GODZILLA (1998 film)
Size Does Matter
There is nothing mankind can do (人類に打つ手は無い)
— Japanese tagline
GODZILLA (GODZILLA Gojira) is a 1998 American giant monster film produced by TriStar Pictures, and the first American Godzilla film. The film was released to American theaters on May 19, 1998, and to Japanese theaters on July 11, 1998.
The first attempt to adapt the Godzilla series by a Hollywood studio, GODZILLA begins with the fishing trawler Kobayashi-Maru being pulled beneath the waves by an unknown force. The French government concludes this to be the work of a huge monster spawned by their nuclear testing in French Polynesia 30 years prior. The creature makes its way across Panama and swims to New York City, where the American military finds itself in an urban conflict theater as it tries to destroy the monster. Dr. Niko Tatopoulos worries that the monster, dubbed Godzilla, has reproduced asexually and that its offspring could overrun the city. Now while the military fights Godzilla in the urban landscape, Nick and the French secret service venture below the city streets to find Godzilla's nest before it's too late.
In June of 1968, a nuclear test is conducted in French Polynesia by the French government, exposing an iguana nest to the radioactive fallout.
Thirty years pass, and a Japanese cannery ship is attacked by a giant creature in the South Pacific, leaving only one survivor. The next evening, the surviving old man, now in a hospital and traumatized, is questioned by a Frenchman regarding what he had seen, to which he only responded "Gojira."
Dr. Nick Tatopoulos, a biologist working for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been studying the effects of radiation on earthworms in the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine for 3 years. With the arrival of an official from the U.S. State Department however, Nick is reassigned and escorted to Panama by the military in order to examine the trail of destruction left behind by an unidentified animal, then to Jamaica to study the ruined ship on the shore. There, the Frenchman is also present, introducing himself as Philippe Roaché.
While aboard a military aircraft, Colonel Hicks is briefed about three ships being pulled under the waves. Hearing this, paleontologist Elsie Chapman hypothesizes that the creature could be a descendant of theropod dinosaurs because of its size and the claw marks observed earlier. However, Nick disagrees, arguing that it would be much likelier for it to be a mutated creature spawned from the nuclear tests that took place in French Polynesia, near the area where it was first spotted.
Meanwhile, the monster arrives in New York City briefly and then disappears, forcing an evacuation. Nick, drawing parallels from his own research, notes that it might be easier to draw out the creature rather than force it in the open, and suggests a plan to lure out the creature out with fish. The plan ends up being successful as the creature comes up to Flatiron Square and begins feeding on the fish. However, as the military opens fire, it manages to evade all attacks and disappears. Following this, Nick collects a blood sample and examines it in his provisional military tent, finding out that the creature is pregnant and assumes that, since it's the first of its kind, that it must be capable of asexual reproduction. He shares this finding with his ex-girlfriend, Audrey Timmonds—an administrative assistant hoping to become a news reporter—following running into her after years of being separate. To confirm the finding definitively, Nick leaves. Looking around, Audrey discovers classified video tapes concerning the monster's origins. Deciding this is her best opportunity at becoming a news reporter, she takes them and films a report, turning it over to the media. When it airs however, she sees that her superior, Charles Caiman, declared it his own discovery and recorded over her segments, while mispronouncing "Gojira"'s name as "Godzilla."
Following the report's airing, Nick gets kicked off the team due to his apparent carelessness. After, he bids farewell to Audrey and then gets kidnapped by Philippe Roaché, an agent of the French secret service, who informs Nick that the U.S. government isn't interested in finding the theoretical nest, though the French ar.want to cover up any involvement they had with Godzilla's creation. Working with Nick, they begin looking for the nest somewhere within the city.
Surfacing once again, Godzilla escapes all of the military's attacks and dives into the Hudson River, where he is seemingly killed after colliding with torpedoes shot at him by nuclear submarines. Meanwhile, Roaché's team—secretly followed by Audrey and cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti—search underground subway tunnels and enter Madison Square Garden, where they find over 200 eggs. Before they could begin destroying any, they begin hatching, and the babies proceed to pursue the human intruders because of the fish smell they carry. Nick, Audrey, Animal and Roaché hide in the stadium's broadcast booth and send a live news report. The military is made aware of the broadcast, and respond with an airstrike as the four barely escape before the arena is bombed.
