Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

VHyesterdayS: Godzilla (1998)

I intended this to be a more timely release and to coincide with the latest Godzilla movie to hit theatres, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), but I have never been one to actually land deadlines nor have I had the chance to see the new Godzilla movie.

That's the kind of professionalism you get here, folks!

All that aside, we're not here to talk about the latest and greatest kaiju flick to land in American theatres. We're here to talk about the first American take on the beloved Japanese phenomenon; Godzilla (1998)!

Godzilla was a TriStar production, one of Sony Entertainment's film companies, and began its life in 1992 when they purchased the rights to do a Godzilla film in North America from the owner of the franchise, Toho of Japan.

As is the case with these mega huge franchises, the intent was to create a new trilogy of films and production really started to gain traction around '94, but with budget concerns this initial version was dropped and Roland Emmerich was brought on board in '96. After penning a script with producer Dean Devlin, Emmerich was ready to film by May of '97. The movie was finally released in May of the following year as Sony's expected big budget summer blockbuster.

Just to frame up the kind of fare at the box office at the time Godzilla '98 was released, the teaser trailer, which featured Godzilla stomping on a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton (a direct jab at 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park) was first played before select showings of Men In Black, Sony's box office behemoth the previous year. A full trailer debuted before Starship Troopers in November of '97.

So, this was the kind of company Godzilla '98 kept; sci-fi fantasy films that relied heavily on sophomore CGI special effects.

In an effort to distinguish this Godzilla from previous incarnations, Emmerich hired Patrick Tatopoulos, whose designs were featured in many big Hollywood productions, including Independence Day and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He was tasked at creating a giant monster that was more of an animal. The final design ended up being like a giant, irradiated Iguana with a lantern jaw.

The film featured, in my opinion, a super-interesting cast. The lead roles were Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (that's a lot of Tatopouli!) played by Matthew Broderick, Philippe Roaché played by Jean Reno, Audrey Timmonds portrayed by Maria Pitillo, and Victor "Animal" Palotti who was played by Hank Azaria. The rest of the cast was rounded out by a solid cadre, which included industry vets like Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Vicki Lewis, Glenn Morshower, and Azaria brought along Harry Shearer from The Simpsons for the ride. Oh, and I can't forget that the incomparable Frank Welker actually voiced the monster.

Even though the movie brought in almost $380M from the box office it was considered a commercial failure. It made $55M during opening weekend when Sony execs had banked on $100m. Even though it did make money it was panned by the critics and totally derided by fans of the Godzilla franchise.

Toho was also very derogatory of the American version of their beloved monster. They felt they had just made him a giant animal and the soul of Godzilla was lost. Initially, this Godzilla was called G.I.N.O. (Godzilla In Name Only) or "American" Godzilla in Japan, but is now known abroad simply as Zilla (Godzilla that is no longer a "god").

Regardless of the reception of the film, I've always had a soft spot for it. The marketing was pretty intense, including a soundtrack that actually hit #2 on the Billboard and received Platinum status. It had an original song by (at the time) Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page, which sampled heavily from the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir", titled "Come With Me", The Wallflowers hit "Heroes" in which the music video actually featured footage from the film, and a previously unreleased Rage Against The Machine song, "No Shelter". That's not to mention hot tracks from Jamiroquai, The Offspring, fuzzbubble, Ben Fold Five, Silverchair, Days of the New, Fuel, Foo Fighters, and a remix of "Brain Stew" by Green Day, which featured the sound effects of Godzilla.

I was - and still am - a sucker for sci-fi creature flicks and Godzilla was high on my must-see movies for the '98 blockbuster season.

A funny story, though, is that I actually would have sworn to you for years that I saw this movie around my birthday in '98. My memory of that birthday was that I went to Sam The Record Man (the flagship Canadian record store at the time) and picked up the "Gasoline" single from Moist's Creature album, zipped by Zellers (the once mighty Canadian department store) and snagged a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics for the PlayStation - a game I had been dying to play for months - and that my friends and I took in a showing of Godzilla right after.

Godzilla came out in May, but my birthday is in January. Guess which movie we did see? Deep Rising! It also features and underwater sea creature, so I guess you can forgive me the confusion?

I digress, for whatever reason I've connected Godzilla in my psyche as being a part of one of my best birthdays ever, so to this day I just can't hate the movie.

I have the standard VHS release of the film. For all its apparent shortcomings in Sony's eyes it did receive a widescreen VHS release in 1999, but I have the standard version which hit store shelves in November of '98. This is because the VHS release of Godzilla did gangbusters at rental, scoring over $8M bucks. It also sold substantially well on DVD. As a result, you can typically find the standard VHS for Godzilla at about any flea market or tape lot on reseller sites.

There were no teasers or trailers to speak of on the tape. Instead it was loaded with advertisements. There is a really short ad for an (at the time) upcoming TV adaptation of the popular Animorphs book series, a commercial for Agfa Film, an advertisement for Godzilla: The Album soundtrack, and another TV ad for Godzilla: The Series, the animated Fox Kids take on the Godzilla '98 film.

Make sure to let the whole playlist above roll to see all the clips from the tape!

Oddly enough, this cartoon series gets more respect than the film in Japan. It features a Godzilla of the same features as those found in the Tristar film, but it has some of its predecessors trademark abilities, like his Atomic Breath. The cartoon actually had a fair life of about two years, but from what I've read sub-par toy sales lead to its eventual demise.

The quality on my release is pretty fair and the audio is very top notch when enjoyed in stereo, having been mastered in Dolby Surround Sound. You kind of have to forgive the CG for its time. The images of adult Godzilla really standout from the scenery, even though the monster was coloured so it would blend in well with the urban environments of the film (Godzilla destroys New York City in the movie, by the way). I almost felt like the computer effects were running at a different frame rate from the film or something. Its actually kind of jarring, even on VHS which hides a lot of the faults. The practical creature effects look solid and both the CG and practical effects are on-par with their contemporaries at the time. I still find myself wondering what the CGI looks like when viewed on the Blu-ray that released in 2009.

The pacing of the film is kind of hard to take - it goes at a breakneck speed, not giving any of the characters time to breath. That may or may not be a good thing, because Broderick is at his most "Broderick-y" in Godzilla and just seems so out of place with what's going on in the film. I still gotta love that ragtag cast they put together, though, and having Hank Azaria is a main character is just too cool to ignore.

For all its faults, I had a lot of fun with Godzilla and the standard VHS release is easily worth the price of admission; like I said you should be able to find this thing for $1. The widescreen VHS would be cool to have, but I'm not going out of my way for it. This is a big, overblown action sci-fi monster movie and if that sentence alone doesn't at least kind of sell you on the movie then I don't know why you're here reading my stuff!

Hope you enjoyed this edition of VHYesterdayS! I could drop the old cliché and say, "be kind and rewind", but you know what? You shouldn't rewind your tapes right away. Wait until they cool down, alright? You're ruining them! Sheesh.