I originally wrote this review on May 20, 1998, not long after I watched this “summer blockbuster.”
The momentous day has finally arrived! Roland Emmerich’s "Godzilla" has finally hit the big screen in all of its reptilian glory. Trailers for this movie have been up and running for over a year now, and the past few weeks have had us bombarded with television commercials from Taco Bell with that little Mexican dog, hoping to cash in on this film’s inevitable box office success. But now the wait is over and the film has finally hit the big screen. Everyone is waiting to see if the movie will suck in the biggest opening in box office history and outdo “Titanic” as the highest grossing movie of all time…
What can I tell you? “Godzilla” sucks! I even wrote it up on the dry erase board in the main hall of my college dorm for everyone to see:
People need to be warned because, unlike “Titanic,” this was not worth the wait. For me, this was a very depressing cinematic experience and one of those movies where the trailers for coming attractions (in this case “X-Files - Fight the Future,” “Lethal Weapon 4” and “The Mask of Zorro”) were far more entering than the main event. I read a review somewhere that quoted one patron saying that it made “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” look like “Citizen Kane.” I couldn’t agree more, and I liked “Jurassic Park: The Lost World,” a movie many consider to be one of the worst Steven Spielberg has ever directed.
Where do I start? The characters were all clichés, barely registering as humans. Kevin Dunn plays the military commander who is always in a bad mood and barking out orders, Michael Lerner is your typically clueless mayor, and Matthew Broderick portrays the nerdy scientist who is the polar opposite of Ferris Bueller. Maria Pitillo (who looks a lot like Heather Graham) was cute, but her television reporter character really belongs in a sitcom instead of a movie like this.
Maybe I should blame this on the direction of Roland Emmerich, a director who never seems to understand just how cheesy his movies are. “Independence Day” tried to be the next “Star Wars,” but it ended up being an overproduced B-movie. Still, it’s a classic of American cinema when you compare it to an overhyped mess like “Godzilla.”
There's a scene in the beginning of the movie where three fishing boats are pulled backwards underwater into the water - a direct rip off of “Jaws.” Now on one hand I liked how Emmerich was never quick to show the giant mutated lizard, but on the other hand the reference “Jaws” came to illustrate all the things that “Godzilla” unforgivably lacks: great actors, strong character and a good storyline. Special effects by themselves can’t save a movie, especially one that’s as crappy as this one.
Furthermore the music score by David Arnold was way too much, and less could have been a lot more. In fact, everything about this movie was way too overblown, robbing it of whatever suspense it could ever have hoped to generate. There were moments where things did quiet down, and that was a relief and also showed some promise that this movie might actually become exciting to watch. But then the screen became overwhelmed with countless explosions and massive destruction which we have seen in far too many movies to keep track of. Heck, the special effects in those movies are infinitely better than any in “Godzilla.” Trust me; the money is not up there on the screen.
Producer Dean Devlin and Emmerich appear to be big New York haters as they again lay waste to the city’s most famous monuments like they did in “Independence Day.” But then again, New York seems to be the target of destruction this summer judging from the trailers I have seen for movies like “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon.”
Now for Godzilla himself (or herself if you are not sure). When we do finally get to see the big lizard, it really proves to be nothing more than a big special effect. The more you are aware of this, the less threatening Godzilla becomes, and the action sequences end up lacking a lot of friction. I really loathe digital imaging and effects because they are too obvious on the big screen. In retrospect, I would have preferred seeing a guy in a suit instead.
There's one moment where Godzilla jumps into the ocean, and it looks like it was lifted directly from a scene in “Alien Resurrection.” Originality is not in existence in films these days, but what else is new? I did not go in expecting a great movie, but I was at least hoping it would be exciting and intense. It was neither.
Furthermore, the look of Godzilla was nothing particularly impressive or horrifying. It looked like a cross between a Tyrannosaurus Rex that had an amazing growth spurt and the kind of lizard I saw crawling all over the place in Ibiza. Once again, originality is nonexistent and we have “Jurassic Park” all over again.
The only part that really scared me some was when the main characters discovered all the eggs Godzilla had lain in Madison Square Garden. What could we expect to see when they hatched? But hatched they did, and they all came out looking like Velociraptors or Velociraptor wannabes.
You'd think after a film like “Independence Day” which was a huge hit worldwide but not exactly a critical success that the filmmakers would learn from their mistakes and make a better movie. But no! We get one that’s even worse and yet is still bound to make tons of money. But having seen “Godzilla,” I am more than confident that it will not dethrone “Titanic” as the all-time box office champ. Hey Tri-Star Pictures! Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!
A lot of people say that James Cameron is a big egomaniac and a jerk to his cast and crew on each and every movie he has directed. Maybe he is, claiming that he can make these kinds of movies better than everyone else. But after “Godzilla” ended, I think Cameron can brag all he wants about that until he makes a tremendously crappy movie like this one. I don't care how bad you thought the dialogue was in “Titanic;” “Godzilla” is the bottom of the barrel in the screenplay department. How many writers did it take to come up with this script anyway?
And, of course, we have the obligatory ending where Madison Square Garden is destroyed, but for some bizarre and unexplained reason there’s an egg that was somehow undamaged (go figure). The baby burst out of the egg just as the movie faded to black, and I imagined a lot of audience members probably thought the following when they saw it:
"Oh no! It's a baby!!!"
But I just stared at the screen and thought to myself:
"Oh no! It's a set up for a sequel!! SAVE US NOW!!!"
Just how many times can you destroy New York in the movies anyway?