Film Face-off: ‘Godzilla’ 1998 vs. ‘Godzilla’ 2014

Godzilla has been around forever, with most of us simply knowing he exists instead of remembering the moment we first “met” him. The last time Godzilla reared his lizard head on the big screen was 1998, and the film only made $ 136 million. So, Hollywood ignored the beast as long as it could (actually, 16 years of ignoring is pretty impressive by Hollywood standards). Godzilla is back to terrorize, but it’s completely different from the 1998 version. In that film, Godzilla tears apart New York City. In this updated version Godzilla attacks places west of New York.

There are a few other differences, too, and that’s exactly what a Film Face-off is for, so let’s see how Godzilla (1998) compares with Godzilla (2014).


Godzilla (1998)

While we’re teased with Godzilla right away, we don’t really get glimpses until the 25-minute mark, then we get the money shot at about 45 minutes. So, our time is filled with Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) studying earthworms and Audrey (Maria Pitillo) being sexually harassed at work. Plus, there are French guys.

Godzilla (2014)

Pre-Godzilla kind of feels like the whole movie. We see some devastation, we meet a M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), and catch some glimpses of fights. Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Sandra (Juliette Binoche) try to figure out radiation issues. Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) attempts to track down big things from long ago.

Winner: 2014 Godzilla. The 1998 version is standard. They present reasons why we should care about characters before Godzilla shows up, but unfortunately they fail. The 2014 version teetered on toying with the audience, and some people might actually get upset, but I loved being stringed along by this film. Half of the characters are captivating, but more importantly, you find yourself getting more and more excited that you haven’t seen Godzilla literally go to town. It would be like The Avengers avoiding the fun fights between Iron Man and Thor, and Thor and Hulk, while still making sure you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.


Godzilla (1998)

Broderick and Pitillo are our somewhat love interest. Hank Azaria is Victor “Animal” Palotti, Jean Reno is Philippe Roaché, Kevin Dunn is Colonel Hicks, Harry Shearer is the sexual harasser, Charles Caiman, and Doug Savant is Sergeant O’Neal.

Godzilla (2014)

Wantanbe is a scientist. Cranston and Binoche have a son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a Navy man who knows everything about bombs. Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) is his wife, David Strathairn is Admiral William Stenz, and Sally Hawkins is Vivienne, Dr. Ichiro’s sidekick.

Winner: 2014 Godzilla. There are some highlights with 2014’s casting. You can’t really say that about the 1998 version. Broderick was coming off of smaller films and this seemed to be a good, safe choice to cash in on a blockbuster. Then they gave him lines like, “Well, when I had to catch earthworms…” The others are simply miscast, and we haven’t seen much of Pitillo since this film. Azaria can do a New York accent, but can’t play one convincingly. Reno’s character only exists for lame French jokes. Dunn is terribly out of sorts and is much better in Hot Shots, and fantastic in Veep. They even gave their main soldier Sergeant O’Neal a stutter. On the other hand Cranston is amazing at bringing some emotion to the film right away. You feel his pain. Strathairn destroys Dunn as our man in charge of big decisions. Taylor-Johnson is a our big, dull hero. Hawkins and Olsen are given almost nothing to do.


Godzilla (1998)

This is a big lizard, but not really. He’s up on two legs, is asexual, and can’t breath fire.

Godzilla (2014)

When swimming, his back looks like a stegosaurus. When standing, he has useful arms. He breathes blue flames.

Winner: 2014 Godzilla. I just want to watch the 2014 Godzilla flex. He’s awesome. They nailed the look. It’s obviously all CGI, but you can see the remnants of a man in a suit with this Godzilla, and that’s oddly a massive compliment. We recognize this one. The ’98 Godzilla attempted to fall in line with Jurassic Park, and it felt foreign, almost like they shouldn’t be allowed to slap the Godzilla name on any giant lizard. Plus, they made Godzilla asexual, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

Worst Part

Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla is asexual, and pregnant thanks to radiation. This leads to many little Godzillas running around Madison Square Garden.

Godzilla (2014)

Joe (Taylor-Johnson) ends up heading wherever the monsters end up, but most of the time it’s just a coincidence.

Winner: 2014 Godzilla. The 2014 incarnation is less worse than 1998 here, but that’s only because of how terrible ’98 is with this category. Before we get to the baby Godzillas (once again, trying to tap into Jurassic Park), they kill Godzilla. At least the film tries to convince us of that. So the natural tendency is to feel like you’re stuck watching a Godzilla movie without Godzilla. Then, when Godzilla sees that the humans burned all of his/her babies, there is an attempt at sadness before Godzilla attacks. That’s not as bad as Dr. Niko Tatopoulos giving Godzilla a pregnancy test.

In the 2014 film, Joe is just a boring hero. He saves the day because he’s the only one with the proper training. He never seems nervous, and he’s always in the right place. I never needed Joe in the film. In fact, it feels like it would have been better with a character who was nervous and overwhelmed with the moment. Either that or eliminate the Joe character all together.


Godzilla (1998)

In the beginning there is a quick boat attack. After that there is a teasing attack scene, Godzilla eating fish, the helicopter attack, everything in Madison Square Garden, and finally Godzilla chasing a taxi.

Godzilla (2014)

There is some running to avoid radiation. After that, the M.U.T.O. breaks loose, the Honolulu attack, and we get a glimpse of action from the TV. Then there is the third act in San Francisco where all your action prayers are answered.

Winner: 2014 Godzilla. While there are a few moments that make the action passable in the 1998 version, there isn’t one iconic image I hang on to with that film. Instead it just feels like a New York City checklist of things to do involving action. The 2014 version has you leave the theater excited for what you saw, and wanting more. There’s even a simple moment with soldiers jumping out of a plane that is gorgeous to look at on the big screen. It also happens to signal the moment the third act begins. Almost all of the action scenes are through the characters’ perspective. So if someone closes a door, we don’t get to see the next few moments of fighting between Godzilla and a M.U.T.O. I love that, mainly because I felt satisfied by the end.

OVERALL WINNER: Godzilla (2014) beats Godzilla (1998), 5-0.

You were hoping for a sweep, and I was hoping for a sweep. Well, we got a sweep. Godzilla (’14) is good, and there’s a sigh of relief with that. I’m realizing that’s how I feel more and more with blockbuster/franchise films. “Good, they didn’t blow it. I could sit through a sequel.” The best thing they did with this beast is give him someone to fight besides us (humans). Cheering for Godzilla the character, as well as the film, just feels right.

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