Godzilla has attacked Japan twice more in the 60's-80's after his first appearance. Now it's 1999, and the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN) is studying and tracking Godzilla when he appears on the coast of Nemuro. At the same time, a 60 million year old rock is discovered which without warning begins to float and heads for a meeting with Godzilla in Tokai Mura. Godzilla uses his ultra-powerful fire breath and breaks the rocks to reveal a UFO!!! The UFO blows Godzilla back into the sea with a hyperblaster but lands and ceases all activities due to the damage caused by Godzilla. Later, the UFO takes off for Shinjuku where the final battle between the UFO and Godzilla takes place. The UFO transforms into a monster dubbed Orga and resumes attacks on Godzilla. Can Godzilla defeat the strange alien creature? What other tricks do these titans have up their sleeves?
Directed by: Takao Okawara
. Starring: Takehiro Murata
, Hiroshi Abe
, Naomi Nishida
, Mayu Suzuki
, Shirô Sano
, Takeshi Ôbayashi
, Shirô Namiki
, Sakae Kimura
, Ken'ichi Nagira
, Ken'ichi Ishii
, Yoshimasa Kondô
, Kôichi Ueda
. Music by: Takayuki Hattori
SPOILERS SPOILERS The first Godzilla movie in the third movie series, whereas GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH, the previous entry, aptly ended the second series. What else can I say? Well, let's break it down.
I once liked the 2nd series of Godzilla movies (1984-1995), even though I found something annoying about those movies (as either the bad or good guy, Godzilla was so sympathetic that the human characters came off as obnoxious). Then, in 1995, along came a movie called GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE and its two successful sequels, all directed by master filmmaker Shuusuke Kaneko, who singlehandedly changed the face of Japanese monster movies forever. I was spoiled!!! The Series 2 Godzilla movies were suddenly looked down as half-hearted, heavy-handed, auto-piloted and lazy attempts at recreating the "original" Godzilla, and end up being an insult to the memory of genre masters Ishirou Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya. GAMERA 3: THE AWAKENING OF IRIS, released the same year as this film, was simply incredible. Once Hollywood moviegoers saw that movie, they would never look at Japanese monster movies the same way again.
Then, along came Tri-Star's 1998 GINO (Godzilla In Name Only), which was understandably met with bitter hatred by true Godzilla fans the world over. The worst portrayal of Godzilla seen by the human eye, making Marvel's 70s comics and Hanna-Barbera's cartoon look better. Then, MOTHRA 3, released later that year, bombed at the box office. Toho was in deep crap. They felt as though Godzilla was about to lose his fans, because of this red-blooded American box-office disaster, so to make up for it, they made this movie, GOJIRA NI-SEN MIRENIAMU (Godzilla 2000: Millennium), which was a "take that" to GINO. This movie is definitely better than GINO, which isn't saying much.
Is it the BEST Godzilla movie? Nope, not by a long shot. In fact, it quickly bombed at the box office in Japan (starting out at 4th place, and sinking to 8th in the second week!). A lot of Godzilla fans in Japan didn't like the movie. Is it entertaining? Not if you're spoiled by the Heisei Gamera trilogy, but if you don't take the movie too seriously, yes, it is very entertaining. In fact, I hadn't been entertained like this since TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (Toho; 1975), and despite the movie's MAJOR flaws, GODZILLA 2000: MILLENNIUM is still very entertaining.
First of all, Godzilla has never looked better! His design has been in a rut since 1989, where his design was great, but once they stuck to it, he began to look slapped-together in each new film, but finally, a NEW Godzilla design! As Riverdancer Michael Flatley once said, "It's important to change, because if you stagnate, you die." I think this is a very good change, and one that stays true to Godzilla's spirit. Godzilla's design is a streamlined version of the Kin-Goji design from KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, with jagged DARK CRYSTAL-style dorsal fins that give him an evil look. I was neither bothered by the orange-colored Radioactive Heat Beam (most fans are used to blue), nor Godzilla's green tone (this is the first time Toho made Godzilla officially green, whereas he had an ambiguous green-gray tone). I was very happy with this Godzilla. For the first time, Godzilla was played by former JAC stuntman Tsutomu Kitagawa (a veteran of Toei's Sentai Series), who just started out in the Toho Monster genre (he played King Ghidorah in MOTHRA 3).
The UFO and the Millennian AlienOrga were excellent and unique ideas (which the previous movie series wouldn't have allowed, for fear of being "over the top," but this was the cleverest portrayal of aliens in a Godzilla film), but half the time, they are poorly handled on film. That brings us to the story part. The Millennian, Toho's first CGI monster, is a really bizarre creation, and Orga reminds me of GINO (the intention) as if over-mutated by comic-book artist Todd McFarlane! Definitely not your average Japanese monster!
