Matthew Broderick plays the main character, a scientist brought in to help deal with the threat of Godzilla. Broderick is miscast and feels out of his element. I guess he was only brought in for his comedic chops, but it doesn't help that most of his dialogue isn't funny. The most infamous example is the dumb line "that's a lot of fish" which is a statement, not a joke. One of the few acting bright spots is Jean Reno, who plays a French DGSE agent who tries to help take down the creature while also covering up his agency's role in creating the monster. We also have live-action appearances from three actors who are regulars on The Simpsons: Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, and Nancy Cartwright. They do fine as usual but I found their inclusion in the movie was unnecessary and distracting. Speaking of strange acting/casting decisions, the mayor and his aide are obvious parodies of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. But as Roger Ebert himself mentioned, what is the point of doing that in a Godzilla movie if you aren't going to have the King of the Monsters stomp on them?
Although it is made clear that this is the first appearance of Godzilla in the universe of this movie, a Japanese fisherman recognizes the creature as "Gojira." I guess this was just intended as a nod to the fans but I found it confusing and out of place. As for the rest of the story, I'm just going to sum up everything, spoilers and all. Godzilla attacks New York City, is revealed to be pregnant (?!), and eventually gets killed after rampant destruction. But fear not, we have a teaser for a sequel (a Godzilla egg hatches!), which thankfully never happened.
Despite having budget that would still be quite big today ($130,000,000) the CGI hasn't aged well. This might be more of a commentary on CGI in general than the production itself since the visual effects were praised at the time. But if you compare the specials effects of this movie to Star Wars: Episode I which came out only a year later, The Phantom Menace effects still look quite good and they had to work on more types of ships and creatures than just Godzilla. But even if Godzilla had great special effects this movie would still suck!
One of the few positive things I can say about the film is that it had a clever and effective marketing campaign. It's just a shame that it didn't have a good movie to go along with it.
Godzilla has a lot of characters, tons of destruction, and weird attempts at comedy that make it an epic event movie somewhere between Emmerich's own Independence Day and Michael Bay's Transformers movies (which like Godzilla also feature Kevin Dunn). Godzilla is not just bad but is also too long which really makes the film drag at times. I'm not sure why this movie felt it needed to be 139 minutes as the plot and characters are pretty straightforward. But at the end of the day there are still enough unintentionally humorous scenes for Godzilla to be watchable for fans of crappy movies.