Three Godzillas Walk Into a Video Store. Which One Should You Watch?

Gojira (1954), Godzilla (1998), or Godzilla (2014). Three movies with (almost) the same name. How different can they be?

The Plot (no spoilers):

’54. A 164’ tall monster shows up in Japan, preaching the destructive words of Kaiju.

’98. A 278’ tall monster decides to go sightseeing in New York. Immigration laws prevent her from entering the country legally, so she breaks in.

’14. Two unknown and unnamed monsters find each other on OkKaiju.com (Or Blackmechagodzillameet.com) and decide to meet in California. A 429’ tall monster named Godzilla shows up to deliver a monster-sized cockblock.

Plot (spoilers):

’54. In order to stop a terrible monster forged in the aftermath of a horrific weapon, scientists must morally justify using an equally destructive weapon to destroy it and risk other terrible side effects from its use.

98’. French nuclear tests create a new, gigantic species of lizard. It swims to America for some reason, and the military tries to stop it. The military hires a scientist who knows about nuclear modified animals to help them. The scientist discovers Godzilla might be pregnant. The military fires the scientist for supposedly leaking information, decides all his ideas are dumb, and ignores the pregnant Godzilla theory. Then the French Secret Service kidnaps the scientist and tells him he should help them find the eggs because the Americans are not going to look for them. The scientist agrees. The scientist and the French Secret Service find the nest, but the scientist’s ex-girlfriend and a news station cameraman follow them and get caught up in their hunt. They discover 200+ eggs, and I still can’t figure out where Godzilla was hiding all of them in her (or his?) body. They get the military to blow up the nest and narrowly escape the explosion. Then Godzilla chases them around New York until the military finally kills Godzilla, which was freaking sad.

’14. Strange, giant bug monsters rise from the earth, and the American military decides the best thing to do is passively follow Godzilla around and let him take care of the monsters. Meanwhile, the majority of the movie follows a soldier who tries to balance his time talking about bombs, looking for his family, suddenly not looking for his family, and doing other things that seem trite and forgettable.

Effects:

’54. The original Gojira has some shockingly wonderful effects thanks to models, forced perspective, and creative design. Honestly, some of the effects in this film looked more convincing and technically impressive than many films of 2015 with access to both big-budget practical effects and CGI. Some of Godzilla’s movements and shots are cheesy and dated, but the overall feeling, the artistic flair, and unique spectacle makes up for it.

’98. Honestly, ‘98 has some lovely looking practical effects and sets. That sentence looks wrong, but it is the truth. The CGI is dated, but there are a few scenes that hold up alright by today’s standards.

’14. ’14 has so much CGI it seems like they made scenes with actors in it just so no one would mistake it for an animated movie. The effects look good for today, but the lack of any artistic flair makes it dull. Thus, it will probably age horribly.

Godzilla’s Design:

’54. The monster is dated by today’s practical effect standards, but because of all the thought and love that was put into it, it still has charm and artistic value.

’98. They wanted to make a leaner, sleeker, more agile Godzilla to pull off feats a man in a suit could not. Despite the rampant hate for Godzilla’s design in this movie, I think their sleeker Godzilla looks cool.

’14. While it is a bulky reskin of the original, I can’t seem to hate it (even though he has the most hilariously tiny head compared to the rest of his body).

Love Story:

‘54. A background element used to humanize the characters. It doesn’t feel like it goes anywhere, but it doesn’t hurt the plot either.

’98. Viki Lewis’ paleontologist was a much more interesting character than the actual love interest. Niko made the wrong choice.

’14. The main character and his wife will be divorced in less than six years.

Godzilla’s Epic Reveal:

’54. After a lot of glimpses and tension building, the full shot of Godzilla feels like a well-deserved reward.

’98: Watching Godzilla erupt from a New York City street is one of the best moments in the film.

’14. The wait is over, we’ll get to see him— oh no. He’s staying in the water.

There he is swimming again. This time we can— oh… Alright. Maybe that military bomb guy is going to do something interesting this time.

Godzilla in the water again? Cool, maybe they’ll do an underwater shot— and they cut away again.

Godzilla and a monster in the same shot, now we can— oh, come on!

… No? We haven’t cut away yet? Good. This time we’ll— Damn it! How did I not expect that?!

Now we get to see him? Fantastic. How much of the movie is left? Wow. I’m really glad they managed to fit him into the movie.

The Movie’s Biggest Flaw:

’54. It is slow paced, the camera work during the dialog scenes are dull, and it’s not in HD.

’98. They try to do so much that everything is butts and toilets.

’14. It seems like the guiding star for this movie was “If they did it in ’98, we have to actively do the opposite.” ’98 had humor? Let’s make sure there are no jokes. ’98 had too many characters? Let’s only have one main character and then kill off or ignore the other ones. ’98 redesigned Godzilla? Let’s make our design so close to the original no one can complain about it being different. ’98 had Godzilla as the villain? Let’s make him the hero. ’98 had Godzilla fighting the US Military? Let’s make him a soldier.

The Movie Was…

’54. … a beautifully tragic allegory for the events of Hiroshima. No progress is without cost, and victims are made regardless of intentions. It is a sad, but well-composed, cautionary tale.

’98. … a hot mess that needed either a few more or a few less script rewrites. Based on how much they tried to cram into it, probably a few less.

’14. … about how Godzilla is an American patriot. Godzilla loves the USA so much, he will risk his life to save us despite that fact that we did not help him and we may have been plotting to kill him the whole time. ‘Merica.

Which one should you watch?

If you want to want to watch a slow but good movie, watch Gojira (1954)

If you want try and distract your kids, have them watch Godzilla (1998) and do something more interesting as it plays in the background.

If you are really bored and you can watch it for free, watch something besides Godzilla (2014). If you can get that movie for free, you must have access to other free movies that are better. Here’s a list of recent movies that are better than Godzilla (2014) that you should watch instead:

  • Hercules (yes, the Dwayne Johnson one)
  • 300: Rise of an Empire
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Oculus
  • Pacific Rim
  • Dungeons and Dragons: Book of Vile Darkness
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