In 1983, Steve Miner proposed to make and direct an American Godzilla film, and Toho approved of the plan. Toho agreed to let Miner develop a conceptualization of his film and begin seeking for backing from Hollywood studios. Miner started by hiring Fred Dekker to write a screenplay and William Stout to develop concept sketches. Stout based his Godzilla design on a prototype developed and constructed by paleontologist Steve Czerkas and even made a teaser poster for the film, depicting Godzilla spitting atomic death on the Golden Gate Bridge. Dave Stevens developed numerous storyboards based on the Godzilla designs.
Miner contacted some of the biggest names in Hollywood special effects at the time. Many of them were invited to a special screening of the original Japanese version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. Rick Baker was contacted to develop a cable-operated Godzilla head for close-up shots, and Jim Danforth was set to animate stop motion, with David Allen set to head the animation team. Bids were also requested from ILM and Dream Quest.
Miner also wanted to do this film in 3D. Although producers like Jon Peters and Keith Barish expressed interest in the film, Miner's projected budget of $30 million drove the studios away. The big Hollywood studios refused to spend so much money on what they considered a "children's film." By the end of 1984, Miner finally gave up trying to get the film into production.
A meteorite crashes into a US SDI defense satellite orbiting the Earth. The collision causes the satellite to launch a nuclear warhead into the South Pacific. The resulting atomic explosion causes a huge reptilian creature to stir. A Japanese fishing ship is lost on its way to San Francisco. The ship is later found, badly damaged and burned and is impounded by US authorities for study. San Francisco Chronicle reporter Dana Martin sneaks past the armed guards and onto the wreck. She finds a prehistoric trilobite lying on the ship, but is startled when a dying Japanese fisherman lurches out of the shadows; his dying words are "Godzilla".
Martin takes the trilobite to paleontologist Gerald Balinger, who doubts the worm's authenticity until he examines it. Elsewhere, on Oto Island, near Taihiti, US Special Forces troops watch as a huge creature destroys a native village, roasting the buildings with its fiery breath.
Closer to home, off the coast of Mexico, Navy Colonel Peter Daxton heads the investigation of a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine. Daxton lost his eye years ago during a spy mission. The man who claimed his eye, KGB agent Boris Kruschov, is watching the American recovery efforts from a nearby boat. Kruschov lost a hand in the same fight that cost Daxton his eye, and the Russian now sports a retractable steel blade where his hand should be. The KGB is not really interested in the sub; they want two proto-type missiles that sank with the vessel. The missiles are experimental 'Dragon' anti-fission devices, designed to counter nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for the KGB, Daxton's team recovers the warheads and takes them back to the States. The missiles will be held in impound until the US and Soviet governments have mediated some sort of agreement through the UN. A videotape is also salvaged, recorded by the sub's external cameras and showing the vessel under attack by some sort of reptilian monster.
His mission a success, Daxton returns home to San Francisco. His young son Kevin is waiting for him, an amateur magician and escape artists with a fascination for lizards. Daxton is not home for long before the CIA comes for him. Daxton, Kevin and Gerald Balinger are whisked away to Baja, where the carcass of a huge lizard-like creature has washed ashore. Daxton recognizes it as the creature that attacked the Soviet sub. It must have been killed when the Ruskies fired missiles in an attempt to save their vessel. Balinger determines that the creature is some sort of dinosaur, but the military dismisses the idea, believing it to be extra-terrestrial in origin and putting a "top secret" label on everything as they set the wheels in motion for a cover-up. The military decides to ship the carcass to the Presidio in San Francisco. Saddened by the dismissal of his theory, Balinger tells Kevin about the legend of Godzilla, a mythical fire-breathing dragon known to the ancient Japanese.
Off the California coastline, a second reptile, this one far larger, surfaces and destroys an oilrig and a tanker.
The dead reptile is stored under guard in a waterfront warehouse in San Francisco for study. The researchers soon begin getting sick, showing all the earmarks of radiation poisoning. Balinger theorizes that the dead creature was like some sort of living atomic reactor, a proto-saur predating even the dinosaurs, with amazing regenerative abilities. He also believes that since the sea disasters are still continuing that there is another of these creatures. A larger one. Heading for San Francisco.
Kruschov, in an attempt to force Daxton to return the Soviet missiles, kidnaps Kevin. The Russian takes Kevin to a KGB hideout in the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Using his knowledge of magic tricks, Kevin escapes his bounds and tries to run away from Kruschov. Just then, Godzilla appears, battering the Bridge with a swipe of his tail, apparently killing the boy and the KGB agent chasing him. Godzilla menaces the cars trapped on the bridge and panic crawls across San Francisco. Army tanks blast Godzilla, but their attack only provokes him. Godzilla destroys the bridge and comes ashore. His path of destruction levels Ghiradelli Square before Blackhawk Cobra attack helicopters arrive to attack the beast. Meanwhile, Daxton and Balinger hatch a plan to lure Godzilla out of the city and destroy him with the captured Soviet missiles.
F-16 fighters engage Godzilla in Union Square, and during the battle, Godzilla actually grabs up a cable car and swings it at the jets like a flail, battering one from the sky to crash into the Chronicle building. Dana Martin and Balinger head for Alcatraz Island, where they intend to play a recording of the dead reptile taken from the Russian video tape to lure Godzilla to their position. For his part, Daxton loads the missiles onto a Cobra helicopter. As the helicopter begins to lift off, Kruschov arrives, with Kevin. The KGB agent again demands the restoration of the 'Dragon' missiles, and the two spies are soon again locked in battle as the helicopter flies to Alcatraz. Kruschov has Daxton hanging from the landing struts of the helicopter and is about to cut Daxton's grasping fingers when the spy kicks the Russian, knocking him from the helicopter. The KGB agent lands in Godzilla's palm even as the helicopter careens out of control and crashes. Godzilla stares at the Communist spy for a moment, then incinerates him with a blast of atomic fire.
Godzilla goes on a rampage, burning the city with his breath. It is obvious that the beast is looking for something. Godzilla finds the corpse and utters a terrible roar of anguish and rage. Just as he begins to turn back towards the city, Martin and Balinger play the recording. Godzilla turns, heading toward the prison island. Daxton arrives, dragging one of the Soviet 'Dragon' missiles with him. The missile is loaded onto a proto-type attack helicopter, the Scorpion-78. The weapons officer falls out of the helicopter as it takes off, and Daxton, piloting the helicopter, entrusts launching the missile to his stowaway son Kevin. As Godzilla opens his mouth to roar, a sobbing Kevin (who had come to sympathize with the monster) fires the 'Dragon' down the dragon's throat. Godzilla drops, in mortal agony. As the helicopter banks away from the monster, Kevin falls out, but Godzilla catches the boy, setting him down on the island's shore before taking a final, painful breath.
- Interestingly, if this film had been made, the same team of creators envisioned making another film called "Rodan 3D."
- All three American Godzilla films, (not counting the 1998 film) Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3-D, Godzilla vs. the Gryphon, and Legendary Picture's Godzilla, took place on San Francisco even if it was partial.
- Both this film and the next attempt at an American Godzilla film, Godzilla vs. the Gryphon, were not made due to budget issues.