Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999)

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2/5)
November 17, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

As a huge fan of GODZILLA (1998), I was disappointed when it appeared certain that the idea for a direct sequel had fizzled away into obscurity. It was obvious however, that most fans were relieved at the lack of a GODZILLA 2, and were ecstatic to hear that Toho was going to produce yet another traditional entry in the franchise. Even better, this was going to be the first Toho Produced Godzilla movie in American theaters since 1985, and it was going to be appropriately dubbed: Godzilla 2000. Shortly before the film's release, rumors started to permeate through the fandom that the upcoming entry was going to be part of a new timeline, and some internet users even suggested that this movie would only link to Godzilla (1954), The Return of Godzilla (1984), and/or Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). In the end, no firm continuity was drawn to any previous movie, and Godzilla 2000 heralded the arrival of the first standalone Toho Produced Godzilla film (a pattern that produced a couple excellent movies, but in the end, the unfortunate lack of continuity may not have been worth it). After the release of Godzilla 2000 in American cinemas, some may have left the theater confident in some sort of redemption, but it is clear that those people were likely the diehard GODZILLA (1998)-haters: the highly vocal we'll-never-let-it-go members of the fandom. It is probable that for others, the general consensus for this particular piece of cinema was based on the movie's merits, and was thus a bit dimmer and more realistic. Godzilla 2000 was a "meh" movie. There were really only three special and unique aspects about the film: it was in US theaters, it was a new timeline, and there was a new Godzilla design. Other than that... meh. But today, I won't be reviewing the version that was released in American theaters, which despite the atrocious dubbing, was still a fun pastime at the movies. Instead, I'm going to be reviewing the source material: Godzilla 2000: Millennium, the poorly constructed Japanese version of the film complete with tediously long sequences and an uninspired soundtrack (with perhaps only one good, albeit unmemorable, theme). Godzilla 2000: Millennium is easily among the most lackluster Godzilla movies of the Millennium timeline and is perhaps only just more entertaining than Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) in this regard. There are still some aspects to enjoy about the movie: the characters are likeable even if underdeveloped and there are a few interesting sequences. Nevertheless, as a whole, it is far from a solid product.

At a lighthouse near Nemuro, contact was suddenly lost with a fishing vessel out to sea. The operator was highly concerned, but the sight upon which he was about to lay his eyes would strike fear into anyone's heart. A toothed grin, grasping tightly onto the missing yacht, was staring straight into the man's very being. He fled and escaped certain death twice before the towering mountain of flesh moved on, devastating sparse rural civilization in his wake as he moved further inland.

Meanwhile, the Godzilla Prediction Network, comprised of Yuji Shinoda and his daughter Io, readied their equipment as they prepared to take off in their continuing quest to study the mysterious monster. Along with photographer Yuki Ichinose, the small group of Godzilla trackers soon came face to face with the creature near a dark tunnel on a coastal highway and only barely escaped disaster. Godzilla continued to stampede through Nemuro, setting the city sky ablaze with a ghastly vermilion hue, and angrily laying waste to the facilities that produced human-made energy.

As Godzilla disappeared from land, the Crisis Control Intelligence Agency discovered a huge source of energy encased in a solid, stone-like object on the ocean floor. Using special underwater balloons, the exotic anomaly was pulled toward the surface. Suddenly, the enormous slab began to gain buoyancy by its own means. It floated to the surface, where onlookers gazed in awe at this unprecedented discovery. As the object began to float onto its edge in the sea, Tetsuo Katagiri, the head of the CCI, learned that Godzilla was heading south toward the Takaimura Nuclear Plant. Katagiri planned to lure his old foe to the Fuji River with artillery, where the monster would then experience the full force of a special type of penetrating missile. As the Godzilla Prediction Network and their photographer arrived at the scene, the plan was put into effect. As the penetrating missiles sliced through Godzilla's flesh, it appeared as though Katagiri's dream to destroy the creature would come to fruition.

The situation became far more complex however, when the slab in the ocean, a living UFO, suddenly began to take flight. It located Godzilla and scanned his genetic makeup. A single blast from the UFO's energy cannon sent the reptile flying backwards. As the craft charged another beam, Godzilla prepared to fire his thermonuclear ray. Each entity hit their respective targets, and while Godzilla was repelled into the sea, the UFO, now with a partially-exposed metallic glimmer, landed upright in the Fuji River.

