God and Monsters


Proving once again that a fire-spewing radioactive dinosaur can ruin your whole day, Toho Studios’ Godzilla 2000 advances the long-running series like Roland Emmerich’s 1998 knockoff never happened. If this latest entry lacks the American remake’s eye-popping effects, it also eschews the tiresome irony that made that budget-besotted mess so painful to endure. If nothing else, G2K gives Godzilla a more formidable opponent than Matthew Broderick.

Specifically, an extraterrestrial being that’s been disturbed from its 6000-year underwater nap by government scientists. This creature begins its inscrutable rampage in the guise of a giant flying rock before morphing into a shiny flying saucer, a metallic squid, and finally a knuckle-dragging, reptilian thingamajig that tries to swallow our hero in order to absorb his regenerative powers. Meanwhile, a compassionate scientist, his daughter, and a perky journalist clash with an obsessive government agent who wants Godzilla dead. Like us, these characters mostly wait around for the giant monsters to start knocking each other silly.

Though it lacks the antic verve of its mid-’60s predecessors, Godzilla 2000 offers some interesting twists for connoisseurs. It all but ignores the other 20-odd sequels to Gojira (1953) and attempts to recapture that film’s funereal tone. Moreover, what CGI there is marks an improvement over earlier entries—Godzilla’s heat ray is particularly impressive—even if the principal effect is still a guy in a lizard suit. Expecting innovation from a 40-year-old franchise may be naive, but it’s tempting to imagine Godzilla shedding his “savior of Tokyo” role and returning to his former glory as a city-stomping pulp metaphor for nuclear lunacy. How could that be any worse than the proposed sequel to Emmerich’s film?

As jaw-droppingly close to Christian propaganda as Hollywood is likely to get, Bless the Child makes Godzilla 2000 look like a model of ingenuity. Psychiatric nurse Maggie O’Connor (Kim Basinger), forced to raise her sister’s abandoned daughter, goes on the lam when her junkie sis (Angela Bettis) and Satan-worshiping hubby (Rufus Sewell channeling John Cassavetes in The Fury) return to abduct little Cody (Holliston Coleman), who may be the second Christ. (The first one makes an appearance on a Toronto stand-in for the Queensboro Bridge.) FBI agent Jimmy Smits investigates, while ex-satanist Christina Ricci and Ian Holm’s anesthetized cleric turn up to offer advice on how to beat the devil. Combining Sunday-school scare tactics and heavy-handed piety, Bless the Child plays like Rosemary’s Baby reinterpreted for the PTL set. Yet beneath its boorish symbolism and groaning stereotypes (the movie’s African American and Latino characters are inevitably its most “spiritual”), this is a callous piece of work that exploits images of children in pain or jeopardy. If you’re so inclined, pray that the responsible parties crawl back into whatever hole they emerged from.

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