The story has great ideas, and a more "realistic" feel than the previous Godzilla movies since the 90s. However, the main problem is that things were not spelled out for the viewer (mostly because production was rushed in the second half). As a result, lot of people did not know what was going on. After reading about the plotstory and having purchased both the Official Movie Compendium (which has TONS of useful info that Americans don't know about the film) and the manga adaptation by Mondo Takimura (which is a MUCH better version of the film than the film itself!), I've seen criticsreviewers make up their own conclusion. Read the plot below so I'll help out.
Throughout the film, there are parodies of both GINO and INDEPENDENCE DAY (one scene had a taxi driver in Shinjuku getting out of his taxi, staring dumbfounded at the UFO while his car gets smashed by another! Part of this was cut out in the US version; It shouldn't have been)!
As of 1999, the special effects are probably the best in any Toho Godzilla film since Teruyoshi Nakano's breathtaking work in the 1984 GODZILLA. Kenji Suzuki's FX are a vast improvement over Kouichi Kawakita's work in the films from 1989-1995. This is his second FX direction job (his first was MOTHRA 3). Definitely not up to Shinji Higuchi's work in the Heisei Gamera trilogy (which Toho had been trying to keep up with), but definitely not too shabby for a Toho Godzilla film! The downside is that some of the FX looked rushed (especially in the climactic fight scene between Godzilla and Orga; Toho was definitely behind schedule).
As for the human characters, after 1975 (and probably 1984), we FINALLY get characters from all walks of life! Thus, they may not be the BEST characters, but very amusing ones (and thankfully, not too many of them, whereas previous Godzilla movies had byzantine amounts of important characters you didn't care for). Takehiro Murata, no stranger to Godzilla films (he appeared in 1992's GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA and 1995's GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH), takes his first lead Godzilla film role as Yuuji Shinoda, who runs GPN (Godzilla Prediction Network) with his little daughter Io (Mayu Suzuki), and wants to study Godzilla to discover the secrets to life. Actress Naomi Nishida very well plays the part of O-Parts magazine photographer Yuuki Ichinose, who joins GPN to get pictures of Godzilla for the magazine. TV & movie heartthrob Hiroshi Abe totally steals the show as the ruthless Mitsuo Katagiri, who runs CCI (Crisis Control Intelligence Agency), the faction that wants Godzilla destroyed, period. Godzilla's rooftop confrontation with Abe at the film's end is a shining moment! And there's actor and longtime Godzilla fan Shirou Sano as Shirou Miyasaka, Shinoda's old college buddyCCI executive, who provides a conflict between the two factions.
The music by Takayuki Hattori is an improvement over his own score for GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA, but in the film, it was done absolutely no justice. When one listens to the CD soundtrack, one finds that some of the best tracks aren't even used in the film, thus Toho's music editors do the same slapdash job of cutting & pasting tracks all over the place, but some of the important tracks are left in the right place. And as much as it livens the film, Toho's throwing in a token stock track of Akira Ifukube's "Godzilla Theme" (just to tell us that this is a Godzilla film) does detract from the film. It seems the fogeys over at Toho have a problem with simply doing new arrangements of Ifukube's music (cost-effective, maybe?).
Then, there's Takao Ookawara directing his last Godzilla film before quitting the series. Ookawara doesn't care much for Godzilla, though his work is actually okay. He's better than Kazuki Oomori (not only the worst Godzilla director, in my opinion, but he is completely embarrassed with monsters and stuff), though.
And last, but not least, Tri-Star's US English-language version. Well, I've seen the Japanese version on tape, and when comparing it with the US version, the Japanese version actually makes more sense. Some of the US editing patronizes the original material by cutting out some important scenes and changing parts of the dialogue for PC reasons (like changing "Organizer G1" to "Regenerator G1," and editing out all references to "Millennium"). However, the US version makes up for it with tighter pacing and some really fun dialogue, not to mention one bit of profanity ("Nice try, ahole!")! About time Godzilla movies started growing up! The US music by J. Peter Robinson is okay, but really cheesy most of the time (noticably, much of the score was recycled from the 1998 TV movie, GARGANTUA, which was made by Fox to one-up GINO). Hattori's original score is about 50-75% intact, though. Robinson actually rearranges Ifukube music with two tracks, the best in the scene where Orga makes his appearance, the worst being the scene in the end (after which, said token stock Ifukube track is repeated before cuing the complete original ending credits track). Speaking of which, the worst part of the Americanization was the tacky "THE? END" title card at the end of the theatrical version of the film (blessedly removed for TVVideoDVD versions). I was really embarrassed.
