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Cinema’s Goofiest Car Chases: ‘Godzilla’ (1998)

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New York City Taxi
I wonder who could be chasing this taxi. Could it be… Godzilla? Anything’s possible…
Photo: Octagon via CC

Ah yes, the cinematic car chase. No action/adventure movie is complete without a high-speed pursuit of some kind, and even the most misunderstood films tend to have memorable car-chase moments. In a previous article for The News Wheel, I highlighted one such goofy scene from the 1973 kaiju flick Godzilla vs. Megalon. But if you thought the long-running Godzilla series had only one goofy car chase to offer, you’d be incorrect. Prepare to endure one of the silliest car-related scenes in any movie ever made: the climax of Godzilla (1998).

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‘Godzilla’ (1998): the one everyone loves

If I were to attempt a complete explanation for 1998’s American Godzilla, I’d be here all day. Briefly, the 1990s saw Tristar Pictures make a deal with Toho Co. Ltd. in Japan to license the Godzilla character for use in a new, Hollywood-produced entry in the franchise. After multiple false starts, several creative teams, and some behind-the-scenes drama, the film finally hit theaters in 1998. Directed and produced by Independence Day’s Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin respectively, the ’98 Godzilla was a big-budget blockbuster bursting with CGI and big action sequences.

In the film, a sleekly designed CG Godzilla makes his way to Manhattan to lay his eggs. After several hilariously unsuccessful attempts by the military to kill him, the beast succeeds in turning Madison Square Garden into his nest. As the film reaches its climax, our heroes are able to warn the army and escape the Garden before the place is blown sky-high.

Naturally, this displeases the would-be father Godzilla. With anger in his radioactive heart, the big guy decides he wants his dinner served with a side of Matthew Broderick. This leads to…

The chase

With a giant lizard hot on their tails, our heroes head for the nearest New York taxi and take off. The taxi, a yellow 1992 Chevy Caprice, tears down the streets of Manhattan as Godzilla pursues them. The chase takes them across the city, through a tunnel, and past plenty of carnage. Highlights include the taxi launching itself off Godzilla’s giant toes, blinding the beast with high beams, and even tripping the monster up and making him fall. Undeterred, Godzilla continues the chase.

Ultimately, our heroes end up leading Godzilla to the Brooklyn Bridge. The plan is to get him caught in the bridge’s suspension wires and trap him long enough for the military to move in. But before they can pull that off, two interesting things happen. First, the ‘92 Caprice mysteriously transforms into an ’87 Caprice — a production mistake that no one on set caught. Second, Godzilla bursts through the bridge and catches the taxi in his mouth. This leads to a remarkable moment in which Jean Reno literally drives a taxi out of the mouth of a giant lizard. Wow.

‘Twas taxi killed the Beast

After somehow surviving this encounter, the taxi continues down the bridge as poor Godzilla gets tangled up. Trapped, the King of the Monsters is brutally pounded by missiles. Despite the fact that such an attack would’ve only tickled the Japanese Godzilla, this version of the character is made of weaker stuff. The attack works, and as our heroes flee on foot, Godzilla’s big ol’ head falls down and squishes the poor Chevy Caprice into nonexistence. The big guy expires, our heroes rejoice, and no one thinks to poor one out for the brave taxi that made it all possible.

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Despite making its money back at the box office, Godzilla (1998) quickly gained an infamous reputation. Fans of the Japanese Godzilla films in particular took umbrage with its depiction of the Monster King. Even after more than two decades, the mere mention of this film is enough to elicit some shockingly vitriolic nerd rage. However, if you’re looking for some legitimately fun 90s cheese to enjoy with some pizza on a Friday night, you could do far worse than this entertaining flick. Plus, it has a fun car chase at the end, and who doesn’t enjoy that?