Reviews: Godzilla 1998

One heck of a bad remake, but not for the reasons you'd expect

This is not a Godzilla movie. I'm not saying that because I don't like it, I'm saying it because that's the truth. It's a remake of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and, Mr. Emmerich, maybe it's about time you wrote Mr. Harryhausen's estate their check? True, Toho probably wouldn't have funded it, but have some integrity, why don't you.

Beyond that, the movie is just dumb. It's dumb from beginning to end, a huge mess that crashes into itself as it lumbers by. It's got no merit as a Godzilla film, because it isn't one, nor as spectacle, thanks to CGI's short shelf life, and it sure as heck doesn't hold up as a remake of The Beast.

The Beast and Godzilla came from similar times, but the two are vastly different. Godzilla represents power, terrible power capable of great destruction, but also great heroism. The Beast was an animal, an alien very much lost in a jungle of concrete. We are invited to sympathize with it as it attempts to gnaw on cars and snap at passing humans, not out of malice, but out of sheer confusion. In a way, the Beast was just as scared as the humans were.

This Godzilla invites us to sympathize with it too, but does not understand what about the Beast made it sympathetic. Zilla is no animal. She is a walking plot point, as smart, as big, and as well-hidden as she needs to be, and nothing else. The action scenes do not give her personality, so it feels forced when the quiet moments arrive and Matthew Broderick tries to have a moment with her over a pile of fish.

At the end of the day, Godzilla forgot that heart and tragedy is a full-time job, one that cannot be abandoned even in the heat of action. The Beast's story is a tragedy. Its strength is in its emotional drive, not its rampant destruction. Take out that emotional drive, and, well, Godzilla 1998 is the result: a big, dumb action movie doomed to be forgotten in the outlet pipe of the action movie genre.