For over twenty years, Roland Emmerich's 1998 adaptation of Godzilla has been a movie that Godzilla fans wish they could forget. And the movie's portrayal of Godzilla bothered more than just the fans. A scene in 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars revealed what Toho, the studios that created Godzilla, really thought of TriStar's take on the iconic movie monster.
In 60 years, Toho has produced close to 30 Godzilla movies. During this time, the King of the Monsters has gone through a number of changes. However, each movie has managed to retain the core aspects of Godzilla's design and persona. Emmerich's Godzilla, on the other hand, abandoned many of the things that fans believed were essential to Godzilla's identity. To fans, the 1998 film was a Godzilla movie in name only, which is one reason why the movie is judged more for its depiction of Godzilla than anything else.
Released in 2004, Godzilla: Final Wars saw Godzilla take on a slew of Toho monsters, including classic characters who hadn't been seen in 30 years. Godzilla is forced to plow through enemy after enemy, battling forgotten foes like Hedorah and old enemies like Rodan. In one particular scene, Godzilla has to go up against his most surprising adversary yet: TriStar's Godzilla. Toho's Godzilla easily dwarfs the other monster who is defeated with a simple tail-smack. Godzilla finishes him off with his atomic breath. The ease in which Godzilla disposes of his American counterpart just adds insult to injury, and makes the moment even more fun to watch.
The effort that the movie puts into insulting TriStar's Godzilla makes Toho's opinion of the film abundantly clear - even though it was never much of a secret in the first place. Longtime Godzilla suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma even walked out during the world premiere.
1998 Godzilla's inclusion in Final Wars effectively retconned him into a different character entirely. The movie even gave him a new name: "Zilla". The name change is explained by a comment from Godzilla: Final Wars producer Shogo Tomiyama, who said that the 1998 film "took the 'God' out of Godzilla". In recent years, Zilla has made appearances in several Godzilla comics, which shows that Toho is continuing to regard Zilla as a separate character. So while fans may still be disappointed in the 1998 adaptation, thanks to Toho, the lizard-like creature that ran out around New York City in Emmerich's film no longer needs to be regarded as Godzilla.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) release date: May 31, 2019