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 (IoShinoda), 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 defeatedMegalon, Gigan, Monster Zero, Mothra, the Smog Monster, the Sea Monster, and theCosmic Monster, not to mention having been reinvented in digital glory by Roland Emmerichand Dean Devlin ("Independence Day"), one would think that Godzilla wouldn't havemuch left to offer.

However, you can't keep a good lizard down, and the big guy emerges from the sea again towreak havoc on Japan in "Godzilla 2000," the first official Toho-produced Godzilla filmsince 1995's "Godzilla vs. Destroyah." Unlike the 1998 Emmerich-Devlin American-madeopus, this is old-school Godzilla, meaning unconvincing special effects, a ridiculous plotlineinvolving a rival monster, and lots of Japanese actors with badly overdubbed dialogue(sample: "Did you see that flying rock!?"). Despite large advances in special effectstechnology, true Godzilla movies remain mired in the mid-1960s, when a large man in arubbery suit slogging through a wading pool with a hazy rear projection screen of Tokyo inthe 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 "Godzilla2000" have purposefully kept the special effects just this side of being completely cheesyfor a reason. Silly as it is, there's an irrepressible joy of seeing the clumsy, rubbery Godzillalumbering out of the ocean, with his motionless eyes that always seem to be looking out tothe sides rather than straight ahead and his monstrous legs that are so dumpy one wondershow he can walk. "Godzilla" movies are hardly good filmmaking--sometimes, in fact, theyborder 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 aregular feature of Japanese life that a Godzilla Prediction Network has been set up to watchfor 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" filmsforce the audience to wait at least half an hour before the star makes his grand entrance, themakers of "Godzilla 2000" decided to push the titular hero up front by having him appearbefore the opening credits have even finished. His destruction of a coastal town is like anappetizer 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 offthe ocean floor for purposes of using it as an alternate energy source. However, it turns outthe rock is actually an alien spacecraft that crashed into the ocean 60 million years ago, andit eventually morphs into a creature with which Godzilla can battle for the last 15minutes of the movie. Their final battle is typically destructive, but it goes on for far toolong. The movie does end on a wonderfully ludicrous note, with someone asking whyGodzilla constantly protects them, to which another character answers, "Maybe becausethere'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 ofbuildings for absolutely no reason. Some protector.

Essentially, "Godzilla 2000" is exactly what you would expect from a tacky Godzillamovie. No more, no less. Of course, there are a couple of choice bits of dialogue for thosewho 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 havesome fun in the process. For instance, when a military man declares, "This missile will gothrough Godzilla like crap through a goose," is that literally what the originally Japanesesoundtrack said? Somehow, I think not.

There is one particularly great campy line from a character that essentially sums up theentire Godzilla series: "How ironic. It awoke after sixty million years only to have Godzillakill it the next day." That is probably the greatest irony of all the Godzilla films: Here aremonstrous creatures born of atomic radiation or descended from outer space, yet they don'thave anything better to do than smash buildings.

Copyright © 2000 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (2.5)

James Kendrick

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