By CONNOR KEATING
Tiger Media Network
October may be over, but the monster movie mayhem continues with 1999’s “Godzilla 2000: Millennium”! Last week was the 69th anniversary of the original Godzilla, so to commemorate that, Fathom Events showed “Godzilla 2000” in theaters for one night only. The film was originally made as damage control after the critical failure of the 1998 American Godzilla film, and “Godzilla 2000” was even released in American theaters a year after its initial release in Japan, so how does it hold up?
The plot follows professor Yuji Shinoda and his daughter Io, who run the Godzilla Prediction Network, a group of scientists who study Godzilla, watch his movement paths, and share data with each other over the internet. A reluctant news reporter named Yuki Ichinose is forced by her boss to tag along with them, and together they try to study Godzilla. However, the Crisis Control Intelligence, led by Mitsuo Katagiri, wants nothing more than to kill Godzilla. Meanwhile, the CCI is also screwing around with a meteor they found in the sea, but one of their scientists, Shiro Miyasaka, discovers that the meteor is actually some kind of spacecraft, and it begins doing its own thing. Eventually, the spacecraft perches itself on the top of a skyscraper and begins hacking into all of the computers trying to change Earth’s atmosphere to suit itself, and to do research over Godzilla. Godzilla then shows up, in order to kick the spacecraft’s butt, but the invader has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Now, for this review, I watched the Japanese version, which is a first for me since my DVD copy only has the American version. Normally, this isn’t that big of a deal; however, there are a number of differences between the two versions. For starters, there’s obviously the dialogue. The American version is in English (duh) and has a bit cornier dialogue like the legendary line, “This’ll go through Godzilla like CRAP through a goose!” whereas the Japanese version is a bit more serious. The American version is also re-edited quite a bit, cutting down some of the fat and improving the pacing, though I did enjoy some of the scenes that were absent from the American version, and in the past when watching the film, I could tell that something was missing. So far it sounds like the Japanese version is superior, right? The big kick in the nuts comes from the soundscape of the Japanese version. This film was rushed out and the area that suffers the most is the audio. While dialogue scenes and all that are fine, the action scenes are noticeably bad. Certain sound effects don’t have the weight or impact you’d expect and when Godzilla is far away destroying stuff there’s no roaring, footsteps, explosions, nothing. If you’re an audio student or something and want to see what bad sound design is like, then check out the Japanese version of “Godzilla 2000”. Fortunately, the audio is improved tremendously in the American version.
Now, let’s get back on track. The story is pretty solid, and the film has lots of cool ideas never before explored in the series. The Godzilla Prediction Network is a pretty interesting idea, predicting Godzilla’s movements almost like the weather. Meanwhile, the CCI acts as a foil to them, only wanting to kill Godzilla and using their latest weaponry to do so. The film also explores and establishes why Godzilla is so durable, and the characters end up discovering a special type of cell in Godzilla, which they name “Regenerator G-1” or… Organizer G-1, it literally has an English name, but both the dub and sub call it Regenerator G-1, anyways, it’s this that the Millennium Alien is after. When it comes to the alien, his presence feels kind of forced in the first half of the film; most of the focus here is on Godzilla, occasionally jumping back to the ship, but then in the second half the focus is totally switched around as the UFO becomes more of a threat. There’s a lot going on here, and so because of that, the film can be pretty slow. Now, there is plenty of action throughout, but for the story, it can definitely drag in a lot of places. This is one of the reasons many prefer the American version since some of that is removed.
Looking at the characters here, they’re alright. The one that gets the most development is surprisingly one of the secondary characters, the scientist Miyasaka, as he works for the CCI, but helps Shinoda towards the end of the film. Shinoda and his daughter have good chemistry and play off of each other well, making them fairly endearing protagonists. Unfortunately, Ichinose gets the short end of the stick here, and while she does technically have an arc, going from not wanting to chase Godzilla with the Shinodas, to actively trying to help them out and maybe even having feelings for Shinoda, but it honestly feels a tad rushed. Rounding out the characters is Katagiri, who acts as a very good antagonist. He is constantly working against the Prediction Network, and does some crappy things to them, but you understand where he’s coming from. Godzilla is a threat and he’s trying to stop him, so he’s not some cartoonish villain. Overall, the characters are solid but despite the amount of time we spend with them, I feel much of it could have been used better to flesh them out just a little bit more.
Of course, though, the stars of the show are the giant monsters. Godzilla here is very threatening and his reveal is one of the best in the series. You can definitely tell this film was made in response to the 1998 Godzilla film, since they really go all out, showing Godzilla being absolutely bombarded by tanks, fighter jets, attack helicopters, and even the new full metal missile design to punch through Godzilla’s tough hide, but none of it works. They want you to know that this Godzilla can take a lot more than the wimpy American Godzilla could the year prior.
His opponent here, the Millennium Alien is a very unique foe, mostly appearing as a UFO with a laser cannon and long tentacles for most of the film, but when that isn’t enough it has to try a new strategy, and after absorbing Godzilla’s Regenerator G-1 cells, transforms into the monster Orga. Orga is a pretty interesting monster, definitely one of Godzilla’s most unique opponents. His oversized hands help him to standout amongst Godzilla’s other foes. While his screen presence is very limited and saved for the very end, it’s well worth the wait. You can also tell that Orga is another knock at “GODZILLA” 98 since the whole idea of him is that he’s trying to turn himself into a copy of Godzilla, but ultimately fails. Both him, and his ship make for very unique and memorable enemies.
When it comes to the effects, it’s a very mixed bag. The practical stuff looks fantastic and is a major step up from the early to mid-90s Godzilla films. The monster suits look phenomenal, the miniature cities are rich with detail, and it’s all great stuff, but the CGI and green screen effects… They’re awful. It always looks obvious and unnatural, there’s really no way around any of it, which is a real shame since it can oftentimes distract from the stellar practical effects.
“Godzilla 2000: Millennium” may not be one of the greatest Godzilla films, but it’s still a pretty solid film. It’s also a fairly unique entry giving us an interesting new monster and cool ideas like the Godzilla Prediction Network and Regenerator G-1. Combined with a solid story and some fun characters, it makes it a solid enough entry that would lead to what is generally considered one of the high points of the franchise: the Millennium series. So, I give this film seven “guys getting hit in the head with a pole” out of 10.