Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Cloverfield Review

     Wow, it is really only 16 days until Godzilla?  It still seems so far away but we have come a long way since the Comic Con 2012 Teaser Trailer description was put up online.  Well, let's keep the reviews going to tide us over and today we're looking at the found-footage kaiju film, Cloverfield.

     The plot of Cloverfield follows the friends of family of Robert Hawkins (Micheal Stahl-David) as they throw a going away party for him as he has accepted a job promotion in Japan.  Filmed entirely from a first person perspective by his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his best friend Hud Platt (T.J. Miller), they also capture some tension between Rob and his long-time friend Beth MacIntyre (Odette Yustman).  After they have a bit of a fight and Beth storms off with her date, Rob feels terrible about it and before he can try to fix it a giant creature attacks the city.  Unwilling to find the "off" switch for the camera, Hud captures the carnage of New York under seige and their battle for survival.


     Much like most of the world, my first exposure to Cloverfield was the amazing teaser that was attached to the first Transformers film in 2007.  At this point, the title "Cloverfield" was merely a rumor and had not yet been attached to the film but the teaser did it's job.  What caused the explosion?  What tossed the Statue Of Liberty's head like a baseball?  Is it a new Godzilla movie?  Cthulhu?  Jesus?  The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?  The (now defunct) viral website 1-18-08.com had viral images that I never actually did get to see but from what I've read, it left people scratching their heads more instead of giving them answers (as viral media should be).  Well, we all paced around for a few months and a new trailer was released, confirming the title.  Speculation of the monster's identity was still running rampant but any guesses anyone had weren't even close.  Finally, January 18th, 2008 rolled around so we finally got to see what the hype was about.  It was one of the most intense cinematic experiences of my life (probably in the top 3 or 5 if I had to make a list), but that was 2008.  How is it in 2014 on a 39" LED?

The cast gets rounded up by the military.

     Okay, where to start?  Given that this is a "found footage" movie, you're gonna get a lot of shaky cam.  Does this get nauseating?  When you're watching it on your TV, it's not too bad.  Maybe I'm just saying that because I've seen the movie a couple times but the shaky cam really isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be and it helps sell the whole premise of the movie (even prompting theatre promoters to warn of potential motion sickness to viewers), much like having relatively unknown actors in the leads.  Don't think that unknowns in the lead tampers the quality of the film because they all feel like real people that you see on the streets and in your social circles and not actors.  Watching this film again, not once did I feel that I was simply watching a movie but rather watching a real event as it unfolded before my eyes.
     Watching the film, I figured that it was simply shot on location in New York with the creature and damaged buildings added on top of existing buildings via CGI.  Nope.  There were a few shots filmed on location in New York with a couple of scenes filmed in Los Angelas and the rest filmed on sound stages with green screen filling the cityscape backdrop.  However, these shots were so well done that it feels like your smackdab in the middle of New York City when "it" arrives.
Speaking of "It..."

     Okay, so then of course there's the Cloverfield monster.  Did it turn out to be any of the guesses we had?  Nope.  From what little you do see of it, it has very long forelimbs, shorter back legs, a tail long enough to slice through the Brooklyn Bridge, exterior esophogi dangling from its stomach (that according to the Cloverfield Wiki, it used to eat people and horses) and as you can tell from this shot, is really fucking bigGiven the style that the movie was shot in, you never do get a truly great look at the monster, even when Hud is only a couple of feet in front of it near the end of the film.  Thankfully, Hasbro made a 14 inch figure that shows Clover, as the crew dubbed him, in all of its glory.  This is one of the more bizarre kaiju I've seen and given some of the kaiju that have crawled out of the woodwork, that's saying something but holy crap is it effective.
     You're probably wondering where this creature comes from.  Well, according to the manga tie-in Cloverfield/Kishin, Clover is an undersea life form that was discovered by the fictional drilling company Tagruato.  However, the Kinshin story spirals into stuff that's so out of left field that it is not considered canon to the film.  Producer J.J. Abrams has denied that the creature is an alien, saying the item crashing into the sea at the end of the film is a Chimpanzill satellite, added into the film as a nod to those who followed the viral marketing.
     As if Clover wasn't enough, it also has these parasites that fall off of the creature and attack the people of New York.  They're about the size of a wolf and their bite is extremely fatal, causing the chest cavities of their victims to expand and burst, as Marlena finds out firsthand.  While Clover himself is in the film more than the parasites are, it is his smaller counterparts that provide more of the "BOO" moments in the story and they make them count, despite the fact that the CGI may not hold up as well as Clover's.

