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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Godzilla 2000 (1999)

"Perhaps there is a part of Godzilla in all of us."
- Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 31, 2000

Stars: Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Hiroshi Abe, Godzilla
Other Stars: Mayu Suzuki, Shiro Sano
Director: Takao Okawara

Manufacturer: DVXX
MPAA Rating: PG for (monster violence and mild language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:45s
Release Date: December 26, 2000
UPC: 043396056671
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB+A- B

DVD Review

In the U.S., the reputation of the Godzilla movies is that they're basically embarrassing trash that the Japanese keep making "for some reason." Usually this belief is upheld by people who've never actually sat down and watched any of the movies, especially the newer ones from the 90s. When the Japanese studio Toho licensed out their star monster so that we could take a crack at making a version, the result was about as prophetic as humanly possible; a disaster that drove people away from theatres in droves. The Western assumption that elaborate effects would make the movie was dead wrong. So, in 1999, Toho decided to pick up the Godzilla franchise again (despite the fact that Godzilla had been killed off in the last of the 'official' movies, Godzilla vs. Destroyah). Though Toho claims that the reason for doing the movie was simply to satisfy the Japanese public that was already itching for a new Godzilla flick, I get the feeling it was more to wash away the awful, castor-oil-like taste of the U.S. version.

In an unusual move, Godzilla 2000 totally ignores all of the established Godzilla lore as well as the previous films. The big misconception about these movies is that they're all the same, with Godzilla simply destroying Tokyo and fighting monsters. Actually, the Godzilla films usually feature surprisingly complex and elaborate plots, often with Godzilla being a third-act to the film, rather than the central point. Well, forget everything you've ever seen in one of these movies, because it's not relevant here. Godzilla 2000 skips over all the films, and is basically, if anything, a sequel to the original film.

The film establishes that a "Godzilla Prediction Network" has been set up all across the country by devoted Godzilla-watchers. They hope to learn things about the monster that will lead to a better understanding of what he is and why he does what he does, which is mainly attack sources of energy. The film's central character, Shinoda, is a member of this organization and lives in Tokyo. Meanwhile, the Crisis Control Institute (some sort of government agency designed to protect Japan) has discovered a giant meteorite underwater, just off the Japanese coast. CCI figures it might be good for harvesting ore, but once they lift the huge meteor out of the water, it becomes obvious that it's some kind of alien spacecraft and not just a rock. Once the spacecraft becomes fully active, for some reason it pursues Godzilla the next time he emerges on land. It attacks Godzilla and, in the process, makes a new enemy by seriously annoying the giant reptile. As everyone struggles to figure out what the mysterious craft is and what it wants with Godzilla, time ticks down to the next time the spacecraft will have enough energy to be active again. Godzilla wants revenge, but humans just want to figure out what's going on. Don't worry, though, by the time all is said and done, a monster rumble WILL take place.

Godzilla 2000 may not have quite the substantive plot a Godzilla fan might expect, but I have to say this is the most entertaining Godzilla movie yet. It's also the most expensive of the series to date, and it really shows. First, Godzilla looks a bit different; slightly meaner and with cool, flame-like fins on his back. Yes, he is still a man in a rubber suit, but that actually works pretty well in this case. The models used as the backdrop of Godzilla wreaking havoc are so incredibly detailed that the level of realism has been multiplied way above anything I've ever seen in even the newer 'Zilla films. Lots of CGI has been added to juice up most of the action sequences and improve on established concepts, like tanks and planes firing at Godzilla. While the CG isn't quite as detailed and expert as we're used to seeing in big, U.S. films, it's easily some of the finest I've seen in a Japanese film like this. The monster fights and most of the style have been given a well-needed dose of intensity, making this far more action-packed and genuinely exciting than previous films. To put it simply, this is one kick-butt monster movie. By mixing elements of the old films with newer technology, Toho has given a rebirth to this character that allows even newcomers to the films to really get into it.

