Two Thumbs up for Post-Modernism!
The media fetches a starring role in Godzilla, from the backbiting tactics of its television news reporters to a rescue via an Intranet connection. Most mind-boggling of all, however, is that a Roger Ebert (Michael Lerner) lookalike schleps about as–how's this for subtlety?–Mayor Ebert, top dog of New York. He's forever accompanied by, yes, a balding, sweater-clad adviser who keeps him happily supplied with candy. Are these caricatures self-referential? Boldly satirical? Or just plain goofy? Who knows, but such touches provide an undisguised commentary on our media-smitten society. In fact, film promotion and criticism are so incestuous today that the idea of Siskel and Ebert battling a computer-generated, overhyped beast–itself emblematic of Hollywood's preference for style over substance–just may be the scariest part of the movie.
Fear of Foreigners?
Some observers have gone so far as to muse that the new Godzilla offers a sympathetic allegory for immigration to the U.S. Think about it: an earnest creature, intent on raising a family, travels from afar to New York City. He tries to settle in but stirs so much panic and suspicion that throngs of white people (the film portrays a Big Apple conspicuously devoid of any ethnic diversity) flee to the suburbs. Ultimately, he must sacrifice his own life in the hope that his young will prosper in this new land (or at least in a sequel).
Indeed, on the cusp of the new millennium, 1998's Godzilla inspires all sorts of fresh theories about what this monster means to our collective culture. At the very minimum, spinning such hypotheses helps to while away what has turned out to be a pretty mind-numbing two hours. Size may matter, but judging from sci-fi's fantastical past, so does symbolism.
—Alicia Potter is an Entertainment Editor at Information Please.