|“||He's not some monster trying to evade you. He's just an animal. If you find what he wants, then he'll come to you.||„|
|~ Dr. Tatopoulous regarding Zilla.|
Zilla (in Japanese: ジラ, Jira), also known as American Godzilla, is the titular main antagonist in the 1998 film Godzilla, a recurring antagonist in the animated TV series sequel Godzilla: The Series as Cyber-Zilla, a minor antagonist in the 2004 film Godzilla: Final Wars, a major antagonist-turned-anti-hero in the comic book Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, and a minor character in the comic Godzilla: Oblivion.
Originally a normal iguana, Zilla mutated into a giant reptilian monster as a result of a nuclear test done in French Polynesia. Prior to his debut in Godzilla: Final Wars, the monster was originally intended to be a reimagined take on Godzilla. However, due to the critical failure of the 1998 film, the monster was later rebranded as a whole new character with an exception when it comes to the original film and series.
His vocal effects are performed by Frank Walker and was suit acted by Kurt Carley in a few scenes of the original film.
In his appearances in Godzilla: Final Wars and Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, Zilla was shown to not run away nearly as much and tried to fight even when outmatched. In Godzilla: Final Wars, he faced Godzilla head-on, a move that was specifically dependable and brave, although this could be because he was under the Xiliens' authoritative control and was forced to fight Godzilla.
In Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, he retained many of the same abilities and characteristics of his 1998 counterpart, although he lost his cowardly and pusillanimous nature. He faced Godzilla head-on once again, evaded his attacks, and landed several attacks of his own. However, he retreated to the sea when Godzilla was close to killing him and he had just barely escaped Godzilla's grip. When Zilla resurfaced for the final battle against the Trilopods, he attacked and brutally killed and wounded numerous Trilopods.
Zilla is a giant mutated iguana originating from a nuclear test in French Polynesia. As the test was done in 1968, the creature (or perhaps species) grew over a period of approximately 30 years. His irradiated genes caused him to achieve a height of over 60 meters (about 200 feet).
He swam from the islands across the Pacific, attacking a Japanese freighter, and then stomped across Panama. From there he traveled up the American Eastern Seaboard, where he sank several American fishing boats. He then stomped through and invaded New York, necessitating the evacuation of the entire city, and have some sort of mutual interest in one of the main characters. The military battled him extensively, and supposedly killed him in the East River. However, he had laid at least a hundred eggs in Madison Square Garden (an arena in Midtown Manhattan), which hatched and filled the Garden with hundreds of baby Zillas. The military bombed the Garden, killing most of the creatures. However, Zilla then revealed himself to have survived, and chased the heroes through New York across the Brooklyn Bridge, where he became entangled in the suspension cables.
He was then killed by F-18 missiles (although later on, in the sequel TV series, he was resurrected as a cyborg by the Tachyons, this cyborg variant appeared during the Monster Wars story arc which was very similar to the general plot of Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars). However, one of his offspring survived, and imprinted upon Dr. Niko Tatopolous. From there, he accompanied Tatopolous and his team, H.E.A.T., on their missions against various monsters mutated by nuclear experiments in Godzilla: The Series.
Godzilla: The Series
Zilla appears in the beginning of New Family: Part 1, the first episode of the TV-series, which was a recap on the ending of the film. He later returns in the episodes, Monster Wars: Part 2 and Monster Wars: Part 3 as Cyber Zilla.
Godzilla: Final Wars
In Godzilla: Final Wars, Zilla is one of the monsters controlled by the Xiliens, and under their control, he attacks Sydney, Australia. Zilla is taken away by the Xiliens to give mankind the illusion that they stopped him, and is later unleashed by X to battle Godzilla. Zilla is defeated rather quickly by Godzilla himself, who sends him flying into the Sydney Opera House and finishes him off with his atomic breath. X throws a tantrum over Zilla's failure then complains he always doubted "Tuna-Head" was any use to him.
Zilla's appearance in the film was mainly as a take that to the 1998 film, as he is intentionally rendered using bad CGI, and the fight between him and Godzilla lasts 13 seconds, as the shortest battle in the entire series.
Godzilla: Rulers of Earth
Zilla is a major antagonist in the first two issues of the comic Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, where he comes ashore and attacks the city of Honolulu. Godzilla appears and does battle with Zilla, forcing the monster to retreat.
Zilla later reappears swimming in the waters around the Monster Islands in the thirteenth issue.
In the last issue, Zilla returns to join Godzilla and the other monsters in the battle against the Trilopods. He kills many of them, but he is finally defeated by Magita. After Godzilla managed to destroy it, Zilla follows him into the sea along with the other monsters.
Powers and Abilities
- Amphibious Nature: The 1998 Godzilla was able to swim through the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans in a matter of days.
- Atomic Breath: When the 1998 Godzilla was revived and upgraded as Cyber-Godzilla in Godzilla: The Series, he gained a blue atomic breath, much like the Japanese Godzilla's. His son from Godzilla: The Series possesses a green atomic breath. In some of Patrick Tatopoulos' concept artwork for the 1998 film as well as in some artwork for merchandise related to the film, Godzilla is depicted firing atomic breath.
- Burrowing: The 1998 Godzilla possessed a remarkable burrowing ability, able to excavate the thick tar and concrete around New York with ease. Using this advantage, he was able to escape and hide from the United States Army.
- Camouflage: The 1998 Godzilla's skin color allowed him to blend in well with New York City's architecture. This Godzilla also possessed an incredibly low body temperature, which rendered him colder than his surroundings and unable to be detected by the military's thermal scanning.
