I had Munchkin duty. I have been indoctrinating her into the cult of Godzilla, the King Of The Monsters. I wasn't sure I wanted to, though, as I was acutely aware there was a new American Godzilla movie and knew, if it popped up on her radar, she'd want to see it. Her parents knew that, too.
So when she saw the commercial, guess who got a phone call on Friday night?
The reason for my trepidation was the 1998 Godzilla movie from Centropolis and Tri-Star. Centropolis was Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. They had just made Independence Day, which I thought was an awesome movie, and hearing they were going to make Godzilla made me tingle like a prom queen. There was also talk of a leaked script that said several American cities, nine of them to be precise, would bite the dust by the time the movie was over.
It didn't work out that way. The movie was simply okay, stretched things unnecessarily, and Godzilla wasn't as terrifying as he was supposed to be. The search aspect wasn't what I wanted to see, I wanted to see a movie by a special effects powerhouse showing a big lizard wrecking shit.
I found out later that part of the condition for Roland and Dean to do Godzilla was that the studio didn't interfere, that they could to it "their way". The deal was signed before ID4, so when that was a hit, I'm sure Tri-Star was content to let them do what they wanted. Roland stated in a later interview that he didn't like the original Godzilla movies.
That's trouble. And it came through on the screen.
I can't tell the Munchkin no. So we went to see the 2014 Godzilla. I know the behaviors of impatience and annoyance very well. The Munchkin was squirming through a lot of the film until the finale, when we finally got to see Godzilla really go to work.
The truth is, I was squirming, too. I had curtailed my expectations, but I still was wondering when the big show would begin.
And as we left the theater, I was hit with a terrifying thought --
I actually prefer the 1998 Godzilla to the 2014.
Matthew Broderick's character in the movie has a reason to be there. He's an expert and his skills are required. Aaron Taylor-Johnson just kind of blunders through the movie, things happening around him and he really has no place there. Broderick was annoying, but he was an actual character. Johnson is a blank slate who is there to make shit look good and that's it. 1998 had a much tighter plot, including the ticking clock of finding the nest. 2014, the nest is pretty much incidental to what is going on. The 1998 characters are actually in danger, including escaping the air strike on the nest at the end because their survival isn't as important as stopping the eggs from hatching. This crew, I never got a sense of jeopardy from them, just an awareness that things would eventually work out.
But the worst thing is Godzilla. The hallmark of all the movies is that you feel sympathy for Godzilla. As his rampage goes on, even as you fear, you start to understand. You don't want him to die, just go away. The 1998 Godzilla wasn't terrifying, but he was sympathetic. You felt sad for him. With this, there isn't enough for the audience to get used to the lizard and start to bond with him.
With talk of a sequel, I'm hoping they can expand the budget and give more battles. The movie is expertly shot and if you approach it as a general creature feature, it is entertaining. But when you hear Godzilla, you have certain expectations, and the movie doesn't quite get them.
And it makes the 1998 version look good in comparison.