Godzilla 2000 DVD Review

After the outright disaster that was the American version of Godzilla, Toho studios decided to resurrect their own and try to salvage the franchise. This new film, "Godzilla 2000," would become a movie of firsts for the series. It's not a classic, but a decent if just slight above average entry into the long running series.

Godzilla appears in Japan to take out the countries power sources. The Godzilla Protection Network, headed by Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata), tries to unravel the mystery. Meanwhile, the CCI is working to figure out what exactly is sitting under the ocean encased in rock. Once unearthed, a UFO breaks free and begins a quest to make the planet more livable for itself. The only hope left is Godzilla, but will the CCI headed by Shinoda's rival Kutagiri (Hiroshi Abe) destroy him first?

The day this movie made it's way into US theaters (the first time in 15-years a Godzilla film has done so), I managed to see it four times. The manager was baffled by my visit the second time around and just stood in stunned silence the final time. In case you haven't figured this out yet, I'm a huge fan of this series.

Five years does a lot to a movie of course. The initial adrenaline rush of the theatrical release has worn off and the time is right to look back. This was the first film in the series to employ numerous CG shots, including a completely rendered scene of Godzilla swimming underwater. The US release has been trimmed (mostly for the better) and re-edited, but the dubbing ruins everything.

Supervised by Michael Schlesinger who is a longtime fan (and supplies the commentary on this DVD), some of the dialogue should have obviously been cut. Lines like "Did you just see that giant rock fly by?" are just terrible. There are a few pop-culture references that are fine, but when the actors speaking them are beyond awful (Katagiri especially), it doesn't work. The edits made are fine and benefit the movie, but this should have been released with subtitles.

CGI effect shots are hit and miss here, but mostly a miss. A spectacular scene featuring a new type of missile blasting Godzilla's hide is great stuff, but the UFO and army vehicles are painful to watch. Worse, most of these shots could have easily been done with traditional effects and looked much better. Finally, even with the editing, there is a huge gap right in the middle of the film (not unlike the American G film oddly) where the titles creature goes missing for almost a half hour.

Still, audiences have come to see Godzilla and when he is on-screen, this is a great movie. The new design is superb, featuring erratic spikes and an elongated head. Director Takao Okawara directed three of the films in the Heisei series and knows how to make giant monster fights look great. Tsutomu Kitagawa takes over for the first time in the suit, though he previously worked on "Mothra 3." He does a fine job (aided by animatronics) and continues inside the suit today.

This isn't a perfect movie to restore all the dignity lost because of the big budget 1998 film, but it's a start. The sequel would definitely picks things up, "Godzilla x Megaguirus," and really jump-start the third series of films. Get past the dubbing and a few awful effect shots, and you'll have a fine time at the movies (but maybe four times was a bit much). (*** out of *****)

Only available (thankfully) in 2.35:1 widescreen, the film suffers on DVD. The grain associated with the CG sequences is expected, but it just overruns the entire movie. Opening scenes feature so much, it actually obscures the characters. Nearly every scene that is even slightly dark has the same problem. Mercifully, compression is never a problem and the few daylight moments look great (though the flesh tones occasionally look washed out). Not very sure what happened with this release. (**)

Remastered for the release here in the states, the 5.1 mix here is great, but obvious. There are numerous sound effects that make it blatantly apparent that they were added much later and possibly by better equipment. This is especially noticeable with the sounds coming from the two rear speakers. Still, the added bass really works well and it would be hard to listen to the film any other way. This was the first time you could actually here Godzilla's trademark roar in full 5.1 in the US, so this does make for a great experience for any Godzilla fan. (****)

The key extra here is a commentary (again, the first and only Japanese Godzilla film to have one in English) led by Michael Schlesinger who does a great job of explaining how the movie was changed. He talks about added sound, the dubbing, and where additional scenes used to be included. A very brief feature showcases some behind the scenes footage. This is fun to watch, but it's so short, you can't help but feel cheated. The only other extras are some trailers and production notes. (***)

This movie will soon be re-released in a box set along with a few other movies in the series. This new disc will feature the original Japanese version along with subtitles, the same way this DVD should have been released in the first place. There has been no confirmation on whether or not a new transfer will be included. Leave this disc on the shelf and just wait for the new one.

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