Speaking of embarrassing, a lot of people in the US seem to have lost sleep over the closing dialogue, the last part of which is a direct translation in the US version: "Godzilla is... inside all of us!" And yes, Japanese fans were pretty embarrassed with that scene! I didn't mind it, though. The US version is still fun to sit through, and still manages to have respect for the original film. I did hear, though, that the US version was put together at the last minute (to meet a tight deadline), which explains a lot.
Before I close this review, well, everyone pretty much knows the plot, but here's my version anyway: It's basically Godzilla crossed with QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. This movie is a direct follow-up to the original 1954 GODZILLA, but HOW Godzilla came back is unexplained (a MAJOR weakness for the film). For what it's worth, GPN (Godzilla Prediction Network) led by Yuuji Shinoda and his daughter Io, try to predict Godzilla's city attacks so that he can evacuate precious lives in advance. In foggy Nemuro, Godzilla crunches a fishing ship with his powerful jaws in front of a lighthouse, smashes a bar, attacks a city and for some reason, destroys a power station (all this being among the best highlights of the film). According to Shinoda (in the Japanese version), "Does Godzilla hate the energy that mankind produces?" Meanwhile, CCI (Crisis Control Intelligence Agency), led by Mitsuo Katagiri, discovers a HUGE rock fragment beneath the Japan Trench, and try to transport it, but the rock transports ITSELF by floating to the surface of the ocean! CCI member Shirou Miyasaka suggests that the rock might contain an alien life form, and to their surprise, it does some weird things like stand right side up over the ocean. At the same time, despite Shinoda's warnings, Katagiri, CCI and the Japan Self Defense Forces prepare to attack Godzilla in Tokaimura (where, at the same time of filming, a nuclear accident happened in real life) with a new set of super-missiles called Full Metal Missiles (Yes, they're called that in the Japanese version! No doubt a tribute to Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET). The weird thing is that when Godzilla appears, he does absolutely nothing! He just lets the JSDF hit him with everything but the kitchen sink, to no good effect, although the Full Metal Missiles did kinda' do a number on him. Just then, Miyasaka finds that the giant rock follows the sun, so it starts to fly away and heads toward Godzilla, the two titans shoot rays at each other, and in the process, Godzilla is defeated, and the rock is revealed to be a huge, solar-powered metallic UFO! It flies to Shinjuku, where it lands on a network building (same building as O-Parts Magazine!), and starts draining info from the Internet so that it can find out more about Godzilla (it discovered that Godzilla has quick-regeneration process; Upon further study with Miyasaka, Shinoda calls it Organizer G1). It also starts transmitting message words such as "Millennium," "Kingdom," etc. Come evening, Katagiri even suggested blowing up the building with the UFO still on it (where a crazy mix-up gets Shinoda into DIE HARD-style hijinks), but guess what? The UFO stands triumphant and destroys the rest of the building! Shinoda emerges a survivor, and shows everyone why the UFO wants Godzilla: The Millennium Aliens (Millennians) want to start an empire on Earth by converting our planet's air to make it more suitable for them. When they crashed on Earth in prehistoric times, they lost their solid composure and were reduced to anti-matter in the process. They need Godzilla's cells to regenerate their bodies. Then, Godzilla shows up from Tokyo Bay, and has a fight with the UFO, which overpowers him (telepathically using underground cables to lasso him) and clones Organizer G1 from his body, thus, the Millennians emerge from the UFO, regenerating into their original form, a single giant squidlike alien! But unfortunately, Godzilla's DNA overtook the alien's shape and causes a painful Hulk-like transformation, thus Orga (named from "Organizer G1" - Get it?) was the tragic result. After Godzilla trashes the UFO, Orga proceeds to beat him silly (also telepathically controlling what's left of the UFO to bash him around with it!). Can Godzilla destroy a giant alien mutant with many times his own healing speed?
Whew! That was a lengthy review! Well, I still think that the next Godzilla movie, GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS: THE G ANNIHILATION STRATEGY, is even better, and that it was the type of movie Toho should've made (and the movie that should've been shown in US theaters)! Nevertheless, enjoy GODZILLA 2000: MILLENNIUM, either in its more straightforward Japanese version andor the campy-but-fun US version! A VERY flawed, yet entertaining step back in the right direction.
Review by Ryuusei from the Internet Movie Database.