Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Godzilla (1998)


Notes: TriStar.
Nick Tatopoulos: Matthew Broderick
Audrey Timmons: Maria Pitillo
Philippe Roaché: Jean Reno
Charles Caiman: Harry Shearer

Screenplay: Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich
Directed: Roland Emmerich

Summary: Rusty orange tinted footage nostalgically recalls for us SouthPacific atom bomb testing with footage of iguanas interspersed. The Holy Choir of Nuclear Explosion kicks in with a rousing editionof “Ahh.”

We see sumo wrestling on tv and fish-guttingsaboard ship. An uproar has sailors screaming and knives (Ginsu,presumably) falling about. The ship is destroyed and only oneold man survives, radioactive and repeating “Gojira.”

Nick Tatopoulos of the Nuclear Regulatory Commissiondrives to Chernobyl, singing “Singing in the Rain” untillong after we first want to kick him. He draws worms out of thesoil, worms which we’ll later learn are 17% larger than normal. A helicopter lands and he is abruptly reassigned, first to Panamawhere giant footprints have been discovered. At the beach, ashipwreck includes Bumblebee Tuna cans and some suspicious Frenchmenwho claim to be insurance agents.

Three fishing trawlers are pulled under thesea, which leads Nick to insist that such a creature would be”too big to be a lost dinosaur”; rather, it must bea “mutated aberration” and we’re witnessing the “dawnof a new species.”

Audrey, who works on a New York City news showfor sleazy anchorman Charles Caiman (note the last name), is toldby her co-worker and that woman’s husband “Animal” whohimself is a photographer for the show that NYC is “dog eatdog.” Audrey worries that she should be more aggressive. She sees Nick on tv and declares that he was her “collegesweetie.” It’s been eight years, so one would think she’dact older than 15.

At the NYC docks, men unload seafood crates. An old fisherman catches something enormous: Gojira emerges andtears through the city. Caiman misses sighting the creature asBarney the Dinosaur plays on tv in the background. Manhattanis evacuated. Nick strategizes a big fish dumping to lure thecreature out into the open. Gojira appears and comes face toface with Nick. He breathes fire sparingly and evades the military,who announce, “We need bigger guns,” and whose missilesdestroy the Chrysler Building. A scene from The Beast From20,000 Fathoms plays during a theft interrupted by the giantlizard. All military copters are chomped. Gojira roars and lightningflashes.

Audrey meets up with Nick who is purchasinghome pregnancy tests. When he discovers that Gojira has probablyasexually reproduced and laid eggs, she has her opportunity tosteal his wisely-labelled “Top Secret” videotape ofthe old man from the original shipwreck. She prepares a storybut Caiman steals it, announcing “Godzilla.” “It’sGojira, you moron!”

The miltary blames “the worm guy”Nick, boots him from their meetings, and prefers to ignore hiswarnings about a possible nest. The French guy, Philippe, kidnapsNick and claims that the French want to clean up the mess theymade in the South Pacific (the altruistic secret police)!

“Animal” the photographer and Audreyfollow Nick and the French in their subterranean nest search. Godzilla crawls iguana-like. Another military attack forcesthe animal into the Hudson River where the Navy ends up destroyingits own subs until Godzilla is hit and presumably killed.

In the wreckage of Madison Square Garden, theexplorers find over 200 eggs which begin hatching before the Frenchcan blow them up. The French are picked off by ravenous reptilesone by one during phone and elevator drama. Audrey is able to provide a livebroadcast of the problem, including an interview with Nick who threatensthat these animals “could replace us as the dominant specieson this planet.” The military must blow up the area. Jurassic Park dynamics get the four survivors (Nick, Audrey, Animal, and Philippe) to the streets of New York before the explosions begin. But Godzilla emerges from the wreckage and witnesses oneof its dead babies. It tears after the four who steal a cab. At one point, the cab ends up in the mouth of the creature. “We’re in his mouth!” Nick uses an electrical cableon the inside of the mouth to escape this moment. Crossing theBrooklyn Bridge in pursuit, Godzilla is netted by the cables andfired at, King Kong-style, until he collapses and slowly dies. We hear the heartbeat, King Kong (1976)-style, slowto a stop and the light go out of the animal’s eye.

As inappropriate as after the O.J. trial, uproariouscheering begins. Soldiers are commended by superiors and everyonesays Woo. Philippe stole Animal’s videotape to censor himselfout, and Nick and Audrey are reunited. Back at the Madison SquareGarden wreckage, one final egg hatches.

Commentary: New York City seems the most unlikely breeding grounds for acreature supposedly emerging from the South Pacific! The earthcontains lots of islands with less concrete. But at least thisfilm, like King Kong (1933) and unlike The Lost World: Jurassic Park, has a “monster” destroying a worthwhile city with real landmarks to abuse.

If a “dinosaur” film is going toplagiarize, then at least King Kong (1933) is a good source to lift from. Evocation of moments from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and King Kong (1976) work well enough. But the substantial Star Wars theft during the helicopter chase is inexcusable.

Godzilla works and looks best when resemblingand moving like an iguana. Its Jay Leno jaw is the only unpleasantaddition. Despite the vile final inappropriate Woo, moments ofclear sympathy for the creature are effective, and it’s not difficultto side entirely with Godzilla–in fact, the movie is difficultin some respects for iguana-owners. I have no problem, unlike”Animal,” about the loss of Madison Square Garden. The creature left the Met alone and didn’t travel north to theCloisters. In fact, humans deserve their extinction since theyare still seeing existence as a matter of being the “dominantspecies on this planet.”

And (see my Dinosaur-Dragon Abstract) we get some hell-mouth dynamics here!

Other Godzilla Films