Sunday, February 7, 2016

Godzilla 2000


   After the 1998 American Godzilla-in-name-only, the king of all monsters smashed his way back into cinemas with Godzilla 2000. As far as triumphant comebacks go, this quasi-reboot is exactly the big budget throwdown the big guy needed to breath life back into the character and his franchise. Toho had actually killed off their version of Godzilla to make way for Roland Emerich's oversized iguana, and immediately regretted that decision. Thankfully the American powers that be let their rights expire and ultimately revert back to Toho so that they could once again grace the world with Godzilla the way we all know and love him- big, lumbering, rubber suit, atomic fire breath, and fighting another monster. Bring on the mayhem!

   Sure, the back of the DVD is quick to boast of the movie's 500+ CGI shots- (which isn't so impressive some 17 years later) but the charm and familiarity of miniatures and rubber suits are here to stay. I found it kind of funny how the human characters will never have their names on the posters, or anywhere near the title, and how they're usually incredibly removed from the action of the climactic showdown- reduced to spectators. It's no different here. Every so often the camera cuts away from the monster vs. monster fight to show us how the human protagonists are reacting to it. Usually it's just a close up of their shocked face and a gasp, but every so often we get lucky with a shot that shows them in the same frame as the monsters, and it lends awesome scale to the movie.

  The effects for putting actors in the same frame as Godzilla have always gotten better over the years and Godzilla 2000 furthers the trend ever so slightly. It's really easy to have your cake and eat it too with this movie- realizing that Godzilla is still simply a stuntman in a rubber suit, but also that Godzilla is a gigantic, living, breathing monster- and he's staring these puny humans in the face. It's awesome. Anyways, speaking of puny humans, I'd be hard pressed to remember any of their names but the main characters adequately carried the story and held my interest whenever giant monsters weren't on screen. This is also no small feat because plenty of times it's a chore to sit through the 'human bits' of Godzilla movies. It's a hallmark of a good one when the human protagonists aren't outright boring.

   Nevertheless, the star of the movie is obviously Godzilla himself. His redesign here suits him well. It's not my favorite look for him, but it ranks fairly well with me. He looks badass, and that's what counts when all is said and done. But, more intricately, his look reflects his role. He's definitely a good guy here, a protector of the people- who just happens to be so big he has to step on a few buildings as he makes his exit. No matter how big, bad, and scary Godzilla is- he's always up against something worse. In this one, it's a colonizing alien entity named Orga, seeking to terraform Earth to suit it's own kind. Well, if anyone has anything to say about that, it's Godzilla. The build-up to their showdown is pretty great.

   At first, you definitely get kind of an Independence Day vibe as Orga appears at one point as a legitimate flying saucer of massive dimensions. Cue scenes of gigantic shadows falling over crowds and cityscapes. It's easy to wonder if this is just going to be a very one-sided and violent game of catch between Godzilla and this silver spaceship, but fret not. Eventually the ship materializes itself a monstrous counterpart to throwdown with Godzilla, hand to hand. I do love Orga's design. It looks pretty evil, and isn't that what's most important? Otherwise, It's not the most original or memorable of Godzilla adveraries, but it's not a bad one. It's fun to watch, well designed, and has a lot of interesting tricks up it's sleeve which makes the final showdown incredibly enjoyable and engaging.

   In the end Godzilla 2000 is perfectly serviceable entertainment with well crafted action scenes. I have no real complaints about this one. It's big, stylish, and exactly how I like my Godzilla movies. There's a certain Saturday matinee glee to seeing the big guy stomp around the city and blast the bad monster with his atomic fire breath. He's also very expressive in this one. There's an amazingly show-stopping moment where the Orga creature kind-of transforms, and opens up a gigantic second mouth, the size of it's whole body. Godzilla reacts with literal shock. He didn't need words to say "Holy shit..." his face said it all. It's brilliant stuff, funny and endearing for all the right reasons. I had a great time with Godzilla 2000.

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