Godzilla [Blu-ray] (1998)

Actors: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn
Roland Emmerich
AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
All Regions
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs:
Sony Pictures
DVD Release Date:
November 10, 2009
Run Time:
139 minutes



godzilla.jpg (21556 bytes)No harsher condemnation of the Hollywood studio system exists than Roland Emmerich's misbegotten remake of Godzilla. It worships at the altar of effects for effects' sake, ignoring the qualities which made its predecessor so endearing. Yes, the original Gojira entailed a man in a suit, but that was part of the charm. We could smile and enjoy it despite the crappy dialogue and imbecilic plot because the monster had a soul. The shabby look became an asset rather than a liability, and the joy we took from him embodied the essence of drive-in entertainment.

That's all the early films had going for them, and Emmerich seemed to view it as part of the problem. He carefully excised the endearingly goofy core of the material and replaced it with cold, corporate special effects. It might have been easier to accept if he elevated the characters or story to higher levels, but the man clearly isn't capable of that. He's happy just to rip off shots from Jurassic Park (Spielberg is often a victim of his sticky-fingered tendencies) while padding the remainder with stiflingly dull character exposition.

That latter part sinks even the nominal guilty pleasures we normally expect from Emmerich. Matthew Broderick's feckless biologist takes urine samples and sets fish out as bait while Maria Pitillo's would-be newscaster makes eyes at him from afar, and gee they seem like a nice couple, and wouldn't it be great if they got back together, and hey we haven't seen the monster curb-stomp Manhattan for forty freaking minutes!!! The plethora of supporting characters might have improved matters if any of them were the least bit interesting, but Hank Azaria's cameraman just embodies crude New York stereotypes while Jean Reno's secret agent does much the same for the French.

Indeed the presence of our Gallic friends only highlights the film's muddled approach to the material. In the Japanese versions, Godzilla reflected unease about nuclear weapons, making barely veiled references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Emmerich shifts the blame specifically to the French, who have been setting off nuclear tests in the South Pacific (thus creating the monster out of a hapless iguana).

Since he's supposed to be set loose on New York, he has to swim tens of thousands of miles - crossing multiple countries with no apparent sighting - until arriving at his destination. Meanwhile, in an effort to clean up their government's mistake, Reno and his men set up covert presence in the city, sneaking through U.S. army lines and complaining about the coffee. They spot a kindred spirit in Broderick and surreptitiously contact him in order to hey, we've lost track of the lizard again!!!

So it goes, through most of the film's interminable 140 minute running time. It's like a demented version of Waiting for Godot, only with a radioactive dinosaur. Furthermore, when the beast finally does show up, he rarely does anything interesting. Buildings fall with a swipe from his tail and he chows down on a few helicopters here and there, but his raw power never comes to the forefront. The army actually causes most of the destruction - part of the film's ham-handed message about who the real monster is - and frankly, we've seen that kind of thing in too many better movies.

To its credit, Godzilla's visual effects hold up pretty well. And Emmerich couldn't have possibly known about future events which subsequently complicate his efforts to entertain us here (the 9/11 comparisons are obvious, but he also takes some satirical swipes at Siskel and Ebert, unaware that Gene Siskel would be dead within a year of the film's release). Even so, those are pretty slim pickings on which to lay a supposed blockbuster of this magnitude. Time has shown it for the shabby fraud that it is, a fact that most of us were onto from the beginning. There's no reason to exhume its desiccated carcass now.

THE DISC: The Blu-Ray version smacks of a rush to market: threadbare and uninspired, intended solely to generate synergy with the release of 2012. The transfer looks little different from an upgrade DVD, while the extras consist of a few hastily assembled previews, a running commentary from the effects supervisors, a music video, and a montage of Godzilla's most famous battles which sounds a lot better than it is.

WORTH IT? Definitely not. Fans of the film are advised to wait until a properly remastered version appears, and no one else need bother.

RECOMMENDATION: If you love Roland Emmerich, he has plenty of more dynamic titles worth your time. If you love Godzilla, stick with the guy in the rubber suit. If you don't fall into either of those categories , you probably haven't read this far anyway.

- Rob Vaux



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