Godzilla 2000 Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 2000

Why... why does he keep protecting us?
Maybe because there is Godzilla inside all of us.
Godzilla, King of All Monsters!

The O.G. (Original Godzilla) is back! Next to well-built cars and consumer electronics, the towering lizard with nuclear breath is probably Japan's most popular export. First unleashed in 1954, when Toho Studios released the first G-rated film "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!", Godzilla kick-started the perennially-popular 'kaiju' (monster) genre and has built up an impressive filmography over the past four-and-a-half decades, spanning 22 films, an anemic American remake in 1998 ("Godzilla"), and at least a couple of animated television series. Disappointed by the direction taken by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin for their remake, thousands of G-fans around the world wrote, e-mailed, and faxed Toho Films, begging them to continue their own Godzilla franchise. Naturally, the studio execs at Toho Studios complied, and "Godzilla 2000" was the result, which is finally getting its long-awaited North American release. And though the latest movie could never be mistaken for art, fans of the G-genre will be pleased to know that "Godzilla 2000" is vintage 'kaiju', replete with cities being trashed, military hardware being blown up, and the wonderfully hokey dialogue you've come to expect, such as, "What? Godzilla's attacking the city?!"

Bastard! You really think you can kill Godzilla?!

For those of you who have followed Godzilla's career, you'll know that Godzilla was killed in 1995's "Godzilla vs. Destroyah". So how can Godzilla be back? Simple-- pretend it never happened. Actually, this is not the first time that Toho Studios has turned back the clock. After the original series of Godzilla films descended into camp during the Seventies, a new series of films was released (only the first, "Godzilla: 1985", made it to North American theaters, while the rest went directly to video and DVD). This new block of films ignored the previous 13 movies, thus allowing the filmmakers to recycle Godzilla's old and familiar nemeses, such as Mothra and Mechagodzilla, while using more up-to-date special effects techniques. Similarly, with "Godzilla 2000", every film except the first one has become apocryphal, which will allow Toho Studios to continue releasing Godzilla movies without worrying about pesky things such as story continuity.

We're all gonna die and I'm part of the reason!
Takehiro Murata, Mayu Suzuki, and Naomi Nishida

Like his previous films, Godzilla finds himself aroused from his slumber, and with nothing better to do, he gleefully rampages through the nearest Japanese city as the Japanese Defense Force makes a futile attempt to stop him. True G-aficionados will also notice that Godzilla is actually green for the first time (in all the previous films, he was charcoal-gray), and that he is back to his original height of 170 feet (between 1984 and 1995, his height was increased to 300 feet). Meanwhile, out in the ocean, meddling scientists accidentally awaken a mysterious alien spaceship from the depths, which promptly makes a beeline towards Big-G, morphs into a monster named Orga, and predictably picks a fight. And just to make sure the audience is not completely alienated, a trio of human protagonists provide running commentary with their ringside seats to the monster brawl-- Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata, returning from "Godzilla vs. Destroyah") of the Godzilla Prediction Network (an off-shoot of the Psychic Friends Network, perhaps?), his spunky daughter (Mayu Suzuki), and science reporter Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida).

These armor-piercing missiles will do the trick... they'll go through Godzilla like crap through a goose.
Orga faces off against the O.G.

Like the majority of Godzilla films, "Godzilla 2000" is pure escapist entertainment that is 'so bad that it's good'. Forget about plot-- it's the same archetypal narrative structure used in every previous film, with a couple of minor skirmishes leading up to an overly-long final confrontation between two monsters. Forget about characters-- humans are irrelevant in the G-equation, other than to stand around and provide pseudo-scientific babble/conjecture on what the monsters are doing. And above all, forget about script-- the dubbed dialogue is as stupid, contrived, and badly acted as ever, injecting much of the unintentional humor into the film. After all, the target audience for these sorts of films are ten-year olds or adults who ate this stuff up as kids.

A visitor from outer space? That's unbelievable!
And Godzilla is normal?
You can't keep a good lizard down!

However, what "Godzilla 2000" does bring to the table is enhanced special effects that put the previous films to shame. Yes, Godzilla is still played by a man in a rubber suit (Tsutomu Kitagawa) and the cities he lays waste to are still models, but it seems that the folks at Toho Studios have refined their special effects techniques to make it even less obvious, while taking a few cues from the 1998 American film (such as scenes of panicked extras reacting to ground tremors, or ground-level perspectives of Godzilla). The attempts to integrate live footage with model work is much more seamless than in other films, particularly in the film's first half, where Godzilla surprises our human protagonists in a tunnel, rampages through a seaside city, and takes on the Japanese Defense Force. Other nice touches, such as Godzilla inducing a blackout during his first attack, also go a long way in bringing the mise-en-scene to life. Though the special effects aren't perfect (a few goofs are quite noticeable), it is quite evident that Toho Studios dumped more money into the project than usual, making this probably the best Godzilla movie, effects-wise.

"Godzilla 2000" is everything you would expect from a Godzilla movie-- and nothing more. Yes, it may cater to the lowest common denominator (watching stuff get blowed up real good), but if you grew up loving the big green lizard (or even 'kaiju' movies in general), then "Godzilla 2000" is a guilty pleasure you can't afford to miss. It's time to get down with the O.G.!

Images courtesy of Tristar Pictures. All rights reserved.

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