Monday, 26 June 2017

Godzilla 2000 (3¾ Stars)

The title of this film seems to have been cashing in on the Y2K frenzy. It was released in Japan on December 12th 1999, just in time to see in the new millennium.

This is the first film in the second reboot of the Godzilla franchise. The first run was from 1954 to 1975, a total of 15 films. The franchise was rebooted nine years later, and there were seven films from 1984 to 1995. This should have laid the film series to rest, but then the American Godzilla film was made in 1998. In Japan the public and the film studios alike were horrified by the poor quality of the American film. I'll go out on a limb by saying that I think the American Godzilla film was good, but it wasn't Godzilla. The American monster didn't look like Godzilla, it didn't breathe flames like Godzilla, and worst of all it was a female! When it was released in Japan, dubbed into Japanese, it was refused to call the monster Gojira or even the anglicised word Godzilla. The monster was simply called Zilla, which to Japanese ears sounded like mockery.

What I'm building up to is that the negative reception of the American film in Japan led to the public demanding a real Godzilla film be made to show the Americans how it's done. The result was a second reboot, six films from 1999 to 2004.

"Godzilla 2000" doesn't go back to the very beginning. Godzilla is already known as a sea monster that lives on the sea bed near Japan. There's an organisation called the Godzilla Protection Network (GPN) which tracks Godzilla's movements on the sea bed, predicting possible earth tremors and tsunamis created by him. The Japanese authorities have come to accept Godzilla and leave him unharmed, as long as he remains in the sea. However, new missiles have been developed that could possibly kill Godzilla, so mines are dropped into the sea to coax him to the surface. Do they never learn? The missiles fail, and Godzilla wades into Tokyo to smash a few hundred buildings.

At the same time a giant rock is discovered on the sea bed, which is pulled up to the surface. It isn't until it's too late that the navy realises it isn't a rock. It's a UFO that is covered in barnacles after lying on the sea bed for 60 million years. Even though it's made of metal it's a living being, because the survivors of a distant race have merged themselves together to form the UFO. The UFO intends to change the Earth's atmosphere, which will kill all life on Earth, at the same time making the Earth habitable for its own race when they revert to organic matter.

Now, as all Godzilla fans know, there's only one thing that Godzilla likes more than smashing Japanese buildings: that's fighting with other giant monsters. Godzilla is the ultimate alpha male who won't tolerate anyone usurping his position as the biggest and baddest monster on the block. So there's a big, big fight. Half way through the fight the UFO adapts itself into a Godzilla clone, That's the smartest UFO I've ever seen.

The human race is unable to protect itself against the alien invaders. Godzilla is mankind's only hope. Who cares if he smashes a few hundred buildings if he can save humanity? The film ends with such beautiful dialogue that it could have been written by Shakespeare.

"Why does he keep protecting us?"

"Maybe it's because there's a Godzilla in every one of us".

Despite the superior production quality, "Godzilla 2000" isn't up to the standard of the first films made 45 years earlier. There's no love triangle. The special effects have grown a lot better over the decades, but they're not up to Hollywood standards. The American film had a budget of $130 million, whereas "Godzilla 2000" only had $8 million available, which shows in the inferior special effects. The Japanese film's monster looks like a giant puppet, but it made Japanese audiences happy, and hey! It's made me happy as well.

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