Writer And Producer Dean Devlin Says He Has “PTSD” From His Experience Making 1998’s ‘Godzilla’ But Knows How He Would Fix It

Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) survives Godzilla's first attack in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures
Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) survives Godzilla's first attack in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures

The Godzilla remake made and released by Sony Pictures in 1998 was a disappointment in many respects. For a film with a promotional campaign that was everywhere between ‘97 and ’98, it seems forgotten in recent years. In the shadow of the MonsterVerse and Godzilla Minus One, that is understandable, but the picture and its creature have their places in history – good or bad.

Godzilla roars
Godzilla roars again in Godzilla Minus One (2023), Toho Co. Ltd

People of a certain age vividly recall the giant iguana Gojira and everything leading up to his grand debut, whereas others never got over how that version made them feel. This is especially true for those who worked on it, up to the very top of the call sheet. The film’s co-writer and producer Dean Devlin is far from unfazed as he explained when he recently looked back on his experience developing the blockbuster.

The biggest effect it had on him? He gave up watching Godzilla movies altogether, and claims he hasn’t seen a single new one in over 20 years. “I haven’t watched them. I have too much PTSD,” Devlin told Inverse. His tinkering with such a legendary monster (no pun intended) suffered too nasty of a backlash to bear.

Zilla stands in front of the army in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures

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“It’s tough when you play with something that was so meaningful to people,” he said. “When you take on somebody else’s brand you have to be very careful, and there’s no doubt you will piss people off.”

What aggravated many people was the CGI that doesn’t age well compared to Minus One, Legendary Pictures’ Goji, and Shin Godzilla. They tried to obscure it with torrential downpours, but it only made things worse. “We were hoping that nighttime and rain would help hide any flaws in the CG,” Devlin recalled. “It was just miserable. It was a miserable decision.”

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He would rethink everything if he were to do it all over again, and his top priority would be getting off the fence in terms of Godzilla’s alignment. “Roland had an idea that I think was very interesting on an intellectual level, which was that Godzilla should neither be a hero nor a villain; that he’s simply a really large lizard,” he revealed. 

“I think on this type of movie, especially with the massive fan base of Godzilla, we really needed to decide if we were doing a movie where Godzilla was the villain or Godzilla was the hero.” he continued, “I think I should have realized that you can’t be ambivalent about the title character.” 

Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is greeted by a group of Baby Zillas in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures
Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is greeted by a group of Baby Zillas in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures

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Devlin added, “Right now it seems so obvious, but when we were doing it we thought, ‘Oh, this is so interesting. We’re doing something so cool.’” He, Emmerich, and Sony might have changed their tune if they test-screened their movie, which it turns out didn’t occur, not once, to meet a Memorial Day release.

By the time they previewed it for theater owners in Los Angeles, the point when Devlin finally saw the flaws, it was too late. “I instantly knew what was wrong with the film,” he recalled. “I instantly knew how to fix it. And I knew we didn’t have time to do it.”

Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) and Audrey Timmons (Maria Pitillo) helplessly realize that Zilla survived in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures
Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) and Audrey Timmons (Maria Pitillo) helplessly realize that Zilla survived in Godzilla (1998), TriStar Pictures

He added, “Had we tested it, I would have done some reshoots. I would have juggled some scenes around. I would have established the characters and tried to set up who they are and what they want and what they care about first. And I absolutely would have made the decision that Godzilla is a hero and not a monster.”

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