Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant
Directed By: Roland Emmerich
Written By: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 19 min
If I could say one thing in defense of this film, it’s this; it’s not really a Godzilla movie. It’s basically Roland ‘I heart Spielberg’ Emmerich’s homage to Jaws and Jurassic Park. A two-dimensional plot hole riddled knockoff, with a single trick up its sleeve; be bigger. It really should have been called, Big F’n Lizard!
Spielberg gives us water rippling in a tiny cup to let you know a T-Rex is nearby, Roland bounces cars. The now classic line ‘we’re going to need a bigger boat’ becomes ‘we’re going to need bigger guns,’ and Jurassic Park only had a handful of Velociraptors, where this movie fills Madison Square Garden with reptiles. In every way, Roland’s monster flick borrows ideas from better films, and simply ups the ante. Cheerfully playing up all the references, but never offering up a single moment of inspiration of its own.
The titular lizard lacks personality, and doesn’t even look the part. This creature isn’t the ‘King of Monsters.’ This is the King’s anorexic half cousin. He’s not even threatening enough to be the real Godzilla’s opponent. Heck, I’d even put money on the T-Rex in a straight up fight.
The human cast too are simplistic two-dimensional caricatures. Cardboard cutouts placed in the frame to demonstrate scale. Clichéd parts from Roland’s grab bag of personality traits. I can picture him assembling them like plastic figurines on a giant play-set of Manhattan island, as he describes his story to the producers of the film. Only needing them to relay idiotic plot details, and bullshit pseudoscience to the audience.
Set your expectations to their lowest possible setting, and you may get a few minutes of enjoyment out of this film. Godzilla is rated PG-13, so the monster vs human action never gets too gruesome.
In 1998 this would be a film to see in the theater. The visual effects however haven’t aged all that well, and the CGI frequently looks disconnected from the live action footage around it.
In arguably the most egregious Jaws rip off in the movie, comes as three fishing boats encounter the as yet unseen monster. In Jaws, to demonstrate to the audience just how big and powerful the great white shark was, the crew hunting the animal attach several air-filled barrels. But each time they attached another, the huge shark still manages to submerge. In Godzilla, Roland does the exact same thing, but with entire boats. As I said, no new ideas, just recycled moments from better films, made bigger – never better.