Rating -

Action (US); 1998; Rated PG-13; 140 Minutes

Matthew Broderick: Dr. Niko Tatopoulos
Jean Reno: Philippe Roche
Maria Pitillo: Audrey Timmonds
Hank Azaria: Victor "Animal" Palotti
Kevin Dunn: Colonel Hicks
Arabella Field: Lucy Palotti
Michael Lerner: Mayor Ebert
Philippe Bergeron: Jean-Claude

Produced by Dean Devlin,Roland Emmerich, Ute Emmerich, William Fay, Robert N. Fried, Kelly Van Horn, Peter Winther and Cary Woods; Directed by Roland Emmerich; Screenwritten by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Godzilla" is so lethargic and lame that I wonder why anyone wanted to make it. Not just anyone made it, either: the films two creators (Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich) also made "Stargate" and "Independence Day," two other films I really hated. Though their recent effort is somewhat an improvement of those films, it's still an instant rip-off, where the creatures look like "Jurassic Park" dinosaurs and the characters are so dead that I wouldn't be surprised if the actors in the film have bad careers from here on out.

The film stars Matthew Broderick, who is a good actor, but here, verifies that even people like him can make big mistakes. He plays Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, a geologist of some sort who is studying the growth of worms from being exposed to radiation. Being an expert of this field, he is then reassigned to investigate a giant-like creature, who has mysteriously shown up in a series of places, and then has disappeared without a trace. The investigation concludes that this lizard-like creature, whom the Japanese call "Godzilla," was mysteriously mutated after several atomic bomb tests had exposed him to radiation.

In the opening scenes of the film (which I liked very much), we see lizards crawling through the sand, and in the distance, an atomic bomb explodes into midair. This, I gather, is where Godzilla was exposed to radiation.

The animal continues popping up in locations, but he's not really noticed until he finds refuge in New York City, where he eventually makes his permanent home.

The entire film is centered around dreary action scenes and this cynical, small plot. Nearly every scene of the picture is spent with either Godzilla chasing something or him being chased. For example, is one such scene, the military lures the creature into the streets with a pile of fish, and when they shoot at him, they manage to miss him nearly every time. Godzilla, who realizes that the fish pile was a trap for him, then runs through the city streets, where tanks, helicopters, and other things chase him anywhere they can, shooting several things at him and missing him nearly every time.

These sequences occur both on land and in the water. At one point, the huge lizard makes an escape attempt by jumping back into the water from which he came from. He doesn't realize, though, that there are submarines floating by, and they are all prepared with heat-seeking torpedoes. After one is shot at him, the creature manages to swim underneath the submarine that shot it, thus leading the torpedo directly into the side of the ship. The second time, however, he is hit, and the entire city instantly makes the conclusion that Godzilla has finally been conquered.

If only they were so lucky. Tatopoulos then discovers that Godzilla laid eggs everywhere in the subway tunnels below the city. Yet, if Godzilla was as high as the Empire State Building, how in the world would he fit in tunnels only 20 feet high? How in the world would he manage to lay hundreds of eggs in those little spaces? Some argue that he could have crawled through the tunnels, but I seriously doubt that he really could.

The script is very dimwitted in these areas, especially after the military realizes that the eggs have hatched, and that the only way to save the human race is to blow up Madison Square Garden, where the little beasts had made their home. After the building, as well as Godzilla's children, go belly up, the large, ferocious creature emerges again, alive and well, and not dead, like everyone had proclaimed.

This turn in the plot brings in twenty minutes of extra Godzilla rampage footage, and therefore twenty more minutes of endless and boring disaster scenes, where the creature manages to chase Tatopoulos all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, where the military finally manages to contain him while he is caught up in the suspension cables.

The script uses every dirty, rotten trick to try and make the movie as long as possible, which, shockingly, keeps a time below two-and-a-half hours, but just barely. The standard summer blockbuster is at least an hour shorter.

But that problem, as well as the incompetent action scenes, are overlooked by the absolutely awful characterization. The most pathetic characters, I feel, are Mayor Ebert and his assistant, Gene, who, judging from the way they argue and look, are reminiscent spin-offs of the Chicago film critics Siskel And Ebert, who have a weekly television series. Both critics did not like "Stargate" or "Independence Day," and rumors are that these characters were created out of spite. Rather than making both Ebert and Siskel look bad, the characters (so poorly written) are tasteless reflections that Devlin and Emmerich enjoy holding grudges to people who hate their films.

Watching "Godzilla," I was painfully reminded of those Taco Bell commercials with the dog who promotes the film. This is the first big movie that Taco Bell has promoted since last years blockbuster "Batman And Robin," and that film (let's face it) did horrible in its commercial release.

Did "Taco Bell" actually see the film before promoting it? If they didn't, maybe they should from now on; it wouldn't be good business for them to promote another film like this.

But heck, Taco Bell did get something right this time: they managed to create commercials better than the movie.

1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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