Review: GODZILLA 2000

An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · August 18, 2000, 7:13 PM EDT
Godzilla 2000

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on August 18, 2000, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

This is not going to be one of those reviews devoted to explicating how Godzilla 2000 is better than the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin movie. We all knew it would be, and the fact is that the Japanese monster exhibits more personality in one reaction to an alien spacecraft than the U.S. beast demonstrated in his entire film, so let’s leave it at that. Nor will much time be spent harping on the fact that the movie has been dubbed for U.S. consumption, because a) we all knew it would be, and given that, b) there’s probably no way it could have been done and not looked silly.

But at least whoever supervised the dubbing had some fun with it; there are dialogue homages to Dr. Strangelove and Superman that were undoubtedly not in the original script, plus a few nicely sarcastic lines. When a scientist asserts that Godzilla should be preserved for study instead of destroyed, a military man remarks, “Yeah, and meanwhile, he just keeps leveling Tokyo.”

True words, of course, but he doesn’t spend quite enough of Godzilla 2000 doing so. As a reintroduction of the famous kaiju following his death in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, the new movie doesn’t do much in the way of reinvention, aside from altering his appearance somewhat. He isn’t even granted a new backstory; he’s just there, a given on the Japanese landscape, to the point where the main human characters are the self-styled “Godzilla Prediction Network” consisting of a father and young, so-precocious-you-could-smack-her daughter who spend their time chasing the monster down. Others involved are an ambitious female reporter and various officials of the CCI (Crisis Control Intelligence) agency, who must deal not only with Godzilla but a malevolent alien spacecraft that is first uncovered as a massive rock at the bottom of the ocean.

The spacecraft, in fact, has almost as much screen time as Godzilla, particularly after it blasts the monster back into the ocean and takes up residence atop a skyscraper. Trouble is, it’s not very interesting as a “character,” and nor, for that matter, are most of the people. As a movie overall, Godzilla 2000 isn’t a patch on Shusuke Kaneko’s magnificent Gamera 3 (the yardstick by which all kaiju films must now be judged), and only really comes to life when Godzilla himself is on screen.

Fortunately, that’s often enough to make Godzilla 2000 more than entertaining enough for monster mavens. While the Big G’s look has changed, the attitude has not, and one character even makes reference to the fact that his basic mode is aggression, not retreat (perhaps in riposte to the U.S. movie, in which the opposite is true). The final act, in which the spaceship transmogrifies into a semi-Godzilla clone called Orga, with huge Gorgo-like claws, is about 20 minutes of nonstop building-smashing nirvana. In the smoky nighttime cityscape, the beasts trade blows and death rays before Orga attempts to engulf our hero, in a scene redolent of Freudianism that may be the most perverse in the history of the Big G’s films. If this lengthy setpiece doesn’t bring out the kaiju-loving kid in you, nothing will.

The special FX during the climactic action are significantly better than those during the early scenes, which suffer from occasional shaky process work. The image overall—at least on TriStar’s U.S. prints—has a grainier cast than one expects from a modern fantasy film, which gives the movie a lower-rent look than it deserves. This won’t help the movie to be seen as more than kitsch by many American viewers, which is unfortunate, because the modern kaiju films are worth taking seriously, even when (as here) the material isn’t top-flight. Look past the dubbing, and Godzilla 2000 offers an integrity and respect for its genre that puts the facetiousness of many U.S. filmmakers to shame.