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Godzilla 2000
(Gojira ni-sen mireniamu)
Director: Takao Okawara
Screenplay: Hiroshi Kashiwabara & Wataru Mimura
Stars: Takehiro Murata (Yuji Shinoda), Naomi Nishida (Yuki Ichinose), Mayu Suzuki (Io Shinoda), Hiroshi Abe (Mitsuo Katagiri)
MPAA Rating:PG
Year of Release: 2000
Country: Japan

Having already starred in two TV shows and close to 30 movies in which he defeated Megalon, Gigan, Monster Zero, Mothra, the Smog Monster, the Sea Monster, and the Cosmic Monster, not to mention having been reinvented in digital glory by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin ("Independence Day"), one would think that Godzilla wouldn't have much left to offer.

However, you can't keep a good lizard down, and the big guy emerges from the sea again to wreak havoc on Japan in "Godzilla 2000," the first official Toho-produced Godzilla film since 1995's "Godzilla vs. Destroyah." Unlike the 1998 Emmerich-Devlin American-made opus, this is old-school Godzilla, meaning unconvincing special effects, a ridiculous plotline involving a rival monster, and lots of Japanese actors with badly overdubbed dialogue (sample: "Did you see that flying rock!?"). Despite large advances in special effects technology, true Godzilla movies remain mired in the mid-1960s, when a large man in a rubbery suit slogging through a wading pool with a hazy rear projection screen of Tokyo in the background passed for big-screen excitement. Apparently, for some it still does.

Of course, there's a certain nostalgia there, and I suspect that the makers of "Godzilla 2000" have purposefully kept the special effects just this side of being completely cheesy for a reason. Silly as it is, there's an irrepressible joy of seeing the clumsy, rubbery Godzilla lumbering out of the ocean, with his motionless eyes that always seem to be looking out to the sides rather than straight ahead and his monstrous legs that are so dumpy one wonders how he can walk. "Godzilla" movies are hardly good filmmaking--sometimes, in fact, they border on the inept--but they're rarely boring and almost always fun to watch.

The plot of "Godzilla 2000" is typically inane. Apparently, Godzilla has become such a regular feature of Japanese life that a Godzilla Prediction Network has been set up to watch for his arrival, which effectively reduces him to the importance of a weather system (30% chance of Godzilla this evening with light showers...). Although most "Godzilla" films force the audience to wait at least half an hour before the star makes his grand entrance, the makers of "Godzilla 2000" decided to push the titular hero up front by having him appear before the opening credits have even finished. His destruction of a coastal town is like an appetizer to the main dish that is Tokyo at the end of the movie.

The plot then leaves Godzilla for a while and focuses on a giant rock that is being lifted off the ocean floor for purposes of using it as an alternate energy source. However, it turns out the rock is actually an alien spacecraft that crashed into the ocean 60 million years ago, and it eventually morphs into a creature with which Godzilla can battle for the last 15 minutes of the movie. Their final battle is typically destructive, but it goes on for far too long. The movie does end on a wonderfully ludicrous note, with someone asking why Godzilla constantly protects them, to which another character answers, "Maybe because there's a little Godzilla in all of us." The punchline is the movie's final image of Godzilla, having vanquished his foe, shooting flames out of his mouth and destroying dozens of buildings for absolutely no reason. Some protector.

Essentially, "Godzilla 2000" is exactly what you would expect from a tacky Godzilla movie. No more, no less. Of course, there are a couple of choice bits of dialogue for those who appreciate camp appeal, and listening to the inanity coming from the characters' mouths always makes me wonder if the translations are direct, or if the translators have some fun in the process. For instance, when a military man declares, "This missile will go through Godzilla like crap through a goose," is that literally what the originally Japanese soundtrack said? Somehow, I think not.

There is one particularly great campy line from a character that essentially sums up the entire Godzilla series: "How ironic. It awoke after sixty million years only to have Godzilla kill it the next day." That is probably the greatest irony of all the Godzilla films: Here are monstrous creatures born of atomic radiation or descended from outer space, yet they don't have anything better to do than smash buildings.

ï¿Overall Rating: (2.5)

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