Following the French atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific, an unknown creature is spotted passing westward through the Panama Canal. Scientist Niko Tatopolous is called in to investigate the matter, and he quickly arrives at the conclusion that a giant, irradiated lizard has been created by the explosions. Godzilla(r) then makes its way north, landing at Manhattan to begin wreaking havoc in the big city. Even with the combined forces of the U.S. military to fight the monster, will it be enough to save the people of New York?
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As "gigantic monster reptile attacks New York" movies go, you've got to admit that Godzilla delivers the goods, although its critical drubbing and box-office disappointment were arguably deserved. It's a shameless, uninspired crowd pleaser that's content to serve up familiar action with the advantage of really fantastic special effects, and if you expect nothing more you'll be one among millions of satisfied customers. There's really no other way to approach it--you just have to accept the fact that Independence Day creators Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin are unapologetic plagiarists, incapable of anything more than mindless spectacle that can play in any cinema in the world without dubbing or subtitles. The whole movie plays out like a series of highlights stolen from previous blockbusters of the 1990s; it's little more than a rehash of the Jurassic Park movies. The derivative script is so trivial that it's unworthy of comment, apart from a few choice laughs and the casting of Michael Lerner as New York's mayor, whose name is Ebert and who closely resembles a certain well-known movie critic. Perhaps that's a clever hint that this movie's essentially critic-proof. It's stupid but it's fun, and for most audiences that's a fitting definition of mainstream Hollywood entertainment. The widescreen Special Edition DVD includes a wealth of bonus materials--audio commentary by the film's special effects supervisors, a "making of" featurette, the Wallflowers' music video "Heroes," a photo gallery, and a variety of features related to this and all the classic Godzilla films from Japan. --Jeff Shannon
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