Godzilla puts on the kid gloves
Son of Godzilla is directed by Jun Fukuda and is the 8th installment in the Godzilla series.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There may not be any other character in the history of film or any other artistic medium who underwent such radical changes in such a short time period than Godzilla. In less than fifteen years, the big G has transitioned from hell-born destructor of Tokyo, Japan to monster brawler extraordinaire against the likes of King Kong, Mothra, and Rodan to savior of planet Earth and now to parent. Godzilla has developed such a volatile resume over the years, so it's no wonder that he's one of the world's most popular non-superhero icons. Sorry, I take that back; Godzilla is like a superhero in some of his films, but I'll get to that when the time comes.
One thing that none of the previous seven Godzilla movies address is how Godzilla breeds and the details of how his breeding works. That is a question that would be left on the shelf and continue to go largely unaddressed until Roland Emmerich decided in 1998 that he had the audacity to describe the inner mechanisms of Godzilla's anatomy. The only thing we need to know for Son of Godzilla, at least, is that Godzilla can lay eggs, and you'd be fooling yourself if you think the movie is going to take the time to let you know how that's possible.
By the late 1960's, Godzilla was losing steam among mainstream audiences, but he was still relatively popular with young children. So in an attempt to wring out even more of the original Godzilla as possible, Toho changed things up and decided to create a Godzilla film for the "date crowd", a genre that was quite popular with young couples at the time. The idea was that girls would love a cuddly, baby monster, but director Fukuda decided that Godzilla should have a son as opposed to a daughter because having the latter would be a little too weird. This all seems to make sense, right? You want a film aimed at children, so, naturally, the film should center on a child.
Like Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, the plot takes place on an island. A scientific research team led by Dr. Kusumi (Tadao Takashima) are trying to conduct a weather experiment. Their efforts are hampered by the arrival of a nosy reporter named Maki Goro (Akira Kubo) and the presence of giant praying mantises named Kamacuras (Gimantis in the English version). One test of the experiment results in a massive radioactive storm which causes the praying mantises to grow even larger. The scientists watch the Kamacuras dig up a buried monster egg which hatches to reveal a baby Godzilla. The adult Godzilla comes to the rescue, battling with the Kamacuras and taking the baby Godzilla (who is referred to as Minilla by audiences) to learn various monster skills such as breathing atomic breath and roaring. The two Godzillas eventually come to do battle with a giant spider named Kumonga (given the stupid name Spiga in the English version).
That's really about it in terms of story. Godzilla and his son attempt to develop a father-son relationship while fending off giant bug monsters. The humans try to complete their weather experiment. That's it. And like most, if not all, Godzilla movies, the characters are as uninteresting as ever with zero development to speak of. But what's really messed up about these characters is how there's no sense of tension or fear in them whatsoever, as if the giant monsters are now more of a nuisance than a signal to run for your life. Let us not forget though; this is for the kids, and we just can't have people running and screaming from a creature that will trample entire cities to the ground and squash people into roadkill. That will keep the kids up at night. The other main thing about the story that I didn't want to forget is how it creates long stretches in which nothing happens. There's little to nothing to tell, so the film has to find ways to keep itself going until the 86 minutes is up. This means we get characters having boring, pointless conversations and the two Godzillas just doing random stuff together that the film tries to pass off as father-son bonding.
- Director Jun Fukuda attempted to make this film as light-hearted as possible, and although this killed any hopes that Son of Godzilla had of being dramatically engaging or remotely exciting, it did result in the film being completely harmless. That doesn't mean it's a good movie. It means that it is, at least, watchable. And because of how harmless that the movie is, I just did not have it in me to cast a venomous hatred down upon it. Son of Godzilla is far from the absolute worst Godzilla film, and it thankfully doesn't rely on the utter cheapness that some other Godzilla films have. I can see any young kid finding even the tiniest iota of enjoyment from this film, since Fukuda made sure all of the monsters were as adorable-looking as could be. But those "adorable-looking" monsters leads me to my low points...
- It is not a good sign when Godzilla is disappointing in one of his own movies. Let's start with the Godzilla suit that the film uses. Remember when the King of the Monsters looked like this?
Flash forward thirteen years, and now he looks like this:
What the hell happened? The King of the Monsters now looks like a Sesame Street character! Which one though? I'd say Cookie Monster. Godzilla looks all softened up with big cutesy eyes and a face that reads, "Don't worry kids! Godzilla is here to save the day!" He's as child-friendly as Fukuda could hope to make him, but Oh God have mercy, it doesn't stop there...
Godzilla should have gotten a nomination in 1967 for Worst Parent of the Year. The film tries to enlighten us on how Godzilla gets along with his baby son, which involves Godzilla hitting Minilla in the head with his tail, threatening to hit him if he doesn't breathe his atomic breath correctly, and then dragging him by the tail when he falls over and starts squawking like a drunk seagull. The few tender, heartfelt moments that we do get between the two are largely offset by all of the cruel things that Godzilla does to Minilla. Even worse, Minilla loves to get himself into trouble, and Godzilla has to keep coming to the rescue. This is lazy parenting more than Minilla being a troublesome child who doesn't know any better.
- Speaking of Minilla, I've barely said much of anything about the little guy. What do I think of the titular Son of Godzilla? He can't look as bad as his dad does. I'm sure Jun Fukuda was able to get the cutest looking mini Godzilla that any kids has ever
SWEET MOTHER OF ALL THAT IS HOLY! WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!
(*hyperventilates*) Excuse me, I am so sorry. Okay, well, that my friends is Minilla, immediately after being hatched. He (thankfully) grows later on in the film which then he looks like this:
My goodness, that is one ugly monster. Is that really the best that Jun Fukuda could come up with? Cookie Monster Godzilla's son looks like the second cousin twice removed of The Pillsbury Doughboy. Minilla might keep children up at night cowering under the covers instead of inducing endless awws. He might act playful and carefree, but that doesn't excuse how straight-up ugly that Minilla looks.
- The other bad low point of Son of Godzilla is the monster fights. They are as slow and lazily staged as can be. Godzilla and Minilla fight Kumonga by doing nothing but blasting him with their atomic breath. The only bit of amusement comes from Godzilla slamming the Kamacuras on the ground several times and then frying them to a crisp. Is monster wrestling/karate too much for kids?
I'm aware that most of this review has been biting into the truly terrible turd mounds that are the flaws of Son of Godzilla. You are highly encouraged to think of this movie as a horrible monster flick, if you want to go out of your way to watch it. I want to say that Son of Godzilla is God-awful. The problem is that I can't shake myself away from how harmless that the film is as a whole. I'd even say it's a step-up from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. But despite the harmlessness, the human characters are useless. Godzilla is a sad, devolved shell of his former self, and Minilla is too hideous-looking, even for small children. I should hate this movie. But I don't, because it's not offensive or unbearably long. Being at least watchable counts for something. Even for a kids movie.
Recommend? Only if you are a die hard Godzilla fan, but even then, I'd still have a tough time convincing you why it's worth watching
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: