Starring Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, and Kevin Dunn
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment
In 1997 when the news first broke that Godzilla would be surfacing again for American audiences, I was stoked beyond words. When it was announced that the team behind the hit invasion film Independence Day were the people making it, I was in a state of nirvana! These guys knew how to do destruction in a big way, so their pairing with Big G himself seemed like a match made in Kaiju heaven. The ads started peppering the United States. The tag line Size Does Matter was plastered across every city bus, billboard, and movie theatre marquee. It was a good time to be a Godzilla fan, and audiences were literally chomping at the bit. We got some casting news first. Matthew Broderick. Ferris Bueller? He’s no Raymond Burr, that’s for sure, but hey the steeley Jean Reno is also in it. Maybe he can fill that dramatic void. More time passed, and it was announced that Godzilla would be getting an updated look as well. This worried fans a bit, but we were excited. Nothing was gonna put a damper on our monster mash. Finally it was time. Godzilla was invading theatres. Fast forward one hundred and thirty-nine minutes later, and there was outrage within the fan base — and for good reason.
This was not Godzilla. In fact, that’s the name that managed to stick with fans: Notzilla. Everything we loved about the big guy had been changed. His trademark roar was replaced with a shrill shriek, his bulky body now resembled that of an iguana-chicken hybrid, and to add insult to injury, the friggin’ thing did not even breathe fire! How can you have a Godzilla film and not have the title character breathe fire?!? It turns out the tag line was one hundred percent correct. Size does matter, and this cinematic blunder was HUGE and completely unforgivable.
Usually this is the point of the review where I’d write out a brief synopsis of the storyline. Godzilla’s been around for decades, and each film pretty much had the same basis: Giant monster comes, city gets wrecked, carnage ensues, humans temporarily triumph, roll credits. This holds true for this film as well, but there are issues that need to be addressed. For one thing, the film’s execution. Director Roland Emmerich exhibited a great deal of promise with Independence Day. In it he showed a lot of dread and suspense leading up to the aliens’ attack on our planet. At times the tension of that film could be cut with a knife. Audiences were completely blown away by it. Fans expected the same type of tone for Godzilla. The subject matter was rife with opportunities for it. What did we get? A cartoonish Disney-esque roller coaster ride riddled with some of the worst miscasting, worst blown lines, and worst acting imaginable. Honestly I really have to wonder if lead actress Maria Pitillo was cast for her acting abilities or simply as a favor to the higher-ups. Every time she opened her mouth I prayed that a giant scaly foot would drop on her head ala Bambi Meets Godzilla. Thankfully I haven’t seen her in a film since. I wonder why.
Now let’s talk a bit about the film’s climax. Apparently Afro-Americans are not the only ones that have a problem catching a cab in New York City as Godzilla’s arch nemesis in this film is a four-wheeled taxi that no matter how big or fast he is, he just can’t seem to nail. I felt a genuine sense of embarrassment for the creature as he would fall flat on his Jay Leno-sized chin every time he got near it. Who okayed this shit? Jesus!
For this DVD release the question beckons: to double dip or not to double dip? This is the second DVD release of this movie, and truth be told, it is a better package than the original. It has all of the extras that the first incarnation did, but now the ante is upped slightly by the inclusion of three new features. First up we find a brand new production gallery that’s filled with lots of behind-the-scenes photos, etc. The next added feature is billed as the Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes. This is a bit of a cheat in and of itself. I was expecting an assembled featurette of maybe a top ten or something. Instead we basically get a ten-minute long commercial for the rest of the Godzilla DVD’s that are available. Talk about a missed opportunity. Lastly, we have three episodes from Godzilla: The Animated Series. Believe it or not, these are actually pretty watchable. In fact the acting in them is way better than it is in the film itself. Go figure. *shakes head in disgust*
On a side note another two DVD’s in the animated series are being released simultaneously with this. Each is silly fun and much more entertaining than the film itself. They’re definitely worth a look for the hardcore fans out there.
As a standalone piece having nothing at all to do with the Godzilla franchise, this film is an okay little monster flick. The creature is kind of cool, but again, it’s just not Godzilla. When this re-imagining of the franchise was released, almost immediately fans began to cry for an all-out brawl between Notzilla and the real Godzilla. Who would win? Check out Godzilla: Final Wars (see review below in the Related To field) for the answer and some real Kaiju mayhem.
If you’ve never picked this film up on DVD, it may be worth it to do so now, if only for the added cartoons. If you already have it on your shelf, leave it there. It doesn’t need to be replaced. Just ignored.
All new Best of Godzilla Fight Scenes featurette
Three episodes from Godzilla: The Animated Series
New production art gallery
Special effects supervisor commentary
Heroes music video by The Wallflowers
Publicity stills gallery
Godzilla Takes New York featurette with before and after shots
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