Godzilla 2000

Godzilla 2000 (2000)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishda, Hiroshi Abe
Extras: Commentary Track, Behind-the-scenes Footage, Trailers, Production Notes, Talent Files

After what fans considered a blasphemous disaster about three years ago, Toho’s most infamous kaiju is back on the screen in his 23rd movie. "Godzilla 2000" is the title of the latest film featuring the Japanese behemoth with the radioactive breath and it is now coming to DVD through Columbia TriStar Home Video. Back to its roots, "Godzilla 2000" contains everything fans of the series want to see. A lizard stampede through Japanese cities, a duel with another monster, and of course Godzilla the way we have come to love and recognize him.

Godzilla is back with a vengeance! Without warning, Godzilla surfaces at the shores of Japan once again and lays waste to towns and power plants in particular. At the same time, scientists manage to raise a big meteor from the bottom of the sea, but suddenly, the meteor takes on a life of its own. It is actually a spaceship from another planet that has been slumbering at the bottom of the sea for 6 million years. Powered by sunlight, at the surface, the spaceship suddenly becomes a thread to mankind, as the alien invader destroys cities and logs itself into local computer networks to absorb all information about mankind. The plan is to destroy mankind and to dominate the planet, but to achieve this goal, the alien invader has to kill Godzilla first. Using Godzilla’s own mutated cell structure, the aliens create an opponent for Godzilla that is fiercer than any he has ever faced. Orga is not only a venerable opponent for the Big G, but just as Godzilla, it is seemingly indestructible

"Godzilla 2000" is a step back to the roots in many ways, and the result is absolutely resounding. After the Hollywood incarnation that had little to do with the real Godzilla, Toho decided to bring the Big G back in all its glory. Although "Godzilla 2000" features quite a bit of computer generated effects work, the film always maintains the traditional look and feel of the earlier Godzilla films, and in many instances resembles more Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original than any of the subsequent releases. This is evident especially in a series of finely staged shots, which reminded me a lot of the visual quality of Honda’s original work.

Still, Godzilla is a man in a rubber suit, basically, having fun stomping through miniature models. The difference is that the models don’t look that much like models any more and that the man in a suit is oftentimes photographed in a way that let’s you forget about his true nature. Combined with some of the CGI shots, "Godzilla 2000" is a very updated and at the same time very rooted approach to the giant lizard – something the series desperately needed.

Fans of the series will also appreciate the big entrance Godzilla makes in this film, having almost 20 minutes for himself to destroy Japanese cityscapes at will. These scenes are great and among the best of the destruction scenes in the entire series, combining practical shots with computer generated imagery. One word about the CGI work in the film however. Just as the rubber-suit is not exactly the most contemporary approach to create effects, so are the computer generated effects a little retro in their look. Especially a certain wobble effect that is used quite frequently throughout these shots, for all sensible and insensible purposes, quickly wears off and becomes a bit distracting. While in general the computer generated effects do not live up to Hollywood standards, they work fine within the confines of the film, making "Godzilla 2000" a highly entertaining movie with a bot of a modern touch.

"Godzilla 2000" is presented in a <$PS,widescreen> presentation on this disc in a 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio. The transfer is <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> but feels strangely over-matted at times. Too many times, shots are cut off just above eye-level for comfort, giving the film a bit of an unbalanced and uneven look that doesn’t really seem to match the otherwise beautiful and detailed photography. I am not entirely sure whether this is a problem of the DVD transfer, or of the film’s image composition in general. Apart from that, "Godzilla 2000" looks beautiful on this DVD however.

Some slight grain is evident in selected shots, but it becomes never distracting, and the overall image is showing a good level of detail and a faithful reproduction of the picture. Colors are very strong but without over-saturation. There are many occasions during which the DVD can play its muscles in terms of color reproduction as the colorful production design offers plenty of shades and hues, all of which are perfectly reproduced on this disc. Blacks are very deep, creating a powerful look especially during the nighttime scenes. However, shadow definition is good throughout with plenty of detail intact. Only on a handful of occasions slight edge-enhancement is visible, and for the most part, the presentation has a very clean and natural look. The compression of the film material on the DVD is absolutely flawless and not a hint of compression artifacting is evident anywhere in the presentation.

Columbia TriStar Home Video is releasing "Godzilla 2000" with an English language <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix, as well as an English and French <$DS,Dolby Surround> track. While these tracks are exceptionally well produced from a technical standpoint, the entire lack of the original Japanese language track of the film is a bit of a sore point. Being forced to watch the film with the superficial dub that is not even properly lip-synched and badly overacted is quite taxing – and surprising given Columbia TriStar Home Video’s usual procedure on foreign releases to supply the original language track.

Part of the reason why the original language version is missing may stem from the fact that the cut of the film presented on this DVD is yet again a domesticized version, which has been reedited for American audiences. To further elaborate on that fact, the DVD actually contains a running length audio <$commentary,commentary track>, featuring Mike Schlesinger, the uncredited writer/producer of the American version of "Godzilla 2000," Michael Mahoney, the editor of the American version, and Darren Paskal, the sound editor for the domestic version. It is a fairly interesting <$commentary,commentary track> that offers some additional insight into the film and the cast, although I am personably not all too comfortable with localized versions of films. Nonetheless, the <$commentary,commentary track> informative and interesting, and truly offers exciting insight also in production aspects that you may not necessarily expect from such third-party collaborators.

The disc also contains a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. This is edited together film footage showing Godzilla in front of a green screen, some shots as he wades through piles of miniature rubble and so forth. Talent files and a few trailers are also part of this release.

"Godzilla 2000" is a lot of fun to watch and puts the giant lizard back where it belongs, into the hands of Toho Studios. The film is larded with great moments, such as the first revealing shots of Godzilla and – ironically – the "Independence Day"-style explosion of the skyscraper. There are many more "Independence Day" references in the film, but I’ll leave it to you to spot them. Complete with a beautiful score, which features the great Gozilla-theme, and atmospheric images, this is the best Godzilla I have seen in a long time, and beats the Emmerich/Devlin collaboration hands-down. Thanks to Columbia TriStar Home Video fans of the series are now able to witness the mutated dinosaur’s latest antics on a beautiful DVD that is well worth your attention.