Summer Sci-Fi Preview
By Jason Caro


Stars: Matthew Broderick, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azario, Jean Reno, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer
Writers: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich
Director: Roland Emmerich
US release date: May 20
UK release date: July 17

Premise: Nuclear testing in the Pacific leads to the creation of a gigantic mutated beastie. The 20- storey-high creature surfaces in New York and proceeds to tear open The Big Apple. Only a lowly oceanographer may have the know-how to stop it.

Why you should see it: Just about the only absolutely, positively-cannot-fail film of the Summer. Yes, ID4 was the most ludicrous box-office giant of them all, but Devlin and Emmerich did a brilliant job of stealing great moments from a dozen Sci-Fi classics and moulding them into an entertaining 50s alien invasion movie carrying expensive 90s luggage. After that sensational downtown demolition sequence, is there anybody in the world who doesn't want to see the duo destroy some more skyscrapers? An incredible air of anticipation surrounds the final design of the 200-foot-tall, jet-fighter-paced lizard that hasn't existed in Sci-Fi since Spielberg closed the set on CE3K. This has been enhanced by Columbia TriStar's teaser campaign (the studio turned down the 'show us what you've got' Superbowl slot that deified ID4) which amusingly sends up Jurassic Park and Jaws, while giving enough swift glimpses of you know who to get the saliva glands working overtime. Devlin and Emmerich are going to great lengths to avoid Godzilla's unscheduled appearance on the World Wide Web, so there is absolutely no finished footage on video-tape anywhere. Harry Knowles et al having to rely on leaked toy and T-shirt designs to form a full visual picture - can Columbia keep the net tightened until the May 20 US release? Anybody mourning the absence of Godzooky (pronounced God-zoooo-keeeyyy!) shouldn't be too upset. Godzilla has plans to find a home and raise some kids. And you thought the raptors were scary!

But then again: With all the excitement over this and ID4, it's easy to forget their equally derivative but much duller earlier movies. Universal Soldier was essentially a charmless 'Terminators Go Kick-Box Crazy' and the mediocre StarGate could easily have been nicknamed 'Indiana Jones and the Space Queen'. As for Moon 44, ouch. Was Independence Day really that great, or were we cleverly distracted by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, big explosions and trying to think which movie each scene reminded us of. Come to think of it, is it possible for a Sci-Fi film to be successful without either Smith or Goldblum being involved? The casting of the nowadays low-key Broderick, unknown Pitillo and regular Simpsons vocalists Azaria and Shearer seems like quirkiness for quirkness's sake. Is this a case of casting the right actors for the part or just to ensure all eyes are on 'Zilla at all times? Emmerich and Devlin are very fond of borrowing from Spielberg. Let's hope that we don't wind-up with Sam Neill and Laura Dern clones on our hands.

Read previews of all the summer Sci-Fi blockbusters in Starburst #237, available now

Starburst footer