifying "Allosaurus" among other similarly-sized therapods is ridiculous, because there's no certain way to distinguish between different therapods within the same size range based on footprint alone. The idea that any real paleontologist would say or suggest such a thing is complete nonsense.
    • The film has a number of biological inaccuracies, some of which include;
      • Iguanas, from which Godzilla mutated, are herbivorous (eat plants), not piscivorous (eat fish).
      • No 300-foot tall bipedal animal would be able to hold a horizontal position all of the time.
  • Artistic License Geography: New York doesn't really look like that. Most glaringly, one of the people in the cab says the Brooklyn Bridge is the closest suspension bridge to the Park Avenue Tunnel. The tunnel runs from 33rd Street to 40th Street, and literally every other suspension bridge over the East River is closer.
  • Artistic License Military: Leaving aside the fact that Sidewinders aren't possible to mount on an Apache, the warheads on Sidewinders are tiny compared to, say, tank shells. They contain only a couple of pounds of explosive, and wouldn't cause Monumental Damage to any building they hit; they would in no way would cause the top of the Chrysler Building to be chopped off, and probably wouldn't hurt Godzilla either.
  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: With how long Godzilla spends tromping about Manhattan, he'd have turned it into a uninhabitable ghost island if he were at all radioactive like his Japanese namesake. And with the leftover fallout from the nuclear bomb tests, he should be.
  • Artistic License Physics: Leaving aside the usual issues with giant monsters and the Square/Cube Law, even if Godzilla was cold blooded, its internal heat should be more than enough for heat seeking missiles to track it.
  • Badass: Phillipe Roache.
  • Badass Driver: As the cab chase at the end proves.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: The lead French investigator finds the New York coffee (the flavor? French Roast) his assistant gives him to be awful. He still drinks it.
  • Bad Vibrations: Whenever Godzilla approaches for the first half of the film.
  • Big Applesauce: If Godzilla usually went after Tokyo, the western equivalent had to attack New York City. (Also marking the second - and not the last - time Roland Emmerich wrecked havoc in the Big Apple.)
  • Blinded by the Light: The cab's high-beams are used to make Godzilla flinch away from the tunnel mouth.
  • Breath Weapon: Played with. While the "realistic" Godzilla can't actually exhale radiation, it can roar with such force that it sends parked cars flying from the shock wave. In one case, this causes their gas tanks to explode in a dragonish blast of flame.
  • Captain Obvious: "That's a lot of fish!"
  • Car Fu: When Jean Reno gets behind the wheel of a taxi, shit gets mad real.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. The DGSE operatives that work with the protagonists are very competent, knot-cutting, pragmatic and professional soldiers.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nick notices that Godzilla seems to have a bit of an aversion to bright lights after using his camera when Godzilla finally shows up for the fish, the flash causing the big guy (or rather big girl, in this movie) to flinch. Nick has Philippe use the taxi's high beams to make Godzilla flinch in order to get out of Park Avenue Tunnel in the climax.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Rather than dig to get to the radiated worms in Chernobyl, Nick used some sort of electrical system that draws them to surface. The same technique is used to draw Godzilla out with fish as bait.
  • Color Wash: The flashbacks that open the film are yellow.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Elsie. She can be very sarcastic!
  • Demoted to Extra: The film is mostly about Nick and Audrey's relationship, the life of a French guy, and Animal Palotti's job, with occasionally a giant lizard thrown in.
  • Driving Stick: American Nick telling French Philippe that the Army Hummer isn't in gear when trying to sneak into the subway system. Especially since the Hummer has an automatic transmission.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: As incompetent as the mayor was, he's perfectly justified when he calls out the US Army for all the damage they caused.
    Mayer: 'You caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!'
  • Elevator Escape: In the Madison Square Garden chase scene. It's taken wholesale from Jurassic Park.
  • Epic Fail: The US Army blowing up the Chrysler building with two missiles meant for Godzilla is an excellent example. Justifiednote  and Lampshaded.
    Pilot: Ahhhh... negative impact. That is negative impact.
    Mayor: 'Negative impact?' That's the goddamn Chrysler building we're talking about here!
  • Explosive Breeder: Godzilla is capable of laying hundreds of eggs without the need for a mate.
  • Expy: Harry Shearer's news reporter character, Charlie Caiman, has shades of a live-action Kent Brockman.
  • Fake American: In-Universe. Philippe briefly does an American accent which he admits is an impersonation of Elvis Presley.
  • Female Monster Surprise: Nick is shocked when a pregnancy test reveals that the giant lizard ransacking NYC is about to have babies. Subverted in that everyone keeps referring to Godzilla as a "very unusual he" due to it being asexual.
