It may have ruffled the feathers of critics and G-fans alike, but Roland Emmerich’s take on the Godzilla IP has ultimately gained a large group of devoted fans. And, thanks to its excellent relatively recent 4K Blu-ray release, that fanbase only has the potential to increase.
Is it actually a good Godzilla film? In no way whatsoever. But, is it an entertaining film? Without a doubt, and God help you if you were born in the ’90s because you won’t have a choice but to be hooked (no one can tell a ’90s kid Godzilla‘s soundtrack is anything but just right).
As a whole, there’s still an air of disappointment wafting around Emmerich’s film, but now that the MonsterVerse has given G-fans their first true Americanized version of the monster, the 1998 film can be accepted on its own merits. And there are many merits to the ’98 Godzilla, enough to warrant a sequel had the highly-anticipated film performed the way it was intended.
10 There Would Have Been Another Slow-Build Reveal, But Not for Godzilla
Like in the earliest Shōwa era installments, Emmerich’s film has fun building up Godzilla’s reveal, and even when it verges on too silly (like the pier scene), it’s an effective build. For Godzilla 2, that would have been replicated, but not for Zilla Jr.
Specifics of the Build-Up
His big bug adversary would have had its presence built up first, by a cruise ship that washes ashore in Australia with gashes all over it. Then, an entire village would be eradicated without a sign as to why. Next, a giant egg is found… though inside it isn’t another Zilla, but rather a rapidly-growing bug monster.
9 Zilla Jr. Would Have Been More of a Hero
One of the things that makes the ’98 film rank so low on G-fans’ rankings is the fact the title character is just an animal trying to survive, utterly ambivalent unless a chopper is firing miniguns at its hide. He’s not even the monster seen in Gojira or The Return of Godzilla, with natural instincts but also a seeming desire to destroy everything around him.
Why the Attitude Change?
In the second film, the monster’s bonding with Nick Tatopoulos would have been a major crux of the narrative. It’s as if Zilla Jr. comes to realize that it can bond with something outside its own mother/father, then never stops short of defending it (so, basically, Nick, instead of humanity as a whole, but the guardian spirit remains the same).
8 A Trip to Monster Island
Like most Godzilla movies where he’s the main villain, Emmerich’s movie just has Godzilla, no side antagonist (like how the 1956’s Rodan had the Meganulon). But, a big part of the Godzilla IP is the other monsters in play… not to mention the island where they all reside (at least in movies like Destroy All Monsters). And yet, the only island in the 1998 film was Manhattan.
Who Else Would Have Been There? Or, Rather, What Else?
Monster Island would have been introduced in Godzilla 2‘s second act. Ever since his appearance in New York, the military has been sweeping the island to find any other genetic anomalies. Apparently, they didn’t search hard enough, because Nick and pals encounter a massive, radiated whale.
Then, on the island, they find mutated bugs and wildlife, but nothing that could take down a city. That is, until the massive swarm of kaiju bugs (and their mama) swoop down with human captives in their pincers.
7 A Substantial Chunk Would Have Taken Place in Australia
After about 15 minutes or so of Nick saving the baby Zilla, the narrative moves to Australia. Why? For the aforementioned sign of a big ol’ bug monster.
So No More New York?
Specifically, the first film’s General Hicks (scene-stealer Kevin Dunn) again recruits Nick to investigate the strange signs of a threat, not unlike he did in the first act of the 1998 film (note that the similarities between the two films essentially end there). And, from there, the narrative doesn’t move back to New York, certainly not to the extent the utterly-NY-bound first film did.
6 Zilla Jr. Would Have Imprinted on Nick Tatopoulos
The MonsterVerse has yet to include Kaiju-sized offspring, but Godzilla vs. Kong and its dynamic between young Jia and the latter Titan is pretty close to what Godzilla 2 was going to go for. The sequel would have opened with an elongated sequence where Nick saves Zilla Jr., almost getting caught by a homeless man in the process.
Nick Was the One to Bond With the Baby Monster
When Nick looked in the eyes of the dying Zilla in the 1998 film, he clearly got an even better sense of the animal’s humanity. So, by showing Zilla Jr. kindness, the baby monster is able to see the same in him, even developing the type of trust that would make it put its life on the line for a member of a different species.
5 Audrey Would Have Been In Just One Scene
Some of Godzilla‘s oft-cited flaws make some sense but not enough to truly be slights. Others make total sense, like Maria Pitillo’s performance as journalist hopeful Audrey Timmonds.
By the time Godzilla came out, Pitillo had already had small and supporting roles in several studio projects, but there’s little doubt Emmerich’s film was supposed to be her breakthrough. It didn’t pan out (she “won” the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress).
Why Just the One?
Basically because of the reaction to the first one. It’s pretty telling that a main character in one film would be reduced to a single scene in the next. That only happens when audiences didn’t take to the character at all. And, considering Nick would have received an annulment letter midway through Godzilla 2, it seems safe to assume Audrey wouldn’t have been in Godzilla 3 at all.
4 Animal Wouldn’t Have Been in It at All
One of three Simpsons stars to feature in the 1998 film, Hank Azaria was a major part of Godzilla‘s narrative. But, his videographer character, Animal, was seldom responsible for actually moving the narrative along. And in the sequel, he wouldn’t have been moving it along at all, because he wouldn’t be a presence in any regard.
Cutting Out the Ironically-Named Animal
No official reason has been given as to why Animal wouldn’t appear in Godzilla 2. After all, Jean Reno’s Philippe Roaché would have both come back and been an integral part of the sequel’s narrative. But, Azaria didn’t have a good time on Godzilla and wasn’t contracted for the two sequels, so it’s not too surprising things would not have panned out this way.
3 Zilla Jr. Would Have Fought A Giant Termite
Many of the best Japanese Godzilla movies have him fighting another kaiju and, as mentioned, Godzilla 2 was going to pin him against a big bug monster. It would have been a great way to differentiate the sequel from the first film, just like the change in scenery.
Would Zilla Jr. Have Won?
Zilla Jr. would have won the fight against the so-called “Queen B*tch.” But, he would have nearly lost his child in the process. And, as Godzilla 2‘s third act would reveal, the “Runt” survives its sting from the giant bug, and emerges from the ocean to tend to its wounded parent before the credits roll over the duo going back into the safety of the ocean.
2 Zilla Jr. Would Have a Zilla Jr. of its Own
After Nick saves the first film’s baby Zilla, he releases it into the wild. And, just as the first Zilla did, the second film’s monster reproduces asexually. Then, midway through, the “Runt” (as it’s called) is seemingly killed by “The Queen B*tch” (as the mother monster insect was to be called).
Does the Runt Look Any Different?
The released summarization of Godzilla 2 makes no mention of the Zilla grandbaby being any different from its parent or the beast that tore apart Manhattan. The same goes for its ability to use atomic breath. But, it stands to reason the third film had something in store for the little guy to help further differentiate him (and the film itself) from the two that came before.
1 There Would Have Been a Third As Well
Godzilla was always supposed to launch a trilogy. And, considering TriStar inked a deal that allowed them the usage of not just Godzilla but his allies and adversaries from the first 15 Toho films, it stands to reason that Godzilla 3 would have been the first of the three to really pay reverence to what came before. It just all came down to how the first film did.
An Unrealized Trilogy
While 2023’s Godzilla Minus One has soared to the surprise of many, Emmerich’s film mostly fell flat after its first few days. Critics were against it from moment one, and the fans’ collective response was even less forgiving. So, there would be no Godzilla 3 just as there was no Godzilla 2. But, suffice it to say, plans being what they were, it would’ve stopped at Godzilla 3.