What an odd little movie. We had been warned that sitting close has actually caused cases of vertigo, due to it being filmed entirely with hand-held cameras. It’s a point-of-view movie, but it’s not The Lady in the Lake. I didn’t figure that, being at the drive-in, this would be a problem, and it wasn’t. The problem was that it was too dark for outdoor viewing. Half the time—more than half the time—I had only a vague to non-existent idea of what was going on. And here’s the odd thing … it didn’t matter! The whole idea of the movie was to show Godzilla not from the point of view of the people who were actually fighting it (Raymond Burr, or the president, or the generals in the Pentagon), but from the poor schlubs who were just trying to get the fuck out of Dodge. They had no idea what was going on except some big critter was eating cars, buildings, soldiers, and their friends.
Dodge City is, of course, New York, and more specifically Southern Manhattan. It ties skillfully (some said cynically) into all our nightmares of 9/11, with the Woolworth Building collapsing. We are set up with 15 or 20 minutes of stuff that looks just like what a New York yuppie might actually film at a going-away party for a friend of his. Characters are introduced and we have to infer a lot, which is okay, these guys aren’t going to be around long enough to get too attached to. Affairs are happening, people are getting pissed off at each other, the guy with the camera is trying to make time with a girl who’s having none of it. Then, bam! Earthquake … or something very much like it. Up to the roof, where chaos reigns. Something huge is eating the city!
(What a rush this would have been in a media-less world, where we all hadn’t already been clued in via the expert use of viral videos as to what was really going on. Just about at the point where I’d have been ready to fling my Coke and popcorn at these assholes on the screen, we discover this movie isn’t about relationships at all, it’s about how quickly your life can go from routine to … fuck, I’m about to die! One second, and everything changes!)
I’m really going to have to see this again, on DVD. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know some of what I missed, and I’d like to look for these things when I can freeze-fame and get a longer look. For instance, there is apparently a big back story that they may use for the sequel (and at over 100 million worldwide, there will be a sequel). And the crablike critters our heroes have to fight are parasites on the big mother. We get only one good, long look at the creature, at the very end, and that’s fine with me, on the invariable principle (promulgated by me) that what you don’t see is far scarier than what you do see. And it seems that in the last shot, on a Ferris wheel at Coney Island (don’t ask why that’s in here with all the disaster; it actually makes sense) something falls into the ocean in the background, and at the very end of the credits there is a tiny clue to what may come next.
Cultural aside: The entire premise of this movie, the hand-held camera, just makes me stop to wonder. When I was young not many people had movie cameras, and they were only good for about 5-10 minutes per reel of film, and fairly expensive. Most of what people shot was crap. Now everybody has either a video camera or a video cell phone or both. Most of what they shoot is still crap, but my, do they shoot! It’s entirely plausible that, if the head of the Statue of Liberty came tumbling down their street, followed by Godzilla, many of this generation would stand there with their cell phones in the air, watching the whole thing on the tiny screen. And that, even when pursued by rabid crabs the size of German shepherds, they would hang on to their vidcams and continue to shoot as their girlfriend bled from the nose, ears, eyes, and mouth, and exploded from an alien virus. I have no idea if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Do you?