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23) GODZILLA 2000 (1999)



Japanese release title: Godzilla 2000 Millennium

International release title: Godzilla vs. Orga

U.S. release date: August 18, 2000, by Tri-Star Pictures

Japanese audience attendance: 2,000,000

Director: Takao Okawara

Screenplay: Wataru Mimura

Sfx: Kenji Suzuki

Musical score: Takayuki Hattori (music added to the score of the American version by J. Peter Robinson)

U.S. version available on home video from Tri-Star Video.

Synopsis:

Forty-six years after his initial 1954 appearance, the deadly Godzilla continues his destructive trek across the island nation of Japan, attacking numerous nuclear energy generating facilities to satiate his voracious appetite for replenishing his body’s own store of atomic powered energy. In order to better anticipate the specific area where the lethal kaiju may attack next, a group of amateur Godzilla enthusiasts form a small but fervent organization known as the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN), led by the geeky but idealistic scientist Shinoda, with the other two members being Shinoda’s brilliant 12 year old daughter Io and the daring and spunky young journalist Yuki. The GPN dedicates themselves to utilizing various computer technology they managed to acquire to keep tab’s on Godzilla’s whereabouts, and they also perform “on the spot” fieldwork in the wake of Godzilla’s destructive depredations, often at Yuki’s insistence in order for her to possibly obtain a good story out of the deal. In fact, Shinoda and Yuki are nearly killed in a nighttime encounter with Godzilla during one of the vicious creature’s evening forays in search of energy producing facilities to “feed” upon, in this particular instance culminating in an attack on a nuclear power plant in the village of Takaimura.

Also keeping track of Godzilla’s latest rampage is Chief Katagiri, who is the commander of Crisis Control Intelligence (CCI), a military organization created to deal with all major threats to Japan, and Katagiri develops an increasingly irrational obsession with utilizing the formidable resources of that military unit to destroy the Kaiju King at all costs, and he works closely with CCI scientist Miyasaka (a former college associate of Shinoda) towards this end. Working with the Japanese Self Defense Force (J.S.D.F.) to formulate effective countermeasures against Godzilla, the result is the construction of a new form of large projectile weapon known as Full Metal Missiles. This new type of missile, which is composed of a dense metallic substance that enable them to penetrate virtually anything upon impact, and to be guided by a sophisticated computer targeting system which ensures that none of these missiles ever miss their intended mark, is believed to be an effective deterrent against the King of the Kaiju. When Godzilla later comes ashore near Tokai to attack a nuclear power plant that is situated there, he is not only relentlessly assaulted by a huge contingent of J.S.D.F. assault vehicles and weaponry that serves to keep him off balance, but he is also soon buffeted by the Full Metal Missiles. Although Godzilla’s fast regenerative ability prevents him from being fatally wounded, the missiles do indeed penetrate his highly impregnable hide as intended, blasting large pieces of flesh off of his body, and causing the beast severe physical damage in the process. Continued unremitting assaults by the rest of the J.S.D.F. assault weaponry prevents Godzilla from retaliating with his atomic breath, and the giant saurian sees no recourse but to turn back to the sea.
In the meantime, pieces of Godzilla’s skin that were blown from his body by the Full Metal Missile attack are gathered by a CCI unit, and delivered to the latter’s headquarters located within the huge City Tower building in Tokyo, where they are analyzed by Miyasaka, who is later joined by his old friend Shinoda when the GPN’s misadventures lead him there. There the two scientists discover the biological factor that stands behind Godzilla’s fast regenerative ability, with a particular type of cellular component they name “Organizer G-1” (referred to as “Regenerator G-1” in the American version, for obvious reasons). The cells are christened “organizer” cells since they are a primordial component of the most ancient single-celled organisms on Earth to “organize” their various components so as to allow more complex life forms to later evolve to their present level of sophistication on the planet. These organizer components have since been obscured in plant and animal cellular structures after billions of years of evolution, but the atomic energy that suffuses Godzilla’s cellular structure has not only ‘reactivated’ these ancient organizers so that they are discernable in his tissue structure, but they have also been enhanced to the point that they allow him to heal virtually any type of injury he may incur, no matter how severe, within an extraordinarily short period of time. Upon making this discovery of these ultra-powerful organizers in Godzilla’s cellular structure, Shinoda laments aloud that it must be due to the radiation his unique physiology runs on [and I find it a bit hard to believe that this should be so startling a revelation to the scientific community given Godzilla’s nearly 50 year history in that timeline, but I suppose the screenwriter has to generate suspenseful moments any way he can].

Meanwhile, another major threat arises to confront Japan when a government submarine probes what initially appears to be an enormous meteorite laying deep under the Pacific Ocean in relatively close proximity to the island nation. When the submarine closely examines the seeming meteorite with the vessel’s many light beams, they inadvertently discover the true nature of the huge “rock.” It turns out that what appeared to be a particularly large meteorite was actually a dormant spacecraft that was actually a vast techno-organic life form that had been laying dormant on the ocean floor for countless centuries (I’m not sure the assertion that the craft was laying insensate for 60 million years could be accurate). The UFO was evidently traveling through space looking for a world to colonize by utilizing the extremely advanced technological aspects of the craft to analyze the genetic structure of whatever life forms may inhabit that world, so as to use the space craft’s genetic matrix to create fully organic vessels for the alien beings that would mimic the genetics of that world’s respective life forms, thus enabling them to evolve a fully biological form that would enable them to survive there. The craft also displayed the ability to slowly alter (i.e., ‘terra-form’) any world’s atmosphere to more closely suit the needs of the future organic life forms the UFO would create. For some unknown reason, the spacecraft landed on Earth in the distant past, and somehow ended up becoming dormant at the bottom of what is now called the Pacific Ocean, cut off from the solar energy that provided it with an inexhaustible fuel supply. The craft’s sensory equipment completely shut down due to the sunlight deprivation (and gradually became surrounded by a rocky shell) until its systems came into direct contact with the nourishing energy of the submarine’s lights, thereby reactivating its systems.

