More Thoughts on the 1998 Godzilla Remake (Some Spoilers)
Re-watched the 1998 American Godzilla for Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. I watched it (and reviewed it) as an adult rather than a middle-schooler many years ago, but I'm giving it a second look rather than being lazy and just using my old movie review. Here's the podcast.
Instead of a second review, however, I'm going to post some thoughts as we go along, in rough chronological order. Some spoilers, since these are more live podcast notes than a movie review/spoiler-free analysis. You might see some of these comments on the podcast, although others are things I never got the chance to say:
*The filmmakers clearly put some thought into logistics--namely how does a creature this darn big sustain itself? Cold-blooded animals can get significantly larger than warm-blooded ones. Godzilla, being a giant mutated marine iguana or Komodo monitor, is likely cold-blooded and consequently wouldn't need to eat as much as a warm-blooded creature of equivalent size, but he's still going to need to eat a lot. There are multiple scenes of Godzilla attacking fishing boats and major battle sequences are centered around using food as bait. This critter is clearly something that requires a lot of calories and the filmmakers actually acknowledged that.
*Per the above, I liked the 1998 Godzilla's design better. It looks and moves like an actual real animal that just got a hell of a lot bigger.
*Matthew Broderick's acting is fine, although his character Nick spouts way too much techno-babble that doesn't really make a lot of sense. He also makes a lot of assumptions based on very little if any evidence. One would hope a trained scientist would be better than that. However, although Maria Pitillo (who plays aspiring television reporter and Nick's ex-girlfriend Audrey Timmonds) got nominated for a Worst Actress Golden Raspberry Award, I really had no problem there. It's not like she had poor delivery or came off as fake the way Hayden Christiansen did in the Star Wars prequels, especially Revenge of the Sith. Seriously, he was so incredibly annoying, especially in Revenge when he's supposed to be this battle-hardened general and leader of men. And Hank Azaria and Arabella Field, who play an Italian couple Audrey works with at the news station, were hilarious.
(It turns out neither of them are actually Italian, which was a surprise. Both of them are New Yorkers though.)
*Nick and Audrey clearly still have feelings for each other--he still has pictures of them from when they dated in college eight years before (some of my fellow podcasters thought that was a bit creepy) and she immediately runs to the TV when she sees him on it, so there's still feelings for him on her end too. They're showing, not telling, which is good. Why did they break up in the first place, especially since they dated for four-odd years? The only notion I got is Nick's comment about being too busy when a female scientist (who clearly has the hots for him) asks about his love life, which suggests that perhaps he spent too much time on science and ignored Audrey, but she admits that he proposed to her and she basically ghosted him. Yeesh.
*I liked the French characters and yes, I found their constant complaining about American food funny. The DGSE in real life are pretty hard-core. No cheese-eating surrender monkeys here.
*Roland Emmerich had a beef with movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, so he plugged in a fat "Mayor Ebert" and his put-upon skinny assistant. Yes that's extremely petty, but the characters are also pretty funny.
*Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer) is even more slimy this time around, and he was pretty damn slimy last time. Treating Audrey as his personal minion for years without any possibility of promotion unless she sleeps with him (and he's married too, making him an oathbreaker on top of "just" abusing his position), excluding her from important news business in a blatantly sexist way, and finally stealing her story. What a piece of trash.
It's a pity he didn't enjoy some appropriately unpleasant ending--him suffering the legal consequences for Audrey's stealing military information (since he stole her story it'd be easy for Nick and Audrey to just let people assume he was the one who stole the tape), his boss firing him as a condition of keeping Audrey after her revealing the nest and getting an exclusivity promise from Nick makes her the most sought-after TV reporter on Earth, or him just getting stepped on or have a building fall on him would have been perfect. Again, what a piece of trash. Godzilla isn't evil because he (she? it?) is an animal acting according to its nature, but Caiman's bad behavior is a choice.
(Especially stealing Audrey's story, which based on how he was looking at her when she claimed the story was hers was at least partly because he was mad at her for disobeying him and/or showing him up, not just because he wanted the scoop himself. And Caiman deliberately named Nick as the source of the story rather than doing the sensible thing as a journalist and keeping him anonymous--did he view Nick as a sexual rival and want to destroy him? Someone kill this man please.)
*The CGI isn't nearly as good as I remember it being. In fact, there's one scene where Godzilla ducks some missiles where it looks really fake. Seriously, we're talking the model going gray here. How did they not notice that when they were finishing up the film?
*Who leaves around top-secret VHS tapes labeled "top secret"? Seriously these guys' OpSec sucks.
*So many infantry with grenade launchers and assault rifles vs. something the size of a blue whale on legs. Cloverfield did it better--when the kaiju come to New York City, the tanks come out. LOTS of tanks, not just one or two. The 1990s New York National Guard might not have the same firepower as the U.S. Army, but given there's a dinosaur (okay, a mutated marine iguana, but close enough) trashing the economic center of the state, I imagine everything with a gun caliber the appropriate size is heading that way. And can nobody hit anything? Yeah it's quick, but it's still pretty huge.
*The Bible (Acts 26:20) says to prove your repentance by your deeds and I imagine following your ex-boyfriend whose career you just wrecked because your loudmouth friends encouraged you to be aggressive and mean against your own inclinations into dinosaur hell to help save New York City counts. Not exactly the cheap grace that Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned against here--she didn't just cry a bit and get Easily Forgiven.
And although Nic (podcast host) really doesn't like Audrey, I'm inclined to disagree. Yes, she abused Nick's (the scientist) trust and lingering romantic feelings to advance her career at his expense and that's a bad thing, but she put her life at risk to try to fix it. And if she hadn't, the military would have never learned where the nest was (since Nick and the French guys wouldn't know how to operate the broadcast equipment, assuming they didn't get eventually eaten) and there'd be Radioactive Dinosaur Apocalypse. So yes, she was selfish and exercised extremely poor judgement, but she also helped save the planet.
There's a whole bunch of stuff here about how heroes need flaws, and other than being a dork married to his job, Nick doesn't seem to have any. Meanwhile, Audrey and Animal (Hank Azaria the cameraman) have problems standing up for themselves and Animal's wife Lucy is domineering and doesn't take responsibility for others following her bad advice. Audrey's sneakiness and selfishness is much more of a character flaw than being overbearing or spineless.
Verdict: Flawed, but still better than the 2014 Godzilla film. And I'm not the only one who thinks that.