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After director Roland Emmerich's abysmal INDEPENDENCE DAY and all the negative reviews that GODZILLA ($25) received, I thought there was no way in the world this movie could be any good. Boy, was I wrong. No one will ever mistake GODZILLA for great cinema, but this monster movie is so much fun to watch. With GODZILLA, Roland Emmerich definitely had a great time reinventing the giant Japanese science fiction icon. I think the level of fun Emmerich brought to this project is infectious because I certainly caught the enjoyment bug.

While the purists may miss him, the 1998 edition of GODZILLA doesn’t contain a guy wearing rubber a lizard suit that steps on miniature sets of Tokyo. Godzilla is now a gargantuan computer generated lizard that is able to rip through Manhattan Island with realistic splendor. My biggest complaint about GODZILLA is the fact that the film’s special effects are better than the story. In my opinion, a better balance between these two elements would have helped the film. It’s obvious the filmmakers assumed that moviegoers would rather see the monster destroy Manhattan, instead of watching actors utter intelligent dialogue. The plot of GODZILLA concerns a gigantic amphibious lizard that is created by the fallout of nuclear testing in the south pacific. The lure of fish and an instinct to migrate takes Godzilla around the world, where he sets up housekeeping on the isle of Manhattan. Of course, New York residents don’t take kindly to a tourist taking over the town. So, like the Japanese Godzilla films that preceded it, the American GODZILLA features the requisite battle sequences in which the military try to evict the monster from his new home.

GODZILLA stars Matthew Broderick as Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, an expert on genetic mutation who is brought in as a military advisor once the gigantic lizard is discovered. Maria Pitillo plays Audrey Timmonds, an aspiring television news reporter who hopes to bolster her career by using her past relationship with Tatopoulos to get an exclusive. Jean Reno is terrific as Philippe Roaché, the French operative working behind the scenes to eliminate Godzilla. Hank Azaria supplies much of the film's comic relief as news cameraman Victor "Animal" Palotti. Harry Shearer also adds a comic touch as pompous new anchorman Charles Caiman. The cast of GODZILLA also includes Kevin Dunn, Arabella Field, Michael Lerner, Philippe Bergeron, Vicki Lewis and Doug Savant.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has done it again. GODZILLA is an awesome DVD. Now, not only is the film fun to watch, you can also get blown away astounding quality of this DVD. GODZILLA is presented wide screen only on a single sided dual layered disc with almost uninterrupted playback. The Letterboxed presentation frames GODZILLA very close to its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, plus the DVD includes the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions. Like most films right off theatrical release, GODZILLA has a sharp, highly detailed image. Even the rain and fog that appears throughout the film can't disguise the excellent transfer. There are a lot of dark shadowy sequences in the film that could have obscured much of the detail in the image, however even these scenes look great. Color reproduction is good with natural looking flesh tones and respectable saturation. There isn't a trace of chroma noise or distortion anywhere. Columbia TriStar's terrific DVD authoring obscured almost all traces of digital compression artifacts. Pardon the pun, but GODZILLA has a monster soundtrack. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has Earth shaking bass, plus active directional effects. Dialogue reproduction is clean, smooth and never obscured by the sound effects in the other four discrete channels. A two-channel matrixed Dolby Surround soundtrack has been encoded into the DVD, as have English subtitles. The interactive menus contain full motion video and sound, plus the main screen shows a wry sense of humor. Through the menus one can access the DVD's nice assortment of supplements. The chief supplement is a full-length audio commentary featuring special effects supervisor Volker Engel, associate supervisor Karen Goulekas and Godzilla designer Patrick Tatopoulos. Since GODZILLA is special effects laden, their commentary is appropriate and very interesting. Other supplements include a humorous featurette, director/producer biographies, cast filmographies, a photo gallery and a music video for Heroes performed by The Wallflowers.

GODZILLA is a fun monster movie with astounding special effects. Columbia TriStar's DVD is excellent, plus it offers a nice array of supplements for five dollars less than their usual asking price. Recommended.


 Godzilla (1998)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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