How long did it take Toho to get back to making Godzilla films after the US film was a giant turd? Not much over a year. Hell, they probably started planning and pre-production the moment Emmerich’s film was released. They don’t even bother explaining Godzilla’s return in this film. He’s just there and is a fact of life. Which is really quite cool. Godzilla isn’t a thing that was created so much as he’s a natural disaster rolling through Japan. I guess I should just get on with this one. Click the link below.
In Godzilla 2000 the Godzilla Prediction Network, lead by Yuji Shi (Takehiro Murata) monitor and study Godzilla’s movements in order to warn and predict his eventual landfall. Yuji has been joined by photojournalist Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida), who is desperate to get some photos of Godzilla to make a name for herself with. Meanwhile the JSDF have found a large rock under the Japanese ocean which starts displaying quite un-rock like habits. No, I don’t mean it’s started meditating and taking power walks. More that it’s started flying. When Godzilla makes landfall next and JSDF leader Mituso Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe), for some reason, thinks land-mines and rockets will work. What a noob. That giant rock takes an interest in Godzilla and a battle ensues which soon reveals the rock to be some kind of alien craft. Yes, Godzilla vs rock spaceship is a battle that takes place in this film. The alien ship, later, tries to download a load of Japan’s data because it was 1999 and computers were a bigger threat then and eventually Orga happens.
Godzilla 2000 is one of those mixed bag entries in the series. It has a decent amount of events and the pace, in the US dub at least, is kept relatively smooth. The US dub had 8 minutes of incidental moments and small pieces of scenes cut to improve pacing. It is the only version I have seen, thanks to the lack of decent releases of Godzilla films outside Japan, so I can’t comment on if these cuts improve resulted in anything important being lost. Apparently many consider the US edit the superior one though. They also reworked the audio design, which is pretty tight, and added in some Akira Ifukube score. The dialogue has a bit of a retro sound to it, a character shouts “Great Ceaser’s ghost!” at one point, but all the voice actors were of Asian decent for once. This helped alleviate that problem of every single Japanese person suddenly having a broad American accent. So the production of the US cut isn’t bad.
The story itself has some decently crafted characters, probably on par with Vs Mothra overall, but the story itself can feel a little underwhelming at times. It’s like all the humans are just sitting around waiting for Godzilla to show up or for the alien rock ship to move. They have a level of proactivity but they’re really not dealing that many elements. The story just moves along from one moment to the next until we get a little more monster action. The monster fight at the film’s climax is quite a slow and plodding affair, especially as Orga is probably the least mobile monster since Biollante. He’s all back and wobbly arms. His main attack seems to be biting. To be fair, he’s a fairly unique monster in that he’s an alien organism that becomes a mutated Godzilla clone of sorts. Made for a tough boss in Godzilla: Save The Earth though, so he got his moment to shine eventually.
Godzilla has had a redesign that comes from the anime fan book of badassdom. For the first time he’s coloured green, like on the older movie posters. His face has a much meaner, pissed off grimace. The scutes on his back are huge and extremely sharp looking. They’re also tinted purple which creates a neat contrast with the green skin. It’s not a bad redesign, if a little over the top. The years between Vs Destoroyah and this film allowed Toho to look at new ways to shoot Godzilla and as a result there’s a number of attempts at shots you just wouldn’t have seen in the previous eras. There’s aerial shots of real locations with Godzilla imposed onto the film, to varying degrees of success. A few other composites mix together live action footage with miniature set destruction. An increased use of CGI effects, though outdated even at the time, give a little more urgency to the action. Despite some flaws it’s one of the better looking Godzilla films at this point.
The trouble with the film is that whilst many elements are handled well the others are just handled to a competent degree. As such, a lot of the film can feel like nothing is really happening. There’s a few decent character scenes, such as Yuji bonding with an old University buddy as he makes a scientific discovery, but generally there’s not much to get your teeth into. The main circle of characters have a good amount of variety though, each having their own distinct goals. This isn’t an issue of the film’s scripting so much as it is the execution. By the time we get to the finale the human characters literally have nothing to do but watch. This is a failing of the story to provide an extra element for their involvement. This isn’t uncommon for Godzilla films though but the last few had all managed to include the human element right in there with the finale battles, be it via giant robot or Miki Saegusa heading into the warzone to see Godzilla Jr.
Overall Godzilla 2000 isn’t a disappointment, there is plenty to enjoy, but it is a flat feeling movie that doesn’t hit all it’s targets. The film falls a little short of being up amongst the better entries in the series but it is still a damn site better than Godzilla 1998. The sombre tone and the gradual building of the sci-fi concepts help elevate the film above what it probably would have been with a little less direction. It’s just not enough though. The next film I’ll be covering is Godzilla Vs Megaguirus. Godzilla fights a dragonfly thing in that one.