Godzilla tally: one lizard, no wizards

Movie: Godzilla 2000

Our Rating: 2.00

So many howlers are uttered (in badly dubbed English) in "Godzilla 2000" -- the 23rd movie starring that durable beast from the East -- that it's easy to lose count. One line, though, is so indulgently silly that it may be hard to top, no matter how many more of these Japanese exports make their way to the screen.

"Godzilla is in each one of us," says pure-hearted scientist Shinoda (Takehiro Murata), without warning and responding to nothing in particular. Does he mean that we can all breathe fire, bellow like an army of elephants and destroy Japanese cities if we really work at it?

Pseudo-philosophical remarks, painfully obvious observations and ridiculously stated plans of action litter "Godzilla 2000," which puts the legendary lizard back on B-movie turf for an outing that's less pretentious (and thus more guilty-pleasure fun) than Western director Roland Emmerich's slick, big-budget 1998 version.

The new film opens with the title character emerging from the ocean. A lighthouse keeper is surprised to see a boat coming in so close, and soon realizes that the wrecked vessel is in the grip of massive teeth. Godzilla is back, and nobody is quite sure why.

The task of handling the crisis falls to -- who else? -- the Crisis Control Intelligence agency. Its chief, Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe, whose face only expresses anger or bemusement), is an ambitious, buttoned-down power monger who would like to see Godzilla eliminated. Katagiri gathers with military advisers to discuss the pros and cons of setting a trap. The good news is that the scaly one may meet his maker. The bad news: So will hundreds (or thousands) of townspeople. "I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed," an army officer explains, cleverly quoting from "Dr. Strangelove."

Shinoda, the director of the Godzilla Protection Network, is determined to discover the behemoth's motivation. (His one expression: concern.) He traipses around in the shadow of the giant menace, accompanied by his loving daughter, Io (Mayu Suzuki), and a whiny newspaper photographer, Yuki (Naomi Nishida). "God must be punishing me for being so ambitious," Yuki says after one harrowing encounter. More likely, it's for her annoying behavior.

Shinoda's benevolent agenda puts him at odds with Katagiri. "I'll send flowers," the latter says of Godzilla's imminent demise. "Bastard," Shinoda responds when his nemesis is out of earshot. "You really think you can kill Godzilla?"

There's also a new monster in town to threaten the supremacy of the old one. A rocklike energy source, left by aliens and buried beneath the sea for 60 million years, has been awakened. It flies through the air, looking like a cross between a bicycle seat and a one-eyed devil ray. Later, this so-called "Orga" spawns an offspring that resembles the old Godzilla as reimagined by "Alien" designer H.R. Giger.

"It's like a scene from an old sci-fi movie," a news reporter enthuses. Well, yeah. Exactly.

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