My face when Tim Hortons doesn't have my favorite donut...

     Well, I don't think there's really a whole lot else I can say about Cloverfield.  While the movie was met with fairly warm reception upon its release, I find it surprising how many people hate on the movie now.  Did we see the same movie?  Six years later and I still LOVED Cloverfield.  The acting is top notch, the shaky cam helps sell the terror and atmosphere of the film and this movie looks absolutely amazing considering it only had a budget of $25 million.  I've seen movies with quadruple (or more) the budget that this movie had and they don't look as good as this one did.  Does this mean I'd like to see a sequel?  Well, maybe but I don't know how that would work.  Would it be another found footage taken by someone else during that fateful night?  Would it be the monster attacking another city?  If so, you'd have to ignore J.J. Abrams' comment of saying that the creature is dead despite the inclusion of the cryptic "It's Still Alive" soundbite at the end of the credits.  Well, Cloverfield II is still just a rumor at this point so my perspective is this: if a sequel comes out, sure, I'll go see it but if it never happens, Cloverfield works just fine as a standalone film and I will take great pleasure revisiting it again in the future.  If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should really check it out.

     Check back in a little bit as we only have two more entries in the blog to go before the Godzilla review.  Next up will be director Gareth Edwards' Monsters, the project that helped him land the director's chair for Godzilla.

     -The Cynic

Friday, April 25, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Godzilla Final Wars (2004) Review

     We are only 21 days until Godzilla's release and today we're looking at the 28th and final Toho Godzilla film to be made, Godzilla: Final Wars.  2004 was coming up which would mark the 50th anniversary of the original Godzilla film and Toho decided that it was time to give the big guy a rest and send him out in the grandest fashion they could, pitting him against as many of his old enemies as possible.

     Here's the plot: So countless wars and environmental acts have caused several kaiju to surface, making the planet join forces and making the Earth Defense Force, which also recruits people with super-human abilities.  Godzilla has been pinned down in the South Pole by armed forces and a Gotengo (a cross between a blimp, battleship and submarine) manages to trap Godzilla in the ice with the help of an earthquake.  Fast forward forty years where several kaiju appear at once and begin devastating various cities around the globe.  Gotengos are dispatched worldwide to combat the monsters but the creatures suddenly disappear.  Turns out they've been taken by aliens who claim to be here to help Earth, but the central cast's doubts reveal the visitors' true nature: to conquer the planet and harvest humans like cattle.  With the fate of the world in their hands, our heroes must awaken Godzilla in order to stand a chance against the aliens.

And y'know, not die in the process...
      Okay, so there's a bit to talk about with this movie.  If Toho wanted Godzilla to go out with a bang, this was a pretty loud one.  Godzilla's design is one of the best, updating the look of the creature but still staying true to the original design and even using the original colors, unlike the Godzilla 2000 design (which I still like), and uses the same roar as G2K, which is my personal favorite roar (you can hear the evolution of the roar here).
     Are there other monsters to fight?  As you can tell by the poster and my earlier comment, damn right there are!  Looking at the villain roster in this movie is like looking at a band's greatest hits album and they all have updated looks.  The villains are Rodan, Anguirus, King Caesar, Gigan (probably the best design update in the movie), Kamacuras, Hedorah, Ebirah, Kumonga, a new creature named Monster X and Zilla (I'll elaborate more on his appearance later on).  The kaiju Manda, Milla (aka Minya) and Mothra also make appearances but do not actually clash with Godzilla.  When these creatures are on screen, they mostly look great and not surprisingly, these are the best parts of the movie.
     Okay, so how about the parts with the people?  Usually Godzilla movies are more about the people than the monster(s) and this one is no exception.  The stuff involving the people isn't bad, but it's not great either.  Probably the character that stands out the most is the alien leader, who looks like a cross between Dante from the The Devil May Cry remake and Neo from The Matrix.  After killing his superior officer (who looks suspiciously like George Takei), he takes control of the alien army and cuts the subtle invasion bullshit.  However, he's a little childlike for humor's sake, throwing a fit whenever Godzilla defeats one of his monsters (even calling Zilla a "tuna head.")  The rest of the cast is fairly archetypical with your good intentioned male lead, cute scientist female lead, tough as nails captain (who is the only main character who speaks English sans dubbing, even in the original Japanese version), etc etc.  It probably wouldn't have been so bad if the runtime for the film had been cut down a bit because when the film clocks in at two hours, mediocre human material just isn't going to cut it and it in many of these parts doesn't feel like you're watching a Godzilla movie.  At least when you see these characters, they're usually in some kind of battle and it is more interesting than the last Godzilla film we looked at.