Right then, Godzilla emerges from the garden's ruins, apparently having survived the torpedo attack in the river earlier. Seeing that all of his offspring are dead, he angrily chases down the group through the streets of Manhattan. After several close calls, the group lure Godzilla out into the open by driving through the Brooklyn Bridge, whose suspension cables trap the monster. Now helpless, Godzilla is hit directly by missiles from three F-18 Hornets and falls to the ground, dead. As the people of New York celebrate, Roaché says goodbye to Nick and others.
Back in the ruins of the Garden, however, one egg remains, and then hatches.
- Main article: Godzilla (1998 film)/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Roland Emmerich
- Written by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
- Produced by Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ute Emmerich, William Fay, Cary Woods, Robert Fried, Kelly Van Horn, Peter Winther
- Music by David Arnold, Michael Lloyd
- Cinematography by Ueli Steiger
- Edited by Peter Amundson, David Siegel
- Production design by Oliver Scholl
- Special effects by Patrick Tatopoulos
- Sound Designer Scott Martin Gershin
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Toho Japanese dub
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Nippon TV Japanese dub
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Weapons, vehicles, and races
The idea for an American Godzilla project began in 1983 when Steve Miner proposed Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3-D to Toho. Not long after they green-lighted it, however, Miner gave up on the project for several reasons, including no company wanting to back the project up. In 1992, Sony acquired the rights to Godzilla and its subsidiary TriStar Pictures was to begin production on a film written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. A teaser for this film was released in Japan in 1994. Jan De Bont was to direct the film, which was to have Godzilla fight a new monster called the Gryphon, but the project was sent to development hell after De Bont left due to budget disagreements with studio executives. TriStar then tried to get Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to make the film, which they turned down several times. After the two read Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio's script, however, they realized that an American version of Godzilla could be done and accepted TriStar's requests, on the condition that they could discard the original script and handle the film however they wanted.
The marketing campaign for GODZILLA was multi-pronged in its execution:
Crushed cars were dotted around London as a part of a guerrilla advertising campaign. In the month or so before its release, ads on street corners made references to "Godzilla"'s size in comparison to whatever medium of advertising the advertisement was on. Examples: "His foot is bigger than this bus," "His head is bigger than this billboard," etc. Bits and pieces of different body parts of Godzilla were shown on TV commercials and posters, but never the entire body; this was to add a bit of mystery as to the design of the creature, ideally prompting people to see the film because that was the only way to see the whole creature. However, the toy line was released before the film and spoiled everything. Taco Bell had tie-ins such as cups and toys that promoted the film. The Taco Bell chihuahua was also at the height of its popularity in Taco Bell's television commercials. During the summer of 1998, several commercials pairing Godzilla with the Taco Bell mascot were produced and aired, including several with the chihuahua trying to catch Godzilla in a tiny box, whistling and calling, "Here, lizard, lizard, lizard." When Godzilla appears, the chihuahua says, "Uh-oh. I think I need a bigger box."
- Main article: Godzilla (1998 film)/Gallery.
- Godzilla Attacks New York (Godzilla ataca Nova Iorque; Portuguese television title)
View all posters for the film here.
- United States - May 19, 1998 [view poster]
- Japan - July 11, 1998 [view poster]
- Spain - August 28, 1998 [view poster]
GODZILLA was distributed theatrically in Japan by Toho, almost two months after the film's American release. For the film's Japanese television premiere on Nippon TV on July 20, 2001, a Japanese dub was recorded with an entirely different cast. A different home video dub, with Kenyu Horiuchi reprising his role as Victor "Animal" Palotti from the Nippon TV dub, was aired on television on August 1, 2016, and has since effectively replaced the Nippon TV dub.
