I‘ve hesitated to write this review because, of all the films in the Godzilla franchise, I dislike the campy-cute, family-friendly Minilla, the so-called “son” of Godzilla. Minilla appears in three films: Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, and Godzilla: Finals Wars, but the most saccharine of them is this one: Son of Godzilla. And it is, by my standards anyway, one of the worst of the franchise in many ways, not least of all in the remade Godzilla suit, but also in the cheapness of the sets, and the increasingly anthropomorphic kaiju.
Unlike earlier films, Godzilla appears right at the start of this film; barely a minute in and we see him, bug-eyed with bulging cheeks looking like he’s had some frog DNA injected, wading through the ocean towards “Sollgel Island.” And like the previous film, the main action is set on an isolated island where there are no cities for G to tromp through: no need to budget for expensive, one-time miniature cities.
But then there’s the music. As soon as we see the island, we get a corny, carnival-like tune; something that doesn’t suggest the threat of a giant monster bearing down on the island, but rather clowns and circuses. Not even three minutes into the film and I’m not liking it. Then the soundtrack changes to something Sixies-ish-pop (think Modesty Blaise or Our Man Flint themes; both movies were released a year before this one). And this music continues throughout the film.
On the island is a team of scientists experimenting with new technology to control the weather (a sign identifies their station as the “Sherbet Operation” of the WFPO; aka the World Food Planning Organization)*. And a reporter parachutes in (useful in the dialogues for explaining what’s going on) but is recruited to help the under-staffed scientists (six plus one guard).
At 0:10:23 we see the first of the island’s kaiju: a giant praying mantis. The film used several marionettes like this and they are extremely well done for the time. had they left out the annoying baby G, it could have been a good film with big G fighting them without the kiddie. But let’s continue…
How or why did a research station get built on an island with giant insects? Didn’t anyone check for monsters first? And why does the reporter, now co-opted as the station’s cook, go wandering off into the jungle on his own? Why, to discover the beautiful girl (Saeko, we later learn) swimming by herself in the ocean (albeit fully clothed). Sigh. Isolated, hundreds, maybe thousands of kilometers from any mainland, and, inexplicably, a solitary female is there. Of course, when the device is activated, the reporter has to leave the compound to find and protect her from the device’s effects… (to give some love interest to the film, of course).
But 21 minutes into the film, the station lost control of the device and suffered a massive storm that devastated the island, but created a sweltering environment and destroyed communications with the mainland. Four days later it was at a cooler 37C, allowing the team to go outside to do a “systems check.” The professor and reporter go together, and at 0:24:18 we see the mantis kaiju again, but this time mutated to much larger size due to the heat and radiation. By much larger, I mean to Godzilla-sized insects.
Three of the giant mantids (later named “Kamacuras”) cooperate to clear stone rubble from a giant egg. But whose egg? Aside from the obvious guess, viewers have to wait while the scientists debate and squabble. And hearing a noise, they all rush outside to catch a glimpse of the native girl stealing their laundry… another sigh.
Meanwhile, the giant mantids are trying to break into the egg by stabbing its shell, and when they do, who should emerge, but Minilla? The mantids try to kill it, but daddy G arrives from the ocean to save him. Okay, who was the mother? We never learn. G does his usual destruction stomping through the research station on the way to save baby G. And, of course, there’s a kaiju battle: G vs three mantids, which is why we watch these films. But also a newly-hatched baby-like Minilla, which is simply too cutesy to stomach.
And that native girl? Saeko can sing to Minilla, speak to him, and feeds him fruit from the trees. but G returns and father and son have a bonding moment, accompanied by the annoyingly peppy soundtrack. Then Saeko joins the reporter now hiding in a cave following G’s rampage through the station. Love interest blossoms. He introduces her to the rest and we learned she is the daughter of an archeologist who was left on the island 20 years ago. Father and mother died there. She’s lived in a cave ever since.
A teeth-grinding episode of baby playing while annoying a sleeping daddy G follows. There are subsequent scenes of baby learning that are so sugary you’ll get diabetes from just watching them. Baby has tantrums, too and daddy has to drag him away. And the music… kill me now.
On and on. Way too many scenes of G trying to teach Minilla to be a kaiju and blow fire breath. And when Minilla steps in to save Saeko from a mantid and they have a fight… I cringed every time.
At About 0:59:30 a new kaiju is introduced: a giant spider spitting web silk from its mouth (real spiders produce web material from spinnerets in their abdomen). Just another kaiju for G to defeat later. In the meantime, it attacks the scientists and drives them into Saeko’s cave while it spits web stuff. Later, Minilla fights and runs from it. And loses, getting wrapped in spit silk.
Spoiler alert: Perhaps this is enough… the film is pretty predictable from here. Eventually, M learns to spit fire like daddy G, and fight back, but not after being webbed by the spider. Mantids and spider battle. G joins the fracas. Eventually, the weather device works and snow falls on the tropical island mid-kaiju battle. When G falls to the spider’s attack, M shoots a fiery breath at last, saving G. As the spider dies, and the snow blankets everything, G and M huddle… until the next film.
Despite some fun effects and kaiju battles, the syrupy scenes with Minilla make the film awful, at least for me. Perhaps it was meant as a self-parody, but of all the Godzilla films I’ve seen, this one is the worst. but not quite so bad as to keep me from watching the rest of the series… stay tuned for Destroy All Monsters.
* If this film was released today, it would trigger the hard-of-thinking, snowflake Repugnicans and CONservatives into losing their soothers believing it was a documentary about the WEF’s imaginary plan to control the world and its weather. They’d blame Biden or Trudeau, respectively, for trying to impose liberal sustainability and equality upon us. Xitter and other social media platforms would explode with their incel rage-farmed angst and insecurities. Just like they have over the recent Barbie movie. Why is rightwing manhood so fragile? But I digress…