Do I have to tell you this movie was all hype and precious little delivery? Was anyone fooled by the 7-DAY-LONG weekend to fudge the opening weekend grosses and opening on as many screens as possible before word of mouth brought the Green One down like a ton of….well, like a ton of mutated lizard?
To be fair, in the Godzilla continuum, this is better than most, if only for having somewhat better effects and an honestly cool looking lizard…oh, if only we saw the whole guy sooner than an hour into the movie. Money shot? There is none.
Incompetence amongst the characters? Sure! Goofy inconsistencies with reality? Of course! But without all the camp of say, watching a giant turtle do high bar gymnastics. By the way, Ford, or whoever provided the cab for this movie, should stand to make a bundle. That is like, supercab. No airbags but totally safe. In my notes I wrote, “It’s nothing if it’s not loud.” I saw it on the best screen in town, with 21 of my closest acquaintances and about 8-10 strangers. LOUD HUGE BOOM YOW. This, I realized, was designed to distract me from the film. As my contacts shattered, I would be unable to see how poorly the CGI effects were matted. I would recognize the voices of all the main people but forget that they mostly come from TV and (with the exception of Broderick) can’t carry a feature, must less a feature starring an inconsistently massive/sorta massive/extra massive T-Rex, er, I mean, Gorilla-Whale. Oh, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer, you guys finally got your raises on the Simpsons, don’t stoop to this. I just kept thinking about how Broderick and Azaria (who both got married during the shoot) could have been home with their beautiful blonde and brainy wives (or me) but instead would be remembered for…Godzilla.
For the cinematically inclined, you will appreciate how many shots were embarrassingly copied from Jurassic Park. “Please please think of that much better movie while you are watching this one!!”
Ever on the watch for shoddy on-set work (my personal pet peeve – if I were hired this crap would NEVER happen!), I’d like to point out the amazing rotating snow-globes, the hideous recycled insert shots, and the magical floating props, always just in reach no matter where the actor is. AND the astounding waterproof video equipment.
I don’t mind giving anything away – if you want to see Godzilla you will regardless of what anyone says, so here goes. They hire an expert (on worms?!) to advise them about this big old lizard that they have not identified as such, and then disregard the second intelligent thing he says in the movie and boot him. He is then made privy to all kinds of information by Jean Reno and well, that’s the good parts. The mayor is played by an actor playing Roger Ebert, I don’t get it – it’s hardly sly. Just dumb, really.
The very pretty Maria Pitillo, great at playing hyper-adorable women no man could ever be mad at, despite being blatantly sexually harassed and resorting to a sitcom scheme to win back her man’s heart, is supposed to be the smart and scrappy one.
I haven’t even gotten to Invasion of the Godzukis yet. They are trapped in a building, uh oh , they might escape into….an abandoned city. Big whoop, let em out. The biology is questionable, the behavior is questionable, and the matte work is even worse.
Now, the didactic part of the review. As most people know, Godzilla (Gojira) was created as a sort of cultural symbol of both the fear of nuclear devastation and the terrible “what if” fears of long-term nuclear usage. Godzilla has been both terrorizer and hero in the past movies, but always with those themes and lessons in mind. I can’t speak for Godzilla 1985 because I can’t recall it. Anyway, so we see this island being bombed by US and these poor sweet iguanas being nuked, helpless victims of mankind’s willy nilly destruction of their habitat, so we are kind of set up to sympathize with the beastie. Add one sweet little biologist concerned with mutations and other problems from nuclear testing, and this is shaping up to be a “Go, Zilla!” type flick. The poor critter (who, as creature design goes, does look pretty cool) swims halfway across the world looking for a safe place to hide and nest, and Matt from Melrose Place (Doug Savant) shoots at it mercilessly.
This continues until the poor beast dies a miserable death, its children killed before its eyes, and the sympathetic biologist and his lovely lady looking at it die painfully, as if that will comfort it. I don’t know. The humans in this film are such idiots that I’m thinking, give him Manhattan, it’s a toilet anyway!
Unlike Roland Emmerich’s and Dean Devlin’s previous effort, Independence Day, our “bad guy” is not a clearly malevolent creature purposefully trashing our planet, but rather a lonely parthenogenetic creation of our OWN MAKING looking for a safe place to hide. It just doesn’t work. Oh, and the jokes are by and large, not all that funny. Pitillo’s room at Azaria’s place (?) has the coolest lamp I have ever seen and that is what I took out of this movie. The set dressers had a great time on this flick and I applaud them trying to flesh out one-dimensional characters with interesting work. Woo hoo! It’s really tragic, because the majority of the performers here are above this kind of material EVERY WEEK ON THEIR RESPECTIVE TV SHOWS.
Humorous trivia: Shearer’s character name, Caiman, is an obscure and I think endangered type of crocodile with a slim wicked snout and a lot of teeth. Ha ha. Broderick’s last name Tatopoulos is the last name of the creature’s designer. Hoo ha. Oh and Azaria’s nickname is Animal – get it? Nature jokes.
I say dollar movie rather than recommending full avoidance because the critter is cool, the lamp is cool, and Doug Savant needs the exposure.
* This movie was originally rated Dollar Movie, which fell between Catch the Network Premiere and Catch it on HBO.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/19/98
Time in minutes 139
Director Roland Emmerich
Studio Sony Pictures