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Godzilla 2000 (2000)
Rated PG13

Starring: Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, and Mayu Suzuki

Rating:
****
out of
*****

In 1998, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin unleashed their horrible American version of Godzilla on unsuspecting audiences. With computer-generated special effects, a mutant iguana and a ridiculous premise, Godzilla totally missed the point of what makes a Godzilla movie great: the rubber suit! The whole idea of suspending your disbelief for two hours while watching a man in a rubber suit smash a set full of model buildings and toy cars is a somewhat cathartic experience. Watching a Godzilla movie should be like watching professional wrestling: you know it's all fake, but it's awfully entertaining. (Or is that awful AND entertaining?) Two years after the pretender to the throne was defeated, the real Godzilla returns to show American audiences what Godzilla is all about.

Godzilla 2000 seems to reinvent the series for a third time. (The first being the original 1954 Godzilla and the second being Godzilla 1985, which ignored every movie following the original.) This Godzilla just seems to have appeared out of nowhere, although all of Japan knows his name and how he was created. This incarnation is a much meaner looking lizard than before. With more prominent fangs, a stockier neck and dagger-like dorsal spines, this is definitely an imposing creature, rubber suit or not.

The plot revolves around a meteorite that is recovered from the ocean floor. As it is lifted from the sea, it suddenly is energized and takes flight. It flies off to attack Godzilla, who has his hands full with the Japanese military. Using a powerful blast of energy, similar to Godzilla's own atomic breath, the UFO knocks Godzilla into the sea and out of action for awhile. The craft then perches itself on top of a building in downtown Shinjuku and begins hacking into all of the cities computers, looking for something. A conflict between a scientist (Takehiro Murata), who wants to study Godzilla, and the head of a large corporation (Hiroshi Abe), who wants Godzilla destroyed, becomes the centerpiece of the film while Godzilla is off-screen. Of course, this wouldn't be a Godzilla film without a climactic battle between the Big G and an adversary and, once Godzilla returns to the scene, Godzilla 2000 delivers this as well.

The American Godzilla failed because it attempted to re-invent Godzilla rather than enhance the Godzilla everyone knew and loved. Godzilla 2000 keeps the basic formula intact, while adding a few new twists to ole' thunder thighs. Case in point: You won't see this Godzilla run from conflicts with the military. In fact, the movie goes out of its way to state that "When Godzilla attacks, he advances and never retreats." No scampering iguanas here, friends. One can't help but think that line was added as a knock to the American film. In fact, there are several references to the American movie in Godzilla 2000 and all of them seem to say, "This is how the true Godzilla behaves."

While the movie is definitely better than the American Godzilla, it still retains all of those other unfortunate, but necessary characteristics of the Japanese Godzilla films. The bad dubbing, the cheesy dialogue, the not-so-special effects and the inane plot devices are all present and accounted for. These too are at the heart of every Godzilla fan's love of the films. If these weren't present, something wouldn't feel right. Godzilla 2000 definitely feels right.

Trivia: The line "Now, I can't say we won't get our hair mussed" is from Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Love the Bomb. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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