Rising from the ocean floor, the spacecraft promptly took to the skies, using its advanced sensors to scan the world’s organisms in search of (conveniently enough for the purposes of the film’s plot) the precise genetic organizer for Earth’s indigenous life forms that it required in order to adapt its biological components into creating an organism that could thrive within Earth’s environment, as it simultaneously began the slow process of altering the Earth’s atmospheric conditions in its immediate vicinity. Though the craft couldn’t find any remaining components of this organizer in the cellular structure of Earth’s life forms, it did find it within Godzilla’s chromosomal matrix. The UFO, still concealed in the rocky strata that covered it, finally encountered Godzilla in the midst of Pacific, who rose to confront what the Kaiju King perceived as a territorial rival. The craft’s energy projection weaponry proved capable of felling even Godzilla, though the latter’s atomic breath also managed to thrash the craft quite a bit, blasting its rocky shell from it in the process, and thus fully revealing it as a huge, chrome-colored roughly saucer-shaped technological flying vessel. Battling each other more or less to a standstill, the craft then turned towards Tokyo, where its computer systems detected the “key” to Organizer G-1’s molecular structure being stored in the CCI’s central computers located within the City Tower. Though a contingent of military aircraft attempted to get close to the craft to investigate it, the alien vessel promptly generated a cascading wave of force that destroyed each of the offending aircraft.

Upon arriving in Tokyo, the spacecraft settled atop City Tower, destroying the upper most section of the edifice in the process, and tapping into the CCI computer systems in order to gain access to all of the data stored within its central computer, and through it, every single computer system within Tokyo.

Chief Katagiri began slipping more and more over the edge emotionally when the efforts of the CCI proved continuously ineffective in protecting Japan from both Godzilla and the new menace of the UFO, and he knocked heads with Shinoda and the rest of the GPN as they attempted to learn the true nature and motives of the spacecraft, at one point acquiring the assistance of Miyasaka to break into the CCI computer labs in the alien commandeered City Tower to learn exactly what the craft was doing to the computer systems of the entire city of Tokyo, which it managed to tap into and gain control over. While there, Miyasaka and Shinoda discovered that the craft sent a signal through the computer system that read ‘Millennium,’ thus implying that it would establish a new order for the world at the beginning of the 21st century, the accumulated knowledge of which it obtained by downloading every available bit of data from all of Tokyo’s various computer systems. In addition, the craft downloaded the complete chromosomal structure of Organizer G-1, which it downloaded into its own central hard drive from the CCI’s scientific database. Since the craft now controlled all of the building’s systems, Miyasaka and Shinoda barely managed to escape the facility with their lives.

Soon afterwards, still seeking to maintain control over his self-designated territory, Godzilla appeared in Tokyo, and challenged the errant spacecraft anew. The UFO engaged in a fierce battle with the Atomic Titan, though this time around the battle began going in the latter’s favor. Thus, hoping to match Godzilla completely, the craft finally tapped into the information stored in its main hard drive regarding the Organizer G-1, and began forming a fully organic creature that would possess the fast regenerative power and strength of Godzilla within its biological embodiment. Since the matrix already possessed a pre-programmed phenotype for the fully organic being that was to be formed, the creature initially manifested as a multi-tentacled octopoid being, a form that it was evidently more familiar with. However, as a result of incorporating the Earthly organizer cellular composition that had mutated and metamorphosed within Godzilla’s own system, the alien creature quickly began mutating out of control, and ultimately formed, much to its seeming surprise, a non-octopoid, bipedal creature that somewhat resembled Godzilla himself in its various physical attributes, including the possession of only two legs and two arms, the latter of which ended in disproportionately large claws. This being was named ‘Orga’ due to its creation as a result of the Organizer G-1 [the name appeared in extensive press material regarding the beast in both the Japanese and American media, but was never actually mentioned in any version of the film itself, except in the title of the international version of the movie].

At first taken aback by its mutation into this unexpected form, Orga found that he was unable to leave the area and acclimate himself to this bizarre new form since he quickly found himself under attack by Godzilla. Since Orga possessed the ability to project enormously powerful energy beams from a shoulder portal that was automatically genetically programmed into his genetic matrix by the craft’s computers, and since he possessed Godzilla’s fast regenerative power, he fought back incessantly, and the two powerful adversaries appeared to battle each other to a standstill. The shell of the spacecraft, now able to be directed by the organic form of Orga at will, also re-entered the fray against Godzilla, only to be completely destroyed by the Kaiju King now that it lacked the full portion of its organic components to enhance its power and effectiveness.

Orga ultimately attempted to defeat Godzilla once and for all by coming into extended contact with his adversary and genetic ‘twin’ and absorbing greater portions of the latter’s organizer cells, thus evolving further into a larger and even more powerful incarnation. To accomplish this feat, the alien creature revealed the ability to extend its maw to huge proportions, thus enabling him to partially swallow Godzilla, with the intention of holding the kaiju immobile for a long enough period that Orga would be able to absorb further amounts of the Organizer G-1 from Godzilla’s cellular structure. As Orga moved to encompass his foe within his extended maw, Godzilla cunningly discerned a means of destroying his opponent, despite the fact that the alien also possessed a fast regenerative ability that allowed him to quickly recover from every one of the Big G’s previous attacks. Moving forward, Godzilla allowed himself to be partially enveloped and held insensate by Orga’s extended maw, as per the latter’s intention, and when the alien began rapidly absorbing more of Godzilla’s DNA (and thus began sprouting several of the Big G’s distinctive dorsal plates on his back), Godzilla began building up his internal atomic energy exponentially, until he released it in a vastly powerful burst of his omni directional nuclear pulse, thereby completely obliterating the vast majority of Orga’s body, enough so that the creature could not recover despite his fast regenerative ability.

