Godzilla (1998)

Composed by: David Arnold

The first American Godzilla film, released by Sony, spent nearly a decade stuck in development hell. Originally Jan de Bont of Speed fame sought to introduce Japan’s monster star through Hollywood. The plot would have had Godzilla battle an evil shape-shifting alien entity named Gryphon. This film was rejected, ostensibly due to budgetary concerns, and the reins were handed over to Roland Emmerich, who in the mid-90s was a rising blockbuster star with Stargate and Independence Day. At first Emmerich seemed a natural fit thanks to the destruction scenes in Independence Day, but it turned out that he absolutely had no liking for the Japanese films and thought them stupid, as did producer Dean Devilin. The end result, which came out in the summer of 1998, was financially successful, but a critical flop and a point of ire for Godzilla fans.

The Godzilla in this film is a mutated iguana that for some reason decides to swim all the way from the South Pacific to New York. Once there he causes havoc, but unlike the original he can be killed by heavier human weapons. Instead of destroying the city like a god, he spends the action scenes running away from helicopters, which cause more destruction than the monster itself with their missiles. The lead character, a scientist played by Matthew Broderick, learns that Godzilla is actually pregnant (making Godzilla a she or a creature able to switch genders). A rip-off of the raptor chase from Jurassic Park ensues. The movie is a bastardization of the source material. Its makers thought Godzilla was stupid and wanted to make him more “realistic.” Since 1998 Godzilla fandom has somewhat mellowed, preferring to see it as a decent fun film starring an unrelated Iguana called Zilla or GINO (Godzilla In Name Only). I still think it’s an abomination and an example of Americans not getting something from another culture. There is one bright spot in the movie and that’s David Arnold’s score. Continue reading