Godzilla

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I walked into “Godzilla” expecting it to be an exciting, scary, summertime-popcorn-type of movie. While lots of media hype doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality, you can usually expect to at least be entertained when something is “The Most Hyped Movie of the Summer.” All that publicity usually means the film is at least FUN, if not too deep, and so I expected at least that from “Godzilla.”

And really, the idea of a huge monster loose in the city, stomping on and/or eating people, certainly has the potential for scariness.

You can imagine my disappointment — and the disappointment of the people who shared the theater with me — when “Godzilla” was over and we realized we had not been entertained.

“Godzilla,” I realize now, was a bad idea waiting to happen. The 22 old Japanese “Godzilla” movies were all bad, as was the most recent one, released in this country in 1985. (You had forgotten it, hadn’t you? That, too, was heavily hyped and turned out to be garbage.) Did anyone really think that someone could make a GOOD “Godzilla” movie?

A screenplay might have helped. The dialogue in “Godzilla” is nothing more than a series of cliches and weak one-liners. Granted, we don’t expect depth in our summer blockbusters. But we do expect lines better than, “You know how I get that bad feeling before something bad happens? Well, I’m gettin’ it right now!” right before a huge foot stomps down.

It would have taken some real ingenuity, I see now, to make this movie exciting. Because the basis of it — a huge beast loose in New York — is quickly made non-exciting by having Manhattan evacuated almost as soon as Godzilla appears. That means practically zero chance of anyone getting eaten or squashed — and besides, we quickly learn, Godzilla has no interest in such activities anyway. He (or she, it seems) only wants to lay his/her eggs somewhere. Godzilla isn’t a monster; it’s just a really big animal. That’s fine, but it automatically eliminates all possible suspense or scariness to know that the main “monster” isn’t on a rampage; it’s just looking for a hole to hide in somewhere. There’s no danger, as long as you get out of its way.

It’s a little hard to accept Godzilla as being a vicious “monster” anyway, since in most of the old “Godzilla” movies, he was the good guy, fighting other monsters and protecting Tokyo. Besides, he always looked so goofy in those rubber suits. All that, plus the fact that in this movie Godzilla just wants to nest in a subway tunnel, makes him a pretty non-scary monster.

So with those possibilities eliminated, we turn to the babies. Godzilla lays her eggs in Madison Square Garden, where they soon hatch, much to the dismay of the four main characters who are in the Garden at the time. These babies show a promising desire for food, and they do eat a couple of nameless French guys, which means that now, finally, there’s some real danger. Except that we’ve seen it all before: The babies look and act exactly like the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park.” They even hunt down the movie’s heroes from one room to another like in that movie. The difference? “Jurassic Park” was suspenseful. “Godzilla” never is, not for a minute, not even in the scene (another “Jurassic Park” rip-off) where Godzilla chases our heroes as they drive through the streets of Manhattan.

Matthew Broderick, a good actor, doesn’t belong in this movie. He’s too good to be wasted running around and gaping at big monsters. Maria Pitillo, as his ex-girlfriend-turned-wannabe-reporter, DOES belong in this movie. She’s ditzy and air-headed, and seems perfectly suited to say the awful lines given to her in the script. I’m not a woman, but I cringe on behalf of that gender when I see the way she and the few other female characters scream and whimper and act subservient.

The special effects are very good, but filmmakers need to realize we’re not impressed by that anymore. Making monsters look real has become the rule, not the exception, so you can’t expect a movie to be considered “good” merely because of its special effects.

Basically, “Godzilla” is ruined when, in the first 10 minutes, the title character has already appeared in New York, smashing things but not particularly desiring to hurt anyone. Right there, the suspense has been ruined, and it only gets more dull from there.

It’s too bad. The first “event” movie of the summer should, by all rights, be something fun and exciting. What’s unfortunate is not so much that this movie turned out poorly, but that anyone ever thought it WOULDN’T, considering it has a terrible script, no plot, and forty years of bad “Godzilla” history behind it.

Let’s just hope this isn’t the start of a long, boring summer.

D (; PG-13, sci-fi action violence, some profanity.)

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