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Last updated
December 04, 2002
12:35:25 AM
Godzilla
Face/Off
The Lost World
Volcano

 

Godzilla

r_p_godzilla.jpg (13765 bytes)

Classification: PG-13 (for sci-fi monster action/violence)
 
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Sound Mix: DTS / Dolby Digital / SDDS
Running Time: 140 minutes
 
Cast:
Matthew Broderick - Dr. Niko Tatopoulos
Jean Reno - Philippe Roche
Maria Pitillo - Audrey Timmonds
Hank Azaria - Victor "Animal" Palotti
Kevin Dunn - Colonel Hicks
Arabella Field - Lucy Palotti
Michael Lerner - Mayor Ebert
Double Action Rating Conventional Rating Laughter Utilization (%) BIM Rating (1-10) Antic Level Buffer Zone (1-10)
85 7 ADPCS 10

Unlike a child who tires of playing with a new toy after a short time, Hollywood is destined to inundate us with their newfangled computer special effects in films.   This would be fine for the general public so long as the effects continually improve and serve a meaningful purpose to a storyline.  Unfortunately, for the regular movie buff, effects are still mediocre and storylines fall short.   Fortunately, DA fans can overlook such minor details when they are presented with a computer generated 90 foot radioactive lizard...

Enter Godzilla, a monster tale based on campy Japanese films from the 70's which showcased a powerful beast (clearly a drunk stunt man in a rubber suit) devastating cities (foam buildings.)  To add to the excitement, the monster affectionately named "Godzilla" would fight other monsters with great aplomb, using what looked suspiciously like a combination of Kick-Boxing and Kung-Fu.  I can only guess that people enjoyed watching the films for these reasons, and found great enjoyment in watching this abusive stunt man earn his take home pay.

It's the late 90's now, and much has changed. Godzilla is no longer played by a recovering alcoholic in a suit, but is now generated by a computer, one which seemingly was last used to produce The Lost World.  I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the Godzilla effects crew raided the set of The Lost World and stole their hard drives when they weren't looking. Anyway, the Godzilla crew surely saved some time (and spared themselves any creative thought) by simply modifying the T-Rex images with the "increase scale and maintain aspect ratio" feature.  They also went wild with a common computer feature for generating Godzilla's offspring (Velocoraptor images) by "copying and pasting".   Ain't technology grand? 

You might wonder if the time saved from developing original creatures went into the storyline. Let's see... The film appropriately opens with a Japanese freighter finding itself under attack by some mysterious monster.  Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), a biologist studying the effects of nuclear radiation is called away from a site near Chernobyl to investigate when the wreckage arrives in Tahiti.  He discovers that a sole Japanese survivor witnessed a huge monster which Nick now believes is heading for Manhattan.  After chasing Godzilla to Manhattan, Nick discovers that Godzilla can reproduce asexually and intends to nest there to take over the world (and even Wall Street as later evidenced by Godzilla and his offspring's superior intelligence.)  An original storyline?  I think not.

Godzilla could literally be considered the third installment in the Jurassic Park / Lost World franchise.  How so?  We have a dinosaur like reptile, created by man, that crosses the ocean escaping its original habitat.  It attacks ships on the way.  It chooses a major city (this time New York) to terrorize and step on people.   The animal is capable of reproducing asexually.  There are baby 'zillas aplenty (raptors).  There are documentary and military crews... believe me, the list goes on.

For those of you who scrutinize movie credits, it should come as no surprise that this film was written and directed by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, creators of Independence Day. ID4 was widely criticized for its rehashed plot elements from famous movies. Even so, the film grossed hundreds of millions of dollars.  Thus Devlin and Emmerich decided to pull the same trick this summer by remaking a hit from last summer.  However, they seemingly went too far this time, as the theater receipts for Godzilla fell short of their previous success with ID4

But I especially enjoyed how Devlin and Emmerich took The Lost World's sickening theme of Veloceraptor super intelligence to a deeper, more sarcastic level.  I made it clear in my review of The Lost World that I was sick to my stomach with Speilberg's weak attempt to generate suspense from these omniscient reptiles.  Similarly, I was quite nautious to see these creatures in Godzilla.  But upon further reflection, I now believe that it was Devlin and Emmerich's deliberate intent to poke fun at Spielbergs work by filling the screen with hundreds instead of tens of digital Veloceraptors.  Their underlying message almost says, "If you were gullible enough to enjoy them in The Lost World, let's see if you'll realize how lame they are if we rub them in your face a third time."

There was, however, one aspect of Godzilla that took me pleasantly by surprise.  Unlike The Lost World, Godzilla's characters had no reservations about terminating Godzilla and his baby Veloceraptors with extreme prejudice.  There was no bleeding heart sympathy for the creatures, as no characters ever mentioned protecting them or even felt sorry for killing them (just like in ID4...)  Most important, while a small "admission of guilt" theme was presented by the French special forces team (when admitting their country played a direct role in creating Godzilla through nuclear experiments), there was no advocate for the "creature deserves to be happy and left alone" arguement.  I was astonished by this bold departure from The Lost World and Jurassic Park, and quite frankly, was extremely pleased.

It's too bad Devlin and Emmerich didn't set aside some computer time to crunch out a better storyline to help improve their box office receipts.  Poking fun at other movie's unjustified success is certainly a good thing in my book, and I'm happy to see the trend continue. But regular viewers should expect little from Devlin and Emmerich other than rehashed plots with an over-the-top spin here or there.

