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GODZILLA

Size Does Matter

Size of the ad campaign, apparently.

Let's start with a quote from that popular song of the late 19th century, The Dreary Black Hills:

"Don't go at all, stay at home if you can...."

Okay, we start out during the titles with pictures of iguanas, monitor lizards, and nuclear bomb tests. These are US tests—the ships anchored nearby all have US superstructures. This becomes important later, when it becomes apparent that it's French nuclear testing that awakes Godzilla.

We then go aboard a Japanese fish-cannery ship somewhere in the Pacific. Oh, horror! What's this large object approaching as seen on sonar? Destruction! Confusion! Rending steel!

We move to the Ukraine, where a cheerful young scientist named Nick Tatopoulos (an American) is phoning in his performance studying giant earthworms caused by the nuclear problem at Chernobyl. This is as close to scientific plausibility as we're going to get in this show, so pay attention. All at once up come some army guys in a helicopter to sweep him off. Seems his expertise is needed. And perhaps he is an expert. On earthworms. Because he's marginally brighter than they are. We'll discover a great deal more about his general incompetence later.

Meanwhile, back on Tahiti (trivia—Tahiti has black sand beaches, while this place has white-sand beaches) we have a world-weary Frenchman with a three-day beard questioning the sole survivor of that Japanese fishing ship. By flicking his Bic he gets the guy (who is radioactive enough to power a midsize city) to say "Gojira!" as if he were the little girl shouting "Them!" in Them.

We flip to the Golfo San Miguel in Panamá, looking nothing at all like the real place (but looking a great deal like wherever they just called "Tahiti"), where an overweight Army colonel takes charge of our wormy scientist. The colonel's problem with meeting the army's weight/height standards isn't his only problem. He's perhaps the most tactically incompetent commander we've seen in a long time. Here we meet the rest of the team investigating the intensely radioactive footprints of a gigantic lizard crossing the isthmus. The worm guy is unable to notice the footprints as he's walking up on them, proving that in addition to his other problems he needs glasses. Then the head of the team of scientists he's joining, a female, starts to put the moves on him, proving that she needs glasses too.

From there we go Jamaica, looking intensely like where-ever the last two places were, where we come on a ship, torn to pieces and shoved up on the beach. That ship had held cans of fish! And here's that French guy again, beard still at three days, claiming to be an Insurance Investigator. Those of us who've seen more than two other movies realize by now that he's really a Secret Agent.

Let's see—a canning ship, a ship full of cans—is there a pattern developing?

Now we go to night time on the North Atlantic, as three fishing boats, not showing the proper lights for fishing, maneuver entirely too close together. Suddenly, they are being towed astern by their nets! Egad! Some minutes later they're pulled under because they can't figure out how to slip their nets.

When the incompetent army guys and the silly scientists learn of this, they decide that the critter that left those footprints is heading for New York. And here it comes, right out of the water (where a guy is fishing) and heads to a fish market, where it eats a truck full of fish.

Yes, kids, it seems that Godzilla only eats already caught/processed fish.

So this big dinosaur-looking thing is cruising around the streets, causing all sorts of havoc. And I'm wondering how long it would last in real life. Answer: Long enough for someone to call in an A-10 Warthog. Call it eight minutes.

Scenes of mass destruction, in the rain, to cover the edges of the mattes.

There's quite a lot of buffoonery now, including a pointless and needless subplot dealing with an incompetent journalist, former girlfriend of the worm guy. This gets her invited into his tent, where she sees a videotape improperly labeled "Top Secret." She snatches it up, and causes it to be broadcast, proving that she has no morals and deserves to be squished by a monster (no such luck). It also proves that the worm guy deserves to be fired (as he is, in the one competent thing that anyone involved in this mess does), and get squished by a monster (no such luck).

Anyway, back to the monster. This thing varies between 300 and 400 feet tall (maintaining scale is hard to do, and they don't do it). But it also manages to fit in subway tunnels. Go figure. The US Army, under command of a colonel (and you know, for an operation like this you'd see some stars on the commander's shoulder, not a bird) is unable to shoot it. It isn't that they hit and their weapons are ineffective, it's that they're unable to hit. This should make you wonder what we've paid all those tax dollars to the DoD for all these years. The forces on the ground doing the shooting are under command of a sergeant, apparently. I wonder where all the lieutenants, captains, majors, and light colonels went. To the Hamptons for tea?

