There have been numerous iterations of Godzilla over the decades, from Godzilla (1998) to, more recently, the “MonsterVerse” from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, which includes Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). And soon, it will be getting its own Godzilla television series, as well as a sequel to Godzilla vs. Kong.
While the series started out very serious, with director Gareth Edwards’ 2014 remake aiming for the most realistic depiction of the “titan” since the original 1954 Toho film, it quickly descended into dumb, fun, popcorn territory with Kong: Skull Island, and then even more so with the box office monster-mash Godzilla vs. Kong, which is as absurd as you might expect.
Even when you look back at the original Toho film series, though, they too ended up becoming quite ridiculous. Perhaps then, no matter how hard they try, Godzilla simply can’t avoid the cheese, which might explain why the 1998 remake from director Roland Emmerich goes all in to deliver a blockbuster that doesn’t take itself all that seriously.
There’s no denying that Godzilla (1998) is a widely hated film, but it does manage to turn a rather serious global-threat into a silly roller coaster ride that just wants you to have a good time. Remember Emmerich’s previous film Independence Day (1996)? You know — the one about an alien invasion that knows exactly what it is and has a ton of fun in the process?
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There are undoubtedly countless fans who would scoff at the suggestion that Godzilla (1998) is better than Godzilla (2014). Of course Gareth Edwards’ monster film is superior on a technical filmmaking level, as well as being a better Godzilla film in the more traditional sense, but Emmerich’s version is just so much more fun, and better in a number of ways.
So here are five reasons why Godzilla (1998) is better than Godzilla (2014)…
1. Godzilla’s Design in Godzilla (1998)
Hot off the heels of two Jurassic films — Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) — it was no coincidence that Godzilla’s design in the 1998 blockbuster remake is very similar to that of the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Steven Spielberg films.
The T-Rex in the original Jurassic Park was the first time we’d ever seen a paleo-accurate portrayal of the dinosaur, with its body arching forward in a more horizontal stance as opposed to standing upright like in every previous dinosaur film to feature the mighty beast.
The same applies to Godzilla — before Godzilla (1998), the “titan” was only ever seen standing upright. In the 1998 film, however, Godzilla is arched forward just like T-Rex, which looks far more natural, and a lot cooler (much to the delight of fans, the 2014 film restores Godzilla’s original upright design, which doesn’t look anywhere near as good).
In fact, one of the promotional trailers saw Godzilla’s giant foot bursting through the Natural History Museum’s skylight and crushing a T-Rex skeleton. The film also features “Baby Godzillas” during its third act, which look suspiciously like Jurassic Park‘s Velociraptors…
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2. Godzilla (1998)’s New York City Setting
New York City is quite literally the definitive “urban jungle”. Instead of towering trees, it has skyscrapers, and unless you’re familiar with the grid-system, you can get just as easily lost there as you would in an actual jungle (okay, it’s not that easy, but you get the idea).
Either way, New York is the perfect setting for a giant monster movie. And Godzilla (1998) has so much fun with its Manhattan playground, whether it’s Godzilla burrowing through the NYC Subway, nesting in Madison Square Garden, or that final battle on Brooklyn Bridge.
So it makes sense why Godzilla would choose it as his nesting ground. It’s also the most famous city in the world, and watching him wreak havoc in the Big Apple — especially with the downpour bringing with it a ton of atmosphere throughout the film — just looks right.
Godzilla (2014), on the other hand, doesn’t even take place in one location — it’s a globe-trotting film, which takes us to Japan, Hawaii, and eventually, San Francisco. While it’s admirable that the film does its own thing, the result is a film with a total lack of identity.
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3. It Doesn’t Take Itself Seriously
When we go to movie theaters to watch giant lizards stomp around cities and crush military tanks under their feet, we don’t want to feel like it could actually happen. Well, that’s clearly the tone director Gareth Edwards was going for with Godzilla (2014).
It’s an interesting approach, of course, and it’s really no surprise considering that Edwards had previously directed the phenomenal indie science-fiction drama-thriller Monsters (2010). The problem with his Godzilla film is that it feels far too serious for its own good.
In fact, so serious that it feels completely monotone for the most part — there’s no room for humor or any other form of levity that would have at least peppered the film with some varying emotional beats. The film just feels very one-note, unlike its 1998 predecessor.
The problem with Godzilla (1998), though, is that perhaps it leans too far in the opposite direction (the fact that it has a bunch of voice actors from The Simpsons doesn’t help). But with that said, we’d take wacky and fun over dull and realistic any day of the week.
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4. The Anti-Nuclear Message Makes Sense
While you might be one of the many people who consider Godzilla (1998) to be a stinker, you can’t deny that it continues with the anti-nuclear themes of the original 1954 film — though there are, of course, some notable differences between the two.
Unlike the original Toho Godzilla, a prehistoric creature whose power is bolstered by radiation, Emmerich’s Godzilla was created by radiation, a result of the fallout from France’s nuclear missile testing in the Pacific Ocean.
In the 1998 film, the French Secret Service joins Matthew Broderick’s scientist Nick Tatapolous to try and locate Godzilla’s nest, in an attempt to right the wrongs of their country. So the film completely acknowledges the devastating impact of nuclear power.
Godzilla (2014), however, doesn’t really know what side of the fence it’s on. On one hand, the “bad” MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) feed off nuclear energy, yet it’s also where “anti-hero” Godzilla gets his energy from. So, is nuclear power bad or good?
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5. The Characters Aren’t Totally Forgettable
Let it be said that we have absolutely nothing against Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, and Elizabeth Olsen. But while great actors, they’re given very little to do in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla — at least not from an emotional standpoint.
Despite some overacting, Cranston is entertaining enough as Joe Brody, but he’s quickly done away with (even on repeated viewing, his death is very abrupt and jarring). Replacing him as lead character is his son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who’s painfully dull.
His wife, Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), is the film’s anchor to San Francisco — the stage for the third-act battle — but she’s also given very little to do (it’s a bit like Avengers: Age of Ultron for these two actors all over again!).
Say what you will about Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998), but its characters, while perhaps forgettable, are, at the very least, entertaining from start to finish. Even if half of them are voice actors from The Simpsons (1989). Maybe that’s why!
Godzilla vs. Kong 2 (2024) will be released on March 15, 2024. There are currently no release dates for the Godzilla television series on Apple TV or the Kong: Skull Island anime series on Netflix.
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Are you a fan of Godzilla (1998)? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!