The menace of the Millennium aliens now ended, all of Tokyo’s computer systems returned to the control of the human populace. However, now that his territorial rival was destroyed, Godzilla turned his fury back upon the city. Immediately following the battle, the extremely embittered Katagiri, who viewed himself as a failure due to his ability to successfully protect his country from Godzilla, decided to exercise a combination of bold defiance and exonerative suicide over his perceived failure in classic Japanese cultural fashion, by confronting Godzilla at the top of what was left of the City Tower, which enabled the two to face each other eye to eye. Godzilla responded accordingly, by destroying the remainder of the building, thus giving Katagiri the fearless death that the severely disillusioned man now welcomed.

Godzilla then continued his devastating attack on Tokyo, now bereft of all opposition, as Miysaka and the small GPN crew looked on despondently from the background, with Yuki and Shinoda both musing aloud that since humankind created Godzilla with its wanton misuse of science, they would now have to resign themselves to facing the fury of the Kaiju King on a regular basis forever, as he was perhaps the living embodiment of humanity’s own arrogance [though I must observe that since humanity at large isn’t responsible for the profit-motivated decisions of the various ruling classes of the present system who actually make all of the decisions to misuse science for destructive purposes in the first place, it’s sad to see people continuing to blame the entire human race for the decisions made by the relatively few who truly hold power in this non-egalitarian world of ours].

Review/Comments:

After a four year hiatus from the big screen, the King of the Monsters was finally given a new lease on his cinematic life by the creative crew at Toho, led by producer Shogo Tomiyama, who took over the reins of the Godzilla film mythos now that Tomoyuki Tanaka, the creator of the Big G who served as producer or executive producer of the first G-film, and all of the films in both the Showa Series and Heisei Series over a remarkable 41 year period, had passed away a few years earlier. During the interim, G-fans and fans of the Japanese dai kaiju eiga film genre in general had to content themselves with a trilogy of lukewarm Mothra solo films (aimed at a much younger audience than the G-series), and the putrid misfire that was the American Tri-Star Picture’s 1998 film version of the Kaiju King. Despite the fact that Tri-Star unleashed such a celluloid turkey on the international kaiju-fan community (and blowing the first big screen American dai kaiju film to be produced in decades), the latter movie at least inspired a terrific animated television series that was about the only thing that whetted the appetites of G-fans over the course of its two season syndicated run during this time (the Tri-Star film and the animated series by Centropolis are both covered elsewhere on this site).

Although Tri-Star initially signed up an agreement with Toho to produce a trilogy, the justifiably poor reception that the movie received on both sides of the Pacific prompted Toho to apparently put the kibosh on that idea, and to return their own, superior version of the Big G to the silver screen, something they were reportedly not going to do until the year 2004, after the projected Tri-Star trilogy of films had run their course (and since 2004 would also be Godzilla's 50th anniversary). Thankfully, Toho spared G-fans the world over from being subjected to more of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s “Deanzilla” by bringing the real Godzilla back.

Tomiyama decided to take the route of not only scrapping the continuity of the Heisei Series for good (which they could have continued, since a new Godzilla appeared in the wake of the old one’s destruction at the end of Godzilla vs. Destroyah), but to also scrap the very concept of consistent continuity itself from each film in the new G-series. The result was the beginning of the Millennium, a.k.a., "Alternate Reality" Series, the third Godzilla film series to be spawned from the original classic 1954 epic Godzilla, King of the Monsters. In this new series, the most unique in terms of thematic concept, each film would take place in a different alternate reality, and feature an entirely different version of Godzilla, each from a reality with an entirely distinct history from those seen in every other movie within this film series. The only consistent historical detail to be seen as part of the timeline of every film would be the general series of events seen in the first G-film, no matter how disparate the history and even the actual nature of the various versions of Godzilla who would appear in each film. This was a wise move, considering that Tomiyama obviously saw no reason to throw the events of the first and best G-film to the wind, but merely to extrapolate contrasting events from that common starting point.
However, it now appears that Toho will make concessions to the above rule at times, and make certain G-films in the Millennium Series as direct sequels to the previous film, taking place in the same timeline. It has also been stated by Anthony Romero at Toho Kingdom that Toho planned all along to make a few stand alone G-films in the new movie series first, and then following the continuity of one of those first few films. While it's too early in right now to determine how Toho will ultimately play this out, it should be noted that the 2003 G-film ("Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: S.O.S. Tokyo") will be a direct sequel to the 2002 G-film, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (the latter of which apparently claimed a few kaiju-films from the Showa Series era as part of its official canon, including Mothra [1961] and at least some of the events in War of the Gargantuas [1966]).

