Godzilla review by Mike Long

Does hype affect our opinion of a movie? Of course it does. When we hear about a project over and over from various sources, we begin to form opinions about it, typically long before we ever see it. This raises the question, "Is it better to go into a movie completely uninformed?" Not always, but it beats the sheer disappointment one feels when an overly-hyped movie fails to live up to its expectations. Anticipation for 1998's Godzilla began when the project was first announced, and then continued through many teaser trailers (including a Super Bowl ad) right up until the film's opening, which was greeted with mostly negative reviews. I didn't like the movie then, but I decided to give it another chance now that the hype has died down.

Godzilla is a Hollywood updating of the famous Japanese monster. As the film opens, we meet Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), a scientist who is studying earthworms in Chernobyl. He is called to assist an investigation of a mysterious shipwreck in Panama, where the ship's hull was ripped open. From there, bizarre oceanic occurrences are reported off of the eastern seaboard of the United States and then in New York City. Nick and his military chaperones arrive in New York to discover that a giant, reptilian creature is terrorizing the city. Once there, Nick is reunited with his college sweetheart, Audrey (Maria Pitillo), who works for a local TV station. While the military attempts to subdue the creature, Nick realizes that the monster may be the least of their worries.

There's nothing wrong with the idea of updating the Godzilla character and bringing it to the United States. However, there are many things wrong with this movie, and knowing going in that the movie doesn't live up to the hype, the problems are even more glaring. The biggest problem that I have with the movie is one which seems to have been lifted from the original Japanese movies -- there's simply not enough monster in the movie. To its credit, the movie does a nice job of teasing us with the monster's appearance (more on that in a moment), but one it hits New York, the scenes with Godzilla are too few and far between. We are left with a bunch of people bickering and running. Which brings me to my next point, the characters in the film are unappealing. I didn't care about Nick or Aurdey or anyone else in the film, except maybe for Hank Azaria's character "Animal", simply because he seemed to understand the fact that you don't mess with a big monster. Broderick is simply out of his element here. I can only assume that co-writers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin felt that they could replicate the appeal of the Jeff Goldblum character from Independence Day by having a scientist be the hero. This isn't a new idea and it's worked in the past, but Broderick is simply to whiny and phlegmatic to carry the movie. He certainly isn't aided by the fact that Pitillo just can't act.

And then we have Godzilla himself. In the months leading up to the film, there had been reports that the look of the monster had been retooled for his U.S. debut. And we all waited anxiously...only to have a modified T-Rex with horns run across the screen. I knew that it wouldn't look like the classic Godzilla, but I never expected this dinosaur creature. Apparently someone was jealous that they didn't get to make Jurassic Park. If the look of Godzilla isn't enough to convince, then the fact that much of the last third of the film is a rehash of the Velociraptor attack from Spielberg's film should persuade you. I'm convinced that Emmerich and Devlin have some good ideas and can create interesting visuals, but they simply don't know how to make a complete, satisfying film. (I haven't seen The Day After Tomorrow, so I can't comment on their entire catalog.) As with Stargate and Independence Day, Godzilla begins promisingly but then drags so much in the middle that no ending could be satisfying -- especially a ludicrous chase between a taxi and a monster. And I don't care what kind of beef the filmmakers had with Siskel & Ebert, but the "Mayor Ebert" jokes simply aren't funny and feel very dated today.

Godzilla, but the film's lukewarm reception killed those immediately. (And I've read that the Japanese have completely disowned the film.) Still, it would have been nice to see an American version of Godzilla done right. But, we are left with this underwritten dinosaur-laden turkey of a movie.

Godzilla crushes DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Sony is infamous for "double-dipping" on DVD titles and Godzilla is the latest example, and we are now graced with a new "Monster Edition". The transfer here appears to be the same one which graced the 1998 DVD release. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer still looks very good, as the image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material and very little grain. The colors are good and the few daytime images, are super clear. The night-time scenes are never overly dark and the action is always visible. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which sounds great. Godzilla's steps assault the subwoofer and his roar, along with the sounds of destruction, fill the surround channels. It rains constantly in the film and the rain sounds great in surround sound. The dialogue is always sharp and clear and is never overwhelmed by the sound effects.

This new "Monster Edition" contains many of the same extra features as the original DVD release. There is an audio commentary by Visual Effects Supervisor Volker Engel and Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Karen Goulekas. Their talk isn't necessarily bad, but it's very dry and they do focus solely on the visual effects shots in the film. A 7-minute featurette, hosted by Harry Shearer as his character in the film, offers some clips and interviews, but no concrete info. There is a music video from The Wallflowers (whatever happened to them?) for the song "Heroes", a Publicity Stills Gallery, and the "Godzilla Takes New York" Gallery. The only new extras are a Production Art Gallery, a 10-minute segment showing the "All-Time Best Godzilla Fight Scenes" (which of course means the Japanese films), and three episodes from the animated Godzilla: The Series which is an odd little show where the monster has become an unintentional defender of New York City.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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