As far as latter era Godzilla movies go, Godzilla 2000 is, for this writer at least, definitely up there. In many ways it is a throwback to the earlier films and in fact it essentially disregards the movie before this one, Godzilla Vs. Destroyah in which everyone's favorite monster was actually killed. The plot, which isn't particularly complex (nor does it need to be) basically picks up when Godzilla is spotted off the coast of Japan. There's also been a giant magnetic rock discovered in the same area by Professor Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata), the very same man who is in charge of the Godzilla Prediction Network.
When Shinoda's former colleague Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe) finds out that Godzilla is back, he and the Crisis Control Intelligence Agency that he is in charge of figure that there's only one thing that can be done: eliminate Godzilla at any cost. Shinoda, however, wants to see if there's a way that Godzilla can be studied. But then there's that strange rock that, once raised from the ocean floor, flies off under its own power. It turns out that this rock is actually an alien and it transforms into a monster dubbed Orga. As Godzilla moves ever closer to a nuclear power plant, causing many to fear he'll cause an atomic catastrophe, Katagiri plans to destroy him with a missile but when that pesky alien shows up, well, maybe the army would be better off letting Godzilla deal with that problem for them. Yuji, with some help from his daughter Iyo (Mayu Suzuki), and a photojournalist by the name of Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida), have other plans…
Godzilla 2000 is a ‘back to basics' approach to the long running series, eschewing the high tech anti-Godzilla tactics of some of the movies that preceded it made in the decade prior in favor of a whole lot of great ‘man in a rubber suit' action. As is the case with pretty much every movie to feature a giant monster, the battle sequences are the real draw here. The design work for the Godzilla suit this time around is great, he's looking mean and lean and plenty tough but it's not overdone. Godzilla's spinal fins and more elongated teeth help to make him look like a bit more of a bad ass here, and his fire breath ray is once again a force to be reckoned with. The miniature work (which is occasionally aided by some lackluster digital effects work) in this film is definitely stronger than average. Sure, you can still tell that the miniatures are just that but there's a lot of detail in them and when Godzilla goes to town on them, the effects work really nicely.
There are some fairly long stretches here in which the film focuses on Yuji and his team and the rivalry between them and those at Katagiri's Crisis Control Agency which slow things down. The actors cast in the various human roles all do fine and Hiroshi Abe is actually pretty fun as the bad guy (who isn't really that much of a bad guy when you think about it, he just wants to stop Godzilla from trashing Tokyo again) and his work here is pretty memorable. Obviously Takehiro Murata as Yuji gives his character a much softer take and while he sometimes comes across as a bit of a wimp, he's likeable enough. Mayu Suzuki as the young daughter adds very little to the movie outside of a character for younger viewers to relate to while Naomi Nishida is plenty cute as the young photographer who seems to have an unusual amount of trouble actually getting good pictures of Godzilla.
So yeah, Godzilla 2000 doesn't reinvent the wheel but it does deliver pretty much what most fans are going to want out of a Godzilla movie and despite the aforementioned pacing issues and lack of any really super interesting human characters (typical problems with monster movies in general) this one turns out to be a lot of fun. Given that it followed the terrible Columbia Tri-Star Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick in the lead, when it released it was almost like a God send of sorts! Time has tarnished that a little bit, but not enough to change the fact that this one is a whole lot of fun.
Note that this Blu-ray release from Sony contains both the US edit (1:38:55 in length) of the movie and the longer original Japanese cut of the film (which runs 1:46:56). There's a fair bit more dialogue in the Japanese version and there are a few extended bits in some of the monster scenes as well. The music is also different in the two versions and the US edit is, not surprisingly, dubbed into English from the original Japanese. Opinions will vary as to the merits of each cut, of course, but in this writer's opinion the Japanese version plays better as a serious picture while the dubbed version seems to occasionally play things for camp value. To its credit, some of the music is more effective in the US cut. But hey, they're both here so viewers can take their pick. You could probably argue that the pacing is better on the U.S. cut as well, but again, the plus side is that fans no longer have to choose.
Godzilla 2000 arrives on Blu-ray in two separate AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfers on a 50GB disc. The Japanese version is framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and the U.S. version at 2.40.1 so there are slight framing differences but most won't notice them. In regards to the Japanese cut, like the first batch of Godzilla Blu-ray's that Sony put out earlier this year, Godzilla 2000 shows improvement over DVD versions but is far from a reference quality disc. The image is fairly soft and a little noisy in spots and colors look to be a bit on the drab side. Blacks tend to lean more towards dark greys and the orange of the fire of a destroyed city faced with a rampaging monster looks like more of a drab yellow at times. Detail isn't particularly consistent and although it does advance over standard definition offerings and some shorts look very good while others… not so much. Close up shots is where you'll notice it the most. So having said that, the US version winds up looking considerably better with much brighter, bolder colors and a more natural color scheme throughout. Detail seems better here as well but that could just be the brighter colors giving that impression. Both versions are well encoded with the Japanese cut taking up 22.9GBs on the disc and the US cut just over 23GBs but the US cut definitely looks better to this reviewer's eyes. Check the images below, the top images are from the US cut and the ones underneath the Japanese…
Audio options are provided for the Japanese cut in DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English, English SDH and French. For the U.S. version we get an English language DTS-HD 5.1 track with the same subtitle options. This seems to be the same English dub that was used on the previous DVD release. In regards to the quality of the audio, there are no problems here. Both tracks are nicely balanced and free of any hiss or distortion. Sound effects have a decent amount of punch to them and dialogue is consistently easy to understand. The 5.1 mix isn't a masterpiece of directional effects and clever placement but it does open things up in spots and spread around the effects and score fairly effectively.
A commentary track with the writer-producer Michael Schleshinger, editor Mike Mahoney and sound editor Darren Pascal of the dubbed English version is the main extra here. Carried over from the previous DVD release it plays over the US version. Schleshinger has more to say than his two cohorts as he talks about how and why the different edits were made to create the US version out of the original Japanese cut of the movie. He's quite interesting to listen to and has a lot to say about the merits of the picture. Mahoney and Pascal talk about their jobs on the picture and chime in here and there but aren't quite as chatty. Creating English dubbed versions of foreign movies isn't something that's typically covered in your average commentary track so this one is a bit different for that reason. As such, it's worth listening to.
Aside from that we get a Behind The Scenes (also carried over from the DVD release) clip that runs about two minutes that shows off some of the miniature work being handled, a trailer for the Japanese cut of the feature, menus and chapter selection.
Sony's Blu-ray release of Godzilla 2000 isn't going to win any awards for its transfers but it does improve on the DVD presentation and offer up pretty solid audio in addition to carrying over all of the extras from that past release. The real draw here is the chance to get both the previously released U.S. edit of the movie alongside the Japanese cut of the film for the first time in this territory. As to the movie itself? It's a lot of fun (regardless of which option you go for), a solid throwback to some of the earlier movies in the series that features an interesting foe, a fantastic looking Godzilla and some solid scenes of monster mashing action. There's been room for improvement, yes, but this is still a fun release and, as such, comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.