Movie Reviews

Number 23 – “Godzilla 2000” (1999)

 

 

At this point, I’ve only seen four Godzilla movies on the big screen – the two American films, “Shin Godzilla” and my next entry, “Godzilla 2000.” I saw this movie in theaters when I was ten years old with my best friend and father (who fell asleep in the middle of the movie, though I don’t blame him now), and I remember walking out of the movie theater liking it.

Keep in mind this was only two years after the 1998 American “Godzilla,” a film which left a bad taste in my mouth even at a young age. Then along comes “Godzilla 2000” which felt more like a traditional Godzilla movie instead of some random mutated T-Rex wandering around New York. I recall being bored during many of the human scenes, but my heart was racing during any scene that had Godzilla in it.

Then I let a few years pass before I decided to watch it again. After doing so, the quality was certainly diminished. The initial hype of seeing Godzilla in theaters had died down and now I saw it as the definition of an average Godzilla movie, with some good parts and an equal amount of bad or average elements. I didn’t see it as a bad movie, but it certainly wasn’t good anymore.

But then I rewatched “Godzilla 2000” again while preparing for this countdown, and I finally realized how stupid, nonsensical, and brainless this movie truly is. Before I started watching every Godzilla movie again, I made a list of how I ranked every film in the series. Compared to my old list, “Godzilla 2000” certainly has the biggest drop-off of any picture in the franchise. This movie got bad over the years.

 

 

Toho made “Godzilla 2000” as a direct response to the 1998 film. The American movie proved that Godzilla could once again succeed at the box office, but also showed that American studios needed to be reminded on how to make a proper Godzilla movie. Toho had stopped making Godzilla movies in 1995 after the end of the Heisei series, with “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” where they killed off Godzilla and wanted to give him a long rest. That rest ended up being four years before they were back to making a movie every year, leading to the creation of the Millennium series.

As with every new series, the image of Godzilla was tweaked ever so slightly, in this case giving Godzilla a change in his design and a new roar. This new Godzilla has a pretty similar body structure – bulky, thunder thighs, stubby little arm. The major changes to his design are his spines, which are now massive, taking up almost as much space as the rest of his body, razor sharp, almost crystal-like and had a distinct purple tint to them. Godzilla’s roar now has a reverb effect and still sounds like something you’d expect from Godzilla, so I have no complaints with that.

What I do have complaints with is the story. Right off the bat, we are thrown into this world without an explanation as to how or why Godzilla is here or how long he’s been around. What we do learn is that there are small teams roaming around Japan, known as the Godzilla Prediction Network that track Godzilla’s movements, like storm watchers who go out looking for tornadoes. While each team seems to have only two or three members, they do have advanced technology that alerts them to every movement Godzilla makes and allows them to take data on Godzilla’s biology and radiation development. And yet, we hardly ever see the government use this same technology.

The film follows one of these teams, a father/daughter team, Yuji and Io Shinoda (Takehiro Murata and Mayu Suzuki), as they spend the first half of the movie following Godzilla around as he destroys a city and makes an attack on a nuclear facility. They are able to keep up with Godzilla and learn a lot of new information on him with their tech, but I tilt my head when we learn they make little to no money from doing this. They have this great and useful technology that even the Japanese government doesn’t seem to have, yet they are broke. How have they turned this into a profitable endeavor? Where did they get all this technology? How come they haven’t sold the tech to the government so they could use it to protect all of Japan and the world? None of these questions are answered.

 

 

The two end up getting most of their money from a passenger they sign on as their third member, Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida), a photographer for a big newspaper in Tokyo. She agrees to become a member of the GPN, as well as pay for all their meals and gas, as long as they can get her close enough to take some good pictures of Godzilla. Except that her boss doesn’t seem to be that interested in getting pictures. My guess is that there are only so many pictures you can take of Godzilla in this world before you’ve seen them all, so Godzilla photos probably don’t go for much anymore.

Yuji and Yuki spend almost the entire movie fighting about whose the bigger imbecile and bickering like an old married couple. Yet the film wants you believe there is some sort of romance going on between the two, even though they never share a tender moment together or show anything for the other outside of annoyance and dislike. To Yuji, Yuki is just there to get in the way and only keeps her around because she has money. While to Yuki, Yuji is stopping her from doing her job but is her best way of getting to Godzilla. Their relationship never evolves beyond that.

The final character worth mentioning is the head of the CCI, Crisis Control Intelligence, Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe). Apparently, he has a history with Yuji, after they worked on the same team for a while, but Yuji left and they had a bitter falling out. So Katagiri spends the entire movie dissing Yuji, talking about how worthless Yuji is and how much better he has it. Outside of a small scene which is extremely vague about Yuji and Katagiri’s past, we never learn why these two hate each other so much.