Three voice actors from Toho's home video dub would go on to appear in the Japanese dub for the film's animated spin-off Godzilla: The Series, although only Nobuaki Fukuda reprised his role as Dr. Mendel Craven. Kenyu Horiuchi now provided the voice of Nick, while Rica Matsumoto voiced Alexandra Springer instead of Elsie Chapman. Horiuchi would go on to voice the character Unberto Mori in the GODZILLA anime trilogy in 2017 and 2018.
GODZILLA's budget was $125 million in both production and advertising costs. Financially, the film did well in its initial release with a gross of $55 million, but poor word of mouth from both fans and critics caused the film's profits to drop 40% after the first week. Domestically, it made $136,314,294 and drew in another $242 million overseas, totaling $379,014,294 worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, GODZILLA wasn't a flop, but it was not the blockbuster the studio was looking for, despite it being the third highest-grossing film of 1998. Sony's contract with Toho stated that Sony had the option to produce a trilogy of American Godzilla films so long as the first sequel was released within five years after the first film. Sony green-lit a sequel shortly after the film's release, while an animated series made as a continuation of the film began to air later in 1998. During that time TriStar released Toho's Godzilla 2000: Millennium in U.S. theaters. Because of the poor reception of the film, a lack of retailer interest, and the underwhelming financial performance of the first film, Sony ultimately decided not to make another Godzilla film and their license to the Godzilla franchise expired in May of 2003.
The history of the 1998 film and its monster has been a rather mixed and negative one. The initial reaction to the 1998 release was mostly a negative one spanning from both movie critics and the Godzilla fanbase alike. Critically, it was blasted for uninspired acting, random plots that don't fit, unnecessary use of rain, inconsistent size of the monster, shoddy special effects (even for its time period), and the constant themes and actual scenes it was accused of ripping off from Jurassic Park. TriStar's GODZILLA was accused of heavily borrowing concepts such as the asexual development of eggs. Multiple scenes had the main characters running for their lives from the baby Godzillas which look much like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, although the directors insisted this was not intended.
There were scenes that were virtually frame-by-frame the same as Jurassic Park, like the velociraptor shadow scene, jump attack sequence or the door opening sequence. At the end of the film when Godzilla was killed by the F-18 Hornets, audiences were confused as to whether or not they should have felt sorry for the creature or cheer much like the New York citizens and military celebrated to Godzilla's demise, whereas in the original film audiences were meant to feel sympathy for both Godzilla and the martyr who gave up his life to destroy him. The Godzilla fanbase criticized the film for lacking Godzilla's theme, personality, and key characteristics.
The monster's design was criticized as being more like the Rhedosaurus from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms as opposed to the real Godzilla's traditional design. The origin of the monster was also changed from being a mutant fictional prehistoric reptile to a marine iguana mutated by nuclear fallout from a French nuclear test.
The most heavy criticism, though, came from the creature's lack of similarities and personality to the original monster. The monster lacked Godzilla's trademark atomic breath, as well as his strength and durability, testified by his easy destruction at the end by the F-18s at the Brooklyn Bridge. Dean Devlin tacked in a last-minute power breath even though he had no plans on adding any powers whatsoever. Whereas Godzilla was previously always depicted as a male creature and given the title "King of the Monsters," TriStar's Godzilla reproduced asexually and laid eggs. For these reasons, fans refused to equal the two monsters and differentiated by giving the creature nicknames such as "Notzilla," "Trizilla," "Deanzilla" or "Patzilla," because of its creators, Dean Devlin and Patrick Tatopoulos, and "G.I.N.O.", an acronym for "Godzilla In Name Only." Ryuhei Kitamura, the director of Godzilla: Final Wars, as well as Shogo Tomiyama, the man in charge of the Godzilla franchise at that time, finally responded by including the TriStar Godzilla in the film as a separate character named "Zilla," accusing TriStar of taking the "God" out of "Godzilla."
Though Toho received a financial windfall from GODZILLA, they were not oblivious to the calls for a more traditional version of the character, releasing the film Godzilla 2000: Millennium at the end of 1999. The King of the Monsters' opponent was Orga, an alien whose head was designed to resemble the TriStar Godzilla.
GODZILLA received two Golden Raspberry awards in 1998, with an additional four nominations: Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Supporting Actress (Maria Pitillo). The film later received the Saturn Award for Best Special Effects in 1999.
