After countless attempts, Godzilla finally ended up in the hands of an American film company in 1998. With the blessing from Toho, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin set out to make the their own version of the movie Jan De Bont failed to make a few years prior because of budget concerns. As such, the two makers of Independence Day destroyed any attempt at creating a franchise and all hope of Godzilla fans finally seeing their favorite monster in an epic, big budget classic.
The problems, for the most part, all stem from this bastardized version of “Godzilla” itself. The thought of a giant monster rampaging through a heavily populated city should be terrifying. With a stack of goofy characters from the human perspective, Godzilla walks along city streets without so much as knocking over a telephone pole. Damage is pushed into the hands of the incompetent military who, after easily missing countless opportunities to kill the creature, somehow get it right in the end.
That’s the other major problem (aside from the ridiculous and unnecessary design of Godzilla) that completely changes the purpose and point of the Godzilla series. He can’t be killed since, when he is, it defeats the whole point of its existence. Yes, this “update” is created by a nuclear test, but that’s the last of it. There’s not another line in the movie that brings this up.
The plot holes and logic gaps are numerous enough to cause an aneurysm. It’s understandable that when you have a giant iguana casually strolling through New York, you don’t need much in the way of intelligence. However, a lot of the action revolves around flat out stupid logic, such as Godzilla’s ability to snap a helicopter in two but not a cab containing the lead actors. It destroys what little excitement the movie had going for it. The same goes for the extended sequence in Madison Square Garden that shamelessly steals from Jurassic Park, killing the sense of scale which is about the only positive thing to come from this.
A book could be written on how wrong this entire project went, including hiring people like Devlin who had zero interest in the series to begin with. The critical panning it rightfully deserved prevented any sequels from seeing light, while a spin-off animated cartoon series would turn out to be at least mildly entertaining. It’s a real shame the same can’t be said for the feature film that inspired the cartoon. (No stars)
On UMD, Godzilla suffers on multiple levels. Notable is the cropping of the picture, cut down from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 to fit the screen. Being a dark, dreary, and rainy film, crucial black levels miss the mark. Compression is exceedingly heavy, especially on the actor’s faces at times. It’s watchable for the format when you make some excuses, but it had plenty of potential to show off what UMD could do.
On the other side, we have the audio. While average UMD’s show off some nice stereo effects, Godzilla goes above and beyond by finding a way to simulate surround channels. Helicopters, flipped cars, bullets, and missiles sound like they’re coming from the appropriate direction. Bass could use a slight boost since the DVD version is a benchmark, though it still packs a decent blast when needed.
Godzilla on UMD has nothing in the way of features. It doesn’t even have a scene selection menu, and the audio for the main selection screen is terrible. (No stars)
It’s interesting to note that when the studio executives approached Toho with the idea for this updated version, Toho only approved with stipulations. Aside from Godzilla having three sets of spines on his back, they didn’t seem follow any of them. Even his famous fire breath was only added in late into the process when fans spoke out.