Just to put my cards on the table here, I actually enjoyed this back when it was released. But one should also understand that back in '98, this was what a Box Office movie looked like; this particular movie was #8 that year, so it did pretty well for itself, and I was one of those ticket-holders. Speaking for myself, at the time, it was just a lot of fun; a modern take on the Godzilla monster that I honestly wasn't as familiar with at the time. Perhaps it was being out of touch that allowed me to like it a bit more though.
Even now, I take the whole Godzilla thing exactly the same way I take the Jason Voorhees thing - we're there to watch mindless destruction, and to dig too heavily into it seems absurd... but then I re-watched it for the first time in probably about 20 years and managed to draw the conclusion that a reinvention of Godzilla feels like a silly idea. The difference between this reboot and the 'Friday the 13th' reboot, however, is that at least 'Friday the 13th' kept all the stereotypes we loved it for. This kept the bare basics of 'Godzilla' and tried to reinvent things a bit without realizing that what they were working on was not what fans came to see.
We open in the South Pacific Ocean where a Japanese fishing boat is attacked by some mysterious mass, emerging from the ocean, leaving one survivor. When questioned about what he saw, the man replies "Gojira" (the Japanese name for "Godzilla" for those unfamiliar, which is a still a nice touch). In the meantime, Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is working away, studying the radioactive effects of the Chernobyl disaster on earthworms. He's reassigned by an official from the U.S. State Department to study a disaster trail that seems to be headed straight for New York City.
The rest of the movie involves Godzilla running wild through New York (because this is the Americanization capital), the U.S. Army trying to bring it down, and Tatopoulos and friends being more curious about the creature, deeming it "harmless" (or at least, it has no ill intentions). Said friends include Nick's TV reporter ex, Audrey (Maria Pitillo) and a small 'Simpsons' gathering that includes Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Nancy Cartwright. Actually, Azaria is the only real main out of them as Victor, Audrie's cameraman, but the group is certainly worth mentioning. 1998 would have been a good year for a bunch of 'Simpsons' stars to pop up in something too, as this was around the time 'Simpsons' quality started waning (speaking as a mass generalization more than personal opinion).
Two more things that must be covered include Roland Emmerich bringing in Michael Lerner and Lorry Goldman to play (get this) Mayor Ebert and his aide, Gene, respectively. The real-life critics, Siskel and Ebert, weren't altogether kind about 'Independence Day', so this was a jab at them. The problem is, none of it is particularly funny, and even if one does get a laugh from it, these caricatures are a cheap and completely unsubtle shot. I suppose it was Emmerich's way of flipping off critics, but it doesn't land particularly well. Then, if that's not enough, they also straight up rip off 'Jurassic Park' here with how the climax of the film goes down. I won't say much more than that, but check it out for yourself and try telling me you're not immediately reminded of velociraptors.
Upon this viewing, I still can't honestly say that I hate this movie. I'd just consider it a failed attempt at something. Now, with the 2014 film, this one has pretty well been swept under the rug, and it's probably the one 'Godzilla' film where fans claim it just plain doesn't exist (like how 'Star Wars' fans feel about the new trilogy, or how I feel about 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'). I think for me, it's mainly just really dated now, and it's easier for me to pick up on some of the flaws. But I do remember it being a sort of big deal at the time. It was well-marketed, complete with Taco Bell tie-ins, and a lot of people were really looking forward to it. I still don't know what my peers made of it back then, but In any case, it's safe to say one should stick with the new ones if they want a good (or at least half-decent), more modernized 'Godzilla'. This one's good for a laugh, but it's really, truly, no 'Godzilla' movie, and could have worked better if its title was something completely different... like "Nukequana"...
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