Okay, let’s get ready to tackle this monster (no pun intended).
I’m just going to say it: Rolland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla staring Matthew Broderick is one of the most frustrating films I have ever watched in my entire life. Now, I hadn’t seen this film for a while because I remember not liking it and why would I actively try to watch a film that I do not like? However, when I saw that it was streaming on Netflix, I thought “what a perfect film for my 90s Flashback posts”. What I learned is that my memory was right. That film is terrible.
Let’s start with one of the more frustrating points of the film: how in the world did Godzilla go from the French Polynesia to Panama and Jamaica to New York City? Do they want me to believe that Godzilla swam around South America? There’s no way that giant lizard went through the Panama Canal undetected. And why does he go all the way to New York City? What kind of sense does that make? Why wouldn’t he stop in, say, Florida? Or anywhere else along the east coast? Why would he swim all the way up to New York?
This brings me to my next big frustration: how does one lose a giant lizard in New York City? It just doesn’t seem possible. He would be knocking down buildings constantly. He just doesn’t knock down some buildings on one street, and none on another. But, in this film, that’s what happens. And all due to inconsistent CGI, and bad CGI, at that. I mean, how did Godzilla get in to Madison Square Garden without anybody noticing!? Nobody heard anything? Nobody saw anything? The ground didn’t shake? It’s so frustrating.
Now that I’ve gotten two of my biggest frustrations out of the way, let’s dive into the others.
I have a theory that, if Matthew Broderick hadn’t landed the role of Ferris Bueller, he would not be a successful actor today. Watching his performance in this film just reinforced my theory. He has a very particular style when delivering lines. It sounds like he’s reading cue cards. Now, if you are a fan of Mr. Broderick, I know what you must be
thinking: “But, Kristen, he was good in Glory.” And to that, I say, he was not the only lead in Glory and every actor around him gave a stronger performance than he did. You could even bring up his performance in The Producers, and my response to that one is that he pulled his performance so much from Gene Wilder’s original performance, and it’s clear when you watch the films back to back. Without Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Matthew Broderick would not be the successful actor that he is today.
One of my least favorite things about films from the 1990s is the rampant sexism throughout, and this film is no exception. The character of Charles Caiman is the main offender here. His constant sexist remarks to his secretary are unbearable. And, the sexism isn’t the only thing in this film that did not age well. There’s a moment when Godzilla first arrives to The Big Apple where a news reporter states that New York has seen more damage now than the World Trade Center bombing. Hearing this line makes me cringe. I mean, of course there’s no way for the writers to have known what was going to happen three years later. But September 11th did happen, and that line does not age well.
I briefly mentioned Caiman’s secretary/assistant, but I want to dive into that a little further. As far as portrayal of women in film, Godzilla does not do us any favors. We have the character of Audrey Timmonds who has worked for the sexist pig Charles
Caiman for far too long, all because he keeps on promising her a big break. Now, it’s clear to anybody watching the film that this big break that he can give her will never happen. And, to me, that’s what makes the character of Audrey so frustrating. She tried to put on this persona of being smart and tough, but she’s really naive and dumb. She’s the exact opposite of what you would want in a strong female character. Sure, she goes out and gets what she wants, but it’s, what, three years later? She makes a statement when we first meet her about finally quitting because she doesn’t think her big break is going to happen, and all I remember thinking was “how in the hell did you put up with this for 3 years? Why would somebody do that?”
All in all, this film was bad when it was released and it continues to be bad. The writing is inconsistent, the acting (save for Hank Azaria, who is a treasure) is mediocre, and the CGI is just awful. Please remind me to not watch this film again for, at least, another ten years.