Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla… Some of my favorite Godzilla films came from the often disparaged second half of the Showa series.
Son of Godzilla, however, does not rank among them. For many fans, it ushered in the overtly child-friendly era of Godzilla, where all pretenses of mature or compelling storytelling were chucked out the window in favor of appealing to more juvenile sensibilities. And yet, for all the supposed depth of the Godzilla series, the character has always been popular with the kids. You can’t separate Godzilla from children’s entertainment. However, the best Godzilla movies strike a balance between family entertainment and dynamic storytelling. Son of Godzilla doesn’t come close.
On Sollgel Island, a team of scientists are performing an experiment which will allow them to control the weather. However, the radiation from their experiment creates a trio of giant mantis monsters called Kamacuras. The three monsters uncover a giant egg which promptly hatches, revealing none other than Minilla (‘Little Man’ Machan): The Son of Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima). While daddy shows up to protect his kid from the Kamacuras, a new threat rears its ugly head: The giant spider called Kumonga! With all these monsters going at it, Goro (Akira Kubo), Saeko (Beverly Maede) and all the other witless humans just want to get to escape with their lives.
Where to start?
Well, Jun Fukuda, director of Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, returns with his more modern and jovial approach. The monster humor is laid on thicker than ever before, to the point of overwhelming the entire film. Minilla is as annoying as he sounds, basically representing a giant monster version of the stereotypical chunky Japanese kid (why are Japanese kids so pudgy?). He “skips rope” with his dad’s tail, throws tantrums, rubs his belly and constantly mewls something far too close to “Dah-Dah!” for comfort. He is obnoxious, reviled among fans and, unfortunately, isn’t going away any time soon. His embarrassing efforts will eventually culminate in the universally panned All Monsters Attack (AKA Godzilla’s Revenge).
Godzilla plays father and teacher to his squealing grey blob, acting far more human than ever before. His parenting methods are tough, perhaps bordering on criminal neglect and child abuse, but he gets results. His suit is one of the worst, looking very flabby and having an almost pyramid-shaped head. His eyes seem to be drawing closer and closer together with each new costume.
“Spare the rod and spoil the child, Godzilla.”
Our evil monsters for this offering are some of Toho’s least inspired efforts, being nothing more than giant bugs. Back in the day, I’m talking waaayyy back in the day, Godzilla movies received multiple translations, multiple dubs and often resulted in monsters getting lots of different names. Recently, Toho has “laid down the law”, if you will, and released the officially official English names for all their monsters. “Kamacuras” won out over “Gimantis” while “Kumonga” took precedence over “Spiga”. Personally, I liked the outdated names better, but hey, whaddaya gonna do?
The plot is about as cut and dry as a Godzilla movie can get. The humans interact with the monsters on a more personal field, running and hiding from them in caves and corners as Kamacuras and Kumonga try to eat them. While previous Godzilla movies usually interject a third party, like a terrorist organization or evil aliens or something, “Son of Godzilla” forgoes that distracting element and features nothing but the human protagonists and the monsters. This makes for a whole lot of giant monster action without any of the “human protagonists vs. human bad guys” stuff to get in the way, but also makes things surprisingly thin and dull. It doesn’t help that nearly all that giant monster action involves the obnoxious Minilla and his rascally hijinks.
Son of Godzilla is pretty bad. I say that as a Godzilla fan who can stomach most anything Toho pushes at me, too. You’ve got some bad costumes, some dull monsters, a weaker-than-usual story and a really, really annoying title character. While Minilla’s involvement in the series will only last for two more movies (his presence in Destroy All Monsters being mercifully small), he represents a blemish in the second half of the Showa series which most fans have a hard time overlooking.
If you’re really curious, you find a copy of Son of Godzilla on DVD from Amazon.