Godzilla is coming. And it looks incredible.
But in the run-up to this release I’ve been seeing a lot of comments online about the previous incarnation of our favorite giant monster to hit American cinemas: Roland Emmerich’s 1998 offering. This version, also simply titled Godzilla, is reviled almost universally among fans of the big guy, and I gotta say…I don’t get it.
No, the 1998 Godzilla was not a “good” movie. It was not deep, or powerful, or life-changing. The characters were more-or-less forgettable, and the plot was cookie-cutter Hollywood. But what it did have was a giant monster absolutely trashing New York. It had cool visuals, and big action, and despite it’s flaws and the fact that it dragged on a bit too long at the end, I had a ton of fun watching it.
I mean I can understand why a true cinefile would have issues with this, but many of the haters of Godzilla were more than willing to overlook exactly the same flaws in the more recent “giant things destroy cities” movie Pacific Rim.
Pacific Rim had some issues. But those of us who enjoyed it overlooked those issues and just had fun with the spectacle. So why can’t we do the same with 1998’s Godzilla?
And as if on cue I can hear people screaming, “BECAUSE THAT WASN’T REALLY GODZILLA!” There’s a sense that Roland Emmerich ruined Godzilla. Took something that was good and true and holy, and made it vile, odious, and common.
And again I gotta say, I don’t get it.
I mean, I assume that if you’re making this comparison you’ve seen other Godzilla movies? Because Godzilla was “ruined” before anyone even knew who Roland Emmerich was. This idea that the 1998 Godzilla failed because it wasn’t true to the source material is laughable, because a bunch of the source material is awful. Is anyone sitting at the edge of their seat praying that Gareth Edwards pays homage to the scene in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero where Godzilla jumps in the air and clicks his heels together after defeating Monster Zero? Or perhaps you won’t be satisfied if Godzilla doesn’t direct his atomic breath at the ground and fly like he does in Godzilla vs. Hedorah?
And even the Godzilla films that aren’t terrible still tend to be downright weird. I mean, we don’t need to discuss the tiny fairy twin people who worship Mothra do we? No? Good. Because those guys freak me out.
Of course the original Godzilla is a classic and deservedly so. It was slow and built up the reveal of the monster, making Godzilla something truly terrible while weaving a cautionary theme about the dangers of unchecked technological advancement.
But no one who can call themselves a true fan of Godzilla can have any illusions about what the series has become since then. Even after Emmerich’s oft-reviled entry into the franchise, Toho released the absolutely forgettable Godzilla 2000, followed by Godzilla: Final Wars which no one cares about except to post that clip of the “real” Godzilla killing Emmerich’s American “Zilla” in about two seconds.
The Emmerich Godzilla was an adaptation. Yes, it changed some stuff from the source material, in an attempt to make the monster seem more realistic. But that doesn’t mean it deserves derision or hatred any more than Christopher Nolan deserves derision for removing some of the more fantastical elements from Batman’s universe.
It’s a dumb, fun, monster movie. Can we stop pretending it failed us because it didn’t live up to the standards of high cinema?
So yeah, Godzilla is coming. And I for one, hope it’s good. I mean really good.
But if it’s not I’m still gonna sit there and have fun watching giant monsters smash stuff.
Because that, kids, is the true meaning of Godzilla.