Who Did It Better: Godzilla 1998 vs Godzilla 2014

I got bored one day and decided to rewatch the classic 1998 Godzilla. It was a great experience, bringing up old memories of when I was a kid watching it in the theater. Then it occurred to me, we had a couple of Godzilla movies that came out in recent years. How does it compare toe-to-toe with the 1998 version?

Movie technology has improved over the decade, and we get believable renderings of fantastic beasts and worlds. CGI has made its way as a staple to most movies shown today. So of course, the comparisons wouldn’t be fair. However, this is a fun article, just reminiscing about both of the movies. I am going to break down the categories in a way that I think encompasses the entirety of both movies.

Monster Design

Godzilla (1998): Godzilla 1998 decided to move away from the conventional Godzilla design. Instead of a roided-up lizard, this monster looked more like a Marine Iguana, but equally terrifying. The backstory given in the movie is that the monster is a side effect of the nuclear warhead testing the United States had on some backwater islands back in the 60s. And with that, we get surviving marine iguana eggs that are mutated and somehow stayed dormant until recent years.

Godzilla (2014): Everybody was excited about this version of Godzilla since it resembles closer to the original Godzilla design. However, there are some changes to how it looks, but more on how they’ve added more details to it as well as design that made sense biologically where the bigger you are, the bigger are your legs. This chonkier version of Godzilla adds to the realism of the monster as it slowly stomps its way through the city.

Verdict: Godzilla (2014) takes this point for being the closest to what Godzilla is supposed to look like. With modern CGI and movie technology, the movie brought Godzilla alive and gave us a chilling experience of what a monster in massive proportions would look like walking through a city.

The Human Element

Godzilla (1998)

Starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and….others, Godzilla 1998 featured a comprehensive side story for the humans. Matthew Broderick is a biologist working at what looks to be the exclusion zone outside Chernobyl, studying the effects of radiation on earthworm when he gets a call from the government to check out the impressive footprint left by our monster.

As the story progresses and Godzilla starts wrecking havoc in the city of New York, the military figured out how to flush the monster from its hiding, and more destruction ensues. After a while, it was discovered that Godzilla is pregnant and is looking to turn New York into a giant nest for its hundreds of future babies. The gang banded together into a ragtag team of misfits that managed to put down Godzilla forever.

Godzilla (2014)

Most would agree with me that Godzilla 2014 starts off strong, featuring the Janjira incident. Bryan Cranston and his wife work for a Japanese nuclear plant that goes Chernobyl due to some unexplained earthquakes. The event left him traumatized, but the unexplained natural disaster did not sit well with him, and he continued to dig deeper into the incident. His son is now a grown man who works for the military.

But once Bryan Cranston dies, I did not care for any of the characters. Bryan Cranston son, a military personnel, follows his father to the quarantine zone before all hell sets loose. The nurse really at this point seems like part of the crowd. Besides the scientists from Monarcch, none of the human elements were interesting, besides giving us the scale of the monsters as compared to a human.

Verdict: Godzilla (1998) easily takes this point. Different stories from various perspectives. The scientist, military, the politician and even the ex-girlfriend trying to be a full-fledged reporter. Oh, and let’s not forget the random team of French spies. Every one had enough time on screen to bring character development. Everybody who went to watch Godzilla (2014) expected Bryan Cranston to survive longer than he did in the movie, and after he died, the human stories felt diluted and didn’t really deserve any attention.

Screen Appearance

Godzilla (1998)

Once the set-up is done, we get the main character being called to figure out what left giant footprints after tearing a cannery ship down. And from the moment we saw the Godzilla’s spikes surfing out the ocean and destroying the peer, we get different POVs of the monster. As the movie progresses, we get a treat of tiny Godzillas chasing down people around the subterranean stadium that Godzilla made into a makeshift nest.

Godzilla (2014)

This Godzilla looks better in every way. However, we only get a total of 8 minutes of screen time. Perhaps it’s the cost of rendering the behemoth, but it doesn’t feel like we get to see much of Godzilla. One of the most annoying parts of the movie is when we see Godzilla first fight as the doors to the bunker close. But the full fight that takes place later on made up for it.

