Godzilla is a cancelled American film that was written in 1994 and scheduled for a 1996 theatrical release. The film was infamously scrapped in favor of the controversial GODZILLA (1998).
In 1992, Sony Pictures acquired the rights to Godzilla from Toho Company Ltd., and agreed to produce an American-made remake. Sony gave its subsidiary company, TriStar Pictures, responsibility for producing the film. TriStar brought in screenwriters Terry Rossio and Ted Eliott to write the script for the film, which was completed in 1994. TriStar hired director Jan De Bont, fresh off of his successful film Speed, to direct the film. De Bont approached Stan Winston Studios, responsible for the groundbreaking effects in Jurassic Park, to design the creatures for the film and produce scannable maquettes to create the CGI models for the film.
When the arrangements for the film were completed, De Bont approached the studio heads at Sony to propose his budget for the film, which he set at $130 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made up to that point. The Sony executives refused to approve De Bont's budget, and demanded that he cut down on the film to lower the budget. After repeatedly having his budget proposals turned down, De Bont agreed to leave the project. Desperate to meet the deadline for their Godzilla film, Sony approached director Roland Emmerich, who previously turned down the project and expressed the fact that he was not interested in it at all, and asked him to reconsider. Emmerich reluctantly agreed to direct the film and have it released by summer of 1998, but only on the condition that he be allowed to completely rewrite the script and approach the film however he wanted. Rossio and Eliott's script was discarded, and Emmerich's GODZILLA was released instead by TriStar in May 1998.
A group of scientists discover a strange ice cave in the waters off Alaska, and go inside to investigate. Inside, they accidentally awaken Godzilla, who unintentionally kills most of the scientists and breaks out of the cave before swimming away. Godzilla comes ashore in a Japanese fishing village and destroys it before returning to the sea. An eyewitness identifies the creature as Gojira, a monster from ancient Japanese legends.
Twelve years later, a meteor crashes in Kentucky and releases a bizarre alien ooze, which enters a cave and transforms a colony of bats into huge monstrous creatures called Probe Bats, which capture various animals and bring them to the ooze in the cave, which absorbs them. Meanwhile, Godzilla suddenly appears in the waters off San Francisco and threatens to make landfall. The United States Navy engages the monster in San Francisco Bay, but is decimated by Godzilla, who uses his powerful atomic breath to incinerate the fleet's forces. The military eventually dumps a special amniotic fluid that was found in the cave with Godzilla into the bay, which causes Godzilla to become drowsy. Godzilla climbs onto the Golden Gate Bridge, and finally passes out because of the fluid. Godzilla is airlifted to a military base in Massachusetts, where the military debate whether to spare or destroy him.
The biomass in Kentucky eventually consumes enough genetic material and transforms into a giant chimera-like beast called the Gryphon. The Gryphon flies out of the cavern and attacks Harrisburg, Virginia. The scientists at the base in Massachusetts conclude that Godzilla was genetically engineered by an ancient civilization from the DNA of various dinosaurs in order to protect the Earth from an alien force. The aliens would deploy probes to planets marked for conquest, which would assimilate local animal life and become a deadly hybrid creature that would wipe out all life on the planet, allowing the aliens to conquer the planet easily. Godzilla, sensing the Gryphon's awakening, bursts free from the base and swims to New York City, where he encounters the Gryphon. The two monsters battle in the middle of the city, with Godzilla finally decapitating and destroying the Gryphon. The military prepares to attack Godzilla, but is called off and allows Godzilla to return to the ocean in peace.
The film was written under very tight specifications by Toho regarding the portrayal of Godzilla. Rossio and Eliott wanted to portray Godzilla as an anti-hero who would battle another evil monster who threatened the Earth. When Jan De Bont was hired as the director, he made it clear that he wanted Godzilla to closely resemble his Japanese counterpart. Following these specifications, Stan Winston Studios designed their version of Godzilla in such a way that he was clearly still Godzilla, but looked slightly more dinosaurian and less like a man in a suit. Godzilla and his enemy monster, the Gryphon, were to be portrayed by a combination of CGI and animatronics, and would fight on intricate 3-D computer-generated sets, something that had never been attempted at the time. The complexity of the creatures and heavy demands of the script caused the film to have a very high projected budget, which is ultimately led to its cancellation.
- Ironically, the $130 million budget that Sony's executives turned down for this film was exceeded by GODZILLA (1998).
- While Sony cited the film's high budget as the reason for its cancellation, director Jan De Bont claims to this day that Sony wanted to Americanize Godzilla and believed that a Godzilla film that closely resembled the Japanese films would not be marketable. That is why, according to De Bont, TriStar and Sony approved Roland Emmerich's version, which exceeded the budget but radically changed Godzilla to a giant velociraptor-like creature that bore virtually no similarities to the monster.