The old “Godzilla” flicks were campy, but they were fun. I enjoyed watching these guys in rubber suits pretending to be monsters and fighting each other around cardboard cities of Japan. So when they announced this remake, I was eager to see it. I should have known that Hollywood has a way of ruining good ideas, especially when the director is Roland Emmerich, who gave us the forgettable “Universal Soldier”, the awful “Stargate” and the overblown “Independence Day”. And yeah, he turned the hugely fun dinosaur into a wimp.
At first, everything looks like we’re in for an archetypal “Godzilla” film. Nuclear tests create/wake the monster, who then crushes boats and arrives in… Tokyo? Nope, this is an Hollywood movie, so they moved the action to New York. Godzie crushes some stuff, and the army tries to blow him up. Of course, every single person in the army is dumb as a brick and can’t even kill one little mutant lizard. Hence, a bunch of unlikely heroes are thrown in the mix to save the city. First, you got a geeky scientist played by Matthew Broderick. He has some good one-liners, but he’s no Schwarzenegger. Then there’s a bunch of French Secret Service Agents with their own agenda, lead by Jean Reno. He was great in “The Professional”, but here, he’s just the target of jokes against the French. They make him talk with a stupid accent, and beside a few heroic moments, his character is pointless. Next is a TV news team, formed of yet another perky babe, but more interestingly, a jerky anchor man (Harry Shearer) and a persistent cameraman (Hank Azaria). We also meet NYC’s Mayor Ebert and his assistant Gene, which are obviously parodies of movie critics Siskel & Ebert. It’s an amusing nod at first, but they replay it way too much.
Now, the filmmaking side. Like previously, Emmerich’s direction isn’t anything special, nor even is it generically stunning à la Tony Scott. Emmerich just doesn’t have it. At least, he pulled a few cool shots in “ID4”, but I wasn’t impressed by any of “Godzilla”‘s visuals. The FX are decent, but I’ve seen much better. In the monster department, I preferred the giant alien bugs of “Starship Troopers” (the best sci-fi flick in a long time). The problem with the way Godzilla is portrayed is that he looks too realistic, kinda like a real big lizard. I preferred the old “Japanese stuntman in a rubber suit” look. As for the destruction and mayhem, “ID4” was more inventive once again.
On the music side, don’t expect to hear more than 5 seconds of the soundtrack’s hit tunes. Speaking of which, you know what’s the best way to describe this film? Just compare it to the song which plays over the closing credits, Puff Daddy’s Come With Me. For this track, Sean “Puffy” Combs steals the music from Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and adds a lame rap on it. Of course, the result is still pretty cool and ear-catching since the original music from Jimmy Page is so wonderful. Still, Robert Plant’s vocals are so superior to Puffy’s rhymes. Now, let’s look how similar the film is to the song. “Godzilla” steals the basic concept of the Japanese “Godzilla” flicks, pumps it up with a huge special effects budget, which kind of catches your eye, but not enough to make you want to see it again. My suggestion: buy the original Led Zep music and rent the Toho “Godzilla” movies. Puff Daddy’s song and Emmerich’s “Godzilla” are lousy, over-produced knock-offs.