“The king of the monsters is back and kicks off his third “series”.

Godzilla 2000: Millennium (ゴジラ2000 ミレニアム Gojira Nisen: Mireniamu)
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (ゴジラ2000 ミレニアム Gojira Nisen: Mireniamu)

After the disappointment a year earlier with Roland Emmerich’s interpretation of Godzilla, Toho struck back with this film. Godzilla has undergone a makeover again, but Toho’s makeover was far less dramatic than what occurred under Emmerich. Toho’s work on Godzilla for the Heisei era focused on making Godzilla more intimidating and sinister looking to recall his original intentions. Here, Toho did something similar, but also tried to make Godzilla come across as more of the giant animal that he essentially is, radiated and all. What Toho has created here is a traditional Godzilla movie. We have a suit to show off Godzilla virtually all of the time. We have Japan. We have an alien twist on the plot. It all comes together to make a reasonably good Godzilla movie. That’s not a recipe for critical acclaim here in the United States, but for his intended audience it works out well.

Many of the early scenes with Godzilla are eerie, and although Toho shows Godzilla off within minutes of the movie’s start, it still had nice build up and a sense of fury from Godzilla. The fog was used it great effect back in 1984 with Return of Godzilla, and it was well executed here as well. Another nicety in the earlier scenes are the lower camera angles that help convey Godzilla’s size. Godzilla is often shot at more neutral or higher angles that don’t encourage suspending belief, and unfortunately what was well done early in the film here isn’t used that often thereafter. As for Godzilla himself, I did mention a redesign. His huge, jagged spines and forceful, larger head do make him look like a force not to be reckoned with, man or monster. His new color tones -green hide, purple hued spines, and orange atomic ray- work well enough, although many fans complain about these not matching up with the traditional Godzilla color schemes. I agree with them to an extent. The update to the design of his atomic ray is pretty cool, however, no two ways about it.

So what about the rest of the movie? Well, it’s mostly standard fare as Godzilla movies go. There is an uninspiring spaceship that apparently holds a giant monster that wants Godzilla’s Regenerator G1 cells. It’s simple but it works. Character development is not really a strong suit, although there is a certain chemistry between various characters, so all is not lost. The dubbing is laughable at times, sadly. The DVD release that region one (Canada, United States) fans have lacks the Japanese dub/English subtitle options, owing to the fact that this is the slightly revised American version of the film. We might be able to take some parts a little more seriously if some of the (intentionally) humorous one-liners had not been inserted. Or does it just add to the charm? You can be the final judge of that.

The pacing of the movie is justly critcized in that it tends to sag at a couple of points in the middle of the film. They clearly were just trying to drop scenes and dialogue in long enough to get the final titanic battle to ensue. To be fair though, they did do a good job of balancing Godzilla and the opponent in the film. It isn’t uncommon for Godzilla to almost seem like an afterthought in his own film (Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth comes to mind). That generic UFO finally gives way to a giant monster named Millennian that uses Regenerator G1 to adapt to Earth’s atmosphere. The resulting mutation is Orga; note that the names of either version of the monster are never mentioned on screen. Orga is as generic as the UFO he flew in on, and that even includes his roar and primary beam weapon. It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just not imaginative the way prior opponents were in their day. Orga’s suit looks good enough, although his fingers can’t move so it can look like the suit that it actually is. The final battle is good fun. It’s nothing crazy but not too boring either. As a word on some other elements of the film, the score is actually pretty strong and helps to convey that sense of eeriness or fury that I spoke of earlier. Special effects are hit and miss. The CGI scenes are generally not good and it might be magnified by the flawless special effects in Emmerich’s Godzilla a year earlier.

So what’s the final take? I may sound like a broken record, but my simple summary is that it’s just a decent, contemporary Godzilla movie. It’s not terrible but it’s not likely to make your top five list either. It was a reasonable rebirth of the Godzilla movie franchise, though in my opinion not close to the quality ofReturn of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985. The hits were the generally good looking suits, character chemistry, and consistent moods (by which I mean the music magnified what the audience was seeing, and vice versa); also a good choice were various scenes that were tightened up for American audiences, so if I complained about some of that in the American version that doesn’t bode well for the Japanese version. The action sequences were also well done. The items to improve would’ve been some tightening up of the middle third of the movie, getting rid of the lousy dubbing, and some special effects that range from “off” to just “bad”. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between this movie and the American Godzilla due to the proximety of their launch dates and the fact that they’re the only two Godzilla movies I’ve seen in theaters. I think Emmerich’s Godzilla has spectacular effects that Toho has never matched (granted, neither have their budgets either), but ultimately I can’t think of anything else it does better than Godzilla 2000.

6/10

– Tohosaurus

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The following review is a much different take on the film by our very own Kaiju Fan Nation contributor, Destroyer:

On May 20th, 1998, TriStar Pictures released GODZILLA into American theaters. It was also the same year American audiences were alienated to Godzilla movies. So one year later, TOHO released a brand new Godzilla film: GODZILLA 2000 MILLENNIUM. Think about this for a second. TOHO retired the Godzilla franchise four years earlier in 1995, when the big G was killed off after battling Destoroyah. So after Sony blew it with their film, TOHO must have been pretty angry with how America treated the license. So they quickly rushed into production a new film to show us how to make a new, modern Godzilla film. Then the following year Godzilla: Millennium stomped into Japanese theaters. (It came to American theaters the following year, hence the title change to GODZILLA 2000.) This film holds a special place in a lot of fans’ hearts. This was the first Godzilla film a lot of fans saw in the theater. (Ah, if I could bring myself to that time to watch it on the big screen.) Thirteen years later, it still stands above the rest of the Millennium series in quality, it’s THE definitive Godzilla film.