- Advanced Durability: Durability-wise, small arms fire is useless on the 1998 Godzilla as well as standard tank rounds. The F-18 Hornet's missile compliment proved strong enough to kill him. However, it required at least twelve missiles to do so.
- Advanced Intelligence: While the 1998 Godzilla relies on instinct to a greater degree than the Japanese Godzilla, he was still shown to be capable of thinking during battles and forming strategies. Throughout the 1998 film, Godzilla eludes the United States military, causing them to ultimately cause more damage to New York City than he does. Using his speed and camouflage, Godzilla evaded several military helicopters and attacks them from behind. Later, he faked his death by two torpedoes, causing the military to call off their attacks and allowing Godzilla to resurface. Another testament to his intelligence was where he sticks his arm into the Park Avenue tunnel in an attempt to grab the taxi that Niko Tatopoulos, Audrey Timmonds, Philippe Roaché and Animal were hiding in after sticking his head in failed.
- Power Breath: The 1998 Godzilla originally lacked the Japanese Godzilla's iconic atomic breath, though he possessed a Power Breath (strong flammable winds of gas) which he can also ignite to form a wall or blast of flames. This Power Breath can send things weighing several tons flying away, including cars.
- Reproduction: The 1998 Godzilla was capable of asexual reproduction and is shown to have laid over 200 eggs in Madison Square Garden. The fact that this Godzilla laid eggs has led to a prevalent misconception regarding the character's gender. However, like all other versions of Godzilla, the 1998 Godzilla is officially recognized as a male creature, even in spite of its reproductive ability. Despite the monster's official gender, designer Patrick Tatopoulos has revealed that female genitalia was sculpted onto Godzilla's CGI model, though this is not visible clearly in the film. (It is far more likely that despite being referred to as a male and with male pronouns, it is asexual or hermaphroditic.)
- Advanced Speed and Agility: The 1998 Godzilla was very fast and agile, possessing a land speed of 300 miles per hour. This speed was showcased in the 1998 film when Godzilla was able to outrun multiple squadrons of AH-64 Apaches and, despite being in point-blank range, was able to dodge and avoid missiles launched at him with ease.
- Advanced Stamina: The 1998 Godzilla was able to run and swim for a long time without showing any signs of exhaustion.
- Advanced Strength and Combat: The 1998 Godzilla had five-foot-long teeth and six-foot-long talons, which allowed him to burrow through tough surfaces, destroy helicopters with little effort, be it by hand or jaw strength, and can gut a large ship's hull with ease.
The design and characterization of TriStar's Godzilla was negatively received. Film critic Richard Pusateri of G-Fan Magazine coined the acronym GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only") to distinguish it from the original Godzilla created by Toho while some fans referred to it as the "American Godzilla". The major points of criticism were centered around the character's radical departure from the traditional Godzilla design, how it was portrayed fleeing from the military instead of confronting them, how it didn't breathe traditional nuclear fire, how it laid eggs, and was easily killed by missiles during the film's climax whereas Godzilla can withstand a torrent of missiles that he shrugged them off as annoyance.
These sentiments were echoed by the veteran Godzilla suit actors, Kenpachiro Satsuma and the late Haruo Nakajima, and by Shusuke Kaneko, director of the 90s Gamera films. Nakajima ridiculed the character design, stating: "Its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog". Satsuma walked out of the film, saying "it's not Godzilla, it doesn't have his spirit". Kaneko opined "[Americans] seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms", and later alluded to the character in his film Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack as a monster that Americans mistook for Godzilla.
The backlash on the character alluded further in Godzilla: Final Wars when this character confronted by Godzilla: Out of Xilliens' brainwashed monsters Godzilla tricked to face by Gotengo crew, Godzilla only needs a single medium-calibre blast of his atomic breath to destroy the monster and the fight lasts for thirteen seconds.
Ironically, the animated version of the character was more positively received than its live-action predecessor, due to being closer in line with the spirit of Toho's Godzilla, possessing the ability to breathe atomic fire, battle monsters, and withstand attacks. However, the negative response to both Emmerich's Godzilla as well as the Disney remake of Mighty Joe Young released that same year, had caused giant monster movies to fall out of vogue for several years after, with films such as Peter Jackson's King Kong remake being postponed until 2005. Poor merchandise sales for the film led to a cancellation of a toyline based on Godzilla: The Series, and resulted in significant financial losses for toy manufacturer Trendmasters, which went out of business soon after.
These negative receptions are what caused filmmakers who worked for the MonsterVerse series decided to work together with Toho to create their series' incarnation of Godzilla whose character well-received to the point of considered as the true "Hollywood Godzilla" to avoid this mistake by creating a more faithful version of the character.
Over the years, fans have generally accepted Zilla as being a completely different monster and have warmed up to the character, with the animated series portrayal noted as being a more faithful version of Godzilla (albeit this was Zilla's son, who was dubbed by fans as Zilla Jr.). Zilla's debut into Rulers of Earth was also praised for his overall appearance and his performance in his fight against Godzilla.
- Shogo Tomiyama and Ryuhei Kitamura did not originally intend to include Zilla in Godzilla: Final Wars, but upon learning that they could use the TriStar Godzilla in the film, they decided to feature him as the new monster Zilla. Zilla's late addition may be responsible for the monster's lack of appearances in merchandise and promotional materials for the film.
- Despite Zilla's quick demise in Godzilla: Final Wars, Patrick Tatopoulos was thrilled to learn that the Godzilla he designed would be appearing in a Toho film.
- While newer works featuring Zilla are copyrighted as such, Godzilla 1998 is still copyrighted as an iteration Godzilla as seen in the icon on the back of the DVD. This is still the case even to this day as Toho has not changed the copyright status mainting this creature as Godzilla.