*sigh* If only it were this cool...
     Alright, the only things that really annoy me with this movie involve Zilla.  Not the fact that he's in the movie period, but just how Toho treated it.  When you see Zilla, he's never a guy in a suit, only CGI and rather poor CGI at that.  He's not the only creature who is CG'd in this movie but it seems like when they came to animating Zilla, the digital effects team just phoned it in out of spite making Zilla look worse here than he did in his own movie.  Would've been nice if just a little more effort was put into it.
     Also, one of the main hypes surrounding this movie was, "Hey, guess what?!  The Japanese Godzilla is going to fight the American Godzilla!"  When I first heard that, I was like, "Sweet!  The Japanese one is totally going to win but that's gonna be an awesome fight!"  Oh, how wrong I was...

     "Disappointment" doesn't even begin to describe how I still feel about this scene.  First off, why Sum 41?  Sure, I know it's one of their crunchier songs, but it just seems like an odd choice.  Second off, what a cop out fight.  I know that Godzilla is much more powerful than Zilla and all that, but they weren't even trying with this part.  This is what a lot of fans wanted to see and Toho just went, "It's Zilla *SPLAT* Next."  This really should've been the final fight of the movie instead of (spoilers) Monster X turning into Ghidorah.  Ghidorah is physically Godzilla's greatest foe, not to mention one of the most popular so I understand why he was on last but stop and think about it: did Ghidorah try to take Godzilla's identity by being in a horrible movie with his name plastered all over it and leave a horrid inkblot on his legacy?  No, but Zilla did.  Zilla tried to take the name "Godzilla" from its owner.  I don't know about you but I'd take that shit pretty personally.  Final Wars' finale should have been once Ghidorah was defeated, Godzilla would be weakened by the fight with Milla rushing up to comfort him.  However, Zilla leaps out of Tokyo Bay and knocks Milla aside, landing a good sideswipe on Godzilla in the process.  After landing a few clawings and bites, maybe even clawing one of his eyes and drawing blood on Godzilla, Zilla turns his attention to Milla.  Milla attempts to fight back, but Zilla is too fast and strong for him.  Hearing his son's squeals for help, Godzilla goes into a berserker rage, pulls Zilla off of Milla and throws him through a few buildings by his tail.  The two continue to trade blows but Godzilla gets the upper hand and beats Zilla to a bloody lifeless pulp, not even relying on his atomic breath.  Milla, as well as any survivors, watch in awe as Godzilla, covered in both his blood and Zilla's, stands triumphant over his enemy's body and lets out the loudest victory roar the world has ever heard, forever cementing him as the true Godzilla.

     Alas, that will never happen although we did get a much better Godzilla/Zilla fight in the IDW comic Godzilla: Rulers Of Earth (it ends in a draw, though).  That being said, I for the most part enjoy Final Wars because while it may run a little too long, it was a great way to send the king off into a ten year break.  If you like giant monster mayhem, I'd say give this one a shot.

