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