The first film in a new era of Godzilla films features a dramatic new redesign, and an attempt to keep a fun tone. #26: Godzilla 2000.
Godzilla 2000 is the first film in a new Godzilla continuity, most often referred to as the Millennium era. As such, only the 1954 original is canon (again), and Godzilla has been redesigned (again). Godzilla now leans forward more, has meaner, angrier eyes, and is slightly smaller than in the Heisei era. However, rather than reestablishing Godzilla’s origin story, we live in a world where Godzilla is an expected and regular part of Japanese life. We know he attacks from time to time, and the military is constantly at the ready. I like this approach rather than just wiping the slate clean again. The audience knows what a Godzilla is and where it came from. If you’re going to go back to your lower-budget Japanese roots, best to just let Godzilla be Godzilla.
This may have been a direct reaction to the “failed” 1998 American version, which tried to reinvent the wheel. The filmmakers behind Godzilla 2000 felt no need to dress him up. He look different, but he’s the Godzilla we’ve always known. We just don’t know the other famous monsters anymore. Those will have to be reintroduced. And the tone? It’s definitely more modern than the older films, having a faster pace and a less matter-of-fact storytelling style. Otherwise, this feels more like a Godzilla film than the 1998 American one ever will.
Oh yes, and Godzilla gets to fight another monster right out of the gate. These days, one cannot have a Godzilla without him fighting another monster. I think it was wise of the 2014 filmmakers to include monsters as well. The monster in Godzilla 2000 is an ancient giant space alien that has been living on the ocean floor for as long as there has been an Earth. The alien arises after humans start tinkering with it and confronts the G-man. It extracts some DNA from a Godzilla database, and proceeds to form a half-Godzilla half-alien being called Orga. When Orga eats pieces of Godzilla, it becomes more like Godzilla. What a relief to type a sentence like that.
Here’s the weirdest (and possibly best) thing about this reboot: In terms of its story, it’s kind of disposable. The studio is restarting Godzilla, but it feels not need to make it feel like an event. It’s just a natural progression. Godzilla is back, friends. Here he is, doing what he always did, but with a new face. No frills, no hype, just the movie. After too many damn “event” films in my life (does every blockbuster have to come with breathless enthusiasm each time?), this non-event approach is comforting and merciful.
Although one character does say the line of dialogue, “Godzilla is inside each one of us.” Truer words were never spoken.
So Godzilla 2000 is not one of the better Godzilla films, but this was the perfect time to play it low. Godzilla was just overblown by we Americans, and Japan snuck in the back door and propped him back up after we knocked him over with millions of dollars. Try to see the Japanese version of the film, though, as the American actors who dubbed the American release speak in pidgin Japanese accents, and man is that ever obnoxious.
Now that he’s back, he’ll prove that he can still make some good films, too.
Up next: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)