After much waiting I finally received my copy of Godzilla 2000 (1999) subtitled this week. I’ve been waiting to see this movie for a long time. Although I enjoyed it, it was one of the weaker entries of the six movies in the Millenium Series.
In Godzilla 2000 Dr. Shinoda left a high profile position as a professor at a large university to create a small company that tracks and studies Godzilla. Dr. Shinoda hopes that his Godzilla warnings will help people avoid the worst consequences of the monster’s rampages. During his time in the field studying Godzilla Dr. Shinoda once again meets Mr. Katagiri, a government official in charge of Japan’s Crisis Control Institute (CCI). Katagiri is unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade Shinoda to join his team. Shinoda does not want to help the CCI destroy Godzilla.
While Godzilla is rampaging another team in the CCI accidentally awakens an alien artifact that has rested at the bottom of the sea for millions of years. Upon awakening, the artifact takes an interest in Godzilla and confronts the monster. After a brief battle Godzilla disappears and the artifact, now revealed to be a space craft, finds a place to rest and recover.
It isn’t long before the space craft pulls itself together and rests atop a skyscraper in Tokyo. As it sits silently atop the building Shinoda, temporarily cooperating with the CCI to gain access to their labs, works with his former university colleague Dr. Miyasaka (now with the CCI) to study a tissue sample from Godzilla. They learn Godzilla has amazing regenerative abilities. Meanwhile, members of the CCI discover the alien ship is sitting on the building so it can gain access to Japan’s best data store.
Yukiko Ichinose, a photographer who has been tagging along with Dr. Shinoda, breaks into the building to try and discover just what information the aliens are after. Katagiri has his forces set bombs in the building to try and destroy the alien ship. Shinoda breaks into the building to rescue Ichinose and just barely makes it out alive as the bombs go off. When the CCI team sees the bombs had no effect on the aliens they are at a loss for what to do. Shinoda reveals the aliens plan to transform Earth’s atmosphere to their liking before they invade but first they want to take the secret of Godzilla’s regeneration directly from the monster himself.
The aliens use their new-found knowledge to make a monster called Orga to defeat and consume Godzilla to unlock the last secrets of the monster’s amazing ability. Godzilla, seeking revenge for the earlier confrontation, isn’t willing to cooperate with the aliens’ scheme. Godzilla wastes no time destroying the alien space craft and Orga in a climactic battle. After his victory, making a break with tradition, Godzilla immediately resumes his rampage across Tokyo.
I spent a large portion of the movie trying to figure out what was going on. The movie starts off with no information for the audience about the movie’s setting. Most movies in the Millenium Series create their own timeline that has no connection to the others. The audience needs some information at the start of the movie to help us know what came before in this timeline and where Godzilla stands in relation to mankind. Did Godzilla just appear? Has he been around for years? What does humanity think of the monster? Without answers to any of these questions the movie races on with a confused audience in tow.
The movie tried to show us two villains; the aliens and CCI head Katagiri. The aliens were certainly evil but Katagiri spent most of the movie being a competent, level-headed government official who worked hard to protect Japanese civilians. He wanted to destroy Godzilla but after the death and destruction the monster has caused this is certainly understandable. The writers suddenly remember their mistake towards the end of the movie and have Katagiri proceed with the building detonation even though he knows Shinoda may be inside. After that he has an odd breakdown and refuses to flee when Godzilla notices him atop a building. The breakdown makes no sense but allows the audience to care less when he dies.
In this movie Godzilla isn’t in search of radioactive energy on which to feed. Instead, the monster seems to be interested in destroying sources of energy. Electrical power stations, nuclear reactors – anything that powers mankind’s cities. Not only is this a break from the previous Godzilla movies but we’re never really told why Godzilla has this agenda.
Like some movies that came before, Godzilla 2000 has statements about how humanity’s science and technology are out of control. Unfortunately, this time the statements ring hollow. There are two scenes in the movies where Dr. Shinoda and his companions rail against the evils of science but the statements don’t make sense and certainly don’t pertain to anything going on in the movie. It’s traditional to have a moment for humility and reflection on behalf of mankind at the close of the movie and Godzilla 2000 retains this tradition. However, this time the statements are shallow and artificial. They are so out of place that they feel like they were poorly tacked on by writers who had a sense of Godzilla traditions but lacked any understanding for those traditions.
One of the really strange things about Godzilla 2000 is the ending. Usually Godzilla is tired after his final fight and retreats to the ocean. This is the time when the human characters reflect on what they’ve been through. This time, however, Godzilla immediately resumes his destruction of the city. It sets a decidedly depressing tone for the end of the film.
The special effects and fight scenes were definitely cool. The Godzilla movies have needed effects this good for a long time. The movie’s pacing was too slow but when the action got started I was well entertained. Godzilla looks rough and bestial in this movie. The overall look is good but his spines are just too large and the look established in the Heisei Series suited Godzilla better.
Godzilla 2000 offered good action and interesting characters but it falls short when compared to many recent Godzilla movies. Although I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to Godzilla fans I wouldn’t recommend it to people who aren’t already fans. There are much better movies in the series to introduce people to the iconic monster’s career.