Film Reviews

GODZILLA 2000

By • Aug 18th, 2000 •

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The mere fact that you have elected to read a review of a Godzilla movie already says a lot about you, most of which is actually favorable. Let’s face it, many Americans know who Godzilla is, which is more than we can say for Dick Chaney and Joe Lieberman, but most folks can’t name any of the specific movies Godzilla’s been in, despite having appeared in 23 features over 50 odd years. Why you feel the need to find out more about this specific Godzilla film is curious, as if somehow this review will make or break your decision on whether to go see it, or stay home and read a poetry book. Godzilla 2000 is absurd, which I caution you not to confuse with being bad, which it also happens to be, which shouldn’t be further confused with not having had a marvelous time seeing it, which I did.

In this, the first Japanese Godzilla movie since Tri-Star’s American version that grossed nearly a half billion dollars worldwide, yet that is still inexplicably labeled a box office flop, we are here offered a chance to view the Classic Zilla once again. Not the sleek n’ speedy, computer generated, Jenny Craig dieting, American Godzilla that every true fan hates more than that retarded purple jackass “Barney,” but rather the fat, lumbering, clumsy, man-in-a-suit Japanese Godzilla we all know and love. Like Classic Coke or Classic Star Trek, which similarly suffered the re-workings of corporate imbeciles who decided in some brain damaged epiphany to “improve” time tested formulas, Godzilla 2000 is Godzilla’s big chance to reclaim his identity.

The big question on all Godzilla fans’ minds (and let’s face it, you are one if you have read this far) is did the Japanese at Toho Studios show the Americans a thing or two about what a Godzilla film is supposed to damn well be? Did they get it “Right?” Is this the Godzilla film to finally stand up and cheer for? Well, G-fans – (and I guess I’m deep enough into this review to confess I’m a card carrying G-fan since seeing the original black and white film on Million Dollar Movie some 40 years ago) – it’s like this…frankly the answer is Yes… and No.

This isn’t the “promised land” Godzilla film we have all dreamt of seeing someday before we die. But it’s a better Godzilla film than Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich produced. It’s not a better film. For less than 1/10 the budget, it can’t be. But it’s a better Godzilla film. This difference is largely achieved because the Japanese smartly elected to cast Godzilla in a Godzilla film. Dean and Roland, while sipping a few cans of New Coke, cast a computer generated “Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” or was it just an overgrown iguana on fertility drugs with bad breath? Many will never forgive them for screwing over the franchise so badly. After seeing the American Godzilla, I can’t remember feeling so bad since the day John Lennon was shot – that’s how bad that Godzilla wannabe monster looked!

For the first 1/2 hour of Godzilla 2000 I was content just to see Godzilla, himself, again own the role. It was like seeing Connery play Bond in his prime. Watching him and his new larger purple dorsal fins walk across a wide screen in a real movie theater was some kind of orgasmic visual intoxicant. The Japanese understand this image is somehow a universal nightmare icon of a walking atomic bomb come back to haunt mankind for its transgression of earth’s natural laws. This is the awe and soul missing from the American version.

The Toho special effects were occasionally impressive and gave a more sizable illusion of there actually being a gigantic monster. Hasn’t anyone in Hollywood realized we can still tell if a creature is computer generated no matter how well it is integrated into a real world background? (Jar Jar Binks, anyone?) That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I was stunned to see they hadn’t moved one inch away from all the miserable worst parts of the majority of old Godzilla films, namely; annoying little kids, poor film direction and deadpan acting in combination with comic overacting on a scale not to be seen until the day Marlon Brando’s DNA is gene spliced into Pee Wee Herman. It raises this question: Doesn’t anyone in Japan know how to act? Judging by Godzilla films, you would swear there isn’t one actor’s studio in Tokyo not run by the Insane Clown Posse. The editing, the music, (except for Godzilla’s march theme) and the lighting are so un-hip it is unfathomable. Can’t somebody please let John Woo direct the next one? Would that kiss serious butt, or what!?!

I confess to having read some of the fans’ overnight reactions to its opening just a few hours ago. 93% of the 150 fans’ reviews were favorable on one Godzilla website. The reactions seem to share several common themes. 1) It’s damn good to have the real Godzilla back. 2) It’s cool to see him be the star of the movie, not the humans, which says a lot about the humans’ acting. 3) Well … there is no three. Unless “Godzilla finally kicks some serious ass” is a valid comment. That seemed to be universally shared, which has some merit since the American Godzilla hid through most of his movie and was dead after only 4 or 5 sidewinder missile impacts. In Godzilla 2000 even new armor piercing missiles are wonderfully useless against his holiness, Godzilla, King of all Monsters.

Poor dubbing was cited as an issue, but let’s face it, most of us raised on Godzilla movies thought everybody in Japan really talked with their lips out of synch. For many, myself included, every single thing we know about Japan comes from watching these movies. My new Japanese girlfriend recently informed me there really is no “Monster Island” to my utter disappointment. Oh well.

Is this a “see it twice” film? Not really. Some things are just too stupid. A huge question mark graphic (“?”) that accompanies an equally annoying “THE END” credit at the conclusion of the movie makes you wonder why the Japanese, who can copy anything in technology, haven’t figured out how to copy snappy graphics.

Every Godzilla fan now just wants to see if TriStar and Toho make enough bucks on this risky release (the 1st Japanese G film on American screens in 15 years) to motivate some mixing of talents, East and West, to someday make the Star Wars of Godzilla films. Will any of us live to see that day? I’m not holding my breath. Godzilla 2000 isn’t it, but it is a giant, stupid step in the right direction. Yet, if it was such a stupid film, why do I still want to see it again tonight on an even bigger screen?

As a horribly dumb actor says at the conclusion of Godzilla 2000, “Perhaps there is a little Godzilla inside all of us.” (Unfortunately that actor was not the one immediately killed by Godzilla after delivering such insipid dialog.) As the remaining cast members muse philosophically about the monster’s deeper meaning at the end of the film, Godzilla is going nuts, breathing shit loads of fire into all four corners of the city. If this juxtaposition doesn’t make you crap your pants laughing, you are not wired right.

Go Go Godzilla! Long live The King!


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