I did not go see the 1998 Emmerich/Devlin Godzilla in the theaters. And when I put it on the cable many years later, I got immediately distracted, and only looked at it glancingly to think, “Well, now, this isn’t very good at all.”
I never put my finger on why. The idea didn’t seem too bad. Make Godzilla nimbler and more reptilian in movement, and don’t scale it up so that it’s crushing model buildings under foot, rather have it dodging in between New York’s skyscrapers. Have Godzilla be (SPOILER!!!!) pregnant, for example. None of these are bad ideas, per se.
Having now sat through the entire feature in a theater, I can sum it up in three words:
Oh. My. God.
This movie is so bad, it was hard to watch even with the Rifftrax guys (Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy’s always lovable baritone) letting the jokes fly fast and furious.
It’s not that the ideas, as I mentioned, were bad: It’s that they’re mishandled at every turn. For example, making Matthew Broderick your “action hero” could work, because it’s not like anyone’s going to be punching out Godzilla, or pulling out a minigun to take him one-on-one.
But making Matthew Broderick your hero when he’s doing the exact same mugging he does in Ferris Beuller? That’s catastrophic.
Unleashing the possibility of dozens of Godzillas? Kinda cool. Using that to rehash scenes out of Jurassic Park? Oh, so lame. Especially after the 6th or 7th time someone tries to stop these little velocizillas by bolting a door, having witnessed all previous attempts not even slow them down.
Feisty love-interest for Broderick? Good. Sociopathic love-interest with virtually no redeeming qualities? Not so good. Even if he did end up marrying Sarah Jessica Parker in real life.
Hank Azaria and Mary Pitillo presage “Jersey Shore” with their, ahem, broadly drawn characters. Harry Shearer practically reprising his Simpsons character, Kent Brockman.
The parade of French clichés that is Jean Reno.
The CGI was state of the art for 1998, and it’s unbearably bad now. I mean, the old ‘50s movies with the rubber suits holds up better. (I think one of the reasons Jurassic Park still largely works is the practical effects.) So even the effects don’t help save this thing, even with the kind of cool ideas about how Godzilla should move and act. (Also, he’s ridiculously nimble: Dodging missiles right and left.)
Honestly, you have to go back to Coleman Francis or Manos: The Hands of Fate (or maybe The Doomsday Machine) to find a film as unwatchable as this. Sometimes I think watching these things is like having a baby: Incredibly painful but when it’s all over, you had a lot of laughs (and a sore abdomen), so you forget until the next time.
I should talk more about the riffing, but it’s always hard to encapsulate these things. This is really, really funny. Really, really, really funny. The main problem with MST3K is that there would be lulls: There would be long stretches of rapid fire humor, and then things would slow down a bit, and sometimes too much.
There are a few breathing points here. But not a lot. Not all the jokes land but maybe 90% or more do, which is damn good. Well, the Boy may have missed a few more, since he knows nothing of the ’90s, doesn’t know who Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane or Sarah Jessica Parker is, and so on.
It’s fun to watch in a theater, too, because the audience roars.
The next Rifftrax “live” show is Anaconda, which is a truly terrible film, but I think I actually managed to watch that on TV after it came out. It’s kind of a compelling bad as I recall, with a good part of the time you going, “What the hell is Jon Voight doing with his voice?”
Anyway, the 1998 Godzilla needs Rifftrax to survive. NEEDS IT! Otherwise, it only has the distinction of not being the worst film Devlin/Emmerich ever made.