Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The big guy stomps through Manhattan
GODZILLA (1998). Director: Roland Emmerich.

Supposedly Godzilla purists really hate this American version of the Big Green Galoot, but who cares? For all of its flaws -- and there are many -- this Godzilla is still much better and much more entertaining, and certainly better to look at, than most of the Japanese Godzilla films put together [admittedly I have not seen all of the modern-day Godzilla films, but the ones I have seen are not terribly good. Also I must qualify that the original Gojira is much better than the many sequels]. This Godzilla is a new species, a mutated hybrid created by atomic fall out. It still roars like the original Godzilla, more or less, but has a new sleek look instead of the dopey one generally used in the Japanese films. Godzilla has a terrific and dramatic opening theme by David Arnold, and one could argue that the rest of the movie doesn't measure up to it. However ...

The movie is done somewhat tongue-in-cheek, an approach that sort of makes all the dramatic build-up and top-notch special effects work seem a bit overdone, were the effects not so splendidly eye-popping at times. One very irritating element to the movie is that the stupid characters in the film worry about minor issues when there's a gargantuan monster on the loose. When Audrey (Maria Pitillo) and old boyfriend Niko (Matthew Broderick) run into each other, they hardly mention the monster even though it would be the uppermost thought of every person on Manhattan Island! In keeping with the unfortunate "lightness" of the tone, the deaths that had to be caused by the monster are underplayed to a ridiculous degree.

But Godzilla certainly has its moments. There's the great scene in Madison Square Garden when the big guy's eggs hatch (Godzilla reproduces asexually; no wonder he's ticked off!) and Broderick and company have to escape from dozens of mini-Godzillas before a bomb goes off! Then there's the climax with the furious Godzilla chasing the protagonists down the streets of Manhattan and onto a bridge where they nearly become his lunch. Nothing like these sequences has ever appeared in any other Godzilla films that I've seen. The monster's rampage through Manhattan when he first arrives is also memorable. Up against the monster, the actors in this, while mostly competent or better, haven't really got a chance.

Verdict: If thirty minutes or so had been left on the editing room floor, and some of the sillier scenes excised as well, this would have been a real contender. As it is, quite entertaining. ***.

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