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Revenge of the civil engineers

Taller than the Statue of Liberty, longer than a jumbo jet and with fishier breath than Flipper the dolphin, the star of this summer's much-hyped disaster movie Godzilla is truly a force to be reckoned with.

In the film, released last Friday by Columbia-Tristar Pictures, French nuclear tests in the Pacific cause an iguana egg to mutate into a new species of giant lizard. It's an old story line, but one which takes the 50s B-movie to a new level of ridiculousness enhanced by the latest computer- generated special effects.

Not content with a life in the sun surrounded by endless quantities of his favourite food, Godzilla swims to New York, where the real havoc can begin. The earth shakes, and women and children scream as the mutant monster stomps down some of the Big Apple's best known streets and straight through some of its most famous edifices.

The MetLife (formerly the Pan-AM) building is one of the first to get the treatment. We do not actually see the 'big lizard' do the business, but one can only assume from the outline left in the middle of the structure that he must have been the guilty party.

Exactly why he would choose to walk straight through a building is unclear - perhaps he got boxed in on those congested streets. But the way the shell of the tower block stays standing when the core has been completely taken out is nothing short of a miracle.

After giving the bungling security forces the slip, it is then revealed that the big guy can tunnel - whereupon he starts on a comprehensive programme of laying waste the New York subway. Rock and tonnes of reinforced concrete is no obstacle to the rampant reptile as he ploughs his way to the next great bombshell - he's not a he after all, but a she, or rather an it!

Yes, our loveable leading lizard is heavily pregnant. As ace atomic mutant specialist Dr Niko Tatopoulos says, 'he's only an animal,' and it turns out all he's really trying to do is find a decent place to bring up his brood.

Godzilla eventually decides that Madison Square Garden will provide the ideal nest, burrowing underneath and coming right up in the middle of the basketball arena with pin-point accuracy.

At this point, something weird happens with the scale as the 20-storey high monster agilely squeezes into the 19,000 capacity covered stadium to lay his eggs; either that, or old scaly features has been doing some serious yoga lessons.

But in the end, civil engineering gets the better of the monster in a climactic finale which will get even the most hardened cynic on the edge of their seat. After fending off missiles and torpedoes and crashing through almost every obstacle on the way, the armoured amphibian is eventually ensnared by the Brooklyn suspension bridge - an incredible feat of engineering which does not collapse even when its towers are demolished.

If you're one of those engineers who enjoys tutting at cracks in buildings, or checking scaffolding for toe boards, then you'll love Godzilla for the shear number of opportunities to pull the story apart. But if you can suspend belief for the entire 139 minutes of the film, this is pure action-packed Hollywood corn at its best.

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