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Mar 8, 2008

My Old Reviews #2 Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla: We're off to see the lizard...

Originally published in Festivale Online 1998.

Recently I decided that science fiction movies, if they're worth considering at all, can be divided into two simple categories. SF films and SF eye-candy. Godzilla is definitely in the latter category. It is pure eye candy. No forebrain required. That isn't to say that it isn't fun, but a moron can enjoy it as easily as can a genius.

Nico Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is a scientist studying earthworms around Chernobyl. He's grabbed by the US military to examine a site in Panama where giant lizard footprints have been found. On the thinnest of pretexts, the giant mutant marine iguana is heading for Manhattan Island, followed by Nick, the US military and a hip and suave bunch of French secret service guys lead by the ever amusing and watchable Jean Reno, who is to French movies what Chow-Yun Fat is to Hong Kong cinema.

That's all you need to know, really. There are some nice digs at the media and at America in general, a lot of expensive real estate gets turned into landfill and there's a climax reminiscent of the Ray Harryhausen ending to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, albeit with some more sophisticated special effects. Jokes punctuate the movie, which is only to be expected of a flick in which a giant Galapagos lizard detrimentally renovates the Chrysler Building. The dumbest thing to do would be to take the premise seriously. That hasn't worked well since the original 1954 Gojira (the version without the Raymond Burr additions). It only worked then because the mass destruction echoed Japan's experience during World War 2 and the idea of a demon being raised by black science rather than black magic was still new.

This Godzilla is played for laughs and spectacle. At that level it works tolerably well, though I would've liked more edge to the satire.

And I am glad that they decided not to kill off Jean Reno's character. He was the best human actor in the film.

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