There's a story in Charles Fleming's biography of Don Simpson, in which the late producer suggests that action movies should always: ""Start fast, hard and loud and then stay that way. Don't let up for two hours. Story problems? Character logic? Fuck it.""
This was obviously the plan for Godzilla - - a high-concept disaster flick inspired by the Japanese originals and revamped for the '90s by ID4 duo Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. So at the very least, you should expect this cinematic titan to be big, bold, brash, funny, light on plot, thin on characterisation and crammed with computer-fuelled effects.
Godzilla is all of the above (apart from funny), with several vast FX sequences. Witness a swarm of helicopters chasing the mighty lizard through the streets; famous landmarks toppling; and orange tracer-shells arcing into the rain-lashed night. This should have been the summer's head-turner, with more than $100 million right up there on the screen in dark, scaly globs. Unfortunately, the `idea' of Godzilla attacking Manhattan is much better than the hyped-up `reality'.
Watch the film in its entirety, and you're no longer a slave to the studio image and media speculation. You can look beyond trailered glimpses of reptilian body parts to see Godzilla for what it really is: - a thrill-lite, plotless, multiplex misfire. This is just a trumped-up Jurassic Park, its CG star an imperfect, over-sized T-rex with longer arms. What should have been the event of '98 feels like the last 10 minutes of The Lost World: Jurassic Park stretched painfully into a two-hour movie.
Cranked along by a preposterous story, Godzilla's biggest problem is that it's frustratingly unsatisfying throughout. Weary, stale and flat, it's scandalously light on plot, while the main characters (Broderick's wimpish hero; Pitillo's dumb blonde; Reno's under-written Secret Service agent) are so shallow you don't care what happens to any of them. Like ID4, Godzilla hoped to gloss over character and story with an expensive swathe of gobsmacking FX.
But even these lack the awe and majesty of Devlin and Emmerich's last venture. Rainy nights take the edge off some poor quality computer graphics, while the reptile itself looks suspiciously like Spielberg's T-rex. Godzilla might have thrilled us if we hadn't been treated to Jurassic Park or its lesser sequel. But giant lizards have been done to death, and instead it dismays, bores and annoys.
We expected more. We could have ignored the film's flaws, as long as the visuals were the greatest we'd ever seen. But they aren't. Godzilla is a dud. The Lost World is a masterpiece in comparison.
A vacuous plot, some appalling acting and a barrage of below-par special effects make Godzilla one of the biggest disappointments of the year. It's watchable, but there are too many similarities to The Lost World and too much clichéd claptrap for us to recommend it.
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