     Well, that's the last Godzilla movie to review before the new one.  Check back next time when we look at the found footage kaiju film, Cloverfield.
     -The Cynic

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Godzilla 2000 Review

    So here we are, 23 days until Godzilla.  In 1994, a final draft of an American Godzilla script was written but didn't go into production.  In 1998, we got...well, y'know.  Apparently, Toho wasn't too happy with the end result of Tristar's Godzilla so they responded with this film, the big guy's 23rd film.  This was the only Japanese produced Godzilla film I've seen theatrically and that was 14 years ago.  Recently, I bought a copy off Amazon and gave it a watch, actually a couple watches because my son likes this one and...I don't think this movie has aged well.

     The plot of this movie follows a father/daughter team who have started a Godzilla Prevention Network, kind of like Godzilla storm chasers, to study him and better prepare the world for dealing with him.  They have a reporter tagging along with them but then the father's old rival, the head of the Crisis Control Intelligence, is trying to put them out of business by aiming to kill Godzilla once and for all.  During this drama, Godzilla wreaks havoc on the military until an asteroid CCI has discovered turns out to be an alien vessel that aims to take a new form and claim the Earth as its own.

Godzilla vs Orga, the new monster.

     Okay, so what's good about this movie?  Well, it was nice to see a more traditional Godzilla film with the actor in the suit against miniatures and another actor in a suit and the suit in question actually looks pretty cool.  It's an updated, more detailed version of Godzilla without giving the character a complete overhaul.  When the Godzilla suit is onscreen and not green screened in any way, it looks really good.  The new monster, Orga (although it is never actually named in film), is pretty neat as well, sort of borrowing the characteristic of the Gryphon from the 94 script where it starts off as an alien vessel and then can take on the form of what it eats as it tries to do so with Godzilla (spoilers: it ends very badly and explosively for Orga).  Unfortunately, the guys in the suits are pretty much the only good things going for this movie.

Godzilla's sick of your shit...

     What's bad, you ask?  First off, I felt that a lot of, dare say all of the human characters were not terribly well flushed out.  It wasn't until the third or fourth viewing that I realized that the reporter following the father/daughter team is in no way related to them and they only say that she's the daughter's mother when they're trying to stop the military from blowing up a building that the UFO is perched on.  The rivalry between the head of the GPN and the CCI is shown but it's not explained terribly well or at the very least well enough for us to care about these people.  This probably wouldn't have been so bad if Godzilla had been in the movie more, but in traditional Godzilla-movie fashion, the title character really isn't in the movie that much.  The part where the head of the CCI dies at the end in such a strange fashion makes no sense to me.  Perhaps it was clearer in the original Japanese version but in the American dub, you kinda scratch your head and go, "What?"
     Okay, earlier I had mentioned green screening and there are a LOT of green screen shots in this movie, and most of them look awful.  There were so many shots that the production team filmed the palette shots on location, and then filmed the actor in the suit in the studio and then put the two together without bothering to check that the lighting matched or things like that.  If there was only a shot like that here and there, I'd shrug it off but there's just so damn many of them that it's really hard to ignore and really takes the fun out of watching this movie.  I would say something about the bad CGI shots in the movie, but this film did only have a budget of $8 million and CGI hadn't really been used a lot in the Toho Godzilla films at this point, so maybe they were just trying to find their footing in that regard.

Case in point...
     I know this review feels a lot shorter than what my long-winded self usually puts out, but there really isn't a whole lot to say about this movie.  I think this movie is more of an homage to the originals (featuring samples of the original's soundtrack) and a middle finger to the 98 film saying, "THIS is how you make a fucking Godzilla movie," and not much else.  Is it the worst Godzilla movie I've seen?  No, but if I had to chart out my least favorite of the films that I've seen, Godzilla 2000 would make that list, probably behind Godzilla vs Megalon.  If you're a die-hard fan of the series, well, you've seen this one already.  As for casual viewers, I don't think I could recommend this one to them and would probably suggest they skip it.  Hell, if it weren't for my son, it'd probably be another couple years or so before I watched this one again.

     Alright, join us next time when we look at the true farewell to the series, Godzilla: Final Wars.

