Godzilla (1998) Review

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The crowning moment of Godzilla comes as Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) stands in New York, and Godzilla bursts from within the city sewers. It is the first full reveal, as the creature was hidden for the three previous attacks in the film.

To understand this, you need to place yourself in 1998. Godzilla was everywhere, with massive advertising banners cloaking entire skyscraper walls stating, “He’s as tall as this building.” Buses featured the same ad, instead plastered with the marketing jargon, “He’s as long as three buses.” He was on Taco Bell cups, ate Doritos, trailers played constantly, and through it all, Godzilla’s face was never seen.

That first full reveal to Broderick is dramatic. It is -literally- the moment where millions upon millions of dollars are realized in the shock of an audience, their first look at an irradiated monstrosity that is as tall as one of those buildings.

Yet they laughed. Everyone laughed. Unimaginable amounts of money were not spent promoting this monster, but hiding the sheer idiocy of it. Not only does this Godzilla fail to capture any of the familiar elements, it is reprehensible to fans of the original. This is the equivalent of releasing a film around Wolverine without claws, or Freddy Krueger sans glove.

While Godzilla would turn into a camp icon with schlock Godzilla vs. Megalon, he began as a deep-rooted, even terrifying metaphor, reverting back to form in 1984. No one in this production cared. They were more concerned with recreating the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park, only inside Madison Square Garden. They wanted to make their movie, a ridiculous, disrespectful piece of Hollywood dreck that aimed a denominator lower than the lowest.

Godzilla’s studio creators at Toho did admittedly sign off on the design, but only with hope their franchise could finally break out of their country and capture a worldwide audience. It was more desperation than approval. Repeated attempts (over the course of a decade) to make an American Godzilla fell through until Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich agreed… and then proceeded to make one of the dumbest, most absurd, brain dead, asinine, and bloated Hollywood productions of all time.

Their Godzilla didn’t destroy buildings. This fleet-footed lizard dodged them (obviously exciting to someone), where as the original went through them (obviously exciting to everyone). Where the original stood up to the military, massacring them with a simple flick of his breath (likewise exciting), this ridiculous “thing” ran away (no comment).

Even ignoring the 20+ Godzilla films available at the start of this inexplicable production, this is a mess of a movie. Sony’s push for an immovable release date (god forbid if Taco Bell promotions were ruined for the sake of art) forced editors into cutting the film a the last minute, shipping before full completion, and leaving in plot holes that find a 150+ foot tall lizard hiding in New York. Oh, that was supposed to be in there? That says a lot.

In all of the Japanese films, scientists of Japan utilize intelligence and ingenuity to come up with unique weaponry to wipe out their foe. Writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio cannot even draft an original concept to finish off the beast, killing the creature with America’s might… in other words eight missiles. It is utterly impossible to miss the mark anymore than that.

Movie ☆☆☆☆☆ 

Godzilla comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encode. The master used here looks dated, and not in the sense that the movie is a little over a decade old (the source is pristine). The film as a whole carries a rather processed look, one that makes the grain appear as clumps rather than crisp. Faces are flat, lacking any true definition. A smidgen of excessive DNR application is a likely culprit since the grain is intact, even if it is not natural.

Softness permeates the transfer, even in the earlier scenes which actually feature light. Once into New York, the black levels recede, leaving the film grim and flat. That was the intent, but the image is unable to establish depth once inside the confines of the city. Flesh tones are accurate and brighter colors do deliver some excellent pop. Mild edge enhancement is evident around certain buildings, and is quickly eliminated. Noise becomes dominant in many special effects scenes, not necessarily the encode, but rapidly aging source material.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

A long standing demo disc on DVD, this DTS-HD mix has a lot to live up to, and it mostly delivers. Surround tracking is exceptional, notably early in the footprint scene. Here helicopters move across the soundfield from the front right to the rear left, and the motion is perfectly captured. Ambiance is especially strong in this mix, including the opening boat attack where music on a radio is always present, but in different channels as the camera moves. The newsroom is active with phones and papers being tossed around. Military bases have vehicles making their rounds, and radio chatter.

Of course, a newsroom is not demo material. It just shows how well this track handles subtlety. The action is aggressive, with bullets firing in all channels, tanks reverberating in the sub, and each Godzilla-sized footstep delivering a decent low-end jolt. That is the problem though, the somewhat subdued bass. The subwoofer does not deliver the soul-crushing power of Transformers 2, instead sitting somewhere in the middle in terms of uncompressed quality viewers have now come to expect on Blu-ray.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Two new on-disc extras have been added from a previous DVD re-release, one of which is a promo for Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and the other being a rather poor trivia game that barely offers any questions on the original series (despite being named The Ultimate Godzilla Trivia Game).

A commentary, used since 1998 on the original DVD, has special effects supervisor Volker Engel and assistant visual effects producer Karen Goulekas chatting about their work actively. Behind the Scenes of Godzilla is a dated featurette with Harry Shearer in-character as he discusses the basics.

Godzilla’s All-Time Best Fight Scenes is a joke, using only clips from the Sony-owned Godzilla films, and mostly just the modern ones. A music video is followed by standard BD-Live content, MovieIQ during the film, trailers, and a digital copy on the Blu-ray itself. Missing from the DVD are episodes of the marginally better TV series that spun off of this travesty.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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