I loved Saturday mornings. They consisted of large bowls of milk and cereal, cartoons, creature features, and — my favorite — Godzilla. That iconic battle cry still affects me to this day. Imagine the thrill and gloriousness I felt when my mother bought me a Godzilla model. I promptly opened and devoured every piece of literature that came in the box. With the model completed, I quickly went outside to share the accomplishment with my neighborhood friends.

Which Godzilla Movies Are Worth Your Time?

Being an avid reader is a blessing and a curse when you are a child. Because for me, other than comic books, I had a tendency to believe everything I read. I argued with a friend about the origin of Godzilla and the literature that had come in the box. I had read it a copious amount of times, and I had inevitably memorized it. It seemed logical to me — after all, we lived a few miles from a museum that housed the bones of dinosaurs. Godzilla, being described as a wayward dinosaur that had been exposed to a nuclear blast seemed entirely plausible. More believable than, say, a radioactive spider bite or an orphan from another planet raised by Midwestern farmers.

My obsession with Godzilla movies has been a lifelong adventure. I, unfortunately, have only acquired a few physical tokens of my favorite monster over the years. That collection includes the Marvel Comics version of Godzilla numbers 1-7, 19, 20 and 24, among other things. I have seen a good portion of the Godzilla movies at least once though. I hope that does not reduce my Godzilla street cred! Let’s explore the three American made Godzilla movies because they stand apart from the Japanese films — and not just because of an ocean.

Godzilla (1998)

The whole movie starts on rocky footing, which pretty much makes sure Godzilla (1998) would never live up to the hype. Dr. Niko Tatopoulos is an unlikeable lead character, and Audrey Timmonds as the ambitious ex-girlfriend who realizes she should have never let Niko go (eye roll) is just as annoying. I thought the rest of the cast filled with seasoned performers did an excellent job with what they were given.

I was all for an updated lizard-like creature as a somewhat realistic imagining of Godzilla. The CGI was groundbreaking for 1998. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t grab me, and the twist was ultimately disappointing. In script form, I bet this movie felt awesome. Unfortunately, knowing movie making, there were too many cooks in the kitchen — just look at the story writing credits.

The soundtrack was underwhelming as well. I envision stuffy executives, nodding feverishly to allow a hip-hop outro song while making sure not to pick anyone too controversial. It made for mediocre music.

Let just say Godzilla 1998 was…okay. The structure and lead acting were so-so. The CGI was close to being awesome. Back then, I was hungry for anything Godzilla, so I watched the movie often until I couldn’t stomach it any further. I grade this one a “C-.”

Godzilla (2014)

This version is more faithful to the TOHO based character and even credits TOHO personnel for the story. It was wise to wait 16 years from the last American produced release not to have the two movies be associated.

Figure Review: NECA Godzilla (2014)

I loved the introduction. Bryan Cranston’s character, Joe Brody, and his manic obsession with discovering what was really going on really set the stage. I liked Ken Watanabe’s character, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, as the calm, somber version of the Ramond Burr inserted actor from the American version of Godzilla: King of The Monsters. Ellie Brody was flat, and Sam Brody had no chemistry with her despite their perfect American nuclear family.

The MUTO, (a pair of giant radioactive roach creatures) were the baffling antagonist, but I tolerated it because they looked pretty cool. I liked the basic premise of the species. How they consume radioactive material and use it to reproduce. I thought the echolocation and electro-magnetic pulse aspect of the MUTO’s power is consistent with the underlying nuclear message.

Can Godzilla Die?

At the end of the day, the MUTO exists because TOHO was not ready to give Legendary the licensing for all their monsters. They remembered that Hollywood is notorious for screwing up a good movie franchise because of ego and commercialization (Michael Bay and the Transformers, DC/Warner and the Justice League).

But despite TOHO’s worries, the movie was successful. Two more movies in the series have been green-lit, which means we will get to see more of our favorite monsters soon. Overall I found this version interesting. Every appearance of Godzilla was satisfying and the final fight scene was a great pay off. I enjoyed the movie and its special effects. I grade this one a “B+”.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

This 2-hour movie covers a lot of characters, a bunch of monsters and quite a few story arcs, and does a good job. Mark Russell is probably the most strenuous actor amongst an excellent cast, which includes his ex-wife Dr. Emma Russell, and Madison Russell, his estranged daughter. The family was greatly affected by the 2014 events, placing them at the heart of the chaos which unfolds. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa returns and is phenomenal as always, with a few other standouts like Dr. Ilene Chen/Dr. Ling, and Dr. Rick Stanton as the Monarch researcher helping to keep track of Godzilla. The villain, Alan Jonah, is utterly dastardly.

The movie begins with a recap of the events of 2014, where the Russell family lost their son. With a broken family subplot, a device that can calm or set off the menagerie of monsters with the push of a button, there is a great set up for chaos.

The “boy band” leading the Titans were Godzilla, Monster Zero (King Ghidorah), Rodan, and Mothra. Each titan was cleverly credited as playing themselves in the credit roll — which was a nice easter egg. There are many juxtaposed themes, such as restoring balance, a hero’s sacrifice, a sacrifice for redemption, and even some spiritual and elemental juxtapositions. To enjoy this movie, one really has to suspend disbelief, but even I had a tough time with a few moments in this movie. But you don’t see a monster movie for its accurate science.

The battles were incredible, and the special effects impressive, but it is challenging to keep up with all those monsters and still stay focused on the story. In the end, the audience gets what it wants: monsters pummeling one another, wanton destruction of property, and busloads of casualties.

The American Godzilla movies move away from the campiness of the TOHO era. The movie looks and feels plausible, even if we know what’s happening is impossible. I think what I really like about this version of Godzilla is it doesn’t shy away from the original Godzilla’s message. I grade this installment an “A”.

Godzilla (1954) is the benchmark, and there have been many versions since. I’ve come a long way from the kid who believed the model insert pamphlet detailing Godzilla’s origins. But I still haven’t lost my childish enthusiasm when I hear that iconic Godzilla battle cry.

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Written by Lance Keeble
Retired Super-Hero, Demi-God Orphan, Word-Weaver, Poet, Author, Novelist, Writer, Producer, Tinkerer, Opinionist, "Fan of Many, Fanatic of None", Father, Grand-Father, Husband, Mentor, the Man, the Myth, the Blogger, a Dirty-Kool-Nerd-Geek-Kollector who wants the save the World one human at a time… He has been in bands, acted in plays, commercials and continuously practices his prose writing lyrics, poetry, and short stories. Lance is a fan of Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action, Thriller, Comic books, Graphic Novels & an avid collector. He has an eclectic taste that reflects in his style of writing. Lance has published poetry and short stories in many anthologies & a superhero comic strip in several magazines. He is writing a comic book and the prequel to his novel Globes Disease. Lance Oliver Keeble was born and continues to live in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. Lance is a Father of 7 and a Grandfather of 4.