4 Ways the New Godzilla Movie Ripped Off the Crappy '98 Flop
After several weeks in theaters, the Bryan Cranston-tastic new Godzilla film has both critics and audiences praising the movie as the biggest beast-tackling slam dunk since Space Jam. And while we're in no position to tell all of those people that they're wrong, there's something about the reception of the new Godzilla that is incredibly puzzling: This movie is more or less exactly the same as the universally reviled Godzilla that was released to a fanfare of boos and ironic ticket sales in 1998.
No, seriously -- when you break it down on digital paper, the two movies are so bizarrely similar, it seems like the producers of the new film decided to make a $200 million homage to one of the most infamously terrible blockbusters of all time.
It Has Ridiculous Plot Elements
The plot of 1998's Godzilla saw the U.S. military using Godzilla's unstoppable attraction to fish in order to lure him into a trap that they inexplicably set in the middle of a major population center and a small group of individuals discovering and destroying a nest of atomic monster eggs with the potential to wipe out the human race. Those characters are consequently singled out by the atomic monster who laid those eggs (Godzilla), because laying hundreds of golf-cart-size eggs is quite literally a pain in the ass.
The plot of 2014's Godzilla sees the military using the giant monsters' unstoppable attraction to radiation in order to lure them into a trap that inexplicably draws them right through the middle of a major population center and a single individual who finds and destroys a nest of atomic monster eggs with the potential to wipe out the human race. That character is consequently singled out by the atomic monster who laid those eggs, because holy shit, this is literally the exact same plot as the previous movie.
Admittedly, "plot" may be a bit strong of a word when describing these movies.
On top of that, both films involve the military priming a major explosion that the main characters are forced to race against, because apparently the military has only two ways to respond to things.
As we've already pointed out, both films involve monsters taking ridiculously intricate pains to destroy only the centers of buildings, like skyscraper bonsai:
"It soothes me. I scream much less now."
And remember when Matthew Broderick had a heartfelt face-to-face bro-connection with Godzilla in the 1998 version?
"You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do."
Well, the 2014 version throws on some dust and terrible Batman Begins orange lighting and does the exact same thing:
"But what about the monstrously stupid idea that anyone could be cluelessly toiling away in an office while a nuclear-powered titanosaur broke the city?" you might be asking.
Harry Shearer in 1998's Godzilla.
"WELL GUESS FUCKING WHAT," we would reply to that.
2014's Godzilla. Harry Shearer is probably in there somewhere.
"We did. We just don't care."
The Cast Is Amazing (and Completely Misrepresented)
1998's Godzilla starred three Simpsons cast members, Jean Reno from The Professional, and Ferris freaking Bueller, as if director Roland Emmerich had made a bet on how many fan-favorite actors he could cram into a ridiculous movie (this same formula had previously worked to his advantage in Independence Day). Not only did '98 Godzilla have an amazing yet totally unutilized cast, but the film's original trailer went out of its way to feature absolutely none of them except for Hank Azaria, making it seem like he was the star of the show.
It's a pretty dastardly bait and switch that the new film would never stoop to ... oh wait, they totally did the same thing by putting Bryan Cranston front and center in all of the previews.
One of these two men would have been able to carry this movie by himself. Guess who. Go on, guess.
Much of the promotional material for the new Godzilla was centered on fan-favorite actor Bryan Cranston, who plays a character that fucks off 20 minutes into the film. He never even sees Godzilla. The two don't share a single moment of screen time, like Pacino and De Niro in The Godfather Part II. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the movie's actual protagonist, has an eye-blink cameo in the trailer, while the trailer itself promises a movie about TV's Walter White and his sidekick, Ken Watanabe, as they obsessively try to expose a giant monster coverup (the movie is about none of those things).
Golden Globe winner Sally Hawkins spends most of the film standing slightly in back of Academy Award nominee Ken Watanabe, who does nothing but explain the plot to the audience with a worried expression.
In the script, her lines just said "EXPOSITION HERE."
These esteemed actors could have been replaced by title cards and it would have made zero difference in the finished product.
The Military Is Hilariously Reckless
1998's Godzilla: Soundtrack by Puff Daddy showed us a military that operated with the vaudevillian precision of a Marx brothers skit as they blasted apart the New York skyline rather than see it destroyed by a giant lizard. Luckily they thought to evacuate Manhattan before going sickhouse, unlike the military in 2014's Godzilla, which waits until the last second to evacuate San Francisco's civilian population, leaving thousands of people stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge when Godzilla finally shows up. (It is important to note that it is the military, not Godzilla, that manages to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge and kill countless civilians.)
As we mentioned above, maximizing the civilian body count seems to be the cornerstone of the army's strategy in both films. In 1998's Godzilla, they set a trap for the herculean beast in the middle of New York City. In the 2014 version, they put a nuclear bomb on a train (which is bait for the monsters, because for some reason they eat radiation and everyone at the scriptwriting meeting thought this made perfect sense) that drives straight through the state of California and the densely populated city of San Francisco. They also continuously forget about the monsters' ability to generate EMP blasts that destroy their planes and helicopters, because they keep sending planes and helicopters to attack the monsters in every single encounter (not to mention the fact that the military has ways of defending against EMP blasts in the event of a nuclear detonation by using something called a Faraday cage, which this movie completely ignores).
Both films end with a race against time as the military plans to nuke an entire American city to eradicate monsters that were birthed from atomic fire.
It Might Actually Do Worse at the Box Office
"Now hang on, Cracked," you might be saying. "While I cannot disagree with anything you've said so far, you can't deny that the new film killed it at the box office, while its 1998 counterpart was a famous flop." Well, by all indications, the new film is on course to do pretty much the exact same numbers as that festering pile of radioactive lizard shit from 16 years ago.
"We had this. What's your excuse?"
Check this out: Adjusting for inflation, the Matthew Broderick version grossed roughly $125 million in its first six days of release, during a time when there were no bullshit 3D or IMAX showings driving up sales. That's exactly on par with the 2014 film, except the box office gross for new Godzilla has actually dipped 67 percent in its second weekend on account of poor word of mouth -- a drop 10 percent worse than that of the 1998 version, which featured Italian stereotypes screaming the word "retard" at each other.
On top of that, Roland Emmerich's Godzilla had a production budget of $130 million, whereas its updated counterpart cost a melon-farming $300 million to produce, market, and distribute -- an amount that will require a gross of $600 million just to break even. As we've previously discussed, 1998's Godzilla managed to earn a tiny profit that wasn't enough to keep Sony from scrapping its plans for a trilogy and sitting on the film rights until they expired. So unless the remake does a historic amount of business overseas, we may see yet another American Godzilla remake two decades from now.
But hey -- there's always home video sales, something that totally hasn't been on a rapid decline since the 1990s ... right?