August 24, 2000 -- For those of you who liked paying good money to see a guy dressed up in a rubber monster suit stomping on a tiny, cardboard replica of Tokyo, "Godzilla 2000" may be for you. This is a Japanese version of a big budget Hollywood monster movie, and it doesn't cut it.
The budget of this version of the monster movie is probably 1,000 times more expensive than the original, 1954 film called "Gojira," even adjusting for inflation. I've never seen the original film, but I did see the American version, into which were inserted scenes for the late, great Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" fame. It was called "Godzilla" instead of "Gojira."
According to some, the original movie was the best of the lot, not the Americanized version, but "Gojira." I wouldn't know. Every version of "Godzilla" I have seen has been laughable and this one is no exception. There are even some lines thrown in for laughs. "Great Caesar's Ghost!" cries one character. This line was uttered a few thousand times by one Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet in the Superman comic books.
Another line I liked, and this one is uttered with great solemnity, was "Maybe there's a little Godzilla in all of us." Now that's funny, but only if you think about it much. In this film, Godzilla is pitted against an ancient spacecraft of alien origin. We have the usual fighting which destroys a sizable chunk of Japan. There's a little kid, quite a common sight in Godzilla movies, and we have an evil defense force guy who is bent on destroying Godzilla. The special effects aren't all that special. It is obvious many of the sets are miniatures of the real thing. The dubbing and acting are passable, but the story is below par.
And what is Godzilla? Although he is a dinosaur mutation of some sort created by radiation and is therefore a child of human technology, he is nonetheless portrayed as a primal force of nature. When humans try to destroy him it becomes the old man against nature theme. When he fights with the alien spacecraft, it is nature against technology. It seems man is evil and technology is worse. Godzilla, despite the fact that he mashes thousands of people to death, becomes the hero, but with the indifference of nature itself. It's a jungle out there in monster land. Godzilla is both the enemy of man and the savior of man. The message seems to be that if man lives in harmony with nature, Godzilla will leave us alone, but if we start getting uppity, building power plants and such, Godzilla will stomp around and knock us down a peg. On the other hand, he may just stomp on us anyway.
To understand the Japanese fascination with this big nuclear-powered lizard, you have to understand the unique position of the Japanese regarding nuclear weapons. They are the only people to have suffered atomic attacks in war. The first Godzilla movie came out just 10 years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Godzilla was a result of post-war nuclear testing. Godzilla is the embodiment of monstrous forces unleashed by the power of the atom. He is the unstoppable wrath of nature fighting back against the ravages of atomic poisoning of the planet's ecosystem. The very concept of Godzilla is obviously full of contradictions.
The mistrust and misunderstanding of technology and science is not peculiar to the east, nor is this romanticized view of nature, so Godzilla has wormed his way into American theaters and homes for one reason or the other. There is no doubt he will continue to stomp on miniature houses, cars, tanks and planes well into the 21st century, although this movie and the last American version of it should, by all rights, have killed the series. This film features lots of stomping and that ambivalent heroism of Godzilla. At one point the characters wonder why Godzilla keeps saving the worthless hides of humans time and again when all we try to do is kill him. Can't we all just get along? As the characters wonder about the heroism of Godzilla he is busy stomping thousands of people to death and wrecking a big chunk of the city. With heroes like that, who needs enemies? This film rates a D.
There are a group of loyal fans of the original, Japanese Godzilla films and they despise the American Godzilla film starring Matthew Broderick, even though it was a better film. Why is that? Who knows, it is one of those cult film fan contradictions that makes no sense to anyone who isn't one of them. Believe me, I am not one of those cult film fans. To those people who are, I say the universe is a big place and you can find a critic out there somewhere who feels as you do, but it ain't me, babe.Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. I have links to American as well as European vendors. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information on every Godzilla film ever made.