Review: Godzilla 2000

Takehiro Murata is part of the Godzilla Prediction Network, basically the Japanese version of Bill Paxton in “Twister”, with his 10 year-old daughter Mayu Suzuki and shrill photojournalist Naomi Nishida his current travelling companions in his SUV as they follow data leading to Godzilla’s presence in hopes of studying the creature. Meanwhile, a UFO has also landed, although at first it appears to be a giant crater. Once its true UFO form is revealed, it sucks up all of Tokyo’s energy sources and hatches its own giant creature to tussle with Godzilla. Hiroshi Abe plays the cold-hearted rival of our protagonists, who works for the Crisis Control Institute, and would much rather kill Godzilla before studying it.

The first film in the ‘Millennium Series’ of Godzilla films, this 1999 film from director Takao Okawara (who helmed a couple of entries in the previous ‘Hensei Series’ of Godzilla films) is actually the best “Godzilla” film since at least the 1970s, probably even longer. It’s that good. Hell, the only real downside for me is that for the 6 pack DVD purchase I made, the version of this film is the dubbed one, which although I grew up on the dubbed versions of the 60s and 70s “Godzilla” films, is a nuisance to me these days. Hilarious as it is, a line like ‘I guarantee it’ll go through Godzilla like crap through a goose’ (referring to a new missile) was surely nowhere near a direct translation, and makes one wonder if Slim Pickens is still alive and translating Japanese films into English (It’s apparently a line from “Patton”, which doesn’t surprise me). 

Early on the film impresses with the way in which Godzilla itself is shot, either in close-up or darkness. It’s a trademark throughout most of the ‘Millennium Series’, and they got it right first time around here in what is some of the best framing and lighting of Godzilla in Toho history. They’ve really made an effort to make the radioactive giant lizard look massive in this one. Yeah, there’s some shoddy projection work but who wants stellar FX in a “Godzilla” film? Did that help Roland Emmerich? No it did not. The suit is pretty much your standard Godzilla suit, but that’s how I like my giant green lizard anyway (The underwater stuff is CG, and not nearly as enjoyable). It’s not too fancy, but not too cheap, either. Scripted by Hiroshi Kashiwabara (the subsequent “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus”) and Wataru Mimura (“Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (II)” in the ‘Hensei Series’ and the later “Godzilla: Final Wars” in the ‘Millennium Series’), it’s also one of the rare “Godzilla” films where I can genuinely say the characters interested me, especially the funny father/daughter/surrogate mother dynamic it has going on. Basically, the little girl’s the only competent one of the three, she even does the cooking for the dad. She handles dangerous situations way more calmly than the wimpy female photojournalist following her and her monster-predictor father around. And why does said photojournalist have such a bug up her arse about not wanting to pay for petrol? No one asked, lady. Knock it off already. Then again, the father’s not exactly a bright spark, either. When seeing the spaceship he remarks ‘Good lord. I just hope it’s friendly’. In a film that already has a giant radioactive lizard fucking up Tokyo, I really don’t think it’s likely, old chap. I also thought the rival government science guy was quite creepy and interesting, too. Meanwhile, there appears to be some thought given to the military action in the film, it’s a little more advanced and interesting than in previous eras of the franchise. We even get aerial attacks, and not just of the miniature/toy kind, either. Toho have tried to give us something a little more up-market here and I appreciate their efforts, and the film’s focus on energy resources is also topical and interesting.

It doesn’t surprise me that I liked this one a lot, because I generally do tend to enjoy Godzilla movies featuring aliens, especially “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero”. The interesting thing about this one is that you’re not entirely sure here who the bad guy (s) is or are here, Godzilla or the aliens. Rival science guy, definite bad guy right there. That’s no secret. However, there’s initially some mystery as to whether the aliens are trying to help or hurt us. Even when they try to subdue Godzilla at one point, I could help thinking that these aliens were actually Cenobites who want to tear our souls apart. You’ll know what I mean when you see the film. It’s not perfect (it’s actually a little confusing), but I was pleased that they had us guessing for a while. Meanwhile, another high point in the film is when the alien inside the UFO emerges to fuck Godzilla up again in an alien vs. Godzilla monster fight. I love it. Forget “Alien vs. Predator”, this is the shit right here. The alien itself is quite fascinating and really adaptive. I must say though, that the final moments in the film are slightly confusing. ***** SPOILER WARNING ***** One eventually realises that the aliens are here to stop Godzilla (no matter their reasons), they attack Godzilla by consuming all of Tokyo’s energy sources to use against Godzilla. That’s all great, as it’s a bit of a difference to the norm in these Godzilla vs. Aliens films where the aliens are always the lead villains. However, the film ends on a note suggesting that Godzilla had tried to protect us. Um, no he didn’t. That’s in most of the Godzilla films of the 60s and 70s…in this one he was in a particularly stomp-y and destructive anti-human mood. What the hell? I’m not saying the aliens were ‘good guys’ as such (they had not-so nice plans for us humans), but Godzilla absolutely was not trying to protect us. He started attacking the shit out of us first, then the aliens turned up to stop him. I hope that’s just a poor translation, because it simply makes no sense based on what we’ve seen and been told prior. ***** END SPOILER ******

One of the best “Godzilla” films in decades, this one isn’t dumb. Implausible and fantastical, but not dumb. The human characters are enjoyable, the monster action is fun, the military action is interesting, and the insertion of aliens adds some intrigue too. This one’s a winner all-round, despite some awful projection work and wonky CGI, and a somewhat confusing ending.

Rating: B


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