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After bizarre attacks on a Japanese freighter, first the French then
the U.S. learn of the existence of an apparent modern "dinosaur". When
it's suspected that radiation from nuclear weapons testing in French
Polynesia may have instead produced the monster, biological radiation
specialist Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is called to the
scene. While investigating the monster's path of destruction, a new
sighting arrives--just off the coast of New York City!
It's no secret that Godzilla has been much maligned. Even Fangoria
editor Tony Timpone stated in an editorial that he thought it sucked,
and he's usually willing to give movies the benefit of the doubt. The
reasons why director Roland Emmerich's version of Godzilla is hated are
as varied as people stating opinions. But I tend to think that there is
also a strong bandwagon effect with this film that will be tempered by
time. There are already signs of a number of people giving it a second
look and lessening the severity of their criticism.
The chief complaint seems to come from a very vocal but relatively
small crowd of fanboy purists--they dislike that Godzilla is different
here. In the Japanese films, made by the Toho production company,
Godzilla is a guy in a rubber suit who stomps on models of buildings
and such. He tends to lumber, as irrelevant military attacks on him
provide pretty fireworks. Most Godzilla films feature him fighting some
other monster, "professional wrestling" style, and Godzilla arbitrarily
falls down and gets back up as he is attacked and attacks with various
"death rays" from his mouth, eyes, etc. Now that might sound like I
don't like the typical Godzilla film, but that's not true. I like them
quite a bit, but a big part of the reason why is that most of them are
very cheesy. I'm a fan of bizarre cheese/camp, and you get tons of that
in Godzilla films.
But I'm not a purist. To me, there's no good reason why Emmerich's
Godzilla needs to be similar to the Toho incarnations, which in fact
are often quite different from and inconsistent with each other, too.
At this point, I see Godzilla more as a recurring character type--think
of the various instantiations of Dracula or Frankenstein throughout the
20th Century. The Toho films can't really be seen as chapters in a
single, long story. But whether their arguments are wrong or not, the
fanboy purists are at least noisy and prolific, and too many people are
If Emmerich would have given us a guy in a rubber suit, acting just
like the Toho Godzillas (not "Godzilla"), with the typical
gobbledy-gook of a Toho script, this film would have bombed even worse
(if we can call a 100 million dollar film that made a profit a "bomb")
and the fanboys would have still found something to complain about.
Even though I love the Toho Godzilla films, too, we can't deny that
they do not tend to be bestsellers on video in the U.S., despite the
fact that they're readily available for purchase.
So what Emmerich gives us instead is an epic, expensive-looking film
that spans a number of genres, features more coherent dialogue and
subplots than a typical Toho Godzilla film, and showcases a redesigned,
mostly cgi cast of monsters, where Godzilla looks and behaves much more
like a "real" giant, mutant lizard. For those of us who are not
purists, who do not care if our opinions match the majority, and who
evaluate films on all or their technical and artistic levels, it's
difficult to deny that Godzilla has many merits.
For example, the cinematography in this film is gorgeous. The sound
design is superb and the soundtrack (score and songs) works well with
the film. All of the action sequences, and they comprise a large
percentage of the film, are expertly staged--Emmerich doesn't resort to
darkness, blur-cams and overly quick cuts like many other directors.
It's always easy to follow the narrative during action scenes, it's
always easy to see what's going on, and it's always coherent. That goes
for the non-action scenes, too--the entire film is ingeniously designed
in terms of the progression from one sequence to another. Also, the cgi
is amazing--it's often difficult to tell where it stops and
But the story is great, too. Broderick's Tatopoulos is an attractive
anti-hero, a nerdish scientist who solve dilemmas with his professional
knowledge. The other hero is Jean Reno as Philippe Roache, a humorously
enigmatic French "insurance agent". The obligatory romantic subplot,
involving Tatopoulos and Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo) surprisingly
avoids clichés, and Timmonds provides a launching pad for an
all-too-honest satire of the media.
Satire is high up on Emmerich's agenda. Godzilla not only satirizes the
media, but the military, New York/New Yorkers, film critics, and even
monster movies. While the film is simultaneously giving us a lot of
genres--sci-fi, horror, adventure, war film, drama, etc. the most
unexpected motif is the almost cartoonish, spoof-like humor. Godzilla
is more frequently laugh-out-loud funny that anyone expected it to be.
It's not just one-liners and overt jokes, although those are certainly
present, but the amped up intentional absurdity of situations such as
the final taxi cab "chase".
Even if you think that Godzilla has some internal problems as an
artwork (and I agree that there is a slight clunkiness in parts of the
narrative flow--it caused me to subtract a point), there's no way it
deserves the trashing it's received so far. This is at least a
well-made film on a technical level, and if you have any taste for
slightly campy sci-fi/monster flicks, you should find much to enjoy
Tags for Godzilla Full Movie
, Jean Reno
, Maria Pitillo
, Matthew Broderick
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