The film spawned an animated series which continued the storyline of the movie. In this series, Nick Tatapolous accidentally discovers the egg that survived the destruction of the first Godzilla's nest in Madison Square Garden. The creature hatches and imprints on Nick as its parent. Subsequently, Nick and a group of friends form an elite research team called H.E.A.T., investigating strange occurrences and defending humankind from numerous other monsters with the help of the new Godzilla. Unlike the film upon which it was based, the animated series garnered a relatively positive reception from Godzilla fans, due to returning some of the Japanese Godzilla's characteristics to the titular monster and featuring plots similar in nature to many of the late Showa era Godzilla films.
A novelization was released for the film, written as a retrospective by Nick Tatopolous. Nick always refers to the monster as "Gojira" in the text.
A sequel to the film was planned and received an entire screenplay written by Tab Murphy, and would have involved the monster that hatched at the end of the film battling a giant insect called the Queen Bitch. However these plans for a sequel were ultimately scrapped when Sony and Roland Emmerich could not agree on a budget, and Emmerich went on to make The Patriot instead. Sony later considered producing a new reboot to the series unrelated to the 1998 film, but decided against it and allowed their rights to revert to Toho in May of 2003.
TriStar Pictures DVD (1998)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (2.0 Stereo, 5.1 Surround)
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Audio commentary by Volker Engel, Karen Goulekas, and Patrick Tatopoulos; "Heroes" music video; photo gallery; cast and crew bios; trailers; two behind-the-scenes featurettes
Toho DVD (2000)
- Region: 2
- Audio: Japanese
Sony DVD (2006)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
- Subtitles: English, French
- Special features: Audio commentary by Volker Engel, Karen Goulekas, and Patrick Tatopoulos; "Heroes" music video; photo gallery; two behind-the-scenes featurettes; "All-Time Best of Godzilla Fights Scenes" featurette (10 minutes); three episodes of Godzilla: The Series (What Dreams May Come, Where is Thy Sting?, and Monster Wars: Part 1)
Sony Blu-ray + digital copy (2009)
- Region: N/A
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Spanish (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Portugese (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
- Special features: Audio commentary by Volker Engel, Karen Goulekas, and Patrick Tatopoulos; "Heroes" music video; photo gallery; trivia game; behind-the-scenes featurette (7 minutes); "All-Time Best of Godzilla Fights Scenes" featurette (10 minutes); MovieIQ offering information as the film plays
Sony Blu-ray + digital copy (2013) [Mastered in 4K]
- Region: N/A
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
- Subtitles: English (SDH optional), French, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Thai
- Special features: None
- Notes: Digital code has expired.
Sony 4K + Blu-ray + digital copy (2019)
- Region: A/1 at minimum for 4K; N/A for Blu-ray
- Discs: 2
- Audio: English (Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Czech (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1), German (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Hindi (Dolby Digital 5.1), Hungarian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Italian (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Polish (lektor, Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Russian (Dolby Digital 5.1), Castilian Spanish (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
- Subtitles: English (SDH optional), French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian
- Special features: Audio commentary by Volker Engel, Karen Goulekas, and Patrick Tatopoulos; "Heroes" music video; photo gallery; trivia game; behind-the-scenes featurette (7 minutes); "All-Time Best of Godzilla Fights Scenes" featurette (10 minutes); MovieIQ offering information as the film plays; two teaser trailers and theatrical trailer
- Main article: Godzilla (1998 film)/Videos.
- In the film the characters of the mayor and his adviser are clearly caricatures of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Reportedly, the less-than-flattering portrayal was because both had given negative reviews of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's earlier film, Stargate. When the actual Siskel and Ebert reviewed Emmerich's GODZILLA on their show, it received two thumbs down and Siskel commented on being spoofed in the film, saying it was "petty." Ebert's own print review declared that he considered Emmerich "let us off lightly; I fully expected to be squished like a bug by Godzilla."
- The music that plays on an elevator in a scene with Matthew Broderick is "Danke Schoen," which Broderick lip-synchs in a memorable scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
- Matthew Broderick's character's last name is "Tatopoulos" which is a reference to Godzilla's designer and supervisor, Patrick Tatopoulos.