But before Katagiri focuses his attention on Godzilla, he finds something ancient on top of a bunch of underwater volcanoes. When his team starts to remove it, the giant rock starts moving on its own, rising to the surface and then moving again based on the position of the sun. Eventually, it starts flying on its own once Godzilla makes land fall and reveals itself to be a UFO.

After the UFO and Godzilla have a short exchange of beams, the UFO becomes the primary focus of the film, as it makes its way towards a major city and starts hacking into every electronic device in the city to gain information. Yuji, Io and Yuki take a back seat to Katagiri’s attempts to bring down the alien ship and stop it from destroying everything electrical.

 

 

At one point, Yuki decides to go into the building the UFO is resting on to find out anything she can, even though she only finds out one thing – this alien is interested in Godzilla. Even after the military says to clear the building so they can blow it up, Yuki still goes in and Yuji and Io have to rescue her. Hey remember when this movie was about Godzilla and not a bunch of idiots trying to rescue other idiots from an exploding building in a “Die Hard”-like sequence? Good times.

Our characters eventually come to the conclusion that whatever is controlling the alien ship is a shapeless mass and is looking for the perfect life form on our planet to copy and imitate so that it can conquer our world. Of course, the life form the alien has chosen to copy is Godzilla, mostly because of a new element Yuji found in Godzilla that allows to regenerate major cellular damage in seconds.

Interestingly enough, major plot elements of “Godzilla 2000” were changed when the film was released in America. The plot description I just gave is for the American version, the only way I’ve ever known the film. But the Japanese version is different, namely that the UFO was supposed to be responsible for the Y2K bug. Yeah, remember that random bit of nothing from 1999 when experts believed every computer and bit of software was going to crash when we switched to the new millennium? Apparently the Japanese version of this movie was centered around that, and it was removed completely from the American film.

Now we get to the best part of “Godzilla 2000,” the one scene that made my face light up when I was ten and still gets my heart pounding to this day. I give you – one of the best uses of the Godzilla theme song in any movie.

 

I know this scene may not seem like much. It’s just Godzilla coming out of Tokyo Bay and walking to the UFO to begin the fight while the Godzilla theme plays. But imagine a little kid, who spent his childhood loving everything related to Godzilla. Now he finally gets the chance to see Godzilla rampage through Tokyo, set to the tune of one of the greatest theme songs in cinema. I may not like the majority of “Godzilla 2000,” but this one short scene of Godzilla doing what he does best makes it all worth it.

There’s something so awe-inspiring about the Godzilla theme song that I cannot help but love it. It is so intrical to Godzilla, so foreboding and powerful at the beginning, and yet so triumphant near the end without ever losing its strength. It makes Godzilla even more menacing than he already is, complimenting his size and ferocity, like a good theme song should do. This theme is played a lot throughout all the Godzilla movies, and this one always stands out to me. Maybe because of nostalgia, but I think it has to do with how well the theme song compliments Godzilla’s movements.

After this awesome sequence, Godzilla and the UFO fight for a while until the alien gets the upper hand and starts copying Godzilla’s cells to create a physical body, leading to our true antagonist – Orga. It starts out as a lump of gray mass with huge forearms that become claws and its head being the entire upper body. It has Godzilla’s healing factor, so every time Godzilla blasts chunks away from Orga, they just grow back within seconds. As long as Orga is touching Godzilla, the more Orga begins to look like Godzilla, even growing spines and turning green.

 

 

Even though Orga doesn’t appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie, I’ve always thought it was an effective villain monster. His design is unique and weirdly alien that it’s almost terrifying. He’s unlike most of the Heisei villain monsters, relying more on close combat tactics and using how huge claws to fight, and only uses his beam attack a couple times. Plus, his introduction gives us a modified version of the Godzilla theme song, which I’ve always called the nega-Godzilla theme. Fitting for a monster that’s trying to be a copy of Godzilla.

In the end, Godzilla is victorious over Orga, destroying an alien space ship that sat at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years in less than a day after it awoke. Then Godzilla goes out of his way to kill Katagiri for some reason, and we are left with our final lines of dialogue that make the whole movie stupid.

One of Katagiri’s men says, “We scientists produced this monster, Godzilla. And ever since we’ve tried to destroy him.” Yuki then asks, “Then why? Why does he keep protecting us?” This leads to the closing line from Yuji – “Maybe because Godzilla is inside each one of us.” And then Godzilla sets most of Tokyo on fire.

No further comments.

 

 

 

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