Knowing that Godzilla came from the “creative” team of Emmerich and Devlin - the two dudes that brought us Independence Day and Stargate - I stepped into my screening of Godzilla with: 1) my brain turned “off”, 2) ready for an adrenaline rush, and 3) ready for a roller coaster ride.
Let’s just say that I walked out of the movie thinking that their horrible Independence Day was a masterpiece compared to Godzilla and I did not have a hint of adrenaline rushing through my blood stream. If Godzilla were a roller coaster ride, it would be a ride with a few loops, some not-so-steep-drops, and miles of level track before the next excitement.
Some nuclear testing done in the middle of nowhere creates Godzilla – who’s not looking quite like himself in this US version. For some reason Godzilla wants to move off his little island, and where does he want to go? New York, New York of course - the city so nice, they named it twice. All animals have migratory periods and it is time for Godzilla to migrate, but why?
“Why” does not matter to the US Army because all it wants is to annihilate Godzilla. Biologist Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) has other ideas, though. He thinks that Godzilla - thanks, marketing department at Sony/Tristar for revealing this during the trailers - is pregnant and wants to nest in New York. The Army thinks Tatopoulos is crazy, not because Tatopoulos is a nut, but because this is how it always works in the movies: The guy who has the right idea is the guy who is always treated like an idiot.
Unbeknownst to the US Army, the French Secret Service is also interested in why Godzilla is in New York. A group of French Secret Service agents, led by Philippe Roche (Jean Reno), is out to destroy Godzilla too.
Because this script comes from Emmerich and Devlin, there has to be a non-emotional, one sided, “love” story that tries to pull our chains long enough to make us cry. It seems that a reporter want-to-be, Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo), was Tatopoulos' love interest eight years ago in college. She sees him on TV and tries to re-light the romance between them.
I really wanted to like Godzilla. I grew up watching the corny and cheezy TV shows as a kid. I loved it when Godzilla - obvious to even a kid that it was a guy in a rubber suit, but hey, Godzilla was cool - ran through cities roasting people, buildings, and military with his breath of fire. In Emmerich and Devlin’s Godzilla, the big guy only gets to use his fiery breath twice! This is a complete disappointment.
Godzilla is held back by two things: a weak script and horrible acting. Script? What script? Like Independence Day, Emmerich and Devlin have penned a script that sounds, and feels, like a fourth grader wrote it. The characters excel at speaking cliched lines and the action is far and few. I disliked Independence Day because of its weak script, but the Independence Day script is Shakespeare compared to Godzilla.
As I watched Matthew Broderick on screen, I kept wondering if his performance was purposely bad or if he’s lost his acting ability. At best, Broderick looks like a freshman drama student reading from cue cards. At worst, it looks as if Broderick did not want to be in the production was trying everything he could to be fired. Either way, Broderick, who we have to follow throughout the film, gives a bad performance.
Jean Reno escapes unscathed; he did a decent job with his part as the French Secret Serviceman. There were two roles that disgusted me and were supposedly comic relief for the film. These were New York Mayor Ebert, and his assistant, Gene. One was chubby with white hair and the other was skinny and bald and they both like to use their thumbs; you get it? The first time these characters took the screen I chuckled. The second time they graced the screen I smiled. The third time I thought the joke was getting old. After the third time, I stopped counting. These two roles did nothing for the “story line,” wasted screen time, and served only as an in-joke for Emmerich and Devlin. Like everything else in Godzilla, this didn’t work because it was used in excess.
As for Godzilla, the effects are good, but nothing new. Emmerich and Devlin chose to stay with the tried and true computer graphics for Godzilla. Sure, Godzilla looks ferocious in the first attack on the Big Apple, but, after a few more shots of him, he gets boring. The film was shot in constant rain to hide the flaws of putting such a huge beast in a cityscape, and this rain detracts from the total effect of the film. Godzilla just looks generic on screen. Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know why Godzilla comes to New York. Godzilla’s “babies,” which look suspiciously like the raptors from Jurassic Park and Lost World, are OK. At times these little babies are so computer generated and move in such synchronocity that they look like the squad of cheerleaders from the local high school. This takes away heavily from the scare factor.
So what? Experience with Independence Day tells us that there are going to be lulls in a Emmerich and Devlin film. But there’s always spectacular adrenaline pumping action scenes, right? Wrong. Emmerich must have had a fluke with Independence Day because the action and the “scary” scenes in Godzilla brought on more yawning than it did jumping from seats. Spielberg, who did the two Jurassic Park films, shows that he knows how to bring on the scares with his dinosaurs. Emmerich shows that he is just a hack at it. Godzilla stands taller than a high rise, he runs faster than Apache helicopters, and he breathes fire, yet Emmerich is never able to make the tension level in the theatre rise higher than that in a convalescent home.
As for the movie score, there are three things that can make a score distracting: it can be too loud, it can come at the wrong moments, and it can sound so borrowed from another film leaving the audience wondering which film the score came from. David Arnold, whose Tomorrow Never Dies score I really enjoyed, comes to work with Emmerich and Devlin again. Arnold makes one mistake with his Godzilla score; it sounds too much like Mark Mancina’s Speed music. There are points in the film where it sounds like Arnold has taken directly from Mancina’s work. And for me it was quite distracting for half the movie because I couldn’t figure out where I had heard the tune.
But, in the end, nothing I or any of my fellow film critics can say that will dissuade anyone from seeing this awful piece of filmmaking. The studio hype is all that counts nowadays and the hype for Godzilla was huge. I doubt even bad word-of-mouth from the average filmgoer will dissuade any of their friends from seeing Godzilla - curiosity will prevail in this case. Godzilla runs a whopping two hours and 12 minutes, which is too long for this type of movie. Had Emmerich cut some of the non-essential stuff this might have been a fun ride. Had Emmerich and Devlin written a smarter script that doesn’t try to create stories for one-dimensional characters, this might have been a fun ride. But, I digress, this is a Emmerich and Devlin film we’re talking about and they love excess. Skip Godzilla.
Size Does NOT Matter - Godzilla proves this. It’s quality that matters and Godzilla has none of that. Skip, skip, skip.
Edited by Cher Johnson.