The result of this was an extremely interesting film series in which each entry would not be constrained by the events seen in any previous movie in the franchise, the only limitation being that the events in the first G-film must be included into the continuity of each respective film’s timeline. Though periodic revampments of an established character’s history and origin have often been criticized by various fans of the greater sci-fi genre, it should be pointed out that keeping popular characters relevant to the dictates of any given era, and to the sensibilities and expectations of a new emerging fan base who cannot adequately relate to a character too tied into the conventions, attitudes, and perceptions of an earlier time, sometimes make these periodic retcons necessary. Although various ill-advised examples of this practice can be pointed out (such as Marvel Comics’ mid-1990’s ‘Heroes Reborn’ experiment), many successful and laudable examples also abound when the right creative team is involved, such as the millennially introduced ‘Ultimate’ line from Marvel Comics (featuring wonderfully and relevantly revamped versions of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and other Marvel characters and teams), and the Heisei Series of Gamera films introduced by Daiei with Gamera, the Guardian of the Universe in 1994, launching a popular new Gamera franchise that all subsequent G-films have had to measure up to in terms of quality. Nevertheless, due to the important and still very relevant themes that were central to the plot of the first G-film, and because of the nearly unsurpassed quality of their execution in that seminal film, there was no good reason for the events depicted in that movie to be scrapped for any new G-series, which was why the proceedings in that movie were retained as part of the consistent timeline seen in the Heisei Series (which ignored all of the events seen in the 14 G-films that made up the Showa Series), as well as part of the timeline of all the various dimensional planes seen in the Millennium Series.

In this new G-series, Godzilla has been maintained as a destructive, dangerous, and “evil” force, the personification of nature’s brutal retribution on the human race, with little or no ambiguity to his “motivations” whatsoever, and he faces off against other kaiju simply as a matter of instinctual territorial rivalry, with hapless humans ultimately left no better off as a result of Godzilla being the victor in these battles, and with all humans hoping that the two monsters destroy each other (much the same attitude people have towards the characters of Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees in their long-awaited cinematic confrontation). The audience cheers for Godzilla, of course, simply because he’s the more popular of the two battling creatures. Further, despite the fact that Godzilla is a merciless creature of pure destruction (and because he’s thankfully only a fictional being!), he is nevertheless “cool,” due to the current cultural attitude in America and Japan alike that certain characters are admirable simply because they are tough, and not necessarily because they represent any type of virtuous or idealistic values (note the devoted fan followings of comic book characters such as Wolverine, the Punisher, and Lobo, and you will see exactly what I mean). Further, there are many people of the extreme left high ecology philosophy who perceive Godzilla’s existence as a form of just revenge by nature against humanity (all humanity, not just the handful who make all of the detrimental industrial decisions that harm the environment, mind you), and thus cheer on Godzilla’s lethal excursions into human civilization for that reason. A perfect example of this latter attitude can be found amidst the lyrics of the classic late 1970’s song about Godzilla from the Blue Oyster Cult, to wit: “History shows again and again how nature plays up the folly of man,” and “Oh no! There goes Tokyo! Go…go…go…Godzilla!” The former lyrical example was insightful, and the latter cheerfully tasteless, but they do provide a good example of the latter tendency that I mentioned.

Hence, in short, the friendly version of Godzilla is nowhere to be seen in the Millennium Series, despite a silly ad-libbed line dubbed into the end of the American version of this film that tried to imply otherwise amidst a plethora of evidence to the contrary (again, see below).

In the first entry in the Millennium Series, there was no explanation as to how Godzilla was back after his seemingly fatal encounter with the Oxygen Destroyer in the first film 46 years earlier, though it was implied that this version of Godzilla was around for a long period of time, and didn’t reappear suddenly to the world in this film as was the case in the beginning of the Heisei Series with Godzilla 1985. Of course, though the basic series of events of the first G-film are to be retained in the timelines of each G-film in the third series, it should be noted that not all of the events in that film are followed to the letter. For example, in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, the second G-film in the Millennium Series, though the events of the first G-film were clearly recalled, Godzilla ended up leaving Japan at the end of his 1954 attack on Tokyo without falling victim to the Oxygen Destroyer afterwards. So it’s possible that this was also the case with the Godzilla of the timeline presented in this film, though it wasn’t verified in the dialogue, nor was it deemed relevant by the screenwriter. Rather, it was quickly established that Godzilla was a long-time and continuing threat to the Japan of this timeline, and that was that.

As for the quality of the film itself, I believe that it was something of a mixed bag, despite the overly glowing review that J.D. Lees gave the movie in his lengthy review that appeared in G-FAN #47. Part of the problem with the film was that Toho appears to be insistent upon not learning from mistakes or bum decisions made in the past. The two most glaring examples of this are the facts that Toho decided to maintain the same creative team that did less than stellar work on some of the G-films of the Heisei Series, including the rather poorly received Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), as well as those who worked on the Rebirth of Mothra film series (1996-1998) that was spotty in many areas in terms of quality. Further, the fact that the screenwriters who Toho hires to craft the storylines of the various G-films continuously deem it unnecessary to have a plot or characters that are in any way well-fleshed out, seemingly relying too much on the special effects and monster battles to carry the film more or less on their own, when it’s been proven more than once by the writers and producers of the Heisei Era Gamera film series that good plots and writing can exist more than comfortably in an action-heavy dai kaiju film. Yes, it’s true that Toho does their films with considerably more flair and panache than the Two Stooges of Tri-Star Pictures have ever done, but the lack of care put into the script is sometimes quite inexcusable, especially in light of what the crew over at Daiei have done with the Heisei Era Gamera film series (hence, I do not agree with J.D. Lees that the script for this movie was “clever”). The third G-film in the Millennium Series would prove to be a wondrous exception to this rule in most ways (especially since Toho wisely decided to bring in Shusuke Kaneko as director, the man responsible for turning the Heisei Era Gamera film series into such a success), but the first two entries in this third G-series would follow the same basic formula that many G-films have been criticized over for decades (as would the fourth).

