Godzilla [1998, Devlin & Emmerich]



This reviewer is forced to admit that this film far exceeded his expectations. Granted, those expectations were rather low to begin with, but that should not detract from the film.

The movie starts pretty much as you would expect - huge radioactive footprints appear in Panama and Jamaica, leading from the Pacific and Carribean to the Atlantic, and within half an hour (after an extremely corny scene where an old fisherman is told All you'll catch is a cold while fishing in the East River) Godzilla is stomping Manhattan, as shown in the trailer.

This much we have worked out for ourselves - a predictable SPFX-filled stomp-fest monster-flick.

And this is where the movie gets interesting.

Matthew Broderick ( ), playing a Radiation scientist whose name nobody can pronounce, decides out of the blue to subject a sample of the creature's blood to a hormone-based over-the-counter pregnancy test - and discovers that Godzilla is pregnant. He later mentions that the creature was hoarding food, probably for soon-to-hatch offspring, but it would have made FAR more sense plot-wise to mention this in the scene where he actually does the test!

Anyway, while the US military throws its hi-tech gadgets into the fray against Godzilla's might, it is left to Broderick's scientist and Jean Reno's French SDCE team to secretly infiltrate Manhatten island and locate the creature's nest before its eggs hatch. If this sounds familiar, it is because this flick borrows from every monster movie between The Beast From 10,000 Fathoms to Gremlins !


With such a huge SPFX budget, it is little wonder that the Producers were forced to have a no stars, just talent policy in casting - but it seems to have paid off.

It is good to see Hank Azaria (Herman's Head,The Simpsons) in a larger role than he usually gets - his cameo in Great Expectations was almost as much a highlight as seeing Ms Paltrow in a state of undress!

Also, Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo are well-suited to each other; they are both so baby-faced you would think they are high-school kids rather than people in their late 20s! Broderick's character is nicknamed Worm Guy because the mutants he worked with before were Chernobyl earthworms - and this nickname is oddly fitting, because he makes this reviewer think of a certain farmboy nicknamed Wormie!

The real star of the film, however, is the new-look Godzilla. Devlin and Emmerich threw away Toho's Allosaurus look, and even had characters rule out the possibility on-screen. Instead, Godzilla is now a giant Iguana, mutated by radiation from nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

The new-look Godzilla offspring owe more to Spielberg's velociraptors than Toho's Godzooky. This makes for better action, certainly, but also illustrates the difference between the two cultures' take on Godzilla films. To the Japanese, Big G is a heroic defender - witness the recent Japanese version, where the evil white man (tm) seeks to destroy Japan before it can control the world economy, and only Godzilla can save them.

Devlin & Emmerich, on the other hand, have removed all Japanese origins from their storyline and blamed the creature's radiation mutation on the French. In comparison the original Nippon creators blamed America - they take Hiroshima to heart, and ignore Pearl Harbour. Moralising aside, the yanks simply turned the story into an excuse for lots of big explosions.

But in the end, this reviewer has to admit that compared to the Toho originals, and Hollywood epics of comparable scope, this is an excellent movie. It lacks the political undertones of the Japanese films, and the pretensions of Titanic - which won 11 Oscars not due to acting or scripting, but because money was thrown at the screen!

Godzilla is a straightforward action-adventure/giant monster movie, and is completely honest about it. And if you like action, adventure and giant monsters, this is the film for you!

Rating: 70%

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