Just as Batman & Robin was among the first chilling signs that last summer would yield a bitter crop of event films, the appearance of the heavily hyped, horrible Godzilla may be seen as a similarly bad omen by the time September arrives. In a departure from the original film, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's (Independence Day, Stargate) Godzilla opens with French nuclear testing causing a normal-sized lizard to turn into giant-sized, dinosaur-like beastie. While this indicates a simplistic Marvel Comics-level logic at work, it does at least make reference to Godzilla's Japanese origins as a symbol of nuclear terror. Sadly, the rest of the film indicates that this little bit of depth was probably included by accident. Matthew Broderick plays a nuclear expert called in by the government to investigate evidence—such as giant reptilian footprints—that some sort of gigantic lizard has been running amok. Once the lizard hits Manhattan, Broderick joins forces with French secret-service agent Jean Reno, aspiring journalist/ex-girlfriend Maria Pitillo (Bye Bye Love, Dear God), and camera-toting sidekick Hank Azaria. While the special effects are impressive, countless films have already proven that if you sink enough money into a project, you can at least make it look good. Unfortunately, good looks are all Godzilla has going for it. At an oppressive 140 minutes, Emmerich and Devlin have padded things out with numerous dispensable subplots—will Pitillo scoop mean Harry Shearer and get the big story?—and dumb, distracting humor such as a mayor and mayoral aide patterned after Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. Leaps in logic, most notably Godzilla's ability to hide in the middle of Manhattan, could be forgiven if the film were the least bit enjoyable. But, sporadic bits of dumb humor aside, Devlin and Emmerich approach Godzilla as if they were creating a modern Aeneid: Even the action scenes are awkwardly staged, thrill-free, and derivative. About halfway through the movie, hundreds of smaller Godzilla hatchlings begin terrorizing the film's heroes in a series of scenes so like the velociraptor sequences of the Jurassic Park films that it's embarrassing. So's the movie, considering that after the commercial success of Independence Day, Emmerich and Devlin have no one to blame but themselves for this piece of junk.
More from The A.V. Club