Now, it’s no surprise that Godzilla 1998 is notorious among fans of the city destroying kaiju. Not only was the movie panned for just being ‘bad’ but the Godzilla on display wasn’t anything like the one we’d grown to know and love. In this discussion, I’m going to be talking about how this movie altered the franchise forever as well as the legacy of this incarnation of Godzilla, or rather Zilla.
The Aftermath and The Millennium Series
When the movie was released, it was practically blacklisted by Godzilla fans. While Toho had initially shown a lot of hope for this movie, even approving Godzilla’s new design, they too were very displeased by the negative reception this movie received. Godzilla did receive a TV show called Godzilla the Series and it received ok reviews, but the damage to the Godzilla name had already been done. When the movies producing company Tristar’s license for Godzilla expired, he was immediately snagged up by Toho, then one year later in 1999, Toho released a new Godzilla movie, known to western fans as Godzilla 2000. This movie was made in retaliation to the 1998 film, many moments influenced by the previous movie:
- The Godzilla from 1998 was referenced in the movie, two characters discussing how a giant monster attacked New York, America claiming it to be Godzilla only for the two to say the Japanese had doubts that it was actually Godzilla.
- The new villain introduced named Orga, has design elements reminiscent of the 1998 Godzilla, its colour scheme similar and bearing many physical traits belonging to the dinosaur. This was meant so parallel how both Orga and Godzilla 1998 were perversions of the original monster.
- This movie serves as a direct sequel to the original 1954 movie. This was probably just a way to reboot the series right, but likely brought about to bring the series back to its roots.
We can essentially thank Godzilla 1998 for the advent of the Millennium series, launching Godzilla back into the mainstream.
Godzilla to Zilla
Godzilla 1998 was eventually rebranded by Toho as a completely new monster named Zilla. They kept the origins the same, Zilla being a mutated Iguana. Zilla went on to appear in the 2004 film, Godzilla Final Wars, where he’s seen attacking Sydney in a fashion similar to his outing in New York. He then appears to fight Godzilla, only to be beaten in about 30 seconds, a very obvious stab at the 1998 incarnation since it was obliterated with relative ease. They even nickname this creature Tuna-Head in reference to the infamous “That’s a lotta fish” scene from his first movie. After this, Zilla existed mainly in the comic books, slowly beginning to find his identity.
Zilla’s outings in the comics were minor, but he was becoming his own kaiju. He also made an appearance in the anime Godizilla Planet, or more specifically its prequel book Monster Apocalypse. In this, Zilla boasts perhaps one of the more impressive feats of destruction among the monsters. He invades Paris and lays his eggs, where they all hatch and effectively destroy Paris as well as other cities in France. While other kaiju in the book simply rampaged and destroyed cities before being killed, Zilla effectively took over an entire country and took years to finally defeat, an admirable feat for a mutant Iguana. In my opinion I like Zilla’s legacy, how he wasn’t completely disregarded by Toho and the Godzilla community. He’s slowly gaining his own unique following and is slowly straying away from his sins from 1998.
The Future of the Series
So as mentioned earlier, this movie was what ushered in the Millennium series of films which served as reboots of classic Godzilla villains like Mothra, Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla. But this might have gone even further than we thought. For one we might not have received the 2014 Godzilla movie, and by extension the 2017 Kong movie or the extended MonsterVerse. not to mention, when Toho saw the success of the 2014 Godzilla then made Shin Godzilla, which also brought back the potential for future Japanese Godzilla movies. So in conclusion, Godzilla 1998 may have left a bad taste in many a Godzilla fans mouth, but when you really stop and think about it, this movie helped bring a new generation of Godzilla movies to life, and opened the door to a whole new universe for the King of the Monster to reside in. That’ll do Zilla, that’ll do.
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