This is not to say that Godzilla 2000 is a bad film; it was certainly a marked improvement over Tri-Star’s notorious “effort.” The most important thing of all to many G-fans on both sides of the Pacific was that the real Godzilla was back, and this alone was a cause for celebration. The movie, as directed by the competent Takao Okawara, proceeded at a very even pace, with the exception of the sequence with Miyasaka and Shimoda trapped within the City Tower building, which went on much too long, and came off as an attempt to needlessly pad the film time. Also, in Toho’s attempt to make the weaponry brought to bear against Godzilla to be more logically based than the sometimes futuristic weapons utilized in the past two film series, such as maser generating artillery, the Full Metal Missiles were not only plausible in their construction and execution given the possibilities of modern technology in the “real” world, but they were also considerably more effective than the maser weaponry against the Big G in the past! Further, the initial plan by the J.S.D.F. against Godzilla when the latter arrived in Tokai was competently executed, and it was also one of the few times in kaiju film history that the military actually succeeded in holding a dai kaiju at bay with “mere” human weaponry and tactical strategy.

However, it should be noted that in their efforts to present more logical foes for the Big G, something demanded in greater numbers by contemporary audiences who cannot suspend their disbelief as readily as audiences in past decades did (who didn’t mind a high degree of silliness), Toho blew it a bit here by including an extraterrestrial nemesis, even though that alien entity did not take the form of an entire race of illogically fascistic technologically-oriented beings who conquer inhabited worlds rather than simply settling and terra-forming one of the many uninhabited spheres floating through outer space. Toho was wise to avoid the past overuse of such plot devices seen so much during the later years of the Showa Series, as they would be quite ill-received by audiences of today who tend to ask more questions, and expect more logic in contemporary sci-fi films.

Though the plot made interesting use of the turn of the century millennial motif that was on the minds of so many people across the globe, the dialogue and various plot devices of the film were rather stilted. The Japanese script was still much better than the ad-libbing done by Tri-Star in its American release of the movie (see below), but it neverthless could have been better written, as it didn’t rise very far above some of the questionable scripts seen in the past. The idea to specifically identify the “organizer” in Godzilla’s cellular structure that facilitates his fast regenerative ability was a good idea, but in contrast to J.D. Lees’s statement in his aforementioned review that described the film’s emphasis on the Organizer G-1 as “a phenomenon which has been inferred but never explicitly stated or explained in a Godzilla film before,” Godzilla’s regenerative cell structure actually played a major role in both the plot and the genesis of his kaiju adversary ten years earlier in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), and even though it wasn’t explicitly identified as an “organizer” cellular component in the latter film, as J.D. points out, the particular properties of Godzilla’s cell structure certainly have been focused on in the past, which thus diminishes the uniqueness of its usage in Godzilla 2000 considerably. Still, just because a certain plot point has been used before, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used again, as long as any subsequent usage of the plot device in question be done sparingly, only if another genuinely good story can be culled from it, and only if it adds something to the original usage rather than simply coming across as a retread due to a lack of any new ideas on the part of the screenwriter or producers.

Like all other aspects of the film, the acting was adequate, though nothing of Oscar winning caliber, of course. However, honorable mention needs to be given to the two female protagonists in this film, as actress Naomi Yashida did a fine job as the plucky journalist Yuki, though she did come off as a bit too similar in persona to the character of Audrey Timmonds in Tri-Star’s Godzilla, as well as then 12 year old actress Mayu Suzuki as Shinoda’s intelligent and resourceful daughter Io, who was given a respectful role in a non “kiddie” oriented film that is extremely hard to come by for youth actors and actresses in America due to the much greater ageist prejudices against youths that exist here. And despite the various plot deficiencies in the film, the climactic scene where Katagiri willingly meets his end while facing Godzilla for the final time was quite stirring, even if too few G-fans seem to have pointed out that it bears a certain resemblance to an all-too similar scene from Godzilla vs. King Ghidora eight years earlier.

Nevertheless, despite the film’s several shortcomings, the ending of the movie was wondrously ominous and chilling, especially since subsequent films in the Millennium Series have gone back to the formula of the earliest G-films (as well as the first film in the Heisei Series) by concluding in such a manner as to suggest that Godzilla’s life was ended (something the screenwriters can now readily do, since each movie in the current film series occurs in a different timeline). In this initial offering to the new series, however, Godzilla didn’t meet his maker at the end of the film at all, but instead turned around and continued meting out punishment to the puny human race before him in deadly earnest, with the film’s main protagonists forced to simply stand by and deal with their complete failure to protect human society from the kaiju’s constant rampages, and even contemplating if humanity may in fact deserve the presence of this city-smashing monster in their midst.

The score by Takayuki Hattori was yet another aspect of the film that was good, though not on par with the more familiar and emotionally rousing themes from the legendary G-film composer Akira Ifukube. It should be noted that not all G-fans agree with this assessment, as J.D. Lees opined in his aforementioned review, “Hattori’s forte', an area Ifukube could never seem to master, is that he composes music according to what’s happening onscreen. Ifukube would compose a tune or a theme for a certain scene, and then let it run, no matter what action was taking place in the movie.” I have noticed that Hattori would indeed gear certain music towards specific actions within a given scene, and in my opinion the best example of this was during the UFO’s flight towards Tokyo, and the music that appeared over the end credits was also quite good. Nevertheless, I believe that Ifukube’s scores were very well-suited to the scenes he composed them for, and there was never any need for him to gear them towards specific actions within a scene, rather than simply towards the scene in a general sense. Ifukube had a natural talent for compelling scores that enhanced the scene they appeared in, and none of the other composers for any G-film have yet to match his distinctive military marches that appeared in many films, particularly his scores for Godzilla’s first ever rampage through Tokyo in Godzilla, King of the Monsters, or the wondrous military march theme from Destroy All Monsters (1968). In fact, the choice of Hattori to score this film is interesting in lieu of the fact that he was so roundly criticized by G-fans when he composed the score for Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, which is hailed by many G-fans to be the worst of the Heisei Series G-films, and which Hattori was castigated for creating a soundtrack that sounded more appropriate for anime than for a live action sci-fi film. While I must admit that I believe his score for this film was much improved over his first effort, I still would have hesitated to hire him again were I one of the Toho suits who actually make these decisions. Then again, as I pointed out earlier, when you note the hiring of the creative crews for the various G-films, you are forced to wonder if rampant and secretive nepotism must be at work here, considering how Toho frequently hires in complete disregard for past mistakes, and I seriously do not understand what the old boys were smoking when they abdicated creative control to the likes of Emmerich and Devlin. This is especially true when you consider the fact that the guys made absolutely no secret from the get-go that they would tamper in a capricious manner with Toho’s prized possession, because they insisted they could realize Godzilla “better” than anyone at Toho ever did, including Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Tsuberaya, Ishiro Honda, etc. This lends much credence to the ancient axiom that when you find yourself in a position where you have to fill extremely big shoes, you should never let your arrogance convince you that you’re automatically better than those who came before you, but instead show some respect for the achievements of others that provided you with your big break in the first place.