It should be noted that there weren't too many "outstanding" bookmarked scenes, with the exception of Grandpa's bionic.  What then, made Godzilla deserve the highest Double Action rating - 4 coughdrops?  I was impressed by the sheer length of the action scenes.  Not since the John Woo film Hard Boiled has any movie displayed such prolonged DA sequences and total disregard for plot and dialog.   By the end of Godzilla, I had actually laughed myself hoarse*.

As for what Devlin and Emmerich will try next, my money's on a King Kong remake within the next few years.  Their computers are just warming up, and they're fresh out of ideas (no surprise there.)   What could make King Kong a better film than Godzilla?   Let's pull that stuntman out of his weekly AA meetings then strap him into a gorilla suit.  Double Action fans would be set for life!

                                        drkpitt

Bookmarked Scenes:

The end of the innocence
The film opens with scenes of iguanas and other reptiles viewing nuclear tests conducted by humans.  One could almost see "tears of sorrow" in their eyes.  There were tears in my eyes...of laughter.
Gophers in the ocean?
Several fishing boats are abruptly pulled under water before they can cut their fishing lines attached to Godzilla.  The rapid movement with which they disappear  reminds me of carrots being pulled underground by Bugs Bunny.
Grandpa's bionic!
As Godzilla first approaches Manhattan, an old man sits fishing at the edge of a pier. Suddenly a huge mound of water hiding Godzilla races toward him.  We suddenly witness an 80+ year old man turn and outrun a raging tidal wave which destroys the pier behind him.  This slow motion action sequence is so ridiculously funny, that only Steve Austin running along side him could have made  it better.
Speechless "Why Me"
The photo journalist "Animal" deliberately tries to get first hand footage of the Godzilla, and is almost stepped on.  During this moment, "Animal"is so frightened and cannot even utter a sound but raises his hands with palms pointing skyward, thus demonstrating a silent "Why Me?".  The answer? Because you asked for it, moron!
Top Gun
Godzilla flees military helicopters in a stunningly long action sequence.  The 'chopper pilots fire missiles and hellfire rounds, but can't seem to lay a bead on him, even with state of the art equipment.  The manner in which Godzilla dodges the onslaught is so hilarious you almost expect him to begin executing barrel roles, flips, and cartwheels.  I only wish the filmmakers overlaid the soundtrack from Top Gun, with Kenny Logins "Danger Zone" music playing in the background.  Where are Maverick and Goose when you need them?
Chronic halitosis
As Godzilla evades the military, he breathes a stream of fire that roasts several pedestrians extra crispy.  Bet they wished Godzilla had a piece of Dentyne Ice before hitting the town...
Cat pounce
Godzilla executes some of his ninja stealth maneuvers learned in the Orient and manages to sneak up behind some helicopters.  He bitch slaps one chopper and then chews up the other.  I'm reminded of a cat that teaches an unsuspecting mouse a lesson of terror.  Whaappppisssssshhhhh!
Got to catch a cab
Dr. Tatopoulos and his group of clowns, fleeing Godzilla in a taxi, (too bad it wasn't rush hour) find themselves turned around heading straight for Godzilla's toe.  Unable to swerve out of the way, the cab lifts off the ground (instead of crushing itself) and takes to the sky (ET, phone home...)   This scene is made even more ridiculous as the sequence is suddenly shot in slow motion (just picture a taxi-cab flying off a lizard toe in slow motion and try not to laugh), which allows DA viewers to execute additional breaths of extreme laughter.  The only element missing is XBC.
Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum
Godzilla chases Dr. Tatopoulos and his band of misfits riding in a taxi cab  into an underground subway entrance under construction. Godzilla, too large to crawl inside, looms outside pouting like a baby and makes a few unsuccessful attempts to snatch them out of the hole.  Incidentally, the scene is reminiscent of Tom and Jerry cartoons, with the special effects shots of Godzilla outside the tunnel looking suspiciously like cartoon animation.
The Hunt for Red October
Military submarines chase Godzilla through the New York harbor.   Godzilla, having rented the famous Tom Clancy flick, proceeds to dodge and maneuver sophisticated torpedoes with aplomb.  In fact, he even plays the same game of chicken from the Clancy novel, and successfully destroys a military sub with its own missle.  Maybe Godzilla should be recruited by the military to teach its captains combat techniques.  
Rotisserie chipmunk
After finally realizing that a torpedo is meant for sinking enemies and not fellow submarines, the military manages to "kill" Godzilla with a torpedo as he tries to escape through the harbor wall.  The shot of Godzilla's stiff body as it rotates about a longitudinal axis reminds one of  a dead stiff Chipmunk that has been placed on the outdoor rotisserie barbecue.  Hey, I bet it tastes like chicken!
Take that, Frenchy!
During a prolonged scene, the Veloceraptors (uh, Zilla babies), dispose of the French special forces team one by one in hilarious "Why Me??" shot after another.  I guess the Veloceraptors don't like French manners or their cuisine.
So sleepy...
Godzilla finds himself trapped on the George Washington bridge, surrounded by military strike forces.  Having been critically wounded by missiles, bullets, and general audience disinterest, Godzilla lays down and dies.  As the onlookers almost shed tears of sorrow, I found myself drowned in tears...of joy.

*Special Notes:

Again, a key DA strategy paid off.  As with our hallmark viewing of "Dante's Peak", a DA cohort and I went to see the film on a weeknight just days before it left the theaters permanently.  Thus we had the entire theater to ourselves, and were free to execute the most prolonged and pronounced laughter we had in a long time. 

Needless to say I was executing full ADPCS on several occasions, most notably during the bookmarked scenes "Grandpa's bionic" and "Got to catch a cab".  Unfortunately, there was no buffer zone, virgin viewers, or even an audience to shock and horrify, but the experience was memorable nonetheless.

Links:

Official Website

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