Zilla, formerly referred to as Godzilla 1998, is a giant mutated marine iguana that appeared in the 1998 film GODZILLA. Zilla was originally intended to be a reimagining of Godzilla, and was legally known as thus until it was renamed Zilla by Toho, who claimed that it "took the 'God' out of 'Godzilla.'" Ever since, Zilla and Godzilla have been considered to be separate characters.
Zilla looks like a giant flesh-eating dromaeosaur, with some features of a Tyrannosaurus rex. It has three rows of curved scutes on its back, a large rectangular head, thin but powerful legs, and a multicolored body that gives it camouflage in an urban environment. In Godzilla (1998), Zilla is 60 meters tall, 100 meters long, and weighs 500 tons. In Godzilla: Final Wars, Zilla is 90 meters tall, 180 meters long, and weighs 20,000 tons.
Zilla was a marine iguana egg on an island in French Polynesia that was exposed to massive amounts of radiation from a nuclear bomb test in 1968. The egg hatched into a gigantic lizard-like monster which swam to New York City in order to nest. The monster was misidentified as Godzilla by the Americans.
Zilla attacked a Japanese fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean in order to obtain fish to eat. The lone survivor of the attack told French secret service agents that the monster he saw was Gojira, or Godzilla, the legendary atomic giant monster that had attacked Japan 44 years ago. The U.S. government sent a team of scientists to search for the cause of the shipwreck, and witnessed Zilla's path of destruction through several islands. Zilla itself turned up in New York City and ran rampant across Manhattan. Due to Zilla's speed and camouflage, the U.S. military had difficulty tracking and hitting Zilla with weapons. Dr. Niko Tatapoulos discovered that Zilla had the capacity to reproduce asexually and had nested somewhere in Manhattan. The U.S. military believed they had successfully killed Zilla when submarines successfully hit it with torpedoes in the Hudson River. Tatapoulos and a team of French agents found Zilla's nest in Madison Square Garden. The eggs hatched and the team was attacked by hundreds of baby Zillas. Upon learning of the nest, the military ordered a bombing of Madison Square Garden, apparently killing all of the infants. Zilla however had survived its encounter with the submarines and emerged from underground to find its offspring killed. Enraged, Zilla chased Tatapoulos and his allies through New York City. Using a taxi cab, the team managed to lure Zilla onto the Brooklyn bridge, where it became entangled in the suspension cables. Fighter jets then opened fire on the helpless Zilla with tomahawk missiles, killing it.
Godzilla: The Series
After Zilla's death in the first film, his body fell into the possession of the Tachyon aliens and was converted into Cyber-Zilla. The Tachyons tried to use Cyber-Zilla to turn its son against humanity, but Zilla Junior came to his senses and destroyed Cyber-Zilla, returning him to the grave.
Godzilla: Final Wars
Zilla was summoned by the Xiliens to attack Sydney, Australia. The Xiliens then took Zilla away, acting as though they had stopped it. When their plan was finally revealed by the EDF, Zilla was released in Sydney again to battle Godzilla. Zilla pounced at Godzilla, but was knocked into the Sydney Opera House by his tail and then incinerated by his atomic breath.
Godzilla: Rulers of Earth
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Godzilla: Monster Apocalypse
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- Speed and Agility - Zilla can run at an impressive 480 kilometers per hour and jump to great heights and over long distances.
- Amphibiousness - Zilla is suited to live both on land and in water and is a very skilled and maneuverable swimmer.
- Burrowing - Zilla can burrow through solid concrete, allowing it to evade enemies or gain the element of surprise.
- Camouflage - Zilla's body color scheme is suited to allow it to blend in an urban environment and evade detection.
- Power Breath - Zilla can exhale a highly flammable gas from its mouth.
- Reproduction - Zilla can reproduce asexually, laying hundreds of eggs at a time.
Zilla is physically very weak. Its skin can be easily pierced by missiles and artillery and it lacks the strength to tear through suspension cables or knock over buildings. Just one blast of Godzilla's atomic breath was sufficient to destroy Zilla.