     -The Cynic

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Godzilla 1994 Unused Script Review

Conceptual design of Godzilla by Mark "Crash" McCreery.  Yes, THAT Mark "Crash" McCreery.
     Sweet merciful crap, we're really getting down to the wire!  We are a mere 24 days until Godzilla comes to theatres and earlier today, somebody posted a video of five minutes of footage from the new film being shown at Wondercon.  I watched it and immediately saved it to my phone and probably a good thing I did too because within a few hours, Warner Bros had already taken it down from any link I could find.  I won't give away too much but if there's anyone reading who didn't get a chance to see it, let's just say I had a throbbing nerd-rection and then gave me additional drive to get my ass in gear and get on these reviews.
     Last time we looked at the stinker that was Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's Godzilla.  We all have seen what was, but what about what could have been?  Remember how in that review I had mentioned that Stan Winston Studios had been attached to a Godzilla film that never saw the light of day?  Well, guess what one of my friends sent me the script for...

     Well, all I can say is...why in the name of screaming shit didn't we get THIS one instead?  This script has far more interesting characters, better dialogue and a second monster in it which leads to a final battle in New York that sounds like if it were to be made today, it'd make Pacific Rim look like nursery school.  Well, like the old saying goes, "Money talks," and in the case of Godzilla, it said, "Take a hike."  Director Jan De Bont had just wrapped up Speed and he got wind of this Godzilla script that had been written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot (the duo who helped write Aladdin and the first four Pirates Of The Caribbean films) that Tristar had.  Jan loved the script and he wanted to do the movie, but he said he'd need a budget of $130 million (to put it into perspective, the budget for 1993's Jurassic Park was $63 million apprx.) to pull it off.  Well, Tristar didn't have that much faith in the project to warrant such a budget so the two parted ways and the film never got off the ground...but not before Stan Winston Studios had made a couple of maquettes and concept art for the film.

Another shot of SWS's Godzilla maquette.
     The plot of the unused Godzilla script is a scientist couple are called away to the Arctic where a bleeding iceberg has been discovered.  Upon investigating, it turns out that it's Godzilla's tomb and the "blood" is a fluid that keeps him in a coma.  Unfortunately, Godzilla wakes up and the husband is killed in the process.  Flash forward a year later and the wife scientist, Jill, along with a couple of new colleagues (one who is a mythology expert who believes in the Godzilla legends) and through a bizarre turn of events, they realize that Godzilla's awakening was not coincidental and that the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, despite Jill's anxiousness to kill Godzilla and avenge her husband's death.

     Okay, is the script perfect?  Well, not really but we'll start with the good things about it.  First off, the script is about 120 pages and if I recall correctly, a page of a script translates to about a minute of screentime (this script did take me just under two hours to read it).  So were this film made, it wouldn't really be any shorter to sit through but at least it would be a two hour movie that at worst would feel like a two hour movie and at best, maybe hour and a half (unlike the one we got, which feels three hours long).  Rossio and Elliot's script doesn't drag on, waste time on boring characters or stupid subplots, has plenty of action from both Godzilla and his adversary The Gryphon and overall flows really smoothly.
     Okay, you're probably wondering, "Okay, so what changes did they make to Godzilla then?"  Not many.  As you can tell by the picture above, the overall design hasn't changed much and he does have a personality that seems like a combination of the Showa and Heisei era Godzillas (example, during the final fight, Godzilla tears the Gryphon's head off and shoves it onto one of the support pillars of the Brooklyn Bridge) but there were a couple of things used here that would find their way into the 98 film, specifically Godzilla can crouch down on all fours when needed (although he doesn't tunnel), he can run and he can jump.
     Probably the most interesting thing about this script is its villain.  The Gryphon simply starts out as a large alien probe that crashes into a lake and begins absorbing local wildlife and building creatures based on said wildlife's DNA, which eventually merge into one giant creature that has the body of a mountain lion, the wings of a bat and a tongue made up of many snake heads.  Do keep in mind this script predates Godzilla vs Destoroyah so the whole combining to make one giant creature hadn't really been done yet (if I remember correctly).  Once it has reached full form, it can still absorb traits from its prey, as it demonstrates when it swallows a shady military officer and begins using his personality tic, which I'll admit I'm torn as to whether it'd look creepy or silly onscreen.  I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and go with creepy.