In the ensuing eerie calmness, Yuji and his old friend Shiro Miyasaka studied Godzilla's cells, which Yuji had earlier collected from the monster's footprint on the beach. What they found was astonishing: Godzilla's cells underwent an almost instantaneous regeneration; it was an unprecedented biological process which they dubbed Organizer G-1. Amidst the discovery, special cables that Katagiri had ordered to restrain the UFO broke when the living machine drew solar energy from a crack in the overcast sky. It began to soar quietly over Makuhari accompanied by helicopters, which were promptly eliminated by a synthetic shockwave emanating from the craft. The UFO lighted atop City Tower, and in order to annihilate the nuisance once and for all, Katagiri suggested a blast bomb detonation on the top level of the skyscraper. As spectators continued to watch the UFO with curiosity from below, it was discovered that the alien life form was absorbing computer information from City Tower and the surrounding area. Curious, Yuki attempted to discover why this galactic stranger was so interested specifically in information about Godzilla. Shiro allowed Yuji and Io to enter the doomed building in order to catch up with her, and Yuji took Yuki's place in the attempt to gather answers to pressing questions about the UFO's motivation. Yuji told Yuki and Io to plead with Katagiri's forces to delay the blast, as he stayed behind.

Though Yuki, Io, and Shiro attempted to delay the blast of City Tower, Katagiri went ahead and detonated the bombs, even with Yuji still inside. When the billowing smoke atop the tower subsided, there was no sigh of relief... for the UFO still remained. Mysterious words began to appear on computer monitors in the area. The words: "Dominate, Prosperity, Opulence, Revolution, Kingdom, and Millennium" were transmitted, and it soon became obvious that this craft wished to establish a one thousand year kingdom on Earth. Without warning, the extra terrestrial anomaly began to destroy City Tower from top to bottom, and Yuji only barely managed to escape. Reuniting with Yuki and Io, the trio caught up to an unrepentant Katagiri at the rooftop of a nearby building...

Godzilla suddenly appeared in Tokyo Bay and moved inward through the city, with vengeance on his mind. The UFO shot metallic cables through the ground, grasping onto Godzilla's muzzle and arm... but the nuclear energy of his body singed and snapped the snares. In response, the UFO charged and launched an energy beam, but Godzilla was not affected as badly as the last time he endured this energy assault. Strangely, the UFO suddenly formed a squid-like creature in order to procure its enemy monster's genetic material, for it wanted to give form to a shapeless object. Godzilla rose once more and set the UFO ablaze with his powerful energy ray, as the squid-like creature absorbed enough of Godzilla's essence to mutate into the mountainous juggernaut Orga. Slightly resembling Godzilla, this new abomination began to crash blows onto his foe as what remained of the UFO rose to charge another blast. After recovering from the combined force of Orga and the UFO, Godzilla finally destroyed the original spaceship and directed his attention toward his newly mutated nemesis. Marching forward, Godzilla clashed with Orga once more, and the alien monster began to mutate as he absorbed more of the terrestrial creature's genetic material. Orga was, in essence, trying to become Godzilla! A thermonuclear ray put a temporary stop to his plans, and a conflagrant Orga gazed as he prepared his final assault. The flames dissipated and Orga's jaws unhinged as he wrapped his maw around Godzilla's head and torso, attempting with all his determination to become his enemy. Unfortunately for Orga, Godzilla's spines began to glow and hum... and a pillar of plasma tore the space monster apart.

Katagiri watched with reserved emotion as Godzilla approached his position, and marveled at seeing his long time foe so close. Alas, he had only a moment, for Godzilla destroyed the section of the building on which he stood. As Yuji, Io, and Yuki stood in awe of the bane of mad science, the creature set a great deal of the city ablaze, for his vengeance against the space monster was finally complete.

All right, let's get down to brass tacks. How does everyone fit into the equation; what is the motivation of the respective characters? To put it simply, the development here is like thin ice... try and test its strength, and you'll be in for a terrible surprise. Yuji Shinoda is our protagonist, and Mitsuo Katagiri is our antagonist. They shared a relationship in college, and even that really isn't studied too thoroughly. Basically, Yuji wants to study Godzilla and Katagiri wants to destroy him... for reasons unknown. Perhaps Godzilla destroyed his home, perhaps his favorite restaurant, perhaps Katagiri just has a phobia of reptiles... take your choice; it really doesn't matter. Bottom line: Katagiri doesn't like fire-breathing dinosaurs for some personal reason, and it is of little concern (perhaps with mild hesitation) who is killed in his quest for extermination. Shiro Miyasaka, his assistant, is a little less severe in his approach. Conflicted, he sides with the quest for discovery and basic human empathy that his old friend Yuji possesses, however he still retains the loyalty and seems to have the devotion to Godzilla's annihilation which his boss Katagiri possesses. Io Shinoda, like her father, has a similar view of Godzilla's right to live. Other than that, there is really nothing that separates her personality from her father's, except for her charming sass. Yuki Ichinose, on the other hand, is apathetic about the whole ordeal. Mostly, her view on the matter is that the Godzilla story could be a big scoop to jumpstart her career, if it wasn't such a trying situation. In fact, she would rather be reassigned. Although, in the end, she does develop and become stronger and more sympathetic, as shown through her heroic U-turn to the doomed City Tower in one last effort to save Yuji. Bringing Io along into the path of danger may not have been the best decision, however. The big question is: how well did each actor portray their respective roll? It appears as though there really aren't any major flaws. Despite what little the actors are given, they still manage to make their characters likeable (Hiroshi Abe's deliberate, conniving subtleties even add a villain-you-love-to-hate persona). All around, acting is pretty satisfactory. However, there is a problem with emotion, where a very stressful event should call for either sadness or fear, and the actors don't make it believable. If I could take a guess, I wouldn't say that this is really their fault, as much as it appears to be a problem with direction, instead. Case in point is Mayu Suzuki's reaction to the possibility of the demise of her character's father, which is fairly downplayed until he actually reappears. If the direction had called for her to show anguish in this circumstance (instead of mild sadness), then these scenes would have been much more powerful. Still, I hold to the fact that as far as the overall scope of acting is concerned, it really isn't all that bad. This is also probably the only aspect of the film that does prove to be more solid than GODZILLA (1998).