It must be pointed out that Godzilla 2000 is indeed a localized production for the U.S. market. It's dubbed and 9 minutes of footage was cut from the original version. While I'm normally a bit of a purist in these situations, it becomes obvious that, in this case, the changes were probably a good idea. Perhaps the biggest change is the almost entirely new soundtrack work that adds not only more musical score, but a lot more sound effects and explosive power to what was, originally, a fairly low-budget mix. Before you groan too much at the dubbing and changed dialogue, believe me when I say that it probably makes almost no difference here. There's not too much story involved (I've head the Japanese version was even worse in this respect), and there's very little in the way of complex dialogue; mostly things like "Watch out!", "It's Godzilla!!", or "What could this be?"

As a long time fan of Japanese monster movies, I can confidently say this is one of the best of Japan's newest offerings. I've found their latest Mothra and Gamera movies pretty disappointing, but this one makes up for it. It lacks some of the finesse of the older films, but makes up for it by filling the time with genuine entertainment and great action.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 16:9 enhanced 2:35:1, the image looks pretty good overall. Colors are wonderfully bright and well-rendered, but dark tones are good as well. The only thing bringing it down is the level of heavy grain in some sections. For whatever reason, many sequences (starting with the opening scene) have very thick grain. This doesn't bring out compression problems, but it still makes the film look a bit ugly at certain points. There's also a surprising amount of print damage for something so new. Noticeable scratches, pinholes, and reel-change marks pop up in a few places. In general, though, the majority of the film is nicely transferred.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix really pays off. Whether it's the bassy growls of Godzilla or the weird sounds of the alien spacecraft as it flies around, this movie is filled with tons of creative sound action. There's a lot of directionality and surround usage in the action sequences, and just about everything has nice ambience to it. This is elaborated on in the commentary track (discussed below), but the 5.1 (and the English/French 2.0 Surround track) is a totally upgraded version of what originally comprised the soundtrack. The 2.0 tracks are good, but don't sound quite as clean and crisp as the 5.1. There's also better bass extension in the 5.1; a meatier low-end. Be assured, though, this is one of those tracks that will give your system a fun workout. On a more disappointing note, the Japanese language dialogue has NOT been restored here. This may offend some purists, but in the end I'm guessing its effect on the film is pretty minimal.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Mike Schlesinger (producer U.S. version), editor (U.S. Version), sound designer (U.S. Version)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc features one of the best commentaries I've heard in a while, mainly because localization teams are often the unsung heroes of movies. How unsung are they? Well, in the case of Godzilla 2000, these guys don't get screen credit and their names are nowhere to be found on the DVD, the track is simply listed as "Audio Commentary." Despite all this, Mike Schlesinger and his team are very animated, and excited to talk about their work on the U.S. conversion. These guys obviously know their stuff, and the commentary is filled with insights into the making of the film, as well as the edits they made, the in-jokes they placed into the dubbed dialogue, and the significant additions made to the audio for the 5.1 soundtrack. Great job here.

A brief "behind the scenes" snippet is simply some on-set footage of Godzilla (stuntman Tsutomu Kitagawa in a suit) tearing through models and being directed by Takao Okawara, who has previously helmed three Godzilla films. There are no subtitles, unfortunately.

The U.S. trailer is featured, along with a brief filmography for director Okawara and another bio of Godzilla the creature. The keepcase insert features some trivia about the story behind the making of the film.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

As I write this, Godzilla vs. Megagirasu is hitting Japanese theatres, apparently signalling Toho's new interest in their star monster. With the open-ended, 'reborn' nature of Godzilla 2000, perhaps they are trying to attract new fans who don't need to watch the old movies to get in on the story. I'm also going to safely assume that Columbia/Tri-Star's release of this film technically qualifies as the second Godzilla film Toho will license them, officially killing ideas for a U.S. made sequel to the 1998 disaster. Regardless, this is a seriously fun new entry in the series that deserves at least one viewing. Highly recommended.

 


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