Conceptual design for the Gryphon.
     Okay, so what was bad about it?   Well, Godzilla's origins are vastly different than the original Toho film, and I do mean vastly.  Okay, are you ready for this?  There's one part where one of the scientists gets infected with something from Godzilla's tomb and it gradually mutates him into an alien looking being (kinda sounds like a Grey) that needed a human host to explain to the human race what they're up against.  The Gryphon is from an alien race that sends probes to planets so it can take on a form based on the local biology, lay waste to any civilization and let its masters take over a per-conquered planet.  The Greys are an ancient race that once inhabited Earth and they genetically engineered Godzilla based on dinosaur templates as a weapon to use against these invaders and they've created him so that the only thing that could possibly kill Godzilla is another monster.  So yeah, all that nuclear weaponry allegory stuff has been tossed out the window for ALIENNNSS!  This was really the only part of the script that I wasn't particularly impressed with.

     Well, this review is like a day late so I should wrap this up.  While Emmerich's version may have been closer to the original creature-origin wise, Rossio and Elliot's script felt like it would have kept the spirit of the Toho films and really, I think that's what fans were looking for.  Isn't it odd that Tristar said no to handing over $130 million to make this Godzilla movie, but were perfectly fine for handing Devlin & Emmerich the same amount (if not more) to make the train wreck that we wound up getting?  If nothing else, Todd Tennant has a web-comic in progress that follows the story of the 1994 script (mostly) so at least it didn't go entirely to waste.  If you have a couple hours to spare (or less if you're a speed reader), give this script a read.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

     Join us next time when we look at the Big Guy's return to form, Godzilla 2000.

     -The Cynic

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Godzilla (1998) Review

     Alright, I know what you're thinking.  It's one of three things:
     -"Cynic, why are you even bothering with this one?  Everyone knows it's not a true Godzilla movie."
     -"Cynic, why are you even bothering with this one?  Everyone knows that this is a terrible movie."
     -"Hey, fuck you!  I like this movie."

     Now the third option is less likely but I do know people who genuinely enjoy this film.  For the record, I did enjoy this film when I was a kid, so much to the point that for my 12th birthday I got nothing but merchandise from this movie and I watched the hell out of the VHS once I got it.  Yet, when I watch it now...let's just say time has not been kind to this version of Godzilla.  I don't even consider this film a guilty pleasure anymore, not like when I did a blog about the animated series that followed it.  This film was horribly received, currently ranking a 5.2/10 score on IMDB, a 25% score on Rotten Tomatoes and scorned by critics and long-time Godzilla fans alike back in 1998.  While the advertising for the film (including this trailer, which was brilliantly aired during the annual New Years Eve television special at about 11:58 PM) was solid, the general consensus is that the film itself isn't.  Since it does bear the name of "Godzilla," we're going to take a look at this movie again.  Now, I don't want to sound like I'm just jumping on a bandwagon, so when I sat down and watched it this afternoon, I went in with a mentality of, "Okay, we know the film is bad but is there anything good within?"

Okay, I got a good laugh out of this one.

      This film was director Roland Emmerich & producer Dean Devlin's follow up to their smash hit, 1996's Independence Day.  Originally Roland Emmerich had wanted to do an asteroid film, but Deep Impact and Armageddon were on the horizon, so he and Devlin got together and said, "Godzilla."  Since Tristar Studios had acquired the rights and been wanting to do an American take on the monster since the early 1990s (Stan Winston Studios at one point was attached to do the SFX), they were on board for totally reinventing the King Of The Monsters.  The duo reunited with Independence Day creature designer Patrick Tatopolous and gave him the daunting task of redesigning the classic kaiju.  After unveiling their design to the head honchos at Toho, the trio were met with a nervous silence and after being told to wait a day, Toho gave their blessing on the project.  This is really the only exposition you need on the history of the film.

