Thursday, September 11, 2014

Godzilla (1998)

To go on some kind of tangent about how BAD Roland Emerich's 1998 Godzilla movie is would be a pointless exercise.   I can't add much to what countless other internet reviewers (and actual critics) have said about it in the past; it's quite honestly a mess from start to finish, the writing is hackneyed, and everything about Matthew Broderick's acting is just a   I've seen it in a theater twice now; once during its initial run when I was about seven years old, and once a few weeks ago when Rifftrax Live! did a theatrical riff on it as part of a Fathom Events special screening.  So instead of picking apart what doesn't work about it, I'll judge it based on how well it holds up as a monster movie, which when you consider the genre, is chock-full of movies that are terrible in quality but are still entertaining in their own way.  It still fails miserably.

The aesthetics of the movie don't feel like a classic Godzilla or Daikaiju film at all; they feel like Independence Day.  When I say the aesthetics, I'm talking about the camerawork, the dialogue, the acting, the special effects, and especially the tone (mixing serious and funny and failing to be either more than sporadically).  One reason that the Godzilla films are fun is because they have a hand-made quality; you know you're watching a man in a monster suit fighting some puppet on twenty strings... but it's charming, in a way.  Charm is the last thing the 1998 film has, and I actually find that same charm to be lacking in Independance Day as well.  I find most all of Emerich's films to be devoid of heart and inspiration; every emotion is hollow and the jokes feel forced.

Often times, the actors in Emerich's movies have the ability to overcome the bad writing and give a good performance, like Jeff Goldblum in ID.  But wow, oh wow, does the opposite happen with Matthew Broderick.  I get what he was going for: nerdy and awkward.  But instead of making the character the likable geek, Broderick plays Nick as if he has autism, which makes laughing at his behavior impossible.  There's a certain over the top acting style that the Japanese actors in Kaiju movies have which helps add to the fun of the movie.  They point and scream and talk very seriously about how this deadly monster that shoots death rainbows out of it's back is going to destroy them all.  The character drama is kept to a minimum, even in the original Godzilla, the most serious-minded movie in the canon.  Here, it's not clear whether or not we're supposed to take these people's character drama seriously.  We need that classic disaster movie "scientist that no one will believe," and what we get is Matthew Broderick just looking absolutely lost.

Some say we look alike...
Hm. I don't see it.
Not only does Emerich's Godzilla want to be Independence Day, it's content to rip off Jurassic Park shamelessly.  No where is this more apparent than in the scene where all of Godzilla's eggs hatch baby Godzillas that look just like velociraptors.  They are such a blatant rip-off of the concept that it's actually a little insulting.  There's a dearth of creativity all over the thing, and the baby Godzilla scenes really go to show that the writers just did not care or weren't given enough time to think of something better.  And yeah...that CGI hasn't aged well at all (on both the babies and the titular Godzilla).

It would have been nice to see a fun little homage to the Japanese icon via either a campy monster movie or an update to the original, dead-serious Godzilla films.   What we get is a film with no heart, integrity, creativity or passion; it exists ONLY to produce a trailer that will get butts in seats for opening weekend, and one of those butts was mine.  I didn't like the film when I was seven, not realizing I was in the majority.  And if you can't get a seven year old to like your monster flick, you've got a serious problem.