Not that they choose particularly good weapons. These guys have a real fondness for air-to-air missiles when trying to shoot ground targets. If there was a contest for "most ineffective weapon to use on a 400 foot reptile," a heat-seeking air-to-air missile would at least get honorable mention. Somehow, with just two AIM-9 Sidewinders, our guys knock the top off the Chrysler building. A Sidewinder has about a two-pound bursting charge. How did they do that? Later, when they need to blow up a building, they choose Harpoons, which are anti-ship missiles. Apparently ten minutes with a copy of Jane's was beyond them.

Have I mentioned the helicopters? They have flotillas of helicopters, all fouling each other's ranges. The monster can outrun them (though later in the film it can't outrun a taxicab) and knock them out of the air, because the helicopter pilots have forgotten that they are in helicopters, and thus can fly over buildings, and, if the monster is 400 feet tall, that setting their altitude to 500 feet will do wonders for their safety. In fact, an AH-64 Apache, just one of them, could sit over a mile away in New Jersey and saw the creature's spine in two with its gun. Why they were using searchlights was also beyond me. Perhaps the pilots forgot to turn on their FLIR?

Okay, there's more buffoonery. Our guys decide that Godzilla eats fish, so they put out a big pile of fish. The monster shows up to eat the fish, and, surprise! they don't have the location bore-sighted with 150mm cannon. They haven't planted a command-detonated Mk 100 iron bomb under the fish. They didn't dose the fish pile with sodium cyanide. In fact, they don't seem to have thought of what to do if the monster did show up.

Then the monster vanishes. No one can find it. It was so radioactive that it contaminated everything it touched. You could find its exact location by flying a helicopter with a geiger counter across the city. There are probably satelites in low-earth orbit that would pinpoint it. But that isn't the worst of it. Far worse, the monster vanishes from the film for 40 minutes, leaving you alone with the dreadful subplots.

They liked the fish bit so much, they decide to do it again.

Now we have another clever plot bit. Seems the monster was nicked. Our worm guy gets some blood. So he then gathers up a bunch of human pregnancy tests from a corner drugstore, and tests the blood. And discovers that the monster is a pregnant female.

First I'd heard that those things worked across species. Or that you didn't need to use urine; blood works fine. Or, for that matter, that you'd get the same hormonal changes in an egg-layer that you get in a placental on implantation. Wow.

Of course, no one believes this. Not too surprisingly. I didn't believe it myself.

But it turns out that Godzilla had laid a whole bunch of eggs in Madison Square Garden, in a scene ripped off from Aliens. Our hero, with the French Secret Agents (cunningly disguised as US Army soldiers with three-day beards, so they easily get through checkpoints) go and perform more buffoonery. There are scenes ripped off from the velociraptor-in-the-kitchen sequence of Jurassic Park. Our clever Frenchmen show great proficiency at shooting doors, but somehow forget to shoot hatched baby Godzillas. If you count on your fingers you discover that only about two days have elapsed. Those were some mighty fast developing eggs.

There's more nonsense, (you'll likethe bit where our hero picks up a live high-tension electric wire with his bare hands) and then the movie's over. Finally, air-to-air missiles work.

I see that I didn't even mention a lot of the stupidities of this film, including using nuclear submarine missile boats rather than attack boats, submerged in far more water than New York Harbor actually has, to incompetently shoot torpedoes at the critter while it's swimming. Let's not forget the dreadful "Mayor Ebert" and his "thumbs up" campaign.

Why did the monster go to New York? Because it instinctively knew that Madison Square Garden was the best place to lay its eggs, apparently. How did it know that Madison Square Garden was in New York? Perhaps it found a tourist brochure on that first ship it sank.

Good lord, this film was bad. Okay, not as bad as Mortal Kombat II, but still...

Other people may be coy about the ultimate ending, but not me. At the very end, we see that one of the eggs survived, and has hatched a new baby Godzilla. You can almost hear it say (cue Mr. Ed voice): "Wilbur? Wiiiiilbur! There's going to be a seeeeeequel...."

Not even rental, people. Size may matter. Plot matters more. Go see Spice World instead.


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