Twenty years ago today, on May 20, 1998, a new Godzilla movie graced our screens over Memorial Day Weekend. On paper, Godzilla was just another blockbuster monster movie. Yet, in reality, it was clearly a critique on governmental incompetence. And the true hero of the film was the 1992 Chevrolet Caprice taxicab that helped lure Godzilla to his death.
If you’ll so kindly recall, the cab shows up during the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie, after all the Godzilla youths in Madison Square Garden have been obliterated by missiles. Doctor Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) and Co. think they’re in the clear.
Suddenly, Godzilla’s head bursts through the pavement, revealing that he is, in fact, not dead, and discovers his slain young with the perpetrators standing close by. A chase unfolds, in which Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) demonstrates exactly how easy it is to carjack a 1992 Chevrolet Caprice by starting it up with a... pocketknife? Okay.
I remember being so impressed by the hardiness of that Caprice, which crashed its way through abandoned New York City streets, littered with cars, debris and, of course, Godzilla. At every turn, the pissed-off lizard is there, trying to crush them with his big feet or snapping at them with his big jaws.
The fourth-gen Caprice was criticized as looking like a beached whale, but it really stepped up to the plate in Godzilla. In fact, it is with the help of the Caprice that the humans foil him every single time.
It drives over his foot, catches a decent amount of air, lands, stays intact and escapes him.
It eludes his fearsome teeth.
Its horn, high beams and massive acceleration startle THE HELL out of him.
And, of course, it withstands being crushed by his mouth when he shoots his head through the Brooklyn Bridge and grabs the car in his teeth. In fact, the Caprice not only leaps from Godzilla’s jaws, but it continues to speed to the end of the bridge and makes a final leap to solid ground on the other side.
You’d think that something with as much crushing power as Godzilla’s face would have flattened 1990s GM build quality into a pancake—but not this Caprice. Sure, the roof sags a bit, but the four occupants inside remain largely unscathed, even as Tatopoulos jams a live wire into Godzilla’s gum and allows for their soaring escape.
Also notice that this Caprice cab managed to get them all the way from the Park Avenue Tunnel to the Brooklyn Bridge in less than a minute and 30 seconds—a trip that is just over three miles in length and would normally take me over half an hour to make. But I guess this is the kind of power you have when you have a 1992 Caprice, completely open streets and a murderous, radioactive lizard chasing you. All in a New York minute, I say.
Sadly, the Caprice meets its end after Godzilla is shot to death by the Air Force and collapses on top of it. It’s tough to design a car with enough structural rigidity to withstand a monster the size of a skyscraper falling on top of it, so I’m really not too mad about the sendoff for the faithful Caprice.
And, honestly, that brave Caprice was nearly enough of an apology for the appalling way director Roland Emmerich ended what was probably the worst Godzilla movie to date. It was already bad enough that Emmerich’s Godzilla was a gangly iguana that didn’t have Atomic Breath... but to meet his demise at the hands of the U.S. military? Please.
Godzilla, by itself, is an allegory for nuclear weapons in general. It is a pop culture icon that represented the fears of the Japanese people of a recurring nuclear attack in the 1950s. Longtime fans will know that Godzilla, while not completely indestructible, has an extremely fast-acting regenerative ability, which makes a death via some dinky Air Force missiles utterly laughable.
Anyway, if you’ve got some extra time this weekend, I’m sure you’ll be able to dig up a version of the 1998 Godzilla on the internet somewhere and pour one out for the 1992 Chevrolet Caprice taxicab that brought down the King of Monsters.