Sunday, March 28, 2010

Godzilla(1998) - A Revisit

I sat down today and, as I do each year, watched [i]Godzilla[/i], a film produced by Dean Devlin, directed by Roland Emmerich and making its original theatrical debut back on May 20, 1998. Like other films I watch I have, over frequent viewings, tried to re-examine this movie from the inside out, paying close(r) attention to particular scenes and the human cast of characters. Many of the following observations from me regarding this film have been mentioned before...and perhaps some haven't.

Let me say before beginning that I like this film as a giant monster action movie: it has some humor, occasionally decent special effects, at least one interesting human character and what I consider to be an above average quality soundtrack. I DO NOT really consider this movie to be inclusive with the entire canon of Toho Godzilla movies sine the creature's appearance is so different from Toho's various Godzilla incarnations.

Thumbs up:

1. the character of Nick Tatopolous, played very decently IMO by Matthew Broderick. Tatopolous manages to keeps his wits and calm, steady demeanor despite repeated mispronunciations of his name, the general chaos around him among the others, both military and civilian, who are tasked with dealing with the monster's landfall and repeated rampages in New York City and what is no doubt an emotional reunion with his former college sweetheart Audrey Timmonds(played by Maria Pitillo)

2.French agent Philippe Roache(played by Jean Reno): wry witted, gruff and a man clearly motivated to serve his home country(France), the latter something I can absolutely respect.

3. Victor "Animal Palotti(played by Hank Azaria), a quasi goofball photographer with some serious guts, as evidenced by his pursuit of Godzilla, all to capture the monster on film, as the creature makes its first landfall in NYC

4. various effects shots which I thought were cool including:

-Godzilla's underwater surge towards the old man at the small dock

-the pyrotechnics effects looked good when Madison Square Garden was obliterated by the jet launched laser guided bombs(I also liked the effects when the Chrysler building was hit by the rockets)

-the sequence where the crew members on the Japanese cannery ship are blown backwards into the pilothouse bulkhead by the tail of Godzilla(the remainder of the monster unseen in this shot)

-the three trawlers that are pulled completely under by the creature(still unseen at this point)

5. the various points of humor in the movie courtesy of some often animated and testy exchanges between the human cast of characters, including:

-the NYC mayor(Mayor Ebert) vs his spineless, milquetoast assistant, especially over the mayor's candy

-the NYC mayor vs Colonel Hicks 

- Philiipe Roache's disdain for American coffee, in particular American French roast coffee 

Thumbs down:

1. most of the effects shots during Godzilla's engagement with the military, which looked more like a video game than live action movie

2. Sergeant O'Neal(played by Doug Savant), the often bumbling, but hard working enlisted man who was constantly on the receiving end of Colonel Hick's outbursts: I would have liked seeing O'Neill be a little more assertive overall

3. the scenes where Godzilla flees the military 

4. the scene where the old man and survivor of the Japanese cannery ship says "Gojira" when Roache flicks the cigarette lighter - I still don't think this scene belongs in the film at all

5. the asexual reproductive quality given to Godzilla

6. the changes to Godzilla's overall appearance IMO deviate way too much from Toho's Godzilla, a sign that Dean Devlin DID NOT understand what Godzilla was

I thought the ending was serviceable and at least afforded Sony the opportunity to make a sequel. I had hoped a sequel might show Godzilla further mutated(his appearance more monster like) and also show Godzilla fighting another monster...but obviously that didn't happen.

Even now, nearly twelve years later, I feel some disgust and disappointment about Godzilla(1998). Sony was given an opportunity to show Toho it could make a great Godzilla film and IMO it absolutely failed.

I'll keep watching this movie once a year. I might even buy a "GINO" kaiju toy later this year. One thing I will never do is consider this movie a real "Godzilla" film.

The film's official trailer:

To see the standard DVD of this film for sale at Amazon click the DVD covert art image above.