Pacing turns out to be one of the most apparent problems of this movie. The American version, if I remember correctly (though it has been a while), was at least edited well. The Japanese version seems tediously long... and appears to dwell on both action and drama scenes far too long. Coupled with rather uninteresting music, it kind of drags the film down a few notches. It's actually somewhat difficult to even muster the motivation to watch Godzilla 2000: Millennium due to this fact, and the film just doesn't reach that level of rewatchability that many other G-films have attained, even some of the bad ones. Successful editing really is key, and this is one major aspect where Godzilla 2000: Millennium fails to deliver.

What about the music? I'm writing this review a little slower than my other ones, which means I actually watched the movie several days ago. Unlike the following entries in the Millennium timeline (excluding Godzilla: Final Wars [2004], which I've yet to see), each of which had at least one earworm theme, I'm a little sad to admit that I've completely lost the tune for Godzilla 2000: Millennium. I just can't remember it! I do recall that I did mildly enjoy the main theme for this movie. It wasn't very intense, even though it was dramatic. The remaining music was less memorable, some of which (like the music that played during the submarine scene) was even kind of unpleasant. For every Godzilla movie I have seen, I can at least remember a little of the soundtrack. Godzilla Raids Again (1955) and Godzilla 2000: Millennium are probably the only two exceptions in this regard, and though the former is worse, I can't really give the latter any high marks. Akira Ifukube's famous Godzilla themes do show up momentarily, but that doesn't really save the musical aspect of this film. Though I haven't seen the American version of Godzilla 2000: Millennium in years, I do remember that the music in that version was at least better.

Special effects are "meh". Ok, they're not all that bad. Let's start out with the effective batch of illusions. Godzilla's beam is orange this time around, similar to his hyper spiral ray in the latter entries of the Heisei Timeline, only with more of a plasma torch appearance as opposed to a laser effect. At times, Orga's beam looks like the photon torpedo from the Star Trek movies, but it still excels visually. The pyrotechnic effects, like most modern Godzilla movies, are pretty rich and vivid. The suit has a nice greenish reptilian look, and the gnarly, purple spines add to a very sleek and feral appearance. Orga's suit looks pretty bulky and imposing (although those giant hands aren't utilized very much, and the limitations of that design for the suit actor are apparent). Even the all-CG Millennian looks somewhat sharp and smooth. There really are some nice effects. The failure does lie, for the most part, in the CG. The alien spaceship just looks so cartoonish, and the scenes in which it makes an appearance look as though they could be reproduced perfectly on Macromedia Flash. Even worse, sometimes the UFO looks like an inflatable pool toy. The CG missiles also have that cartoony feel, as do a few shots with the human aircraft. This movie does seem to go for a minimalist effect, though, so it isn't too jarring. There really aren't any super-impressive effect shots, save perhaps the final explosions. Other than that, there's nothing much to write home about.

So, how does Godzilla 2000: Millennium shape up? It isn't bad, but it doesn't lean all that well towards a good movie, either. It's below average, probably the Godzilla Raids Again (1955) of its time. Still, some fans see it as redemption or a "step in the right direction". As for me, I see it as another Godzilla film, just another chance to see one of my favorite movie characters of all time smash his way through a movie. It may not be a major hindrance to the franchise, but it certainly doesn't help that this is the last Godzilla movie that Americans had the chance to see in theaters. If only Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) were instead the next film to grace US theaters, then perhaps Toho's famous franchise would have had a shot at big-screen survival over here. At least it would have cleverly covered the continuity issue between the GODZILLA (1998) timeline and the Millennium timeline. Alas, Godzilla 2000 is the one that followed, and it just didn't do that well in the box office over here at all. Even in Japan, adjusting for inflation, it ranks about nineteenth as far as net profit for a Godzilla movie is concerned. Luckily, it didn't bury the franchise, at least in Japan, and Godzilla lived on. Even still, the movie isn't unbearable, and can be fun if you don't go into it with high expectations. I'll hold to this fact: I've yet to find a Godzilla movie in which I can't find even a little enjoyment, and Godzilla 2000: Millennium is no exception. It may not be anywhere close to the best, but it's certainly not the very worst.