Official description from Sony:

“Get ready to crumble! The king of all monsters is back and bigger than ever! The action heats up when a UFO reveals itself as a massive alien monster with awesome destructive powers. The alien monster heads straight for the behemoth GODZILLA who’s just crushed the entire city for the battle of the millennium. But GODZILLA’s furious heat beam may not be enough to destroy the death-dealing alien, and the future of humankind is in jeopardy. Now, it’s a bang-up, threeway, no-holds-barred brawl as GODZILLA, the alien monster and the courageous citizens of Japan fight an unprecedented battle for survival in this earth-shattering new sci-fi action adventure that will blow you away.”

I remember many years ago on Christmas morning when I turned on the TV. I was flipping the channels until I hit what I believe was the Sci Fi (now known as SyFy) channel. I stopped there cause a very dramatic scene had caught my eye. This giant thing was attempting to swallow Godzilla whole. That was captivating, I had never seen anything like that before. It was dramatic seeing the big G being, well, about to be swallowed. I turned it off after he blew up the thing because I was eager to open these gifts. So anyways, that was the first time I was witness to GODZILLA 2000. I don’t remember exactly when I first saw the whole movie through, but it must have not have been long after. I just can’t help but enjoy this film every time I watch it. It’s a simple, straightforward story without any complex side-lpots thrown in. (I’m looking at Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah specifically.) This film is easy and enjoyable to follow. It doesn’t reference any past Godzilla films, it does what the 98 film attempted to do: make a perfect modern way to jump into the franchise.

There are a few a main characters this time around. There’s Yugi Shinoda, his daughter Io, reporter Yuki Ichinose, and Mitsuo Katagiri. Shinoda proves to be a simple, yet compelling focus. His fixation on Godzilla is simple, yet makes sense. His relationship with his daughter is realistic. Probably the best relationship between parent and son/daughter in a G film. The child costar was pretty solid, which isn’t something you see every day in a G film. (Godzilla vs. Hedorah, I’m looking at you.) Now, the reporter, Yuki, was by far the worst character in the whole thing. She definitely had a certain spunk, but the writing, (or in this case, the dubbing) was awful for her. Now, Katagiri. The first couple of times I saw the film, I didn’t think much of him. Now, after watching it again, I can see the brilliance in his character. He isn’t like previous commanders in the franchises, he seems to genuinely want to protect the public. And while other leaders usually sit at their desk watching things from a monitor, this guy is on the scene firsthand.

Ah, the monsters. First up, Godzilla. The look is just FANTASTIC, it’s my personal favorite. The exaggerated spikes make the giant lizard look even more menacing. They also don’t flap around as much as previous incarnations, making it even more realistic. And I really liked how in the American version they gave him different pitches of roars, really gave him emotion. Orga is the opponent this time around. He has a very interesting backstory that should have been explored more. Orga has a pretty interesting appearance, with his huge hands being his main thing. No complaints with the suit, it just needed more screen time to realize its true effectiveness.
The soundtrack is a bit different that ones from previous films. It’s good stuff, it fits the atmosphere in the film. Maybe not as dynamic as some of the other soundtracks, but some great tunes stood out. (The Millennium’s theme, transformation into Orga, and the final battle theme, we also get the classic Godzilla theme, that was a nice touch.) The thing that separates this film from the other G films is its ‘realism.’ The opening with the van and Godzilla was just fantastic and had a very interesting perspective. It felt reminiscent of Cloverfield, such as the scene with Godzilla stomping on the tunnel while the van was attempting to escape. The effects are very good, aside from some bad CGI. Godzilla swimming in the ocean was fantastic, however, something like that had never been captured before in the G films. Now, the best part worth the price alone was the final fight. It was EXCELLENT, very climatic. There’s no boring ‘beam wars,’ (sorry Heisei era) it’s realistic giant monster brawling. The stakes are set high, and is just plain dramatic. The way the film rolls about gives it a dramatic feeling, when Godzilla falls down, we feel it. It just feels like a well put together film, something some previous films can’t say they did.

Overall, GODZILLA 2000 is a simple and straightforward G film. And that’s a good thing. It has a very different atmosphere when compared to previous entries, it just felt ‘real.’ It features a great Godzilla look, and the effects are top notch aside from some CGI shots of the Millennium UFO. Orga proves to be an interesting foe with a great, but unexplored backstory. The pacing is excellent, but that’s mainly thanks to the solid cast. We actually care about these people, and the human ‘antagonist’ stands above other human characters in the G series. Aside from some strange comedic moments with cartoony music playing during them, it’s hard to find fault with this film. It’s the perfect jumping on point, you do not need any knowledge of the previous films to enjoy this one. If you’ve never watched a Godzilla film before, I urge you to head to the video store after reading this review to pick up GODZILLA 2000.

9/10.

-Destroyer

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