ByJames M. Tate, writer at Creators.co
Top Shark Cinema Writer at CultFilmFreaks.com and Now a Movie Pilot Remora...
James M. Tate

Like KING KONG before and JAWS after, here’s a timeless classic that builds momentum leading to the entrance of the feared antagonist, and, using a sense of palpable, underlying doom, even during pockets of downtime, the story remains intensely intriguing throughout...

Forget the Americanized GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS where a tacked-on Raymond Burr strolls around Tokyo recalling events from the real GODZILLA, using each scene as if they were memories or newsreels, or memories of newsreels…

The 1954 Japanese film, actually titled GOJIRA, begins with a rumbling in the ocean as witnessed by a boatload of Japanese sailors. But we don’t see anything till Godzilla actually shows himself to a group of beach-dwelling locals and then, later on, rears up in full shriek from a mountainside… But these are only teasers of what's to come.

We all know it’s merely a man in a costume (Haruo Nakajima to be exact), but the way the beast is shown sporadically, and with only a trace of its full frame... And since he's spoken of as an impending threat by the military or a rare species that should be taken alive and studied by a wise old scientist (Takashi Shimura from IKIRU and SEVEN SAMURAI)...

By the time Godzilla ravages a city using lethal vapor-breath, tripping around power lines and stomping cars and buildings, he truly deserved his moment of gloriously formidable destruction.

"I will not pay that much for cable!"
"I will not pay that much for cable!"

Meanwhile, each human character has significance to the plotline… especially the old and young scientists – the latter developing an underwater weapon that could skeletonize the monster to avoid worldwide havoc. Excluding the screeching female role, the performances are good and yet the people never outshine what, or rather, who really matters.

With gorgeous black and white cinematography ranging from the terrifying (and now iconic) rampages to one particularly moving scene... as the camera glides slowly across a choir of young girls singing a prayer for the city’s fate… And with a historic aspect on the nuclear repercussions from World War II, the original GODZILLA is deep and thoughtful, and even sympathetic…

At the very end, as two intrepid heroes dive into the ocean, moving slowly across the surface to stealthily take out the monster for keeps, we see a docile Godzilla waking from an underwater nap, looking humanly groggy and naïve to the circumstances, making this a creature to both fear and feel for.

Welcome... to Godzilla Park
Welcome... to Godzilla Park

The teaser/trailer for Roland Emmerich’s GODZILLA was admittedly pretty good: a man fishing on a pier sees the ocean rise into a mysterious mound that winds up being a gigantic reptilian eyeball…

Which is the best thing the horrendous 1998 remake has to offer, a highlighted scene that would have been much better used only in the promotion: once GZ's on the big screen, marking the first sign of the rebooted beast before ravaging New York, the movie goes downhill… and then some...

Actually, most of Godzilla’s reign occurs as if he were taking a breezy afternoon walk across Manhattan… With so many shots of the creature’s giant green claws, you’d think Emmerich had more of a foot fetish than Quentin Tarantino for Uma Thurman… But what goes on inside the surrounding office buildings makes this a true howler…

Matthew Broderick’s Dr. Niko having neurotic arguments with his ex, Audrey, seems like a rehearsal for a Neil Simon romantic comedy, neither caring that a giant monster is about to take down the entire city just outside their windows… So any impending threat or a palpable sense of doom is gone.

Even when the adventurous third banana Jean Reno, as the Robert Shaw/Captain Quint of the film, is introduced for action-packed potential, the awkwardly balanced humor and suspense amounts to little more than, once Godzilla hatches a bevy of eggs, a banal JURASSIC PARK Raptor rip-off – perhaps the title should have been GODZILLAS.

If given a dollar for each time someone (male or female) refers to Matthew Broderick as being cute or adorable, you'd be reimbursed for the ticket or rental price of this abysmal reboot that hopefully gets made up for with the upcoming Bryan Cranston vehicle – which won’t have a problem surpassing this particular catastrophe, but that’s a monstrous given.

1954 Original: ****

1998 Reboot: *

By James M. Tate

www.cultfilmfreaks.com


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