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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 Mark Fleming
3 stars out of 4

Director Roland Emmerich showed a flair for reviving 50's B-movie plots with Independence Day, and here he gives centre-stage to Japanese Sci-Fi's most popular outsized gecko. Following in the gigantic footprints of Steven Speilberg's Jurrasic monsters, Godzilla is much bigger, much sillier, and much more entertaining.

Direct comparisons may be unfair, but it is interesting to note the diversity of these films' explanations for the arrival of their subjects. In Jurassic Park, the revival of extinct creatures was possible by extracting DNA from blood traces in insects preserved in amber. This was how the warning message about man-playing-God was painstakingly established before the mayhem broke loose. Godzilla goes straight for the jugular. French nuclear-tests = mutated Iguana = world domination by carnivorous reptiles. This simple equation is enhanced by state-of-the-art FX and a fair amount of sadistic fun is had at the expense of the US Military and Media machines.

This is full-blown, unrestrained hokum. But there is something intensely gratifying about seeing billion-dollar Military hardware being trampled like toys beneath a petulant child. And against all Godzilla's skyscraper demolishing tantrums, there is Matthew Broderick's dependable scientist, ably abetted by Jean Reno's French Secret Service Agent, who, in time-honoured B-Movie fashion, only have hours to save the world.

Of course the characters are all as 2-dimensional as a Godzilla cartoon strip. Mathew Broderick's radiation expert, Nick, at least plays his scientific nerd without any clich\351d alarmism. Jean Russo's Phillipe gives his usual deliciously taciturn performance.

It has to be said that whenever Godzilla has finished his particular bout of rampaging and sulks off below ground, leaving us with dull squabbling between mayors, reporters, military chiefs and so on, the story becomes flat. But the FX team really have worked wonders, taking many ideas from Jurassic Park, only expanding them. In the former, the ripples bouncing in a glass heralded the T-Rex's appearance. When Godzilla is about to make an entrance, whole office blocks vibrate. The scene where Madison Square Garden is infested with vicious lizards must have alarmed many a New York Rangers' fan.

In a film which is unadulterated low-brow fun, and its protagonists man-eating lizards which are a figment of a scriptwriter's imagination, it is always gratifying to discover scenes which are genuinely suspenseful and terrifying . such as the one where Nick and the French agents are skulking around the pods just as they begin hatching. There are many tongue-in-cheek scenes: Jean Russo blags his way past guards by adopting a classic Elvis impression.

There is nothing intelligent about a movie about a giant lizard running amok through New York. There is nothing subtle about discovering that said lizard reproduces asexually, and that hundreds will arrive within a matter of days. There is nothing boring, either. This whole dumb, anarchic spectacle is hugely entertaining.

Copyright 2001 Mark Fleming

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