The “Godzilla” created by director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin has generated such great expectations that it’s difficult not to scrutinize it to the limit, starting with the film’s computer-generated star, Godzilla itself. Despite some individual problems with the film’s effects (possibly masked by the incessant rain), the title creature is wonderfully designed and the animation is excellent.
At no moment does the big lizard — a mix of T-Rex, velociraptor, iguana and a somewhat human-like torso — come through as realistically as the dinosaurs in the “Jurassic Park” films. But the hundreds of compositing shots were, in general, clean and the cuts between miniatures, animatronics and CGI creatures were admirably transparent.
The integration of the lizard into its surroundings is for the most part very well accomplished, with rigged cars collapsing under the massive weight of Godzilla, and buildings either demolished or partially damaged. The compositing of the debris and pyrotechnics is generally good, especially when the monster runs or walks on the streets: The asphalt gives way convincingly every time the massive feet touch the ground, and a variety of CGI elements are seamlessly composited. Debris flies off buildings with every touch of the monster.
There are a few glitches. On shots in which Godzilla runs through the city at night, the buildings reveal their model nature, and appear off-scale. Also, there is a lack of depth cueing on the creature: With such a gigantic size, the focus should change dramatically between the front and the back of the monster, but in some shots this doesn’t happen.
The lighting was well-achieved on the CGI sequences, with good integration and some excellent volumetric effects like fog. One remarkable shot shows the lizard diving into the Hudson river: The motion is excellent, and the shot successfully conveys the impression of the beast’s huge size.
Again, in the underwater sequences with submarines chasing the creature, the lighting is quite good. Worth mentioning are the pyro elements on the submarine explosion that are comped on the miniature underwater shots. Unfortunately, the submarines are off-scale, making the sequence look artificial.
A massive effects sequence comes when the human stars find hundreds of Godzilla’s eggs about to hatch inside Madison Square Garden. This very long sequence uses a variety of newly hatched baby lizards, some animatronic, though the majority are digitally generated images.
Although the subsequent chase through the hallways had the potential to be fantastic, it had some problems with continuity of effects. Despite some shots in which the lizards are well-integrated with reflection on the floors and ceilings, many lack that extra touch that would make them truly believable. The animation is overall very good, but sometimes the baby lizards seem to float a bit as they run.
Worth mentioning, nonetheless, is the complexity in the interaction and choreography of the lizards, and the sheer number of creatures in some of the shots.
In a very well-executed sequence, military jets blow up Madison Square Garden to destroy Godzilla’s offspring. The explosion, achieved with miniatures like those in Devlin and Emmerich’s earlier “Independence Day,” is superb.