Godzilla (1998, Monster Action Movie) – 6/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Matthew Broderick: Dr. Niko Tatopoulos
Jean Reno: Philippe Roaché
Maria Pitillo: Audrey Timmonds
Hank Azaria: Victor "Animal" Palotti
Producer: Dean Devlin
Writer (Story): Ted Elliott
Writer (Story): Terry Rossio
Writer (Story): Dean Devlin
Writer (Story): Roland Emmerich
Writer (Screenplay): Dean Devlin
Writer (Screenplay): Roland Emmerich
Director: Roland Emmerich

Godzilla (1998)

Um, well… Radioactive fallout from nuclear tests in the 1980s has transformed a tiny lizard into a terrifying, 1000-foot-tall monster which then decides to take refuge on Manhattan Island, New York.


Want to criticize a movie till your typing fingers ache? This is the perfect film for you, the acting, script and story are not at all good. If you also want to see the most spectacular monster movie ever created with astonishing visual effects and thrilling chase sequences, this is also the movie for you and though Godzilla was generally slated by all contemporary critics, director Roland Emmerich’s genuine talent still shines through. His build-up to the full Godzilla reveal is brilliantly executed and, subsequently, any sequence with Godzilla himself in is thrilling and spectacular. Shame about the rest.

This movie contains adult dialogue, mild swear words and unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

The biggest problem leveled at the film is that it had so much hype and promised so much but that it did not live up to that hype. But is this the case? What were the promises? The trailers famously boasted "SIZE DOES MATTER" implying that this film would boast a bigger monster spectacle than previously delivered. Everything prior to the release of the movie suggested that everything would be BIG. So what was the biggest monster spectacle previously delivered? At the hands of the Japanese monster movie makers behind the original Godzilla franchise, Tokyo was the favourite destination for destruction. The main problem with most of the destruction sequences in these movies was that it looked terribly unreal, it was made with a man in a suit stamping on cardboard buildings and it looked like a man in a suit stamping on cardboard buildings. What monster mayhem had Hollywood delivered of recent years? Well, the standard bearers (and almost certainly the reason Godzilla was green-lighted for production) are the two [Jurassic Park] movies, Jurassic Park itself introducing the concept of completely believable dinosaurs and The Lost World taking it a step further by having a T-Rex wander through San Diego in a completely believable manner. So, this Godzilla movie would have to be at least as realistic as the two Jurassic Park movies special effects-wise and would have to cause major destruction to a major city, it being a Hollywood movie, Godzilla would have to stomp all over a major US city.

So, with these two main objectives or promises in mind, how does the movie fare? The Godzilla effects are generally completely fantastic and look just like a 2-300 foot tall lizard is stomping all over the place with very, very realistic destruction in its wake. And the city? The City that Never Sleeps, New York City, Manhattan Island to be precise. Director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin deliver on their trailer promises with three stunning chase sequences through the streets and buildings of Manhattan Island. Just in case Godzilla running down Manhattan streets and through and over Manhattan buildings wasn’t spectacular enough, they allow the military presence to blow great holes in buildings (clumsily they nearly always miss the large lizard) and frame Godzilla with orange tracer bullet streams. This is spectacular Hollywood movie making at its most ambitious and best. Each of these three sequences benefits from astonishing special effects, high excitement levels and jaw-dropping spectacle. Thankfully, the film closes with one of these sequences, arguably the best one.

Well, this sounds great! So why have the critics been so harsh? Sadly, it is not difficult to see why the movie has been roundly panned. Specifically the acting is astonishingly bad and the script does not give them anything worthwhile to say anyway. These problems can be laid at the doors of director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, they also wrote the script. Looking at Emmerich’s films you can see that he does not generally get the best out of his actors. His overwhelming interest is obviously in the technical side though he certainly attempts to injects moments of character. He generally appears to rely on the natural charisma of his actors. For instance, Universal Soldier required Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lungdren to act like robots which is something they do all the time anyway. Stargate was rather more ambitious story and plot-wise but again, Emmerich fell back on the natural charisma of Kurt Russell and much-practised yuppie-persona of James Spader. Independence Day relied upon the natural charisma of Will Smith, upon the natural likeability of Bill Pullman (not upon his considerable acting ability) and upon the character Jeff Goldblum played in Jurassic Park. Elsewhere in the casts of all of these movies, the actors and actresses had a difficult time saying their generally daft lines with any skill. Sadly in this movie, producer Dean Devlin does not come up with the goods in terms of casting. The nominated lead role is filled by Matthew Broderick who is typically and embarrassingly wooden throughout. Maria Pitillo is pretty but her performance as an awful character is poor. The film would be instantly improved simply by taking out any speeches over five words their characters have. Hank Azaria tries hard but is wasted. This leaves Jean Reno, a charismatic French actor of considerable brilliance who has already performed on a par with (Gary Oldman in Leon) or outshined completely Hollywood stars (Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible, Patricia Arquette in The Big Blue, Harvey Kietel in The Assassin – Reno played his role in the original ,em>Nikita). He appears to have had a great time making the movie and does nothing to disguise the stupidity of most of his lines. None of the actors really emerge unscathed.

However, all of this said, we need to draw a conclusion. Godzilla does have some bad points, some dreadful points but it does still have good points. The movie does contain three of the greatest and most spectacular chase sequences ever devised. It does deliver more and more realistic monster mayhem than any monster movie before it. It is definitely worth seeing just for these three sequences alone (they do make up a major chunk of the movie – about a third) and, you never know, you just might enjoy the silliness of the rest of the movie aswell. Personally, I really enjoyed it!


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