Following the abysmal Emmerich/Devlin/ Godzilla of 1998 Toho decided to restart the franchise with Godzilla 2000 Millenium. Those of us with an interest in giant monsterdom leapt for joy when news broke that this would not only arrive on DVD, but that a wide-release theatrical run was also in the works.
I am not ashamed to say I saw this five times in the cinema.
You may be wondering why I added that last sentence and still only lavished three skulls on Godzilla 2000. The answer is deceptively simple, Godzilla 2000 simply wasn’t that good. Now there are lots and lots of fantastic moments in Godzilla 2000, yet the film just doesn’t hold together. The special effects vary wildly, the Americanized script is lackluster, and the story lacks the drama of the very early films or the goofiness of the later.
Godzilla 2000 feels like only a half finished film.
The father/daughter team of Yuji and Io Shinoda are part of the Godzilla Prediction Network, a vast collection of volunteers who track Godzilla’s movements and use those to predict landfall. Competing with the GPN is a government agency bent on Godzilla’s destruction (natch) led by Mitsuo Katagiri, a one time associate of Yuji Shinoda. Trailing Yuji and Io is perky reporter Yuki Ichinose, a woman who wants nothing more than to get her required pictures of Godzilla then move onto less “silly” stories.
Connecting both groups, of course, is Godzilla who makes landfall during a nighttime storm. The non-CGI effects in this sequence are actually quite good as Godzilla takes down a lighthouse and nearly tramples Yuji and Io inside a tunnel.
Katagiri’s team discovers a massive stone saucer deep in the Japan Trench as Godzilla again makes landfall. While the military struggles to slow Godzilla’s advance the saucer-shaped rock takes off after the radioactive lizard. The saucer engages Godzilla and blows him into the sea then flies to Tokyo and perches atop the news building where Yuki Ichinose works.
It turns out that the saucer that wants a component of Godzilla’s DNA. Katagiri and Shinoda form a short lived alliance to determine what portion of Godzilla’s DNA allows him to regenerate. They name this compound Regenerator G-1.
The saucer also wants Regenerator G-1 to create a giant monster of its own that our intrepid heroes name Orga.
Godzilla 2000 takes makes some nice changes to the Godzilla backstory, and as Toho seems unusually fond of doing, excising 20 some-odd movies from the history. In Godzilla 2000 the Big G has only appeared once, in 1954.
The suit designed by Kenji Suzuki is a really nice update to the classic form and owes a lot to the suit used in King Kong vs Godzilla. The model work is excellent, and the soundtrack uses both classic Godzilla scores of Akira Ifukube and new scores by Takayuki Hatori.
The acting is okay. There isn’t a Japanese language release, so we have to make do with the dub written and produced by Michael Schlesinger. The voices aren’t all that grating... except for Io. Man, she gives Bob from House by the Cemetery a run for the money.
Orga, the first new post hentai monster is okay. I like the extra-long arms and huge gaping mouth. But Orga doesn’t have enough screen time to really make an impression. When kaiju work they let the audience follow a couple of monsters around as the eventually move towards each other. We usually get to see the military engage one, then the other, then both... Orga shows up for about the last fifteen minutes so we really don’t have any information as to what it can do, or why.
If Toho abandons the recent trend of remaking their old films (How many Mechagodzilla movies need there be?) and uses the Orga monster again I look forward to seeing a more rounded out character.
As I said before this entry differs from the Japanese release as it’s dub is scripted by Michael Schlesinger, and it’s mostly okay. There are a few really bad lines in it, but overall it works. He’s a fan of the series so I give him credit for taking the risk to get the film into theaters over here.
Toho continued the Godzilla franchise after Godzilla 2000 with three more films (one starring, of course, Mechagodzilla), and another in the pipeline for a Christmas 2003 Japanese release starring, you guessed it, Mechagodzilla...
Anyway. The follows up to Godzilla 2000 recently debuted on American TV but no DVD release is set. I tried to tape them but my VCR hates me.
The DVD features a nice commentary track my Michael Schlessinger that doesn't throw too much light on the production, but it's nice to hear someone as enthusiastic as I am talk Godzilla. The DVD also features the theatrical trailer. Why Toho didn't allow Tri-Star to release the Japanese language track is beyond me, and if any G film needs it, it's this one.