Review by Michael Jacobson
Murata, Naomi Nishida, Hiroshi Abe, Mayu Suzuki, Shiro Sano
Director: Takao Okawara
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1. Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: December 19, 2000
Film *** (on the Godzilla scale)
I’m not informed
enough to get into debates about autos, computers, cameras or other electronics,
but I can offer this opinion: the
Japanese definitely make a better Godzilla movie than we Americans.
And Columbia Tri Star, being an affiliate of Sony, have made a sort of
act of contrition to the big fella’s international fan base:
after releasing the big budgeted, highly touted Americanized version of Godzilla,
a movie whose name became synonymous with large-but-empty special effects
extravaganzas for the end of the millennium, they’ve brought the latest
Japanese opus, Godzilla 2000, to America and the rest of the Western
Which is not to say that
any Godzilla film equates to great filmmaking per se, but fans (like me) will
always appreciate the hoakiness of knowing we’re watching a person in a
rubber suit trashing a miniature set.
And yes, special effects and CGI technology have improved to the point
where such low tech filmmaking isn’t necessary anymore, but the backlash
against the American made version proved that without that old fashioned style
of doing things, it just isn’t Godzilla.
However, this new Asian
offering does make tremendous steps forward in the scientific departments.
The Godzilla suit is still intact, but computer generated effects make
the big guy blend into his scenes even better for some amazing and well-executed
perspective shots. They even find ways to improve upon the picture’s villain,
Ogra, a UFO that turns into a monster, while keeping him effectively cheesy.
And heck, the miniature sets themselves have only gotten better and more
intricate over the years, so give them credit, too.
Some slight alterations
were made for the American release…the Japanese film company Toho usually just
dubs their own English version of their films, but a special team was
constructed to re-loop the dialogue and make one or two editing changes for
effectiveness. Certain parts of the
score were enhanced or altered (rather seamlessly), but nothing was done to take
away from the fun of these films: the
mismatched dialogue, the soapbox speeches about how abuse of science and
technology brought this on us, the lack of any real or brutal on screen
violence, and of course, the big showdown between the titans that usually
reduced Tokyo to rubble. The scene
in the park with parents taking their kids and fleeing was a favorite of
mine…after 46 years, you’d think parents would realize Tokyo is not a safe
place to raise children, what with all the Godzilla attacks…
As the film opens,
Godzilla is awake and restless again, and miniature buildings and cars are about
to feel the worse for it. Turns
out, there’s a reason for his tantrum: a
scientific team has just discovered and surfaced an ancient rock, buried under
the seas for millions of years. Much
to their dismay, it turns out to be a UFO/life form, is still alive, and is
ready to do inflict some damage upon Japan.
It does so by landing on top of the building of the scientific firm and
using its infrared tentacles to hack the computer systems.
It’s learning everything it can about Godzilla.
Is there going to be a fight? Oh,
yes. Orga, the villain, learns how
to shape shift himself as he fights. He
begins to become a Godzilla clone, though he looks amusingly more like the
recent American version of Godzilla than the traditional one in this film!
Of course, there are
human characters and interests, but I wouldn’t feel right talking about
them…in these movies, they really only exist to lend perspective to the
battling monsters and provide bogus theories about whatever the plot calls for.
The Americanized dialogue in this picture is a little surprising, but
welcome and funny, as the characters actually say things like “bite me” and
“quit yer bitchin’”.
In the end, though, Godzilla
2000 joins the ranks of the other Godzilla films as being one designed for
the fans of the series…those who aren’t already aren’t likely to see
anything in this latest effort to warm them to it…but for those fans, this
represents a good entry into the library: a
film with all the flavors we know and love, but with some added technical marvel
that enhances, rather than detracts from, the goofy fun.
Oh, and Godzilla looks
great for over forty years in show business…wonder who does his scales?
Because of lack of film preservation, many Asian films
don’t look good. This one does.
CTS did a good with this quality anamorphic transfer.
The colors are vivid and natural looking, even in darker settings, and
images are quite sharp and clear and maintain good contrast throughout.
Aside from an occasional bit of noticeable grain on really dark images
and one or two spots on the print itself (again, much less than might normally
be expected), there are no complaints here.
The 5.1 mix included on this DVD is a potent one, with
surprising bits of dynamic range, including many explosions and crashes that
radiate through with startling loudness and clarity. There is modest but effective use of front to rear stage
crossover signals, particularly in the big event showdown at the end, as well as
other generous scenes of general chaos and destruction.
The musical score and Godzilla’s roars also sound extra-sweet.
Fans are going to be pleased all around at the efforts that went into
The commentary track, by the American release production
team, is an absolute treat for me. Being
a huge and long time fan of Asian cinema, I always wondered what the thought
processes were when it came to altering an Eastern film for mass Western
consumption, and these guys lay it all on the line, from the most subtle changes
to the most elaborate, as well as why each was done.
Thankfully, they were all big Godzilla fans, and knew not to trim the
awkward cheesy scenes that make these films what they are to the fans.
Their comments are detailed right down to the names of the actors in the
film AND those who looped their lines for the American release.
It was a real treat. There’s
also a couple of trailers, for this and for the recent American film version of Godzilla,
talent files on the director and Godzilla himself, including career fight
stats (29 wins, 10 losses, 12 ties for the curious) and a short but nice
behind-the-scenes look at the film. I’ve
always wanted to see the sets and the guy in the costume in action, and this was
my first opportunity.
Godzilla is still the undisputed king of monsters…with more than twenty films under his belt, don’t look for that to change just because we change millennia. Godzilla 2000 proves the big lizard still has plenty of fight left in him, and just enough well-packaged cheese, to keep his fans around the world looking to Tokyo for the next destruction party.