Jan de Bont Reveals His Original Concept For Godzilla 1998

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For reasons that still aren't fully understood, Roland Emmerich's Godzilla (1998) remains the most hated movie in the entire Godzilla franchise. However, Speed (1994) director Jan de Bont was originally in line to direct, and he has now revealed his rejected concept for the monster movie remake.

Godzilla 1998
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Credit: Sony Pictures
Godzilla 1998

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Godzilla (1998) gets a bad wrap. Just five years after Jurassic Park (1993) transformed cinema, and only two after Roland Emmerich's iconic disaster flick Independence Day (1996), the film had a lot resting on its shoulders.

One of the biggest and more general criticisms, to this day, is the fact that the film fails to live up to the original 1954 Toho film of the same name, which even before the 1998 film had spawned a huge number of sequels.

But despite being a wildly entertaining action-adventure romp with a pretty impressive titular antagonist, the 1998 film was perhaps unjustly barraged with criticisms left and right (much like Godzilla himself is with missiles and bullets).

Godzilla 1998
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Credit: Sony Pictures
Godzilla 1998

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While the humor doesn't always land, Godzilla (1998) knows exactly what it is, and unlike the 1954 film, isn't concerned with taking itself too seriously. Although the real argument boils down to its depiction of Godzilla himself.

Is it the fact that it's not a man in a rubber suit that bothers fans of the original film? Well, most criticisms revolve around the fact that, in the 1998 film, Godzilla is nothing more than an enhanced animal, and a pregnant one at that.

Hot on the heels of Jurassic Park, which is the first movie to present dinosaurs as anything but mindless monsters, it's plain to see that Godzilla (1998) takes a similar approach. This is obvious in Godzilla's T-Rex-like design alone, and not to mention the raptor-like Godzilla babies.

Godzilla 1998
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Godzilla 1998

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So, aside from the fact that it was the first Americanized Godzilla movie, its star is what truly sets it apart from its Japanese counterparts. Godzilla also can't breathe fire in Emmerich's version (though there is a clever nod in the film).

However, according to one Godzilla fan, having a man in a rubber suit kicking over drastically scaled-down skyscrapers would have made for a much better Godzilla 1998 experience. And that fan is director Jan de Bont.

Best known for the cult classic Keanu Reeves action movie Speed, the director has now revealed his original vision for the ill-fated Godzilla remake. Four years prior to the film's release, de Bont was tapped to helm TriStar Pictures' project.

Godzilla 1998
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Credit: Sony Pictures
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In a recent interview with Yahoo! News, the director discussed the difference between his vision for the radioactive reptile and that of Roland Emmerich's, who would ultimately replace de Bont as the director of the film.

Check out de Bont's full response below:

“I really wanted to make Godzilla, I wanted it so badly. I loved what he was in Japan. I love that it wasn’t so perfect. It was a guy in a suit! It was so great. The movements, there was something human about it. The guy in the suit was sweating like a pig and he said he was losing two pounds every minute because it was 125lbs and it was rubber… he said he could only do one take at a time.

We had a really good script and everybody loved it. [But] the reason they got rid of me is because they said my budget was higher than Roland Emmerich. I said that’s impossible because they’re going to use the same effects people as I do and they’re going to charge exactly the same. Because the guy was in the suit, the motions were very different to what a dinosaur would do and that was very attractive to me.”

Godzilla 1998
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Credit: Sony Pictures
Godzilla 1998

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It's impossible to tell whether or not Godzilla 1998 would have been more successful if it had featured a man in a rubber suit. After all, criticisms weren't limited exclusively to the monster himself.

However, we believe that this is not something that would have gone down well with cinemagoers in the '90s, who had quickly become accustomed to seeing digital VFX, despite how relatively new the technology still was in 1998.

Dinosaurs had also become incredibly popular by 1998, with Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) having already wowed audiences en masse, and made a fortune at the box office.

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Nevertheless, it would have been an entirely different movie altogether, largely because de Bont was admittedly a fan of the Japanese Godzilla movies. As such, it would seem that Emmerich wasn't, which we're still convinced is something of a good thing.

Either way, sadly we will never get a sequel to the 1998 remake, not only because it was a critical and financial disappointment, but the franchise has also since been rebooted in the form of Legendary Pictures' "MonsterVerse".

Next year will see the release of Godzilla vs. Kong 2 (2023), the follow-up to the 2021 crossover sequel, and the fifth film in the MonsterVerse franchise. There's also an animate Skull Island TV series heading for Netflix, and a live-action Godzilla TV series (TBA) starring Kurt Russell and his son Wyatt Russell, which will serve as a follow-up to Godzilla (2014).

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There's even a live-action King Kong TV series for Disney+ in the works, however, this will be completely unrelated to the MonsterVerse.