Hence, it was no surprise that various classic military march themes from Ifukube were included in this film to bolster the new score, and this was extremely wise, as the great maestro’s distinctive themes are as associated with Godzilla in their own way as a certain familiar theme music by the Monty Norman Orchestra is associated with James Bond by pop culture mavens. I believe it would be a much poorer G-film to be entirely bereft of any of Ifukube’s classic themes.

This movie is also well-known for being the first G-film to take advantage of the new CGI technology available for special effects. Since the budget of this film was only $12 million in American funds, the creative crew were unable to realize every single effect by means of computers, so the majority of monster scenes were still achieved via the classic suitmation technique that Toho is famous for, as well as most of the cityscapes being accomplished by utilizing well-constructed physical miniatures, rather than being created through computer imagery. For the Millennium Series, Godzilla has been reduced in height from the Heisei Series peak of 120 meters (roughly 400 feet) down to 55 meters (about 170 feet), which is only slightly larger than the height he possessed in the first film, and throughout the movies of the Showa Series. Because of this restoration to something near his “classic” height, the sfx crew were able to make the city and vehicle miniatures larger than in the Heisei Series G-films, and it was thus considerably easier to add details to them so as to make them look more accurate and realistic. Several notable CGI effects of more or less decent quality appeared in this film, however, particularly to realize a few brief scenes of Godzilla swimming underwater, as well as the metamorphosis scene where the spacecraft first creates Orga out of its organic “bulk material” from its genetic matrix. The UFO that contained the genetic matrix that spawned Orga was perhaps the most wonderfully realized effect in the entire film, and was executed better than any of the mecha seen in previous G-films; the design was both simplistic and sleek at the same time, and the effect produced by its highly reflective metallic surface once it shed its rocky exoshell and flew through the air (especially in the daylight sequences) was excellent eye candy to behold. The choice of Kenji Suzuki as sfx director wasn’t a bad one, as he pulled off a stint working on the special effects for the Rebirth of Mothra films, as well as Godzilla vs. King Ghidora (1991).

The Godzilla suit was well done, as it had a look of extreme animalistic malevolence, and it was the most reptilian and dinosaurian looking G-suit since the fan favorite ‘King-Godzi’ suit from King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), which provided the design for the highly memorable Godzilla model kit first issued by Aurora in the early 1960’s (just following the American release of the latter film), and then re-issued in the early 1970’s with new glow-in-the-dark parts added (and I’ll never forget how thrilled I was as a young child when my mother purchased one of the early 70’s re-issues of the Aurora Godzilla model kit for me). Godzilla’s dorsal plates have now become larger and more defined, and his skin has remained the dark chartreuse of the Heisei Era Godzilla in color, rather than the almost charcoal gray of the Showa Series incarnation of the Big G.

One of the most prominent physical changes from all previous versions of Godzilla in this film was the color of his radioactive beam. In the color films to be seen in the Showa and Heisei G-series his atomic breath glowed a bluish-white, with his dorsal plates lighting up a luminescent bluish-white in tandem with the radioactive beam. Beginning with the Millennium Series, however, Godzilla’s radioactive beam now appears a bright reddish-orange (just like his beam in Godzilla vs. Destroyah [1995] when he was slowly undergoing a nuclear meltdown during the entire course of the film), and his dorsal plates begin glowing in the manner of red-hot coals, seemingly from within, as it now takes him a few seconds to build up enough of his internal nuclear energy stores to project the radioactive beam. Further, a torrent of radioactive “flame” can be seen to erupt outside the interior of his maw as this energy builds up in preparation for being projected at a target. This has proven to be much more dramatic than the nigh-instantaneous release of the radioactive beam in all past versions of the Big G, and has also thankfully caused the creative crew to have Godzi use his patented atomic breath much more sparingly than he did during the films of the Heisei Series, where he and his opponents utilized their respective energy beams to such a great extent that they tended to rely mostly on their beam weapons in combat, and did a minimum of actual physical sparring. This is no longer the case, and though both Godzilla and Orga possessed beam weapons, the majority of their fighting was pure and vicious hand-to-hand (and tooth to tooth) combat. The monster battle in question was well done, but not particularly spectacular until the climax, where Godzilla’s legendary cunning enabled him to use his nuclear pulse ability to end his opponent’s life once and for all, despite the latter having the same fast regenerative ability that the Kaiju King himself possessed.