  • Free Wheel: Used a lot.
  • Friend Or Foe: Godzilla causes two other US Navy subs to sink a third sub.
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Averted, as Godzilla is killed by the Air Force once it's been lured out into the open where it can't hide.
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: Used in the early teaser trailer, where Godzilla steps on a museum's T. Rex skeleton in the middle of a kids' tour. Meant as a (typically nineties) wholly unnecessary potshot at Jurassic Park, but really just comes off as kinda Python-esque.
    • Happens in the film when a cab is crushed.
    • Subverted with Animal, who is almost crushed but survives because he's standing between where two of Godzilla's toes come down.
  • Gigantic Adults Tiny Babies: Godzilla's offspring are small enough to chase humans inside buildings, hence much smaller than their parent.
  • Gonna Need More X: "We need bigger guns."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used when Godzilla's babies were eating people alive.
  • Gulliver Tie Down: Luring Godzilla onto the Brooklyn Bridge gets the creature tangled in the suspension cables.
  • Handshake Refusal:
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Used to establish that Godzilla really is dead at the end.
  • Helicopter Flyswatter: With military helicopters.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The US Military is profoundly bad at hitting a 200 foot tall, 300 foot long monster.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Subverted by Roache, who says he could use a coffee instead of alcohol.
  • In Name Only: Godzilla in this movie bears little resemblance to his predecessor, and it is mostly a Disaster Movie, with a bit of action, rather than the camp that is most associated with the series.
  • It Can Think: When Godzilla is tailed by three helicopters, he successfully managed to fool them into thinking he is hiding in a skyscraper, cue him bursting from the building behind them and initiating Curb-Stomp Battle. The final helicopter is destroyed when Godzilla crouches low to prevent being seen by it before devouring said helicopter whole.
    • When the protagonists are fleeing from Godzilla, he moves ahead of them and takes out the bridge.
  • Jerkass: Charlie Caiman, who propositions Audrey despite being married, and strings her along with hopes of becoming a reporter while making her do all his work.
  • Lampshade Hanging: One of the movie's few truly hilarious moments involves a gag pointing out that the beast should be named "Gojira", but Americans got it wrong.
  • Mama Bear: Godzilla is both a Mama Bear and a Papa Wolf.
  • Meaningful Name: A "caiman" is a crocodile-like reptile. See Jerkass above. Roache (pronounced "Rowsh") is a sneaky guy who pops up where he's not wanted and engages in shady activities, befitting one military guy's calling him "Roach".
  • Merchandise-Driven: All the tie-in merchandise was designed and ready for assembly before a scriptwriter was hired.
  • Militaries Are Useless: The only time the military accomplishes anything is with the 3 F-18s that both destroy Madison Square Gardens and kill Godzilla. Every other time, they fail miserably and either damage other buildings or hit other military units.
  • Missed Him by That Much: The Jerkass news anchor twice misses seeing Godzilla walk past the station windows because he's too busy complaining on the phone that he doesn't have a good story to cover. One of the army guys overlooks Godzilla in the tunnels because he failed to recognize that the "rocks" in front of him were an eyelid; it opens right behind him and moves after he's turned away.
  • Mr. Seahorse: Godilla turns out to be a hermaphrodite. note 
  • Monster Is a Mommy: About halfway through the film, Nick finds out Godzilla had changed gender and laid eggs. If any one of them get out, they'll start a new disaster. It turns out one DID survive, setting up the plot of Godzilla: The Series.
  • Monumental Damage: Naturally it's often NYC's most-recognizable landmarks that get trashed, either by Godzilla (the MetLife building, the Brooklyn Bridge) or by the forces pursuing him and his offspring (the Chrysler Building, Madison Square Garden).
  • New York Subway: Godzilla burrows into here to make it its new home. Turns out, it did this to get to Madison Square Garden to make it her nesting grounds.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Mayor was right, the army really did cause more damage than Godzilla did.
    • Also Audrey for getting Nick fired.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, who was named for Patrick Tatopoulos, who worked special effects on the film and has the same problem.
  • Novelization: By Stephen Molstad, who collaborated with Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich on their novelizations for Stargate and Independence Day, as well as writing the ID4 prequel novel Silent Zone. An audiobook of the novel, read by Doug Savant, who plays Sgt. O'Neal in the film, was also made.
  • A Nuclear Error: The opening stock footage of a nuclear test isn't French footage but American test footage out of the Bikini Atoll.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Most of Godzilla's scenes take place at night and/or in the rain to cover up the Conspicuous CG.
