Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, which was released 20 years ago this week on May 20, 1998, is still considered to be one of the clunkiest, most ill-advised mainstream action blockbusters of its decade. Some critics have recently noted that the 1990s were a generally bad time for big-budget action blockbusters in general, and often cite Godzilla as their primary piece of evidence. But after twos decade of rumination, and armed with an extensive knowledge of all things Godzilla, the time has come for us to reconsider where the film failed — and where it may have succeeded.
But to start, a bit of context:
In December of 1995, Japan’s Toho studio released Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, which was intended (at the time) to be the final film in the long-running Godzilla franchise. It had been 41 years since the famous kaiju’s debut, and Toho felt that it was time to lay their star creature to rest. Godzilla faced off against the giant monster of the title, which was born of the Oxygen Destroyer weapon that had killed Godzilla in the 1954 original. Godzilla managed to best his foe, but was destroyed from the inside due to an ever-growing internal nuclear fire. He melted down like an atomic Viking. It was awesome. And it was a fitting sendoff to a legit cultural ambassador.