Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Godzilla Entry #24: GODZILLA 2000: MILLENIUM

GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira ni-sen mireniamu, 1999)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Hiroshi Kashiwabara, Wataru Mimura
Starring: Takehir Murata, Hiroshi Abe, Naoimi Nishi, Mayu Suzuki, Tsutomu Kitagawa, Makoto Ito
Synopsis: Rebooting the franchise again and acting as a direct sequel to GOJIRA, the movie stars a new Godzilla that must fight an invading alien that wants to steal his DNA.

Just a bit of inside baseball talk here, I am not going to be reviewing the American version of GODZILLA until the very end of this series. I figured that it would be weird to talk about the movie in between continuities, and since the American version is not a Toho movie, I figured it can wait. Back to this film, GODZILLA 2000: MILLENNIUM was created rather quickly apparently in response to the bad reception of the Roland Emmerich GODZILLA movie, scraping initial plans to put the franchise on hold until 2005. The result is a very cheap looking update on the franchise. The story itself was dull, the characters were rather insufferable, and it has neither the serious tone of a Heisi movie nor the sense of fun and camp of a Showa movie.

Not all of it is negative. The new design of Godzilla is actually pretty cool and different enough from the other continuities. They could have dialed back the super spiky scales on his back though. They looked like they were put there just to be as spiky and XTREME as possible. This is a definitely meaner looking Godzilla, and it's a little interesting that this is supposed to be yet another Godzilla that came after the original one died given how different they look. Along those lines, the society of Japan seems to revolve around a more passive and submissive attitude towards Godzilla with things like the Godzilla Prevention Network and the rather mediocre Crisis Control Institute. It seems that people are fine with just predicting Godzilla's movements and his destructive patterns.

The plot of the movie revolves around the head of both of these institutions and their differing ideologies where Shinoda, the head of the GPN, would rather study Godzilla while profiting off his destruction, while the Katagiri, from the CCI, wants to kill it. We are supposed to side with Shinoda, but he doesn't really make a compelling argument and seems like a greedy person that would rather see cities and property destroyed to make sure that his "network" still makes money.

Since the Japan of this movie has learned to live with Godzilla as best they can, we have an outside threat in the form of the Millennials, which start out as a rock in the bottom of the ocean that just happens to be a spaceship. After various plot points, we learn that they are here to conquer Earth, and they are downloading and gathering as much information as they can about Godzilla in order to copy his DNA and transplant it into their to become unstoppable in the invasion. This is actually a very interesting type of villain, one who is able to mimic the most powerful force of nature and the biggest threat to Earth. After a cool battle, we get the merged form of a Millennial with Godzilla DNA called Orga, which frankly looks like a mutated version of the Godzilla from the Emmerich movie except this version has giant gorilla arms and can regenerate his body with bad CGI.

For all of the interesting things that the movie has going on there are just so many other things that it does so very wrong. For starters, the visuals have been the worst in the series in my opinion. The CGI makes the movie look instantly dated considering the year it came out. This is very apparent whenever you see the flying spaceship, the Orga's regenerating powers, and some underwater scenes with the big guy. And I think I said this in a previous Heisi movie, but the miniature work looks cheap. In fact, the entire movie sans the final battle sequence looks very cheap.

It just seems that almost 50 years into the franchise, the miniatures shouldn't be so obvious. The costumes look great, and they definitely give a more realistic feel to the movies, but when combined with cheap looking sets and bad CG, the movie looks like it was made by amateurs for the most part. Keep in mind, not all of the movies have had great effects, but they make up for it in some way, such as an interesting enemy or a good plot, which this one has neither.

To end on a more positive note, the final battle between Orga and Godzilla is pretty impressive. There is a part when Godzilla is being dragged by tentacles all around Tokyo and that had to be one of the best scenes in the movie. I can't imagine them doing a scene like this in a previous film. The new atomic breath effect is actually pretty impressive, and it seems to be more powerful given that it Godzilla needs to light up his dorsal fins in order to use it.

In general, this is the rockiest start to a continuity yet.(Edit: Twitter's own +T16skyhopp informed me that apart from Godzilla SOS (a sequel to Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, each movie in the "Millenium" series is its own reboot of the franchise.) Apart from the new design to Godzilla, this is a pretty forgettable film. Let's hope that the Millennium movies improve on this one or else it will be a sad decline for the series.

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