Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writers: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Estimated Budget: $130 million
US Gross: $136 million
While the King of the Monsters first struck Hollywood in 1956, in a sanitised edit of Toho’s original Japanese Godzilla, Roland Emmerich’s much-anticipated monster mash was the first all-American debut of everyone’s favourite God of Destruction. The tagline cried “Size does matter.” Audiences took one look at Emmerich’s vision and responded “so does quality.”
Godzilla did OK at the box office, but the vitriolic response from domestic audiences shut down any hope for the planned trilogy of scaly creature features. It took 16 years before Godzilla re-emerged from the sea, and thankfully it looks like he’s sticking around now, as part of yet another burgeoning cinematic universe.
Meanwhile Emmerich’s unique creation has sunk back beneath the waves – but should he return once more to take his place in the ‘Citizen Kane of Awful’ Hall of Fame?
Mother knows best
There’s a lot to dislike about Emmerich’s interpretation of Godzilla – and we’ll get into it in good time – but it’s worth highlighting the positive elements. Rather than a vicious sea monster attacking senselessly, Godzilla is a concerned parent, searching for food and a safe place to look after her little brood. This is probably the only successful aspect of reimagining Godzilla as more animalistic than monstrous. It ties into and updates the themes of the original, as man’s meddling with nuclear science creates new life that unfortunately now threatens to take our place atop the food chain. Mama-zilla also provides one of the better action sequences, as Matthew Broderick and co. attempt to escape her nest in Madison Square Garden.
Nobody expects the French Inquisition
In the second act, Godzilla doubles down on the insane twists and reveals that the French are unwittingly responsible for creating Godzilla AND have decided to solve the problem by sending Jean Reno and a cavalcade of French spies undercover as insurance agents. Oh, and they’re all called Jean – because of course they are.
Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo
This isn’t really a merit of the film itself, but there really isn’t a lot to praise about this dreck. Anyway, Simpsons fans will get a kick out of listening out for familiar voices from the animated juggernaut, as three cast members — Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria and Nancy Cartwright — crop up to face the wrath of the King of Monsters. Azaria even slips in a bit of Moe Syzslak in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vocal cameo. So that’s something someone might enjoy.
You know a film has taken some wrong turns when the emotional climax is Matthew Broderick making meaningful eye contact with a 500-tonne iguana on the Brooklyn Bridge. In truth, a rom-com might have made for a far better movie.
This emotional moment might work if Godzilla had committed to the ethical conflict at its core, but Emmerich is content to set aside any nuance in favour of blowing up helicopters and buildings at every opportunity. Broderick’s character makes a couple of halfhearted attempts to point out the moral dilemma of butchering this new species, and then we’re back to rampant destruction.
A bitter ‘Zill to swallow
It’s pretty obvious that Roland Emmerich does not come off well in Godzilla – but it goes deeper than his shoddy direction.
Roland Emmerich is a very bitter man.
The first New Yorker killed is actually a lookalike of J.D. Lees, founder and editor of Godzilla fan magazine G-Fan, and a harsh critic of the reboot during its production. Granted, Lees probably enjoyed putting “Godzilla victim” on his CV, but the inclusion of parodies of legendary film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as a corrupt mayor and his hapless assistant (above) just seems weird. These potshots aren’t winking asides, they’re just petty.
Putting the Odd in Godzilla
Roland Emmerich is on record as not liking the original Toho films – and oh boy, does it show. Godzilla casts aside the original design to offer a reinvented, “updated” take on the fearsome sea monster. Gone is the ominous lumbering movement – Godzilla now runs 200mph on chicken legs. Gone is the mighty atomic breath – Godzilla now just burps at cars until they explode. Gone is any sense of mystery, or “otherness” – Godzilla is basically just a shitty T-Rex.
Basically EVERYTHING ELSE.
DON’T SET ACTION MOVIES IN THE RAIN. DON’T PLAY A WEIRDLY ROMANTIC SCORE OVER DESTRUCTION SEQUENCES. DON’T SHOOT LIKE YOU JUST DISCOVERED THE DOLLY ZOOM. YOU’RE NOT REFERENCING JAWS, YOU’RE JUST GIVING US A HEADACHE.
Star Rating: 1/5
Kane Rating: 1/5
Godzilla isn’t just a crime against Godzilla himself, it’s an insultingly bad movie in it’s own right. It’s not just bizarre, awkward, and poorly made – it’s really really boring.