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Godzilla (1998)
Rated PG13

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria and Jean Reno

Rating:
*
out of
*****

In the May 23, 1998 issue of TV Guide, director Roland Emmerich is quoted as saying that "if people don't like the characters, they won't want to watch the explosions." In Emmerich's new version of Godzilla, one wishes the characters would explode so as to free the audience from having to see any more of them.

This reinvention of the Godzilla character finds the old Godzillasaurus myth of the Japanese films replaced by a giant, mutated iguana from somewhere in the South Pacific. French nuclear testing has created the large creature, who is on a northeasterly trek towards New York. Along the way, he attacks a Japanese canning boat and sinks three fishing trawlers. Finally, he arrives in the fishery district of New York, before burrowing into the subway system.

Nick Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is a researcher for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is brought in by the military to try to understand what they're dealing with. He's pulled from his study of worms outside of the Chernobyl plant in Russia to examine the evidence that the creature has left behind in Panama. While there, he encounters a strange man claiming to be a French insurance agent (Jean Reno).

Nick appears on TV and catches the eye of Audrey (Maria Patillo), his former college sweetheart who's now a would-be reporter at a New York TV station. Audrey schemes a way to get to talk to Nick when he arrives in New York in pursuit of the creature. She apparently left him when he asked her to marry him and wants a second chance. His story would also help her career as well. A cameraman (Hank Azaria) helps her with her plan to scoop "evil" anchorman Charles Caiman (Harry Shearer).

As the creature romps around New York, the storyline follows Audrey's desire to become a reporter in spite of the opposition she faces from Caiman. She steals a top secret videotape from Nick and airs the footage on her station. As a result, Nick is fired from his job on the advisory team and he is hired by the strange French guy for another assignment: finding Godzilla's nest and, possibly, eggs.

The plot, such as it is, reduces the middle of the film to a yawn-inducing borefest that actually prompted a man sitting behind me to shout out, "Put Godzilla on the damn screen already!" I couldn't have agreed with him any more than I did.

The original Godzilla was, at least in his original incarnation, a truly evil creature motivated to destroy the humanity that caused his awakening. This new-for-the-90s reinvention is a step backwards; making Godzilla a non-motivated dumb lizard. One scene features an encounter between Nick and the creature that hardly makes Godzilla seem like something to be feared. Should one empathize with the new Godzilla? That's not a question one should have to ask during a "monster" movie. When a character states that Godzilla is "not an enemy," what is he? He's Godzilla, for crying out loud. He's supposed to be the enemy.

As for the look of the new Godzilla, he's not bad looking for a mutated iguana. Still, he lacks the original's dumb charm. The new Godzilla is too sleek and sporty for his own good.

This new movie is full of obvious product placement, bad references to Siskel and Ebert, and some of the stupidest military commanders in movie history. (Why would one use heat seeking missiles on a cold-blooded animal?) All and all, Godzilla is one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. Not just a disappointment, Godzilla is a disaster.

Trivia: A tornado disrupted filming in Jersey City on May 6, 1997. The film crew managed to get some footage of the disaster filmed, and will possibly include it in the movie. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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