Godzilla (1998)
Godzilla (1998)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 19 min.

Release Date: May 20th, 1998 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Roland Emmerich Actors: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Arabella Field, Vicki Lewis

 


 

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n Chernobyl, Ukraine, nerdy biologist Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is enthusiastically studying earthworms, only to be unceremoniously whisked away by uniformed men on a military plane. He’s reassigned by armed persuasion to Panama, to investigate a monstrous footprint. Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission employs him, his expertise doesn’t quite prepare him for the discovery of Godzilla, the abnormally mutated Komodo dragon or crocodile or other such reptile, uncommonly affected by atomic bomb testing.

The attack of an Asian rig draws the interest of mysterious insurance man Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno), who joins the researchers in Panama. Niko’s boss Dr. Elsie Chapman (Vicki Lewis), of the National Institute of Paleontology, believes the creature is a dinosaur. But the evidence points to diabolical radiation sparking the evolution of a beast that is the first of its kind. When the killer colossus starts tromping through the streets of New York, the National Guard orchestrates a massive evacuation, while chaos and destruction markedly supersede the initiative. When it’s determined that Godzilla is capable of burrowing through the subway, military leader Colonel Hicks (Kevin Dunn) orders the fourteen possible subterraneous exits off the island to be sealed, to prevent the brute from roaming free through the entire United States.

The idea of quarantining the leviathan is completely nonsensical, as is baiting it with mountains of fish. Fortunately for humanity, Godzilla isn’t entirely evil – and he’s also somewhat intelligent. But his size makes him rather unstoppable, and his agility allows him to duck under missile fire, creating no less than four scenes in which iconic buildings or fellow combatants are disintegrated as collateral damage. His skin seems impervious to rockets nevertheless. Implausibly and moronically, the army helicopters that are tracking Godzilla’s trek through Manhattan frequently lose him.

The destruction level is amusingly high, with nonstop toppling of buildings and billowing explosions, demonstrating the incompetency of officials and the supremacy of bulky muscular abundance. “You caused more damage than that goddamned thing did!” screams the mayor. Designed and supervised by Patrick Tatopoulos (the name is not a coincidence), Godzilla barely resembles the original visual concepts created in 1954, while the use of predominantly unconvincing computer graphics helps the film to age much less gracefully than movies decades older. Toward the conclusion, the film looks a lot like “Jurassic Park,” but is unable to capture even a fraction of the intensity; perhaps the plenitude of pathetic comic relief is the culprit.

Interestingly, the monster itself is shown fairly quickly, moving away from the idea of keeping its appearance secretive (like most calculating horror films). But “Godzilla” spends extremely unnecessary minutes developing subplots for supporting characters. Niko’s college sweetheart Audrey (Maria Pitillo) works for the WIDF news station in Manhattan, under the misogynistic reporter Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer), who refuses to promote her. She’s a friend of cameraman Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) and his wife Lucy (Arabella Field), both of who receive a surplusage of dialogue as Audrey struggles to make a name for herself. The mayor (Michael Lerner) is also given numerous scenes as he governs nearly all of the decisions made by the military, which conflicts with the goals of the French secret service crew that monitors their movements. There are far too many characters and they’re all annoyingly bungling – which reflects the clumsy, unproficient hands of the filmmakers helming this overlong, abominable take on the Toho Company’s legendary monster.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10