Godzilla 2000
review by Gregory Avery, 18 August 2000

Let me first go on record by saying that I enjoyed every frame of Godzilla 2000, and it had nothing to do with the particularly vile movie that I had just seen the day before -- or maybe it did.

True, the special-effects shots look a little dingy, and you can tell how some of the shots were "mattéed" together. But this ain't no mutated iguana, here. We want our Godzillas to be genuine "gojiras", the fierce dragon gods of Asian mythology, and that's exactly what we get in this movie. He's got somewhat scraggly, jutting upright scales on his back, and his fiery breath is preceded by a sort of firefly aura around the edges of his mouth that looks a little like radioactive pyorrhea. But he's got more of a forbidding stare that I can recall from previous films, and when he moves, his tail switches back and forth authoritatively, protecting his turf fore and aft on the battling ground.

It turns out that Japan now has a "Godzilla Prediction Center", a grass-roots operation that monitors the Big G.'s movements, and which is run by Shinoda (Takehiro Murata, who has the amiably disheveled demeanor of one of Toshiro Mifune's samurai heroes) and his young daughter Iyo (Mayu Suzuki), with a journalist, Yuki (Naomi Nishida) tagging along on-assignment. Iyo takes care of the business side of the Center -- Yuki is politely informed that she needs to take out a membership if she's going to be hanging around the place very much, ¥200,000 ($1,844) to join, plus ¥50,000 ($460) a month dues -- and, when Godzilla almost squashes them at the beginning of the story, he holds up the car the three humans are riding in, seems to take a close look at Iyo's face, and lets them off easy.

So, what's Godzilla doing back in the neighborhood? A large meteorite -- probably around forty million years old, one person says off-handedly -- is raised from the ocean floor: it either is a possible source for new energy (particularly, a replacement for fossil fuels, which, of course, come from dinosaurs), or there's something living inside. Guess which one it is. The rock takes off for Tokyo, Godzilla takes off after the rock, and one character gives what is probably going to be the most quoted and re-quoted line of the film year, "Did you see that flying rock go by?" (Despite the English dubbing, the actors in the movie are entirely appealing, and the version being distributed in the U.S. does not wantonly excise any scenes that would have undercut their performances.)

Revealed to be a shiny, silver craft with no hard edges, the visitor settles down atop one of Tokyo's main skyscrapers and, it is discovered, wants to rearrange life for everyone and everything on Earth. The similarities to Independence Day are, I am sure, not coincidental, nor is the creature that finally emerges to do battle with Godzilla, a real horror (named Orga, by the way, according to the closing credits -- Godzilla fans know that Japanese filmmakers love to dub their beasts with monikers, sometimes even before they've made an appearance on-screen) who bears a resemblance to the aliens in both Alien and Predator. So, Godzilla, the "King of the Monsters", can be seen as taking on a representative of the new movie monsters who are attempting to unseat him.

This means that Tokyo's architecture gets rearranged a bit, as well as some buildings in the hinterlands, but the film plays by very specific guidelines. There are no gloating shots of people getting squashed, crushed or trampled, and various buildings and structures fall around characters instead of on top of them. (Notably, one noodle shop that only gets a little sideswiped has a traditional "lucky cat" statue behind the counter.) As the monsters tear things up, the humans stay at abeyance, almost respectfully: cities can always be rebuilt. Unfortunately, Takagiri (played, with elegant menace, by Hiroshi Abe, who at one point appears with a beautiful, malevolent black outercoat swirling around him), is not so polite. Godzilla stares him down at one point, and he...takes out a pack of Lucky Strikes, pulls a cigarette out, and stares right back at him. Godzilla does not offer him a light.

This is an old-style affair, from the wonderful ad art that appeared, spread gloriously across one whole page in last Sunday's Times, to the reprisal of Akira Ikufube's theme when the Big G. first emerges in the film from the waters of Tokyo Bay. But I was surprised by one reaction I had, when Takegiri, newly appointed head of "Crisis Control Intelligence" decides, in "¿que est mas macho?" fashion, to rub-out Godzilla using armor-piercing missiles. As the missiles -- which were already shown to be able to plow through three consecutive concrete blocks like butter -- strike Godzilla, I found myself having an almost wincing reaction, like watching an old friend you've grown to know and love getting beat to a pulp by some sadistic creeps. (The same happens when the Big G. takes some particularly nasty hits from the alien malefactor). As Shinoda reflects, "Maybe...Godzilla is inside each one of us." He's right.

Directed by:
Takao Okawara

Takehiro Murata
Naomi Nishida
Hiroshi Abe
Shiro Sando
Mayu Suzuki

Written by:
Hiroshi Kashiwabara 
Wataru Mimura







www.nitrateonline.com  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.