- "I knew that tuna-eating monster was useless." - Controller of Planet X, Godzilla: Final Wars
- "Godzilla. That's what Japanese sailors called him in song. A mythological sea dragon that filled their hearts with fear. And to my special report, who is this "Godzilla"? Where did he come from? And why is he here?" - Charles Caiman, GODZILLA
- Zilla was originally conceived to be a more accurate depiction of Godzilla himself and was legally known as Godzilla until Toho officially made it a separate character in 2003.
- To differentiate Zilla from Godzilla prior to its name being changed, fans often referred to it as the "American Godzilla" or "G.I.N.O.," an acronym for "Godzilla In Name Only."
- When TriStar's rights to the Godzilla series expired in 2003, Toho trademarked the design of the monster from the 1998 film as Zilla and declared it to be a separate character from Godzilla. According to Toho, Godzilla has always had a mystical god-like presence while Zilla was just a common animal, hence taking the "God" out of "Godzilla."
- Even though Toho re-trademarked the 1998 design as Zilla, this does not undo the licensing for the 1998 film. Zilla's incarnation in the 1998 film is still legally called "Godzilla" and the film retains Godzilla's copyright. However, Toho has mandated that any future incarnations of the character will be listed under the name "Zilla."
- Zilla's attack on New York in 1998 is actually canon with the Godzilla series. In the beginning of GMK, members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force state that a giant monster recently attacked New York City and that the American experts claim that the monster was Godzilla, though the Japanese doubt it.
- Zilla made appearances in the 1998 video games Godzilla: Trading Battle and Godzilla Generations, under the name "Godzilla (USA)".
- Zilla was considered to appear in Godzilla Unleashed, but was scrapped for fear of fan backlash. Zilla did not make another official appearance in any media until its appearance in the comic book series Godzilla: Rulers of Earth in 2013.
- Toho told TriStar that their version of Godzilla must have three rows of dorsal spines on its back, not eat humans, be created by radiation, and not die at the end of the film, which are specifications that Toho always gives to companies to whom they sell the rights to Godzilla. This time, Toho said that TriStar's Godzilla must also be fast and agile. Designer Patrick Tatapoulos was given these instructions and created Zilla based on them. Toho was not pleased with the radical redesign of their monster, but permitted the design anyway. TriStar managed to sidestep the requirement that their monster must not die in the end by leaving one of its offspring alive.
- Since Zilla reproduces asexually, it technically possesses both male and female reproductive structures. Zilla is always referred to as male in the film because Toho forbid Godzilla from being referred to as female, and is officially considered a male monster. According to both producer Dean Devlin and Toho themselves, Zilla is still a male with the ability to reproduce asexually. Despite this requirement, Patrick Tatapoulos has admitted that he placed female genitalia on Zilla's CGI model.
- Patrick Tatapoulos says he designed Zilla to appear majestic and imposing. He gave it a pronounced underbite inspired by the character Shere-Khan from The Jungle Book, and humanoid shoulders and arms as a tribute to the original design of Godzilla.
- Zilla was portrayed by suit actor Kurt Carley in some scenes, while in others it was portrayed by an animatronic and 3-D CGI models.
- Despite the inglorious portrayal of his monster in Godzilla: Final Wars, Patrick Tatapoulos claimed that he was honored that his monster appeared in a Japanese Godzilla film while he attended the movie's premiere.
- Zilla's roar is created by combining Godzilla's roar from 1962-1975 with elephant sounds and vocal effects performed by Frank Welker.
- Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin did not intend Zilla to have any breath weapon at all but gave Zilla a flammable power breath to please fans after polls showed fans demanded it.
- Even though Zilla may appear more dinosaurian than Godzilla, Zilla is actually a mutated iguana while Godzilla is a prehistoric creature.
- TriStar originally planned to make a trilogy of American Godzilla films, which would have starred Zilla's only surviving offspring fighting other monsters. Due to the negative reception of the 1998 film, these sequels were shelved in favor of an animated series, which actually received acclaim among fans.
- In Godzilla: Final Wars, Zilla was intentionally made to look like poor CGI to mock the effects in the 1998 film.