Some people think I say controversial statements just for the sake of being controversial. For instance, I once claimed that The Legend of Korra is a a better series than Avatar: The Last Airbender (it is). I also said that the first Avengers movie is better than anything Star Wars has ever done (also true). But, I stand behind my arguments, and I don’t just say things for the sake of being controversial. So, believe me when I tell you that I think the 1998 Godzilla movie is better than both of the solo Legendary Godzilla movies that we’ve gotten out of the MonsterVerse.
Now, let me clarify something. I don’t inherently dislike the MonsterVerse. In fact, I really like its version of King Kong, and I genuinely think a new standalone King Kong movie would be better than a new Godzilla movie. I also really enjoyed Godzilla vs. Kong, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.
That said, the MonsterVerse’s two solo Godzilla movies, 2014’s Godzilla, and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, just really rubbed me the wrong way. I know that some fans LOVE this version of Godzilla, but honestly, I’ll take the 1998 Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie over both of those movies any day of the week, and I have five reasons why.
Godzilla Is The Main Antagonist
The Godzilla franchise has a lot of cool enemies, but do you want to know my favorite enemy in the Godzilla universe? The big G himself. When I first saw trailers for 2014’s Godzilla, I got really excited because it looked like we were getting a full on enemy Godzilla like we’d seen in the 1954 version and in Godzilla 1985. But, no, Godzilla fought the MUTO (for like, five seconds), and I was super disappointed.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, we got both Rodan and King Ghidorah as villains, but I thought that film was even more of a slog than the 2014 movie. Plus, the MonsterVerse version of Godzilla had been more of a hero than a villain until we got 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong. I really have to be in the mood for a hero Godzilla, especially when it’s outside of the Showa era.
However, 1998’s movie features Godzilla as a full-on villain that has total disregard for humanity. Does it look like the Godzilla we all know and love? No. It actually looks more like a dinosaur. Does it shoot atomic breath like the Godzilla we all know and love? No. It breathes fire. Hell, this Godzilla even goes down pathetically. Still, I much prefer that this Godzilla seems to want to destroy humankind over the MonsterVerse Godzilla that seems to be okay with living with humans. Like, what?
The Godzilla In This Movie Actually Makes Its Way Into The Toho Godzilla Films
Remember how I said that 1998’s Godzilla goes down pathetically? Well, he was such an insult to Toho, that they even had the real Godzilla kill our version (they just called him Zilla since he was hardly a “God”) with a single tail swipe in Godzilla: Final Wars. You know what that means, don’t you? It means that 1998’s Godzilla is technically canon in the Toho Godzilla universe.
But, the MonsterVerse Godzilla is kind of in a nebulous spot. This is because it’s not associated with Toho or any part of the current Reiwa timeline that includes Shin Godzilla, the trilogy of animated movies, and the series, Godzilla: Singular Point.
This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t view Legendary Pictures' Godzilla as vastly inferior to Toho’s, but I do. And even though I also view 1998’s Godzilla (or Zilla) as vastly inferior to Toho's, at least 1998’s Godzilla is in a good Godzilla movie since it’s in Godzilla: Final Wars. I don’t think Legendary’s Godzilla has been in any good movies, unless you count Godzilla vs. Kong, which I view as more of a collaboration than as a purely Godzilla project.
The Human Characters Aren't Super Annoying
One of my biggest gripes with the two solo Godzilla movies is that I simply could not stand most of the human characters. 2014’s Godzilla had Bryan Cranston in it, but he was killed off early, leaving us with other human characters who I couldn't care about at all. I mean, Ken Watanabe’s character was cool and all, but he wasn’t in the movie nearly enough.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters again focused more on the human characters than Godzilla. Sure, there was a lot more monster action going on in this one, but anytime the story went back to Millie Bobby Brown, or Vera Farmiga, or Kyle Chandler, I simply tuned out again. I did not care one iota about any of them, and too much of the story focused on their family dynamics.
But, you know what? I kind of like Matthew Broderick’s Dr. Nick in 1998's Godzilla. He actually fits in the story and supports what’s going on with Godzilla rather than stealing screen time away from him like in the Legendary pictures. I also enjoy Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, and Hank Azaria. In fact, I enjoy all of the human characters in 1998's Godzilla.
First and foremost, I'd say that 1998's Godzilla is more of a Roland Emmerich movie than a Godzilla flick. But, Emmerich movies usually tend to be fun and silly, and I appreciate that silliness over the super serious human drama we tend to get in the MonsterVerse Godzilla movies.
The Action Is Top Notch
The best American Godzilla movie is Cloverfield. And by that, I mean that Cloverfield is the best American giant monster movie that makes you feel the terror of what it would actually be like if a Kaiju really tried to destroy our world. Well, while 1998's Godzilla isn't up to par with Cloverfield, I still find the action to be top notch as Godzilla destroys the city and the military works to stop it.
But, I never got that same harrowing feeling out of the MonsterVerse Godzilla movies. In 2014's Godzilla, it was like we either just missed the action after it happened, or that it was just about to start. Such a tease! King of the Monsters featured a lot of hard-to-see fights at night, and the only action scene I really enjoyed involved Rodan. So, once again, why is Godzilla the least interesting part of his own movies when it comes to the MonsterVerse? I just don't understand it.
We Got A Great Cartoon Out Of It
Lastly, hate the 1998 Godzilla movie all you want. At least we got an amazing, 40 episode cartoon series out of it that had all the Godzilla action you could want in a cartoon series. Seriously, I think this is the greatest Godzilla cartoon ever and I much prefer it to the ancient one with Gadzoooookie. I also like it better than Godzilla: Singular Point, and, by like, a wide margin.
But, we didn't really get anything outside of those two Godzilla movies from the MonsterVerse. Whereas, it might have been interesting to see Legendary's version of Godzilla in a cartoon series at some point, it never happened. So again, score another point for the 1998 Godzilla movie. It actually got a really excellent cartoon.
What do you think? Do you also prefer the 1998 Godzilla movie to the MonsterVerse Godzilla films? For more news on everything Godzilla, make sure to stomp by here often.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.