  • Oh, Crap: Nick initially thinks that Godzilla laid a small number of eggs. Someone then switches on Madison Square Garden's lights, and shit gets real quick...
    Nick: (in obvious pants-crapping terror) He looks angry...
  • Ominous Crack: The pavement develops a long, spreading crack that runs right under Tatopolous's feet, just before Godzilla busts up out of the sewer tunnels in a shower of rubble.
  • Ramp Jump: The taxi runs over one of Godzilla's toes, which serves as a ramp and sends it flying.
  • Raptor Attack: Godzilla's offspring turns the last half of the film into a fusion between Jurassic Park and Aliens, with Nick and Philippe's team fighting the baby Godzillas, which act very closely to Jurassic Park's velociraptors.
  • The Remake: Of the Godzilla film series, natch.
  • Rule of Cool: The Apache helicopters featured here have inaccurately portrayed and bizarrely out of place weapons, while neglecting to use several real Apache armaments that would actually be quite hand in such a scenario. Not to mention how they are flown (and the speeds therewith); they're obviously just there for dramatic effect, as it's clear little research was done on them and their standard arms.
  • Running Gag: All Philippe wanted was a decent cup of coffee.
    • And on Animal's side, Lucy's gonna kill him.
  • Sensor Suspense: Where the submarine is tracking Godzilla approaching them at a high speed.
  • Sequel Hook: Didn't get a sequel, but continued in the animated series.
  • The Stinger: The end has the hatching of the last egg, leading into the animated series.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The hatchlings pursue humans even when there are still fish lying around waiting to be eaten. Averted with Godzilla itself, as the one behavioral limitation placed on Tristar's version by the trademark-holders was that they couldn't show the Big Guy actually eating anyone: when it does start chasing the cab, it's because it's furious at the destruction of its offspring, not hungry.
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: Somehow Godzilla's pursuers manage to lose track of a critter the size of an aircraft carrier on the streets of Manhattan. They soon enough discover that it has been using the City's subway systems to burrow around Manhattan Island.
  • Take That:
    • One of the movie's best moments, however, is to its own title; a minor plot point is that the Japanese fishermen who first see the beast call it "Gojira". Footage of this eventually gets out to a certain smarmy reporter, who proceeds to flense it into "Godzilla". Other characters actually call him (or the TV broadcast of him, at least) out on this.
    • The movie had a quick shot at Jurassic Park, with a major shot of Godzilla's foot going through the ceiling of a museum and stomping a T-Rex statue flat, conveying how much bigger Godzilla is than the prehistoric monster. This is perplexing, considering that the baby-Godzillas are blatant ripoffs of that film's raptors.
    • The film was itself (especially their version of the titular monster) has been the subject of several Take Thats in later Kaiju films.
  • Take That, Critics!: In retaliation for giving Stargate and Independence Day negative reviews, director Roland Emmerich had No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as the Mayor of New York and his aide (respectively). The bizarre thing is, nothing remotely bad happens to either of them (aside from having their city destroyed) and their only real character fault was incompetence (given this is their first monster attack, it's understandable). Both were considerably perplexed by this, with Siskel wondering that if Emmerich was going to go through the trouble of finding lookalikes, why not at least have Godzilla either eat or squash them? (Also, the extra in the car that is squished early in the film was intended to be a representation of J.D. Lees, editor of G-Fan Magazine.)
  • Truly Single Parent: In this movie, Godzilla can fertilize itself, like some species of reptiles can.
  • Truth in Television: Although it wasn't really known at the time, some lizards actually are capable of asexual reproduction via a process called parthenogenesis.
  • Tsundere: A non-Japanese Type A example with Lucy (ironically enough), who henpecks her husband to no end. Near the end of the monster's defeat, she sees Animal in the news and says in a rather loving way, "I'm going to kill him!"
  • Vertigo Effect: Used but subtly during Godzilla's entrance in New York for at least one shot.
  • Voodoo Shark: The reason behind the horizontal, raptor-like design for the monster was in order to make it more "realistic." We'll ignore the improbability of such a lanky, precarious and front-heavy design being better suited for giant size than the heavy, pillar-legged, mountain-shaped original. They decided to continue making it more realistic by making it a mutated iguana instead of a dinosaur, thereby completely negating the entire point behind the raptor-shape in the first place. And the Square/Cube Law is being completely ignored either way.
  • The Worm Guy: The Trope Namer.
  • Wormsign: When Godzilla arrives from the ocean, the pier splits most satisfyingly.