Sunday, May 11, 2014

GODZILLA 2000 (1999): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 25
GODZILLA 2000 (1999)
aka. Godzilla 2000: Millennium 

Disappointed and offended by the indignity their most iconic character faced in America at the hands of director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin the year prior, Toho quickly brought Godzilla out of retirement with a badass new look for a brand new series. In December of 1999, Toho ushered in a new millennium with GODZILLA 2000.

Godzilla 2000 is a soft reboot with a radical Godzilla re-design. This time around, Godzilla looks like a dinosaur that fell into a pit of broken glass shards. With large jagged dorsal fins, a triangular mouth full of sharp teeth and fangs, as well as larger claws and pointed green scales, Godzilla 2000 has a noticeably more reptilian look reminiscent of his appearance in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).

My what big teeth you have
Despite the hot new look, Godzilla 2000 offers no in-story origins for this new Godzilla. Godzilla 2000 jumps right into the action and disregards all the other Godzilla films, even the 1954 Gojira. Godzilla exists -- we don't know how, why, or for how long -- and he's being tracked by a volunteer organization called the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN). In the wake of TriStar's disgraceful adaptation of Godzilla in 1998, I think Toho wanted to get Godzilla out front and center again as quickly as possible to reestablish his dominance as the true King of the Monsters. As such, I think they opted to not create a back story and instead use everyone's general understanding of Godzilla as a pop-icon as the launching pad for Godzilla's revival. Godzilla 2000 isn't the strongest movie in the franchise, not by a long shot, but it's job is to redeem Godzilla as a character, and it gets the job done.

It's the year 2000, and Japan has yet to figure out that tanks don't do shit against Godzilla.
Like a hurricane or an earthquake, Godzilla is a force of nature, and the independent GPN tracks his movements and analyzes data about his attacks to better predict his behavior. At the same time, the much more professional and bigger budgeted Crisis Control Institute (CCI) is researching another bizarre find: a meteor-type object of indeterminate material that has been resting in the Japan Trench for over 65 million years. When CCI attempts to raise the object up to the surface, it begins to rise up under its own power, taking to the sky and fighting Godzilla while, apparently, scanning his genetic information.

I want to believe
In case you haven't figured it out, that's no meteor. It's a UFO! After scanning Godzilla, it learns to replicate Godzilla's unique regenerative powers, which Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata), founder of GPN, had previously identified and dubbed "Regenerator G1." With the JSDF unable to stop it, the UFO hacks into City Tower and assimilates all information it can get about Godzilla.  After landing atop City Tower, it begins to drain all the files about Godzilla from Tokyo's master computers, impervious to CCI's attempts to disable it. In response to CCI and military aggression, the UFO sends out a signal to declare its intentions: the formless aliens within will use Godzilla's DNA to emerge in new bodies that will allow them to exist in Earth's atmosphere and conquer the planet. Of course, Godzilla's not going to stand for it, and he soon makes landfall in Tokyo Bay to face the nefarious aliens.

I bring! AND DEATH!
As battle ensues, the UFO unleashes its combatant: a giant and soft CGI octopus-like alien that quickly begins to mutate and develop into a giant knuckle-dragging alien monster called Orga. During the battle, Godzilla is able to blast the UFO into oblivion. This causes Orga to up the ante. In order to become a clone of Godzilla, Orga attempts to literally absorb Godzilla himself. Orga unhinges its jaw like a python and draws Godzilla into its pulsating maw, absorbing Godzilla's energy and beginning to grow Godzilla-like features in the process. Godzilla, however, has other plans. Summoning up a tremendous surge of radioactive energy that make his dorsal fins glow like red hot supernovas, Godzilla unleashes a mighty blast directly down Orga's throat that blows the monster into a billion chunky bits. Ka-Boom!

Orga glad to see me?
It's great to see Godzilla back in good form. Almost makes you forget the disgrace of TriStar's 1998 GINO (Godzilla in Name Only). Unfortunately, Godzilla 2000 is far from Toho's best effort, especially in the special effects department. The monster suits look great, and the miniature sets (when used) are passable, but this film was made in the era of CGI's initial popularity, and its digital effects have not aged well. Godzilla 2000 features the first fully CGI Godzilla in its underwater scenes, and it also makes heavy use of green screen CGI composting to place Godzilla into real city scenes, but neither of these look very good at all. In particular, a scene of Godzilla walking from out of the ocean and across an island looks cheaper than the B-movie dreck currently seen in films like Sharknado. It's really embarrassing. Say what you want about cheesy monster suits, but they hold up on screen far better than CGI has.

Video Game or Godzilla Movie? You decide.
In a rare twist of fate, the Japanese cut of Godzilla 2000 is also worse than the American cut. The 1999 Japanese release of Godzilla 2000 did not wow Japanese audiences; it was criticized for its slow and awkward pacing. When the film reached American theatres in 2000, it was substantially tightened by excising and shortening scenes and sprucing up the music. The original cut of Godzilla 2000 also had a lot of goofy slapstick scenes going on in attempt to gear it toward children. Although the American cut also retains these scenes, the English dubbing was intentionally "goofed-up" in places to give audiences silliness at which to laugh at. Godzilla has had better, more interesting adventures, but at least Godzilla 2000 turned out better than the 1998 American Godzilla.


Godzilla 2000 (directed by Takao Okawara) was released on December 11, 1999 in Japan and on August 18, 2000 in North America. It was the first Godzilla film I ever saw on the big screen, but it would be the last Godzilla film to screen theatrically in America until Godzilla 2014. Godzilla 2000 may not be a perfect movie, and it certainly doesn't come close to being as cool or engaging as any film from the previous Heisei series, but it did kick off a new slate of movies -- the Millennium Series -- in Japan. The Millennium Series is a rocky road, however, with just as many ups as downs. Unfortunately, we have to next look at one of these downers. Tomorrow for 30 Days of Godzilla, we'll turn our attention to GODZILLA vs. MEGAGUIRUS

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