Orga himself was a basically well-realized monster, but once again, nothing spectacular. His greatly oversized claws were probably intended to appear menacing, but instead they simply looked awkward to the beast’s overall physiology. I wouldn’t consider Orga one of Godzilla’s toughest nemeses (despite his possession of Godzilla’s fast regenerative ability), and the list of Godzilla’s all-time toughest adversaries to date still belongs to the likes of King Ghidora, Hedorah, Gigan, Mechagodzilla, Space Godzilla, and Destroyah. Orga was certainly interesting in regards to the fact that he was one of the few dai kaiju who was actually fully sentient, rather than simply an enormous animal functioning on savage primal instincts alone (other dai kaiju of the fully sentient stripe include Viras and Zigra from Gamera’s colorful and ultra-deadly pantheon of adversaries), or simply mecha roughly imitating the appearance of a living creature and operating under the programmed instructions of intelligent beings (which would include Mechagodzilla, Garuda, and Mogera). [It should be noted that Mothra and Battra, who are creations of the life force of the Earth itself, and known to be capable of full psychic communication with each other or with human espers, could also be classified as sentient, if in a “raw” sort of fashion.] Also, Orga’s initial reaction to his (its?) transformation into a Godzilla-like being, rather than the form pre-chosen by the genetic matrix of the UFO as a result of utilizing the Organizer G-1 as the genetic template for its fully organic form, added a surprising moment of pathos to the film.
Both of the monsters moved and reacted in a rather clunky fashion in comparison to the entirely fluidic motion of fully CGI creatures (just compare the movements of the various monstrous beings to be seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, and even “Deanzilla”), but many sci-fi and fantasy buffs have stated that they prefer the definitive “solidity” of appearance that actors in suitmation suits, or even actual models utilizing animitronics or stop motion photography, bring to the screen, as opposed to creatures that aren’t “actually” there, but simply completely computer generated images with no true mass or volume of any sort. This may be true in regards to the present state of CGI animation (note the horrendous CGI utilized to bring the two titular dragons to “life” in the poorly received Dungeons and Dragons movie a few years back), but the technique and available technology are becoming more advanced, and at an ever decreasing financial cost, as the years pass; note for example the excellent entirely CGI realization of the character of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings film adaptations directed by Peter Jackson, which has spurred many fans to suggest that a new type of award should be given towards outstanding CGI effects in films.
At the present time, however, many fans and film critics still feel that CGI generated beings and objects are never fully convincing, and that though men in suits likewise do not look entirely realistic, at least they give the impression of something actually being “there” when they appear onscreen. I suppose it’s all a matter of individual perspective, at any rate.

One of the most interesting and important things about Godzilla 2000 is that it was the first G-film to play the big screen in America in fifteen years. It was released by Tri-Star Pictures in place of the second “Deanzilla” film they originally planned to release (you see, there is a God!), and especially since they still possessed the rights to the character of Godzilla in America as per their previous contractual deal with Toho. This is why they also handled the American direct to video releases of the Heisei Series films that came after Godzilla vs. Biollante, and this was also perhaps a way for Toho to honor the deal they had with Tri-Star regarding the rights to releasing Godzilla cinematic products in America in some manner (anything other than letting them make another film starring “Deanzilla!”). To their credit, Tri-Star gave the film a very widespread advertising campaign, with humorous but still respectful slogans such as “Get ready to crumble!”, and also gave the movie a large nationwide release, something that wasn’t done for most G-films released in America during the 1970’s, who were all handled by small film companies with an average lifespan of only a few years. Moreover, these small potato companies largely relegated the G-films they released in America to limited releases in the now defunct kiddie matinees (with a prominent exception being the much maligned Godzilla vs. Megalon in 1976). G-FAN magazine, led by editor J.D. Lees, also did it’s best to garner widespread American interest in the film, including arranging a press kit to initiate a letter-writing campaign to various local newspapers to inform their readers about the release of the film. It was the obvious hope for G-fans in America that Tri-Star would release future G-films in the Millennium Series to the big screen, but sadly it looks like this is not to be the case. When Godzilla 2000 opened in American theaters, Tri-Star executive Jeff Blake went on record to say that the film grossed $4.6 million for its opening weekend, which is a paltry sum compared to typical American blockbusters, but still close to Tri-Star’s projected hopes of a $5 million opening weekend gross, and the film apparently was modestly successful in regards to a foreign dubbed film during the overall course of its American release (though evidently not enough to prompt Tri-Star into releasing more G-films to the big screen in America at this time). And once again, G-fans were pleased that the original Godzilla was back, and that they actually had the opportunity to see him on the big screen this side of the Pacific, something many G-fans never had the chance to see before, and many others (including myself) didn’t get to see since we were quite young (I was in high school when Godzilla 1985 received its American theatrical release).

It should also be noted that Tri-Star made a number of alterations on the film for its American release in addition to simply having it dubbed in English, though not nearly as bad as the butcher job done on Godzilla 1985 by New World Pictures, and thankfully no new made-in-America footage was added to this film, though new music was added to the score by composer J. Peter Robinson. Nevertheless, several scenes in the film were shuffled around, mostly to the detriment of the movie’s coherency, and several interesting scenes, such as Godzilla’s failed attempt to use his atomic breath against the J.S.D.F. in Tokai, and the full extent of the Japanese military’s assault on the Kaiju King, were unfortunately snipped out entirely to reduce the movie’s running time (too bad they didn’t snip out some of the footage of the extended sequence of Miyakasa and Shinoda being trapped inside the City Tower). Furthermore, much of the script was altered in the dubbing, which made the dialogue in the American version much more awkward than what appeared in the Japanese original. One such addition that J.D. Lees criticized in his lengthy review was the insertion of the word “asshole” into one of Shinoda’s lines, which he felt sounded odd coming from the mouth of a Japanese character in a dubbed film (and it was), and which he also felt was an unwise decision by Tri-Star considering that many younger viewers would want to see the film. I disagree with this assertion, since contrary to what appears to be popular belief in North America, young people both hear and utilize expletives liberally (at least behind the scenes), and the usage of such in a film make the characters appear more realistic (even if less “classy”), and it’s not extremely uncommon for younger people to hear one or two such words in a PG rated movie, which is the rating that the American version of this film received.

