Nuclear tests mutate an iguana into a gigantic dinosaur-like creature, which sets up shop on Manhattan Island.
A lot of folks hate this movie. A lot. It was probably the most reviled piece of genre filmmaking until The Blair Witch Project came along. I was one of those haters. In the theater, this movie had me for the first half-hour, as I sat there thinking, "What are they talking about? This is great!" Ah, but the movie went on. And on. And like so many others, I went to my car angry and bitter.
But I found myself softening toward it on the small screen (I had to rent it because my wife couldn't believe I went to see it without her), and it's even better on DVD, because I can more easily skip the romantic comedy bits between Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo. I can skip entirely the creatively bankrupt Baby Godzillas in Madison Square Garden segment - which might have been great action cinema had this movie not been preceded by two Jurassic Park movies full of raptor attacks. Yes, I can sit back and enjoy the big-ass dinosaur scenes, when all manner of armament uselessly pummels the Big G, which is all we really wanted to see in the first place.
And forget the stars. The movie is stolen by Hank Azaria as the TV cameraman, Animal (by law, all cameramen are named Animal) and Jean Reno as a French secret agent who constantly bemoans the lack of a decent cup of coffee in America.
Columbia Tristar has developed a reputation for turning out impeccable DVDs, and this one is no different. The picture is sharp and clear - you practically see individual drops of rain. The Surround Sound panicked our parakeet appropriately. If every DVD was this good, you wouldn't need sites like this one.
The interactive menus are clever, spotlighting the scene where G makes his first appearance in the Big Apple, presaged by enormous footfalls that make cabs jump in the air: the menu similarly jumps. This was used to demo DVD systems at my local CompUSA for months. Make a selection and an enormous foot comes down to smash the menu.
Sadly, the rest of the extras fail to measure up to this intro. The featurette is composed mainly of Harry Shearer on location in Japan, narrating as his unctuous news anchor character. There are brief blurbs by Devlin and Emmerich. I don't remember much of it - it's that bland and useless. Brief bios of Devlin and Emmerich are more informative, and the four stars only get filmographies.
Godzilla Takes New York is a series of before-and-after photos of buildings and the digital damage that G inflicted upon them - but these - and a minuscule Photo Gallery - are too small on the TV screen to do the viewer much good. Go deep enough into Publicity Materials and you'll find a music video - the Wallflower's note-for-note cover of David Bowie's "Heroes". The Audio Commentary by the various heads of Visual and Digital Effects and Creature Design is more useful, as they point out what is real on the screen and what is artificial - and that encompasses a lot more than I had originally imagined.
The best part is the trailers section. It includes two teasers (though the one I had hoped for - which was broadcast five minutes before midnight on January 31, 1997, and features G's tail knocking the Big Ball into the crowds in Times Square - is not included), the theatrical trailer, and - joy of joys! - Japanese trailers for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth, just to give you a taste of what it's like when the G's done right.