Toho had put Godzilla to rest after 1995's GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH, to allow the Americans to make a trio of Godzilla movies. Thankfully, Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA left such a bad taste in the mouths of Godzilla fans, it put the kibosh on any thoughts of sequelizing the film, and Toho decided that since they, above all, know how to make Godzilla movies, why not bring the Big Guy back?
You know what you need to make a decent Godzilla movie? Well, aside from Godzilla, you need a pretty gal (being a reporter is always a good role for them), a handsome male lead, a villain you love to hate, possibly a cute kid, the army, lots of missiles and helicopters, and some other giant monster for Godzilla to fight. What you don't need is Matthew Broderick, New York City, and a CGI Godzilla that looks nothing like Godzilla. GODZILLA 2000 may not be a great Godzilla movie, but it is a hell of a lot more fun than the film fans have called "Fraudzilla". The first ten minutes are more entertaining than the entire 1998 movie. Before you can even settle into your seat, Godzilla chomps down on a passing a ship, and then chases a car containing our pretty reporter, handsome male lead a cute kid, through a tunnel. The shots of Godzilla's big honking feet crashing through the roof of the tunnel while the driver speeds backwards to avoid being crushed to death are more memorable than anything I can think of from G98.
The film pokes mild fun at G98 as well as director Roland Emmerich. The most iconic thing about G98 was its poster featuring just Godzilla's eye, and GODZILLA 2000 feature a shot of the Big Guy's eye which is unmistakably a reference to that poster. A monster that shows up late in the film appears to modeled somewhat after Fraudzilla, and the film also features a flying saucer of sorts which hovers over skyscrapers just as the alien ship did in Emmerich's INDEPENDENCE DAY, a goofy, ridiculous film which I nevertheless liked about a thousand times more than I liked G98. The American dubbing adds some fun on its own, such as when a military guy is asked about the possible death of civilians from a plan to kill Godzilla, and replies "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed..." just as George C. Scott did in DR. STRANGELOVE when asked about starting a nuclear war.
I should mention that the CGI in this film is sometimes iffy - CGI helicopters never look good - but the monster action is basically still the old-fashioned "suitmation", featuring guys in rubber suits beating the hell out of each other, just like the old days. That the rubber suits are much more convincing than the CGI effects puts a smile on my face.
As I was watching GODZILLA 2000, it struck me how much Liam Neeson's classic speech in TAKEN fits Godzilla to a T. He usually doesn't know who his rival monsters are, he doesn't know what they want, but he has a particular set of skills, skills that make him a nightmare for other monsters, and he will look for those monsters, he will find them, and he will kill them. He never gives up. Godzilla is subjected to all types of humiliations in this film, humiliations that would send other monster home with their tails between their legs. He spends half his fighting time looking around with a "What the hell is this now?" look on his face (the redesigned Godzilla is very expressive) and the other half being knocked through buildings or being dragged through the streets. Yet, as usual, after getting to that A NIGHT AT THE OPERA moment where all seems lost, he literally comes roaring back and vanquishes all his opponents.
It's what he does, and it's why we love him. ½ - JB.