      Alright, so let's get right down to it: is the movie really that bad?  Well, it's bad, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that it's truly as bad as everyone says it is.  Much like Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, it's full of problems but you won't really suffer from eye stigmata either.  Are there good things about it?  Hell, I know I'm in the minority here but one of the best things about this movie is Godzilla's appearance redesign.  I've been a fan of saurian creatures ever since I was five years old, so of course I don't mind if a monster that was originally conceived as a dinosaur mutated by nuclear radiation has a version that actually looks more saurian.  Granted, this is countered by the fact that in this version, Godzilla is not a dinosaur but in fact a mutated lizard from the French Polynesia and the CGI effects aren't up to par even for 1998, but still, of all the things about this movie, Tristar's Godzilla redesign is one of the few things that hold up.

Nifty model kit of the redesign.

     I also still have the book of The Making Of "Godzilla," chronicling the behind the scenes mayhem to bring the new version of the world's biggest movie star to life.  Most people are quick to assume that all of the shots within the city featuring the military or of Godzilla were generated via CGI, but this isn't entirely true.  The part where Madison Square Garden blows up and Godzilla rises from what's left of it?  That's 1/24 scale model of MSG, which was taller than VFX Supervisor Volker Engel, being blown up on a soundstage with Kurt Carley in a Godzilla suit coming out of it.  How about where Godzilla has the fish truck in his jaws when he first arrives in Manhattan?  That's a 1/6 scale animatronic, which is slightly terrifying.  There are plenty of other practical FX shots in this movie and looking at this book upon watching the movie again, I feel really bad for the practical FX crew involved because while it may be a terrible movie, these guys and gals were working their assess off to try and make it look great.  However, in the end, I guess no matter how much hard work you put on making the quality bread of a shit sandwich, in the end you're still going to have a shit sandwich.

 I'd even recommend picking this book up on Amazon, for the mighty 3 cents plus shipping it'll cost you.

     How much of a shit sandwich, you ask?  Well, you know it's a bad sign when even the two good things about the film listed above have bad aspects to them.  In an old blog before I went on a bit of a hiatus, I had mentioned I wrote a video script of "5 Reasons Why Godzilla (98) Sucks" that never saw the light of day so I gave the condensed version.  Upon revisiting the film, those five reasons still hold firm today.  I'll elaborate on the bigger ones.

     Okay, this movie features one of the worst movie armies I have ever seen, actually causing more damage to New York than Godzilla does.  When I wrote my original "5 Reasons" script, I actually contacted a friend of mine who is in the United States Air Force to ask him exactly how accurate the representation of the Armed Forces were and below was his response.  I don't know if I can use my friend's name or not for whatever reason, so I'll omit that just in case:


     Well, you are correct in your statement of a Roland Emmerich film being the last place to look for accuracy, but I'll assist you in an analysis of his "Godzilla" film, because that movie needs a kick in the ass whenever it can be provided.
     From what I recall of that abomination, nothing was really done right, both militarily and cinematically.  We in the Air Force do not fly the Apaches (the Army does) but we do work with them a lot on the MC-12, so we have a pretty good idea of how they work.
     About the needing permission to fire, it all depends on the rules of engagement for that particular mission.  Given the severity of a kaiju attack, I'd like to think they'd have it ironed out beforehand with, "If you get a shot at the damn thing, take it."  However, there may be extenuating circumstances, like if they had Godzilla in their sights but he was fornicating the Statue Of Liberty.  "Should I still take the shot?  I could destroy them both."  Usually Apaches, bombers and other attack aircraft are controlled so much by a guy on the ground called a FAC or JTAC (usually an Air Force officer working with the Army), but a Godzilla scenario would probably be a little different.
     The film's depiction of the agility of the Apaches also has me scratching my head.  I sincerely doubt that they wouldn't be able to weave all nimbly bimbly between buildings.  I know that no pilot would ever take his plane between skyscrapers and helicopters might be a little different but it still looks off when I picture it.
     There are two scenes in particular you asked about that are painfully, glaringly wrong:
     -When the swarm of Apaches are chasing the creature through the city, there's two things wrong here.  One, Apaches (well, nowadays at least) usually fly in a two-ship configuration.  You wouldn't have the mass number depicted in the film chasing a single target from one side.  Two, this scene has friendlies flying in front of one another while engaging the target.  To put it bluntly, it's a HUGE deal if you fire a rocket, missile or even a bullet with a friendly in front of you.  HUGE deal.
     -The scene where the Apaches fire upon the hollowed out building without confirming Godzilla is within is a huge no-no.  If you're going to fire, CONFIRM YOUR TARGET.  If there's a chance they'd destroy the city instead of Godzilla, it's likely they wouldn't fire until they could get a clearer shot at him.
     I also find the whole "heat-seekers can't lock" thing absurd.  Like I told you about that horrible Jurassic Park comic, heat seeking missiles are designed to go after airplane engines, so they need a target that's several hundred degrees in order to lock on.  I know that Godzilla was much faster in this version than the Japanese one, but still, if you can't hit a building sized monster, you're doing something wrong.
     "Godzilla" is a strange movie when it comes to the military aspect, especially when Roland Emmerich got it down fairly well with "Independence Day" and Michael Bay did a great job with the "Transformers" movies.  "Cloverfield" made it look more convincing than "Godzilla," even if you wouldn't have fighters flying that low over New York rooftops.  Hope this helps you with your script.

