Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"As big liz flicks go, Godzilla delivers the goodies."

As big liz flicks go, Godzilla delivers the goodies. If it had emerged before Dr Steven hatched his dinos on that tropical island six years ago, it would have been Titanic. Now that impossible things have become commonplace and magic is known by other names - computer-generated special effects - audiences are under-whelmed, which is sad.

Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were hired to do an Independence Day on this Japanese cartoon monster. They have made a better film, with action sequences that far outstrip the video-game, cheapo tackiness of ID's less memorable moments. Also, there is an attempt to create real characters. Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria and Doug Savant do particularly well, although the French contingent, who occasionally lapse into pidgin English amongst themselves, are a mite underexplained. The effects make the original King Kong's Empire State gig look like amateur night at The Comedy Store.

Copy picture

Atomic tests in the Pacific have created a new species of a ginormous T-Rex-U-like, capable of sinking ships, smashing great holes in skyscrapers with its tail and reproducing without a mate. The US army, under Colonel Hicks (Kevin Dunn), a brass-knuckle bully, declares war on the creature. Meanwhile, Dr Tatopoulos (Broderick), a nerdy boffin, studying radiated earth worms, is brought along to provide scientific mumbo, which is ignored by Herr Hicks in favour of air strikes and heavy artillery.

It's a Godzy-against-the-world story, except it happens in New York, which gives the demolition crew a chance to have fun with famous landmarks. The doc reckons that he/she/it has chosen the Big Apple to nest, which means big eggs, big babies and big trouble (guess what? The nursery turns out to be Madison Square Gardens). Meanwhile, a team of Gallic secret service agents, under the command of Jean (Leon) Reno, are on the case. Since the French were responsible for the original nuclear tests, for which they were universally condemned, they want to ensure there are no bad after-effects. A lizard the size of Notre Dame is not the best advertisement for Franco-global cooperation.

There is a dribbly love interest, involving too-nice-to-make-it-but-learning-to-be-nastier Audrey (Maria Pitillo) and the hapless doc, which doesn't leak too drastically into the body of the action. Audrey's best pal's hubby, TV cameraman, Animal (Azoria) provides some better class one-liners, and Savant plays a sensitive sergeant at the frontline, face-to-jaw with Godzy and uncertain what to do until Hicks bellows in his lughole.

The film is cleverly crafted and beautifully made, using the Spielberg technique of international locations and a small cast of disparate characters caught up at the centre, merging into one place (NY), facing a serious problem (Godzy's brood) with fortitude. At first, you sympathise with the creature and later, when things hot up, feel fear. Broderick's vague, soft-centred performance works well as a counterbalance to the gung ho antics of the military. As an adventure action spectacle, with people you almost care about, it is - shucks! - awesome.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
Share this with others on...
Godzilla packshot
The mother of all monsters tries to nest in New York.
Amazon link

Director: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin

Writer: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Arabella Field, Vicki Lewis, Doug Savant, Malcolm Danare

Year: 1998

Runtime: 140 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Host
King Kong