Some of the American alterations in the original dialogue completely distorted certain important elements of the film, however. One notable example is the changing of the name of Godzilla’s unique cellular component from “Organizer G-1” in the Japanese version to “Regenerator G-1” in the American version, the latter obviously to reflect the particular ability this molecular characteristic confers upon the Kaiju King. However, this name change obscures the important connection this cellular component has to the UFO’s need for the “organizer” cell characteristics of Earth beings, and also obscures the etymological derivation of Orga’s name (i.e., “Orga” as an abbreviation of “Organizer”). It should also be noted once again that Orga’s name didn’t appear anywhere in either the Japanese or American versions of the film, though it did appear extensively in press material about the movie (where it was sometimes spelled “Orgah”), and it did appear in the title of the international version of the film (though not in the film itself). Also, during one of the scenes featuring the J.S.D.F.’s planning sessions against Godzilla, some of the Japanese dialogue was altered to suggest that the Japanese military had a callous disregard for possible civilian casualties as a result of their planned attack on Godzilla, but this was really more reflective of the American mindset towards civilian casualties in the midst of war (which the American government euphemistically refers to as “acceptable losses” or "collatoral damage"), since no culture in the developed world glorifies warfare more than American popular culture (as opposed to the Japanese love of cinematic violence that is not nearly as often carried over into real life ideology).
The worst such example, however, was Yuki and Shinoda’s closing lines in the film. In the Japanese original, after Godzilla obliterated both Orga and Katagiri, and then returned to his catastrophic attack on Japanese civilization, an observing Yuki mused (according to the English sub-titles from Video Daikaiju’s Japanese version of this film), “It was us [sic] human beings who made the monster.” A melancholy Shinoda then added, “Godzilla is in ourselves, in everybody’s mind.” This point made a bit of sense in regards to the guilt that Shinoda carries as a human being over the decisions that a few human beings made that unleashed Godzilla upon human civilization in the first place. In the same scene that appeared in the American version, however, Yuki made a comment that went along the lines, “no matter what we do to him, he always saves us in the end,” to which Shinoda replied, “well…I suppose there’s a little of Godzilla in all of us” [!!!]. Here we can see the American “translators” re-defining the dialogue according to the still-enduring American perception of Godzilla as a protector of humankind (even if inadvertently), despite the fact that the American audience saw the monster brutally destroying any infrastructure in his path, causing untold amounts of human casualties in the process [were these just “collatoral damage” of a heroic monster’s rampage?], and even killing the hapless Katagiri for absolutely no reason at all at the end of the film, not to mention the chilling scene near the beginning of the movie where the kaiju attempted to crush the GPN Mobile Unit with his enormous claw when Shinoda and Yuki accidentally ran into the Big G in the midst of a fog-shrouded evening. It was very clear throughout the film that this Godzilla was totally no nonsense, and he wasn’t anything that you wanted to run into in a dark fog-enshrouded city somewhere, and unlike other cinematic killers like Jason Vorhees, who murders maybe a dozen people at a time during a spree, Godzilla wipes out entire heavily populated cities rather than just a small contingent of young promiscuous campers, not to mention turning these urbanized regions into a radioactive wasteland with his atomic breath. Godzilla in no way destroyed Orga to protect human civilization, unless it was possibly for the purpose of saving those pesky little humans so that he could kill them later himself! Yet Tri-Star decided to translate the final spoken lines in the movie to imply that Godzilla was the savior of the people of Tokyo simply because he killed another monster whom he had a mad-on for due to a previous indiscretion…and this right before he once again began smashing the city to pieces just because it was there! Ummm…okay. And Shinoda’s subsequent comment in the American version, which was possibly intended to be an allusion towards the fact that Godzilla shared ancient genetic heritage with the human race due to the presence of the organizer components in his cellular structure, it instead came off as a laughably horrendous attempt at making a philosophical point of some kind that made absolutely no sense in the wake of anything we saw in the film previously! I’ll never forget how much I rolled my eyes in the theater after hearing that one, and it sure was annoying to see a relatively cool film end on that note.

Neverthless, Tri-Star at least hired mostly Asian voice-over actors and actresses to do the dubbing for the Japanese cast in the film so that the accents were authentic, and we didn’t have to endure the mostly Australian accents we heard in many dubbed G-films of the past (Godzilla’s name wasn’t pronounced “Godziller” this time around!). Though the dubbed dialogue was mostly in synch with the Japanese actor’s lips, there were a few scenes (including during Yuki’s introductory scene near the beginning of the film) that were much lambasted by sneering American viewers for featuring dubbing that was very much out of synch with the respective actor’s lip movements.

The American version is officially available from Tri-Star Video, and this particular Americanized version of a G-film is a fairly decent investment for the G-fan. However, the Japanese version is still better (as well as longer, running at 160 minutes), and there is an excellent English sub-titled Special Edition of this film very affordably available from Video Daikaiju, which contains a considerable amount of “extras” (mostly spoken in Japanese, but still more than worth your while), including coming attraction trailers, behind the scenes information on how the sfx was done, and commentaries from the cast and creative crew. Further, at $15.00 American currency per tape, it’s a major steal.

Though the first entry in the Millennium Series was rather modest as a success (in both the U.S. and in Japan), it nevertheless launched the Big G into the 21st century with a bit of style.

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