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movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Hank Azaria, Maria Pitillo, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Arabella Field, Philippe Bergeron

Review by Walter Frith
2½ stars out of 4

Cheer up. This time you won't see the actors lips moving before or after their out of synch dialogue. This production of 'Godzilla' is a high tech marvel from the team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich who brought 'Independence Day' to movie screens in 1996.

Inspired by the revolutionary special effects of 1993's 'Jurassic Park', 'Godzilla', plain and simple, is a popcorn movie that is beyond the high brow realm of major criticism and is one of those movie's that despite the rigid criticism it will receive for its uneven concoction of action and character fluff, still offers the pleasant and familiar cliches of an electrifying monster movie.

A geographical map is displayed during the film's opening credits as we see the South Pacific location of French Polynesia and the nuclear tests being conducted by the French government in and around that region that have been going for some 30 odd years or so and the genetic mutant of the experiments gone awry is, or course, 'Godzilla'. The first sign of his existence comes at the expense of a Japanese boat crew who get demolished one night in the Pacific Ocean and a member of the French Secret Service (Jean Reno), confronts one of the survivors who describes the eerie tale on videotape which later comes out. The initial story is also set up through a scene in Chernobyl, Ukraine where a nuclear containment specialist named Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is measuring the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster on earth worms and discovers that a number of them are 17% larger than they were were before the nuclear fallout and later applies this theory of nuclear contamination to explain the Godzilla phenomenon. Nick is re-assigned from his current exploration of Chernobyl to other locations where signs of the giant lizard appear and eventually come to fulfillment in the Big Apple. New York City is the perfect playground for the monster as Manhattan is an island where the creature can roam at will on either land or in the water.

The New York characters are stereotypical of the city that never sleeps. An aspiring and bubbly attractive young t.v. reporter named Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo) and a camera man name Animal (Hank Azaria) from the station she works at, work together despite the objections of Animal's wife Lucy (Arabella Field) to get involved in the Godzilla frenzy when all hell breaks loose. Audrey is perceived as a sex toy by a sleazy local anchor man (Harry Shearer) who refuses to give her the big break in television reporting she so desperately wants. She and Matthew Broderick's character were old college flames who meet each other during the breaking story and they rekindle their feelings for each other in a somewhat awkward manner.

The NYC Mayor (Michael Lerner) and the leader of a crack military operation (Kevin Dunn) exchange sparring words of conflict over the handling of Godzilla's destruction and the movie glides along, somewhat unevenly, during the attempts at dialogue the all around characters exchange.

There are many scenes delivered in much of the same way they were showcased in 'Independence Day'. There are several scenes where the military men go after the beast by air power and bombard it with gunfire, missiles and other tactics as we witnessed in the attack of the mother ship in ID.

Roland Emmerich directs 'Godzilla' in a typical way we've seen from time to time where the creator doesn't want you to see the beast in its full form as Steven Spielberg demonstrated in 'Jaws' where the shark wasn't completely visible until well into its running time. We see Godzilla's tail, his foot, his eye, his head, all edited in quick and scattered shots of temptation before the big show. His rampage through New York City is furious and heavy as several landmark buildings are destroyed and Godzilla marks his territory with the next generation of lizards in the form of unhatched eggs which work their way into the plot rather well to give the film some meaning in its second half.

The screenplay by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin isn't really clever enough to offer any real surprises. The film is an all out display of big studio dollars spent during the first of many summer months to draw a large crowd of movie goers who hopefully will enjoy a film that based on its well established name, will self by itself.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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