Friday, May 3, 2019

Son of Godzilla Is A Goofy Trifle About Gigantic Monster Father/Son Bonding

The very first Godzilla movie is a relatively serious affair meant to provide social commentary on the dangers of nuclear power in the mid-20th century. Naturally, subsequent follow-up's would look at such a grim allegorical set-up and proceed to take the gigantic lizard monster into more goofy directions that would eventually involve Godzilla duking it out with a massive gorilla. I'm not sure anyone behind the original Godzilla feature could have predicted where the Godzilla saga would go tonally but Son of Godzilla shows that there is merit, albeit heavily flawed merit, in taking the Godzilla mythos in an unabashedly silly direction. 

How exactly does Godzilla get a son? The answer to that question does not get answered here. Instead of a bird's-and-the-Rodan conversation, an island populated by a bunch of human scientists is home to a gigantic egg containing a little lizard critter by the name of Minilla. A trio of praying mantises just repeatedly hit the egg until it hatches and unveils the newborn creature. Shortly thereafter, Godzilla, answering distress calls sent out by Minilla, shows up on the island to serve as the new father figure for Minilla. The human scientists try to find a way to escape the island as Godzilla teaches his new son how to be a proper monster.

Typical child sidekicks in movies are motor-mouthed hyperactive youngsters full of quippy lines and snark. That is not true of Minilla. From the moment he's born, Minilla is the very definition of pathetic, he's the Milhouse van Houten of monsters. He just wriggles on the ground at the feet of three praying mantises and he gets hardly anymore helpful or assertive from there. Writers Shinichi Sekizawa and Kazue Shiba really lean into Minilla being a newborn since it feels like the character is barely capable of taking a few steps without crumbling to the ground. No wonder Minilla called out for Godzilla's aid, I can't imagine how he would have survived an hour without this iconic monster's help.

Amusingly, Son of Godzilla decides to have Godzilla and Minilla's time together be less like a master teaching some sort of fighting technique to a pupil and more like a father/son fishing trip on The Andy Griffith Show (if Andy Griffith was capable of having atomic-breath and destroying cities). Screentime is dedicated to adorably silly sequences like Godzilla trying to teach his adopted son how to properly use his atomic-breath while another scene shows Minilla being rowdy while Godzilla tries and takes a nap. Godzilla and Minilla's time spent together is the kind of stuff Cat Stevens songs are made up of. How delightful!

It's not all just games of catch and listening to 80's rock for this father/son duo though, there's also scenes in Son of Godzilla dedicated to Godzilla beating the every living snot out of evil monsters. The best moments in these scenes involves Godzilla repeatedly slamming a giant praying mantis onto the ground. For other monsters, such a move would be overkill, but for Godzilla, it feels like just the kind of bombastically violent demise he'd dish out to an adversarial monster. Of course, right after slaughtering massive bug monsters, Godzilla returns to his duties as a father. Finding a balance between work and fatherhood is important whether you're a human male or an iconic cinematic monster.

Anything involving Godzilla and the monsters in Son of Godzilla ranges from amusingly dorky to just plan fun, especially since some of the enemy monsters, namely a large spider, are brought to life through well-realized visual effects work. Because it's a Godzilla movie, the human characters are a snooze and the first twenty minutes focused exclusively on them and not Godzilla is a chore to get through. If you can make it through that opening stretch, though, you'll be rewarded with how the rest of Son of Godzilla relies so much on the amusingly feeble antics of Minilla, a tiny monster so pitiful you can't help but find him endearing.

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