- The film is dedicated to Tomoyuki Tanaka, who produced all of the original Godzilla movies until 1995 and died only a month before this film began production.
- Three voice actors from the comedy series The Simpsons appear in the film: Harry Shearer, Nancy Cartwright and Hank Azaria.
- The film was spoofed in the stop-motion show Robot Chicken from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. In the segment, producers Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich are given a chance to make a sequel, or rather a "remake of a remake"; they use the money to have the baby Godzillas perform an ice skating number in a rink. Later, they congratulate themselves on making "another giant piece of crap."
- An earlier script for an American Godzilla film was written by Terry Rossio and Ted Eliott and was going to be directed by Jan De Bont. A teaser trailer for this was made in Japan in 1994, but due to budget differences the script was dropped and Roland Emmerich was brought in. In the end, the original 1994 script's estimated budget which caused it to be dropped was a couple of million dollars under this film's budget.
- The negative reception to this movie completely altered Toho's then-current plans for the Godzilla series. Originally, the trilogy of films at the conclusion of the Heisei era was created to avoid competition with TriStar's then-upcoming film. During Toho's planned decade-long hiatus, TriStar was to produce a trilogy of American Godzilla films, then Toho would resume production of Godzilla films in 2005. After TriStar's take received massive fan backlash, Toho took the opportunity to return the Japanese Godzilla to the big screen early by producing Godzilla 2000: Millennium. Ironically, production of Godzilla: Final Wars finished in 2004, a year before the series' hiatus was originally going to finish.
- In late summer of 2014, the 1998 film was mocked by RiffTrax Live, which was created by and shares many of the former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Another American-made Godzilla film was produced by Legendary Pictures in 2014. Unlike the 1998 film, Legendary's Godzilla was generally well-received by fans and critics alike, and was considered to be a much more faithful adaptation of the character. A sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, was released in 2019, with Godzilla vs. Kong to follow in 2021.
- Likely due to its controversial status, GODZILLA is rarely acknowledged by Toho, and is often excluded from official lists of the films in the franchise, even those which include the films of the MonsterVerse and GODZILLA anime trilogy. However, Toho has released the film on home video several times and has allowed merchandise based on it to be produced as recently as 2019. Additionally, Cast, a company which produces ornaments based on kaiju films and often hosts screenings and events for the Godzilla franchise in Japan, held a panel focusing on GODZILLA in 2019.
- This was the first Godzilla film to use the Super 35 cinematographic process for its shooting. As its large, flexible image area is designed to exhibit films in a variety of aspect ratios, the various fullscreen home video and open matte TV presentations of the film offer a taller frame than its theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 in many sequences.
- In an interview with Starlog, Dean Devlin mentioned that in several earlier drafts of the 1998 film, Godzilla was to have been created by aliens rather than nuclear testing. Devlin said that the filmmakers stuck with Godzilla's traditional nuclear origin because it was something they "felt strongly about not abandoning" and that they thought "it was too important to what Godzilla is all about."
- The fishing ship that Godzilla sinks at the beginning of the film, the Kobayashi Maru, is named after the Kobayashi Maru training exercise featured in the Star Trek franchise. A vessel with the same name is included in the 2017 novel GODZILLA: Monster Apocalypse; whether it is meant as a reference to the ship from the 1998 film, the Star Trek training exercise, or possibly both, is unclear, as the novel includes other nods to both the 1998 film and Star Trek.
- A toy of one of the aliens from Independence Day, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's previous film, appears in the Madison Square Garden broadcasting booth. In addition, Lucy owns a copy of the film on VHS.
- As in several other Dean Devlin films, a 1950's sci-fi film briefly plays on a television set, in this case It Came from Beneath the Sea.
- A massive GODZILLA poster appears on a building in Kraa! The Sea Monster, where it is quickly destroyed by the titular monster.
- Official site (via archive.org)
- First draft of the script, dated 2/19/96
- Production reports
- List of firearms used in the film
This is a list of references for Godzilla (1998 film). These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: 
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