After the release of Ebirah Horror of the Deep, director Jun Fukuda returned to direct his second Godzilla film, once again set on an island and once again going for a more whimsical tone, only this time it was more overtly targetted towards children. This film was Son of Godzilla.
A group of scientists, a reporter and a native island girl find themselves unable to leave their weather changing island experiment after Godzilla arrives and trashes their base, leaving them at the mercy of the many other creatures roaming the island, including giant spiders and mantises. In an effort to escape, they band together to use their experiment in such a way as to create an opening for their departure as Godzilla, his son and the other island creatures come into conflict with one and other.
By far, this film marks the biggest departure the series had taken from Godzilla’s original concept so far because of how goofy and light hearted it is. Even in the light hearted King Kong vs Godzilla, Godzilla was still depicted as a malicious villain, and the tone had always been semi-serious in Ishiro Honda’s other goofier movies like Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster and Mothra vs Godzilla. Of all the films that came before it, because it was marketed towards children, Son of Godzilla was the first in the series to embrace a silly and comedic tone that is largely seen through the lens of the monsters. As a result the monsters never feel intimidating or frightening, with the exception of the giant spider whose presence is foreshadowed as a harrowing one, and who is bought to life and realised fantastically.
Most of the Godzilla scenes in this film consist of Minya, Godzilla’s son, being bullied by giant mantis creatures before his dad comes in to beat them up and shoo them away. Other scenes consist of Godzilla trying to teach Minya lessons on how to be a monster, such as how to properly roar and how to breathe his atomic breath. Each of these scenes comes with a fantastical charm that even the most jaded of us can crack a smile at. Furthermore, these scenes each have a pay off at the end when Minya must help Godzilla fight off the giant spider, by showcasing him using the lessons Godzilla had previously taught him to help out.
Other monster scenes feature direct interaction between humans and monsters that we don’t often see in the Godzilla franchise, and that have a ‘King Kong’ feel to them, such as when the human cast gets into gunfights with the mantis creatures, or when the spider is trying fit its legs between narrow passages to swat them. While not all are executed perfectly, they do help involve the humans with the monster action more naturally than in previous films, where the humans had a tendency to fade into the background once the monster stuff started happening. That isn’t the case here, and that’s for the better as it makes the cast feel more involved with the action.
However your enjoyment of this film is most likely going to be determined by how much silliness you can tolerate. For me, all of the whacky antics Minya got up to were fine and it was entertaining to see Godzilla’s absolute disregard for his son in some scenes. Cheesy, tongue-in-cheek Godzilla is certainly my cup of tea. That said, I wasn’t a fan of the music in this film, which I found pushed itself a little too far in an attempt to get a laugh, and that bordered on obnoxious as it abruptly enters and exists certain scenes. The suit design for Godzilla also looks the worst it has ever looked in any of the early Godzilla films, lacking in any and all grandeur or intimidation mostly on account of the massive bulgy eyes that clearly weren’t supposed to look as distractingly large as they are. That, and his oddly circular mouth that exposes his red gums create an image that was designed to be child-friendly, but instead looks oddly freakish in nature. It seems as though they couldn’t reach a middle ground where he was both intimidating and appealing to children.
My final criticism of this film is that it is hard to rewatch, unlike previous films. Once you’ve seen it once there’s really nothing to gain from watching it again, and I struggled to sit through it on a second rewatch. Films like Invasion of Astro-Monster might not be easy watches because of how much more seriously they take themselves, but they never fail to engage because of their high stakes. Conversely, I found it hard to invest myself in many of the events of this film upon a second viewing, and a lot of that can be attributed to the fact I never felt as though anyone was in any danger because of how overtly this film is targeted towards children. When you consider the fact that I enjoyed my second rewatch of Godzilla Raids again – my lowest rated movie in the franchise so far – more so than my second rewatch of this one, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
But for the most part this is a semi-decent Godzilla movie, if a very drastically different one, that contains some very striking iconography that I still remember from when I watched this film as a child: The image of Godzilla and Minya embracing in the snow on the mountains of the island is one that will never leave my memory and I am thankful for it. Yes, it’s hard to rewatch, but your initial viewing will undoubtedly leave some good images in your head if nothing else.
Overall I would just about recommend this movie, but be prepared to see something very different from what a lot of the rest of the Showa Era has to offer. If nothing else, it is a good gateway drug to the rest of the Godzilla franchise, or at least the part of it that is super tongue-in-cheek. It’s just a shame it couldn’t be more than that.
At the end of every review I rank the Godzilla films I have talked about thus far. The updated list can be found below.
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
- King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
- Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
- Godzilla (1954)
- Ebirah Horror of the Deep (1966)
- Son of Godzilla (1967)
- Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
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