Sunday 22 April 2018

Movie Review: Godzilla (1998)

A rampaging monster movie, Godzilla enjoys some moments but is otherwise overlong and underpowered.

Radiation caused by nuclear weapons testing on South Pacific islands causes the mutation of a lizard into a building-sized monster. A Japanese fishing vessel is attacked and sunk, then the creature leaves footprints in Panama and Jamaica. Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), an expert in the long term effects of radiation exposure, is recruited to join scientist Dr. Elsie Chapman (Vicki Lewis) and Col. Anthony Hicks (Kevin Dunn) to understand and subdue the beast.

Finally Godzilla emerges onto the docklands of Manhattan causing chaos and carnage before suddenly disappearing. Nick's ex-girlfriend Audrey (Maria Pitillo) is struggling to break into serious journalism, and along with television cameraman Victor (Hank Azaria) they latch onto the story. Meanwhile a group of French intelligence officers led by Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) join the search.

Hollywood's first attempt to adapt the cautionary legend about the dangers of nuclear armament from its Japanese origins to an American context, Godzilla is a misfire. At an astonishing 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film is endless, the bloat evident in a disjointed script devoid of emotion. The monster itself gets bored and disappears for a long stretch from its own movie, replaced by a gaggle of angry and hungry baby Godzillas.

Director Roland Emmerich co-wrote the script with Dean Devlin, and baked in a fundamental weakness in not providing the gigantic creature with a personality. Neither despicably evil as in Alien nor gradually sympathetic such as King Kong, Godzilla just romps around Manhattan every now and then, and then ridiculously disappears. How a high-rise sized creature can hide underground is just one of the film's many jaw-dropping internal inconsistencies.

With most of the budget obviously dedicated to the bloodless, painless and goreless special effects, the film is hampered by a second-rate cast. Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Hank Azaria would have provided terrific support to a couple of bona fide leading stars. Here they are required to carry the film, and are crushed by the load.

Godzilla takes a long detour for an elaborate set-piece at Madison Square Gardens, a hide-and-seek film-within-a-film featuring hundreds of baby (but still large and nimble) monsters besieging the main characters. From a narrative perspective it's an ill-conceived distraction, but ironically provides some of the movie's most entertaining tongue-in-cheek moments. But regardless, no amount of creatures on the loose is going to save this monstrosity of a movie.

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