In the computer-generated world of '90s special effects, that floppy
monster is long gone. In his place we have a truly fearsome lizard with
no heart, no personality, and no compassion. Where the fabled Godzilla of
old was more amusing and sympathetic, sort of a Barney's Badass Brother,
the new Godzilla is more akin to one of the cast members from Jurassic
Park. Not that this is a surprise. That's the whole point, isn't it,
of resurrecting him from the old days of stop-motion animation and introducing
him to all the technological wonders of late 20th-century Hollywood? We
want to make him scarier, bigger, more authentic, more real. Well
. . . so he is, but something of him has been lost along the way.
I think the first mistake made by writer/director Roland Emmerich and
co-writer Dean Devlin is to make this a human drama. Godzilla is
and always was a cartoon--at least to Americans. Even if the Japanese originators
intended him to be fearsome and realistic, the reason he had such a cult
following among us baby boomers is that the effects were so hokey. So now
that we have the effects at the ready, we must infuse the script with more
humor. There is some there. But not enough.
Not that Matthew Broderick doesn't do a good job with what he's given.
Broderick is great for comedy, and could have had a lot more laugh-out-loud
moments if only they were there. He plays Nick Tatopoulos, a biologist working
for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, analyzing new species created by
radiation. And he's got a whopper here. His ex-girlfriend Audrey (Maria
Pitillo) is a newswoman who wants to lauch a career, and along with a photojournalist
called "Animal" (Hank Azaria), she uses her former relationship
with Nick to get an inside exclusive.
The movie is basically spent in New York City with the big beast looming
and everyone either chasing or being chased by him. His size seems to vary
from about 10 stories to about 100 stories high, and no weapons in the current
U.S. arsenal seem to have any effect. After he is thought to be vanquished,
our friends find a nest with about a zillion eggs, and the problem is multiplied.
Despite a long dead spot in the middle, this movie is reasonably entertaining. In addition to Broderick, Azaria also adds much needed humor, and there is plenty of high-tech warfare with the beast. If you like your movies big, loud, and shallow, you'll be like a pig in slop. If you remember the old Godzilla movies, you might be a little disappointed with what amounts to Jurassic Park in New York City. Of course I don't expect the '90s Godzilla to look or act like the '60s version. But at least he could have kept those beautiful bedroom eyes. ***
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