Verdict: A monster movie should have more of the monster appearing on the screen. So comparatively, Godzilla (1998) had more screen time as compared to the 2014 film. While the payout of the final monster fight is awesome, I wish we could’ve had more Godzilla time. Point goes for Godzilla (1998).

Atomic Breath

Godzilla (1998)

Well, it didn’t resemble anything close to an atomic breath. What it looked like is a furious scream that turns into fire. I’ll give that it does seem like an upgrade to the fire wall that was on Independence Day. However, this felt more like a tick box being checked off.

Godzilla (2014)

The director and CGI team knew exactly what the fans of the monster were waiting for. In fact, I’ve totally forgotten that the atomic breath existed. There was no indication of the atomic breath shown in the trailer, which is a great omission. The wind up, the sound design and the faded blue streak that starts climbing up Godzilla’s back spikes this is what peak CGI usage looks like in a film.

The winding up blue jet of radioactive flames just streaming towards the MUTO rendering it unable to strike back. This scene was probably the highlight of the entire movie.

Verdict: Godzilla (2014) got this point by a mile.

Monster Lore

Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla appears from the area where most nuclear testing took place, which looks like Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. From there, a surviving sea iguana egg survived and seemingly transformed by the radioactive fallout from the tests. Now, it’s a full-grown adult looking for a new nesting ground. And what better place to choose than the city of New York.

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla is an ancient apex predator of the Old World. Due to natural receding radioactive concentration in the atmosphere, it slipped back into the ocean to be closer to consistent sources of radiation coming from the Earth’s core. However, when the pair of MUTOs emerges from its cocoon and starts attacking all the nuclear pile around their vicinity, Godzilla is now awakened from its sabbatical and comes to the surface to claim its throne. The MUTOs were planning to breed and start a nest of baby monsters, but Godzilla had other plans for them.

Verdict: Godzilla (1998) is relatively unknown as compared to Godzilla (2014) as nothing much is known about the creature. The latter movie dives deep into the mysterious nuclear plant incident which slowly unravels the lost world of ancient apex predators that ruled the world. Godzilla (1998) put more emphasis on the theatrics of having a monster running around a dense city. Both get points for this category.

Level of Destruction

Godzilla (1998)

Most of the destruction was confined to the city of New York. However, most of the significant damages were done by humans, when their missiles kept missing Godzilla and hitting New York landmarks instead. Godzilla’s single biggest destruction was when it got tangled up in the wires of the Brookyln Bridge, which kept immobile long enough for the jets to get a clean hit in, severely injuring it.

Godzilla (2014)

The level of destruction of this Godzilla is unprecedented. Unlike an apocalypse movie, Godzilla is a walking radioactive apocalypse. That’s what can be expected when you have more than one titan fighting for dominance. The destruction takes place in various locations. But with each location visited by these titans, mass destruction ensued. This works great considering the scale of these monsters and the level of destruction that they could do. All in all, the scale of destruction was massive, and I was thoroughly entranced by the destruction I was seeing on the screen.

Verdict: More destruction = better monster movie. While Godzilla (1998) felt like a very intimate experience since the destruction takes place only in New York. Godzilla (2014) however takes place in several locations, and with each appearance of these titans, natural disasters and cataclysm follow to the nearest human settlements. Godzilla (2014) takes the point for its potential planet-wide scale of destruction, which is eventually expanded in the second movie.

Did Godzilla Survive?

Godzilla (1998)

Unfortunately, this Godzilla met its doom as the humans got a few clean hits into it when it was stuck at the Brooklyn Bridge. It was already injured by the previous torpedo missiles that hit it during its escape under the water.

Godzilla (2014)

The great Godzilla emerges victorious after blasting the two MUTOs out of existence. However, after taking a direct hit from a collapsing building, Godzilla looked as if it died. But like the absolute unit that we expect from the true king of the planet, Godzilla emerges from its rest and proceeded back into the ocean. Leaving the humans in awe and questioning their actual place in the food chain.

Final Score

Who cares? I just love Godzilla so much, and I want to talk about how great it was. From the 1998 version that I watched in the cinema when I was a kid, and to the 2014 version where I get to see the big boy getting a modern makeover. I’m glad to see the hype around the new Godzilla movie when it was announced. The fan base is there, and nobody can say no to a monster movie that is made well. If you haven’t watched the 1998 version of Godzilla, I highly recommend it.



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