     Even if you know little to nothing about how armed forces tactics work, there's no doubt that the movie is lacking in other areas, like the acting and the script.  I'm not sure which one is truly at fault so I'm listing both.  I found that the only remotely convincing cast member in this movie was Jean Reno, who plays a French Secret Service agent who brings a team to New York to help take down Godzilla behind the military's back.  Matthew Broderick being the frontman in an action movie is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen and for having a batch of actors being used to play scientists, they have some of the stupidest lines that should never come out of a scientist's mouth, the most glaring to me being, "An island, water on all sides..." As opposed to what, an island with water on a couple of sides?  The rest of the cast really isn't even worth mentioning, so we'll go to the next big thing.


      Yes, the Baby Godzillas.  I've always hated this part of the movie because it comes completely out of left field (Why would Nick think to buy pregnancy test in the first place?  Furthermore, how are pregnancy tests used on humans supposed to work on mutated reptiles?!), it's totally unnecessary and once they reach Madison Square Garden and the eggs start hatching, it suddenly becomes another movie.  Emmerich and Devlin swear up and down that any similarities to Jurassic Park were not intentional, but I have my doubts.  All this does is drag the film on, set up a sequel that never happened (theatrically) and lead into a finale that feels even more extended to the point where this two hour fifteen minute film feels longer than Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King.  Actually, while we speak of the finale...

     While I am a fan of Godzilla's design in this movie, I don't like how he's so easily disposed of in this film.  Playing dead after getting torpedoed in the Hudson River, Godzilla emerges pheonix style from the remains of Madison Square Garden and chases after the human cast.  They lure him onto the Brooklyn Bridge where he gets caught in the suspension cables and some F-18s shoot him down.  Yup, after all we've been through, it just takes some suspension cables and twelve missiles to stop him.  I don't know if the film was meant to end with the destruction of Madison Square Garden and the test screen results felt that the story wasn't finished or what, but it sure feels that way.

     Okay, I think this review has gone on for a little too long (much like the film) and I'm getting tired.  Roland Emmerich's Godzila may have a neat looking monster, but the rest of the film is a bit of a chore to sit through because it throws watchable-but-not-particularly-entertaining material at us while taking itself oh so seriously.  Had the some of the dialogue and cast been tweaked, the Baby Godzilla's cut completely (although without them, we probably wouldn't have gotten the better animated series) and some of Godzilla's more traditional characteristics included (breathing atomic fire, not being killed by conventional weapons), this film probably could've been saved.  However, we're left with a film that can only really be enjoyed if you can completely turn off your brain and just roll with it.  Oh, well.  If absolutely nothing else, this movie is still better than Godzilla's Revenge.

*ulp* Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a bit.
     -The Cynic