Chicon 2000

Godzilla - The Review

Rev. 28-Jun-1998

Previous: Ross Pavlac 1951-1997
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by Bob Eggleton

Okay, I saw it. Five times in fact. I was even at Madison Square Garden for the premiere... so in the most unbiased of ways, I will review the film featuring My Favorite Lizard.

The credit sequence was absolutely stunning, and outright creepy. The following scene with the destruction of a Japanese fishing trawler was a terrific tip of the hat to the Japanese Kaiju films on which Godzilla was based but, it was over too soon. To understand Godzilla one must first appreciate the original Gojira (l954, seen in the states in 1956 with Raymond Burr spliced in as Godzilla, King of the Monsters), as many bits and pieces were remade from that film into this new film.

One major difference: Godzilla's origin. In the original, he is mysterious, as Dr. Yamane explains "A cross between land and sea animals of the middle Jurassic age", and later explained in l991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah as evolving from a "Godzillasaurus" a newly discovered theropod, related to a Tyrant dinosaur, but much, much larger and made gargantuan by hydrogen bomb tests. This mystery, so well kept sustained in the original Gojira, is what the stuff of myth becomes for all Godzilla fans. In the Tristar version, this mystery is too vividly explained: he's a mutated Marine Iguana. And a big science gaff here... this Godzilla is made by French nuclear experiments in l968 in French Polynesia. Marine Iguanas are peculiar only to Galapagos Island! In fact, all of the lizards in the credit sequence are not even found near the site of these tests. Later, Godzilla stomps around on what are clearly back legs of a Theropod dinosaur -- not even related to an Iguana or any lizard.

The cast is well... beside the point. Who could not be a second banana to Godzilla? And the result is that the film flies along when Godzilla is on screen, and comes to a dead stop when he leaves. So, Godzilla should've been more present even when not on camera. The other problem was that Godzilla is treated so matter of factly... "yes, there is a dinosaur loose in New York City".

The point of view was also a little confusing: clearly, Godzilla is not a deliberate killer. He's just looking for a place to nest. When he sinks a ship it's because the ship(s) has his favorite meal: fish. The humans simply get in the way. And when he plods into NYC we are cheering him: he is us, our Id, our alter ego lost in a world of postmodernism... just plowing through the bullshit... er buildings. When Matthew Broderick encounters his great grin literally face to face... we are now loving this great monster and feeling compassion as we would for any lost animal. Even the David Arnold score drove home this point.

Almost every authority character is totally unlikeable. The mayor, his aide, any of the military guys are well portrayed as bozos. So when Godzilla, just trying to enjoy a meal of fish, is attacked by the military, the crowd is on its feet when he lashes out and destroys several attack helicopters. We created Godzilla from our own arrogance about atomic energy and the pathetic idea that we are masters of nature on this planet... how dare we attack our own just desserts? I only wish those bozos hadn't had the last laugh...

I don't know about you, but I cheered the destruction of the sub, the helicopters and when Godzilla flambed the tanks and humvees. So much authority and so little time.

Yet, then, the view is twisted again... when Godzilla's cache of eggs are found, our "heroes" must destroy them all and, I for one, was not cheering. And the cab chase with Godzilla in pursuit: he shoulda eaten the damn cab, and left New York. The end. But no, he's lured onto the Brooklyn bridge, and as if from that other great Monster Movie, King Kong, we see this great wonder, this child of our own ignorance, trapped in the tangle of the bridge being destroyed like a rabid animal. And when those military boneheads, self consumed politicians, newspeople and others cheer to the news of "Godzilla Defeated!" I could only say "The bastards won... this time". And seeing the lone egg hatch and out pops a new Godzilla... haha... you bastard humans are in for it next time. And I will be cheering.

Previous: Ross Pavlac 1951-1997
(Table of Contents) Next: Top Ten SF Films

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