Movie Reviews

Number 2 – “Son of Godzilla” (1967)

 

 

“Son of Godzilla” may be a lot higher on my list than most other Godzilla fans, but I feel this one has more charm and likability than any other movie in the franchise.

When I was a kid, I despised this film. I always considered the titular son of Godzilla, Minilla, as annoying, irritating, and made Godzilla look uncool. But as I’ve grown old, there was a child-like whimsy to Minilla that made me smile and I soon realized that he added much more to character of Godzilla than ever before.

As I grow older, the more I appreciate and love “Son of Godzilla.” Which is odd, considering that it is the most light-hearted and comical Godzilla film. Then again, this does make it more endearing and relatable.

The plot revolves around a group of researchers have been running weather experiments on a island in the south pacific, while also avoiding the large mantis’ running around the island. But when one of their experiments goes wrong, thanks to unnatural brain waves interfering with their equipment, unbearable heat and radiation is sent upon the island, mutating the mantis to the size of Godzilla.

These mantis’, nicknamed Kamacuras, eventually track down the source of the brain waves – an egg containing a baby Godzilla. Before the mantis’ can kill the baby, the adult Godzilla shows up to reluctantly raise his adopted son Minilla and raise him in the values he holds near and dear.

What I love the most about “Son Of Godzilla” is how it evolves the character Godzilla, by actually giving him a character. Before this film, Godzilla was just a monster – a living atomic bomb that could not be stopped and would fight any other monster that got in his way. But now, he has another life to worry about besides his own. And he intends to make his kid into another version of him, a cold, uncaring, unstoppable creature of destruction.

 

 

Minilla is a curious and playful child, which leads to many comedic scenes when he wants to play but Godzilla is uninterested. Some of the better scenes are just Minilla trying to have fun while Godzilla sleeps, like when he plays jump rope with his tail.

But over the course of the film, even Godzilla begins to realize that Minilla is not like him. Minilla does not want to destroy other living beings, as he seems to avoid fighting Kamacuras, and wants to make friends with the humans on the island.

Godzilla has to stop being a monster, and become a mentor. One of the better scenes in the film is when Godzilla has to teach Minilla how to properly roar and use his atomic breath. After Minilla lets out a loud shriek, rather than his usual donkey-like noises, Godzilla nods in slight approval, though still seems a bit disappointed.

My favorite touch in the film is that Minilla hides in fear when Godzilla uses his atomic breath. His eyes widen, as if he’s afraid Godzilla will use it on him. Yet Minilla knows he can emit that same fire, but chooses not to. Which is probably why Godzilla threatens to get physical with Minya when his son does not want to practice anymore, giving us Minilla’s comedic smoke rings and Godzilla stepping on his tail to finally get the atomic fire out of him.

The suit acting from both Godzilla and Minilla is superb here, displaying a varied range of emotions that make these scenes so enjoyable and hilarious. Instead of Godzilla’s usual bestial presence, we get a more laid-back and slightly irritated Godzilla, while Minilla is as mischievous as he is adorable.

Although, if there is one complaint I have with this movie, it is the ugly Godzilla suit. The giant head and massive eye balls are really jarring, making it hard to look at after a while. But that’s just a minor nitpick to an otherwise lovable movie.

One of the themes in “Son Of Godzilla” is the current generations need to protect future generations. The reason these scientists are on the island is so they can run their weather experiments, which they could use on non-fertile lands in Africa and South America in order to produce enough food to sustain the growing human population.

The same theme is used with Godzilla. He is not just one creature now, but the provider for the next generation. He has to sacrifice his own needs and desires, so that his race can survive long past himself.

 

 

The screenplay for “Son of Godzilla” is perfectly paced, with each line of dialogue carrying weight and every scene serving a purpose to the overall story. The human characters are likable yet flawed, especially the professor in charge of the mission, who is so focused on completing the experiment that he doesn’t realize that this island is taking its toll on his students.

But what really made me fall in love with “Son of Godzilla” is its ending. My most memorable Godzilla films tend to have stellar endings – “Destroy All Monsters,” “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” “Shin Godzilla” and “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” save their best scenes for the ending, and “Son of Godzilla” does the same thing.

As the human characters start up their weather machine one last time, planning to use the ensuing storm to escape from the monsters, Minilla and Godzilla get in a battle with the other giant monster on the island, a giant spider named Kumonga. The fight is slower than most, but just as exciting when the spider injects his poison into Godzilla’s eye. This allows Minilla to step up and finally show some courage to protect his father.

 

 

The fight gets even better when the snow storm hits the island and three continue even as the snow builds up around them. As far as I recall, this is the only fight in the series to take place in a snow storm, which adds to the visuals as the monsters start moving slower, as well as seeing the snow and ice building up on their bodies.

The two Godzilla’s use their combined atomic breaths to defeat Kumonga and they share a hardy roar in victory. With the temperature dropping rapidly, it is becoming too cold for anything to survive. Godzilla has enough strength to leave the island, but Minilla is too weak, as he stumbles in the snow, reaching for Godzilla’s help. While Godzilla thinks for a second about leaving Minilla there, he cannot bring himself to do that and turns around, embracing his adopted son in a tight embrace as the two are covered up in snow together, entering a long hibernation.

And so Godzilla’s character development is complete. He goes from ruthless, cold and unforgiving to a creature with a purpose. This is the one Godzilla movie where it doesn’t feel like Godzilla is a monster, but instead a flawed guardian trying to protect the next generation.

 

 

This is also the only scene in the series that makes me cry. Sad scenes in cinema rarely make me cry, but incredibly happy scenes where everything works out perfectly give me the biggest smile and tears of joy. The ending to “Son Of Godzilla” is one of compassion, sacrifice and pitch-perfect character development.

It is like watching a father realize how much he cares about his son. That he loves his child more than he loves himself and he would do anything to keep that bond alive. No matter what happens him, his son deserves to live his own life. This is nothing short of breath-taking and heart-warming.

The fact that any scene between two actors in rubber suits while being covered in thick snow makes me feel emotional is true test to the power of “Son Of Godzilla.”

“Son Of Godzilla” is certainly the most unique and beautiful film in the Godzilla franchise. Complimented by a vibrant color scheme, great use of its island setting and a joyful score by Masaru Sato, this film is gorgeous to behold and listen to. Minilla is adorable in his child-like innocence and curiosity, and gives the film the emotional punch that it needs. The monster fight scenes are tense and interwoven into the plot without feeling forced or unnecessary. But most importantly, this film gives Godzilla a heart alongside his awe and power.

 

 

 

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